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Showing posts from 2006

Boom Tarat Tarat

I heard that a local composer liked the "Little Drummer Boy" Christmas song and he wanted to compose something similar. He came up with Boom tarat tarat, the sound precisely of a drumbeat.

The popularity of this song comes not only from its catchy lyrics but also from the dance steps that locals seem to know and dance by heart. Grandpa, the teacher or professional, the balikbayan, the little kids, the shy teenager, they all have their way of dancing to this music.

The first step is to pull your forearms in (like when you say "Yes!") and right knee up then tap your right behind with your right hand, then your left hand over your left behind. This follows the line, "boom tarat tarat". The second movement follows "tararat tararat", and the hands wave to the right like a hula dancer. The third movement follows "boom, boom, boom" and the foreams pull in while the pelvis pushes out. A very macho movement!

You can't imagine how many interpre…

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and I'm just now writing my personal greetings to you. As you know, I'm in the Philippines for the construction of my beach cottages on the island of Panay, just southwest of famous Boracay Beach.

We've been through 2 typhoons and I personally have faced many new challenges. But it's been a great 6 weeks and today, my hairstylist convinced me to sport a new look. It was hard to let go my long hair but now that it's done, my head fills lighter (ha ha). Angel, the hairstylist, assured me I would look younger with a layered do. (How can I doubt him with a name like that?) I'm also slimmer (according to my masseuse) from walking on the beach everyday. Don't know how long I can stay this way because I've been invited to so many lunches and dinners, sooner or later, all that eating spree will surely manifest itself in the most obvious places.

The construction of my fence is halfway finished. There was added work because the property is be…

First Honor

My sister and I had shopped for school supplies last August in preparation for my trip to the Philippines. We had planned to give a few schoolchildren at the Conrado Barrios Elementary School what they sorely need and could barely afford to buy. But only 20 children would be so lucky. We would also give them toys.

My nephew at 10 years of age has outgrown toys. He is more interested in computers and his blog. I think he knows more about software than I do because he has uploaded videos to his blog. I had asked him to set aside the toys he no longer plays with so I could give it to the poor children in the Philippines. When I came by to pick up the toys he saved, he gave me a bagful of unopened McDonald’s toys from all the Happy Meals he ate.

We chose the Conrado Barrios Elementary School because this is built on the property my great grandparents donated to the school. And recently we had donated books to its very tiny library which has six chairs, a cracked table and one shelf of books…

'Ta

At the appliance store, the owner’s son and right hand man was telling me he would send the delivery boys to my apartment around noon. He told me not to worry. “They’ll be there, 'Ta”, he said. I nodded and walked out the door where light rain was falling.

I think that was the first time I had heard this word 'Ta. It didn’t fully register in my brain until I was talking to one of the younger contractors who again addressed me as 'Ta. And some days later, the classmate of my assistant came by the apartment and said “Good afternoon, 'Ta”.

In Spanish, we call our aunt, Tia. In the Philippines we say, Tita, a derivation of the Spanish word. It would seem that I have inherited a lot of nephews and nieces because the younger crowd (30 years of age and below) all address me as 'Ta.
But today, everyone calls an older woman, 'Ta as a sign of respect.

I don’t know if I’m pleased that the youth have abbreviated the word Tita to 'Ta. But I do know that I have …

Sofa

Since November we’ve managed with just four borrowed, plastic chairs and one round table. It was really nice to come home and be able to eat our meals properly. I also use the table to talk with contractors and discuss plans for my 3 cottages. Or when friends come over, to sit around and enjoy a round of conversation while munching on “pitchi- pitchi” or junk food as we say in English.

I had my assistant scout around for bamboo furniture for the living room. One day she came home quite excited over having found a sofa at the market for about $30.00. We went to the furniture store where she saw the bamboo settee but by the time we got there, it had already been sold. We browsed the shops for a sofa but none appealed to me.

The apartments next door to mine have beautiful custom made furniture. I took pictures of these with the intention of finding a furniture maker to make one for me. The apartment manager referred us to the person who made their furniture and I saw the man on Wednesday. …

Food Vendors

Living on the beach has its advantages. Besides being able to buy fresh fish, there are food peddlers everywhere. Right now I see and hear the ice cream vendor carrying a big box on his back like a backpack. He rings his bell to announce his presence and on Saturdays or Sundays when locals flock to the beach, business is good. But it should be good everyday because temperatures never seem to go below 85°F. Beads of sweat trickle down my face as I sit at the dining table eating lunch.

There are two women I’ve watched walking up and down the beach, covered from head to foot to protect them from the harsh sun. They are selling boiled peanuts in small plastic bags or “ibus” which is sweet rice wrapped in coconut palm leaves. Three “ibus” cost P10. One day my relatives bought two bags of coconut candy for P5 each. I am astounded at how “cheap” these goodies are. I know how far they have to walk to make a sale, I can’t imagine there is any profit in their work.

There’s also a guy who …

Fresh Catch

Everyday after lunch, I sit on a plastic stool in the back balcony overlooking the beach. I love looking at the sea, scanning the horizon for ships and wondering where they’re headed. The water is of the greenish brown hue closer to shore and teal blue beyond. It is not the color of the California coastal waters nor of the Mediterranean but the color of the tropics.

The sand is brown and shells dot the shore. Some days there are hundreds of beached jellyfish. Fishermen sail out to sea from just below our balcony. Their sails are made of blue plastic material that can be bought by the meter and sometimes used to cover a car or as a makeshift tent. One “banca” has an orange sail. It’s hard to miss it as it bobs in the sea. Four sailboats are jut now approaching the shoreline. They've come back laden with fresh fish which they put into plastic pails and vend right on the beach. One day we bought a bowlful of fish for P100.00. It was a mixed bag of 2 midsize fishes and the r…

After the Storm

The sea was far away after the storm. The beach was wiped clean except for the hundreds of thousands of shells littering the sand. There are women and children who pick up these shells and sell them. When these shells are pulverized, they are fed to ducks. This is what makes a delectable duck a l'orange.

Further along the beach we saw the full effect of the typhoon that kept us up all night. Flimsy nipa huts lay on the ground with fallen coconut trees. Someone's steel gate was washed to our beachfront from half a mile away. Restaurant owners were busy cleaning up the debris and repairing the damage wrought by the storm.

It must have been high tide as well because the waters roared past the breakwaters and into the backyard. The apartment workers were busy cleaning the yard and putting back the stone path leading to the beach. And an antique decorative clay jar was sliced in half and carried away by raging waters.

In town all was back to normal. The "cleanest city&…

ATM

The first time I used the ATM machine here, I was charged by the local bank $9.98. And all I got was P4000.00 ($80.00) and fast cash of P500.00 ($10.00). I tried a couple of times to get 4000 pesos and the machine blinked each time. I panicked thinking that P8000.00 was taken from my account. This is the equivalent of about $160.00. After a week I learned that I only got what I really wanted to withdraw. That is P4000.00. So much for worrying.

So I decided to open an ATM account with a local bank to avoid paying tremendous charges everytime I need money. Well this bank I chose is incredibly busy with people waiting in line for many minutes before getting the chance to withdraw their money. You can't imagine what a punishment this is if you are waiting outside in the sun. And when you gain entry into the small airconditioned room, people behind you want to join you as well. Forget about privacy. The next customer is hanging just behind your shoulders.

But think about gett…

Public transportation

I have no car here in Roxas City, my new (old) home. I have to depend on relatives to take me around the first week I was here. But this gets old so I am learning to take public transportation.

There are two choices: a tricycle which is a Nazi type vehicle with motorcycle and side cab and there is the minicab.

I am not tall but here in the island, I tower over people's heads. When I get inside the minicab, I must bend very low so I do't hit the roof. This small cab fits about 12 tiny local residents. One day I was pushed all the way inside the cab. I couldn't see my stop because the windows were below my eye level. When I saw the blur of my cousin's blue house next door, I realized I was way past my stop. Imagine getting out of this cab! When I asked the driver to stop, it was all too sudden, the people around me were taken by surprise with the unexpectef stop and my loud voice asking the driver to "Para" (stop). Then as I tried to get out of this cramped, modi…

Pioneers in Philippine Art

By Rosario Charie Albar

When I first heard about this exhibition, I was disappointed to learn that the works of Carlos “Botong” Francisco would not be part of the show. That said, the 38 paintings and sketches by Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel, now on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, is an impressive collection spanning 100 years of Philippine Art.

Each of these three artists studied and honed their craft in Europe or the United States. As such, their works reflect Western art trends of their respective periods. Juan Luna lived both in Madrid and Paris. His Woman with Shawl (1880-1890) and Lady at the Racetrack (1880-1890) show influences of the Impressionist style of painting. Impressionism had burst into the art scene in France in 1884, precisely the time Luna won the First Gold Medal for his painting, Spoliarium, at the Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Luna’s later sketches of Ragamuffin and Study for People and Kings show his foray into the s…

Back Where I Started

On my first day in Roxas City, my cousin took me to the appliance center where I bought a bed, an airconditioner, a fridge, a TV set, an electric fan and a stove. I had been traveling for 24 hours and wanted so badly to get some sleep. I asked the store owner to please deliver the bed to my apartment by noon so I could get some sleep. The delivery truck arrived as we had arranged. Rain was pouring heavily as the workers unpacked the crates of new appliances and installed the airconditioning unit and connect the stove to the gas line. By 3:30 p.m. they were done. I took a warm shower using the new pink, plastic pail I had just bought. My "butler" made some hot water and mixed it with the water in the pail. That was my warm shower. Shortly after I fell asleep in my air cooled room and woke up momentarily because my cousin came by to make sure all was well. The sound of the sea roaring as it lashed against the breakwater in the backyard woke me in the early morning hou…

A Halloween Adventure

by Rosario Charie Albar

The night was dark and dreary
I was tired and weary
The air was far from cheery
I felt a little leery.

I heard a faint knock, knock
Like the tick tock of a clock
Not the pounding of a rock
But the turning of a lock.

I went to open the door
And beheld not one but four
And in the distance many more
Ghosts so scary I fainted on the floor.

"Come with us for a jaunt"
"To places we will haunt"
I cowered and said "please don't"
But they dragged me as was their wont.

Our first stop was at a bar
Where men were drinking by the jar
Ghosts appeared and it was war
But the drunks merely laughed har, har, har.

To a parked car we went
Where love was heavenly sent
The ghosts screeched and gave full vent
But the lovers were to each only intent.

Then we crashed into a party
Kids in costumes how teenie boppy
The ghosts in unison howled eerily
"Cool" said the kids and danced merrily.

The night was being pared
Yet not one victim had been scared
The ghosts frustrated but…

Food for thought

Great minds discuss ideas
Average minds discuss events
Small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt

What's in a name?

In the rose garden of the Filoli estate, I have an amusing time reading the names of the hundreds of roses that are grown and bred here. There is an Ingrid Bergman, a Dolly Parton, Secret, Double Delight, Iceberg and yes, Bacardi. I’ll drink to that! And the fragrance that permeates the air is a French parfumerie’s dream.

The rose garden is just one of many in the property. There is the Knot Garden, the Perennial Border with rows of purple lavender, the Sunken Garden, Yew Allee with its stately yew trees, the Fruit Garden, the Walled Garden and meadows and terraces! Colors change with the seasons.

The house and gardens with the Crystal Springs watershed at its backdoor couldn’t be better situated. But there’s more to discover about Filoli. When Shakespeare asked “What’s in a name?", little did he know that centuries later Mr. Bourn, the first owner of the estate, would pack so much into a name. Mr. Bourn’s favorite maxim was “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a goo…

Favorite Eats in Oahu

I arrived in Honolulu late in the evening on Friday and all I could think of was saimin. From the airport my sister and a friend drove me to Zippy's where I satisfied my craving. It was as I remembered it. Slices of char siu, fish cake and green onions added a bit of flavor to plain noodles. After dinner I bought apple fritters from Zippy's own bakery.

I was in Honolulu for the weekend to close a chapter in my life. Famished after two and a half hours of hard work emptying my storage space of 20 years (!), sweating as if we've been soaking in a sauna, my sister, her friend and I found ourselves in a dive in Kalihi for some heavy duty lunch on Saturday afternoon. The crab wonton was a revelation. Inside the crisp wonton was crabmeat dipped in cream sauce.

After lunch we drove around the island, stopping to ring the bell for good luck and happiness at the Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe. Continuing along Highway 83, we got out of the car to view Chinaman's Hat rising from Pacif…

Q Prague

The beautiful city of Prague on the banks of the Vltava River will be the venue for the weeklong Philippine Products Exhibition from October 3 – 8 of this year. The event is the brainchild of renowned Filipino fashion designer and Prague resident, Noubikko. The exhibition will feature Philippine made products which will be displayed at the Q Prague near the Hilton Hotel. Exhibitors are encouraged to contact Noubikko at info@noubikko.com for this fee free products expo.

Q Prague
The Q Prague is a three-story club with a bar, disco and cellar for private conferences. Each floor is equipped with its own sound system so guests can sit where the music moves them. In the summer its terrace is the place to gather and enjoy warm evenings. Q Prague opened in early 2006 and has a decidedly modernistic feel. The Q is at 44 Pobrezni, Karlin, Prague 8.

About Noubikko
Noubikko is a former Bay Area resident who was smitten by Prague’s baroque splendor. As a couturier whose designs have been paraded in t…

Adrift on the Nile

We drifted leisurely on the Nile, from Luxor to Aswan, and marveled at the temples and tombs of the kings. Every morning I woke up to a spectacular sunrise and the promise of new discoveries. Our guide took us to a historical site early in the day (before the crowds arrived and while temperatures were bearable) and there he would nourish us with interesting vignettes on pharaonic civilization. The evenings were devoted to sampling delectable Egyptian cuisine and colorful local entertainment. The unhurried and gentle life on the Nile with tremendous views of green riverbanks, bordered by sand and rock, will stay with me always.

Images by Rosario Charie Albar

The Martun

The Martun (Toilet) Restaurant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan has given new meaning to the words, "comfort room". Glass-topped sinks serve as tables, diners eat from toilet bowl shaped platters, urinal sconces light up the room, knick knacks of and about toilets are displayed prominently, and the open toilet is next to your toilet seat.

Bon appetit!

For more info http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8417691/

Head Turning Sculptures

The sculptures of Igor Mitoraj were no less breathtaking than the backdrop, the snow capped mountains surrounding the city of Granada. What a lucky break to have seen the exhition of selected ouevres by Mitoraj, a sculptor of Polish descent, schooled in Krakow and Paris and now divides his time between Italy and France. His works, not surprisingly as you can see from these images, turned a lot of heads.

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Ah, Yosemite

When I first laid eyes on Half Dome, I had a frog in my throat. I thought of the artist whose hand sculpted it, painted the landscape with towering trees, sketched waterfalls and streams where his pets could quench their thirst and drew expansive meadows where they could frolic under big, blue skies. Ah, but there’s more to feast your eyes on in this great museum of nature but you’ll have to go and pick the artwork you like best.

www.nps.gov/yose

Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Images of Portugal

For far too long Portugal has taken a backseat to its neighbors. This has proved to be a windfall for the visitor who happens by. There is so much to explore in the land from whence great explorers set forth on their voyages to the then unknown world. Now travelers are discovering the quiet simplicity and unspoiled charm of this unassuming country which has as much, if not more, to offer the discerning traveler.

Images of Lisbon

Venice is a Visual Feast

To write about Venice is to tell only half the story. For Venice is a sensory feast. It is not easy to convey in words all that it offers. Rather it must be experienced. How do I explain what I felt on seeing it for the first time?

I heard the bora fiercely making its way across the islands drowning the alto voce of the gondolier. I hungrily followed the scent of freshly baked pastries in the early morning hours when the locals were still dreaming in bed. And I got hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine alleys only to find myself in a quiet piazza only a stone's throw from the hordes of visitors in Piazza San Marco.

Venice seeps through the bones leaving an indelible impression.

Foreign and Irresistible

Michaelangelo's David is quite a man! Thank goodness he's in a museum. There are enough hunks out there to add spice to travel. My friend Vero fell for the tour guide she met on a Nile cruise. The best part is that he liked her too. But there's more. He is at least 15 years younger! Sweeeeet!

My favorite romantic writer, Marlena de Blasi, met her husband while traveling in Venice. I love her story about their first meeting (he called her from a phone in the restaurant where she and her friends were eating), his trip to the U.S. to see her, how she gave up her successful career and moved to Venice, Italy and spent "A Thousand Days in Venice" followed by "A Thousand Days in Tuscany".

A solo woman traveler I met on a bus tour of Europe several years back was having an affair with the bus driver. She couldn't understand why he chose her among the other ladies in our tour group. But she was glad he did. She was having the best time discovering Europe with …

The Court of the Lions

The real beauty of the Court of the Lions lies in the harmonious co-existence of three religious architectural influences. At the center of the courtyard is a fountain with 12 lions, representing the twelve tribes of Judah. Exquisite columns form a cloister surrounding the courtyard, a typical feature in cathedrals and monasteries throughout Europe. Geometric patterns in the traditional Mudejar style decorate the rooms. Much of the bright, rich colors of the tiles have survived to this day.

Looking across the courtyard, I can understand the lagrimas of Boabdil, the last Sultan, who was exiled to Africa after the Spaniards reconquered Granada. How often had he gazed at this courtyard and appreciated the symmetry of the columns, inhaled the sweet scent of oranges that are a staple in these parts, was lulled to sleep by the tinkling of water from the fountain and awoke reinvigorated in the coolness of his opulent surroundings. Asi es la vida.

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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Stumbling upon my Roots

I was idly browsing in the souvenir section of Madrid's El Corte Ingles when I stumbled upon my roots. There amongst tacky mementos and beautiful damascene jewelry, I found the coat of arms of my grandmother's family. According to the brief history written on the wooden plaque, the Barrios family came from Guipúzcoa in the Basque region of Spain. In succeeding years they branched out to the province of Burgos and established a new ancestral seat.

The Barrios clan belonged to an old and noble dynasty. When the King of Spain set out to reconquer Granada from the Moors in the late 15th century, the Barrios gentlemen accompanied him. This bit of history came as a surprise to me because I was on my way to Granada to see the legendary Alhambra. My journey was transformed.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Royal Palace

By Rosario Charie Albar

There I was, only on my second day in Madrid and shopping already. I had a good excuse though. I needed to buy some pantyhose because I had brought only 2 pairs for a 10-day trip. And it was freezing cold. On approach to Madrid’s Barajas airport, I could see the countryside blanketed in white. Local television reported on various accidents caused by foul weather. They also showed weekend vacationers who were stuck for hours on their way to ski resorts because the roads were closed from heavy snowfall.

The salesgirl at El Corte Ingles was very helpful. I told her I needed the thickest pantyhose they sold and she showed me two different kinds made by a famous French designer. On examining them, the 11-euro pantyhose was much thicker than the 8-euro one so I decided to buy the former. I wanted to kick myself for forgetting to buy nylons at home where it is far cheaper. The salesgirl congratulated me for choosing a really good pair and what’s more, she added, it was …

What's for breakfast?

Sure, I took a long walk on the beach this morning but breakfast at my cousin’s house was too good to resist. Think of crabs, alimasag (baby crab), prawns, fish relleno, bangus, exotic fruits like mango, pineapple with its prickly skin, sineguelas, and “short” bananas. And for dessert, banana leaf-wrapped sweet rice (ibus). How can I turn my back on this tantalizing spread? And the lap lap of the sea, only steps away, provided a relaxing tune to help my appetite along. Never mind that I will have to walk longer and farther tomorrow to make up for all the goodies I ate (without guilt) today.

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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

New Paintings in My Private Museum

It sounds very rich to say,"My Private Museum". I wish I have one. But I'm not wishful thinking. Instead, I'm adding new paintings to my current collection of artworks. From Roxas City I brought home two oil paintings. Unang Apo is by Lino Villaruz and Cooking Woman is by A. Villanueva who is a former student of Lino's and is now a teacher of art himself. Cooking Woman is a very good copy of a painting done by the famous Fernando Amorsolo.

Villaruz's style borders on abstract with elements of pointillism. Notice the dots that shower his canvas. It reminds me of Seurat's paintings. I've seen Lino's other works including one in the style of Picasso's Portrait of Dora Marr.



"Ang Unang Apo" (First Grandchild)
by Lino Villaruz
Oil on canvas
18 x 24





Cooking Woman touches me because it is a poignant reminder of home. The water jar in the background is the same kind we had in our house. We played with clay pots as children and made "inedible&…

Hello BayBay Beach

Images by Rosario Charie Albar



Love this cocoon




Let sleeping dogs lie



Beached jellyfish




Dilis from jellyfish



Seashells on the seashore



Hey, those are my coconuts!




Money laundering





Good Friday at the beach






At the end of the day

Life is a Beach

My recent trip to Capiz was hardly a vacation. We were there visiting with an ailing relative who raised me as a child. How opportune that we found an inn across from Baybay beach. It gave us the chance to enjoy a quiet walk at sunrise, get our feet wet and observe how the locals greet a brand new day.

I especially enjoyed watching the children frolic in the water. And how their parents indulged them. One day I saw a baby half buried in sand. And when his mother scooped him from the sand and into her arms, he bawled and my heart went out to him.

We discovered many things along the shore everyday. There were an incredible number of seashells, hundreds of beached jellyfish, stray dogs sleeping peacefully in the sand, PE classes in the water, fishermen pushing their outrigger to sea, fish drying in the sun, tacky beachside cottages and restaurants, seafood entrepreneurs as young as 6 years old raking for clams and fingerlings and a coconut raider who was generous enough to give us some coc…

Madrid Free and Easy

A T-shirt on display in a shop window in the center of Madrid proclaimed, “Life is Good”. Thinking about my recent visit to this city after nine long years of absence, I agree de todo corazon.

I arrived on Saturday morning and wasted no time in reacquainting myself with Madrid. It felt good to walk around town and find my way by getting lost along its many narrow streets. From Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s main draws such as Plaza Mayor, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales and the Royal Palace are within walking distance.

To see Madrid’s many attractions involves little or no expense on the part of the visitor. Here are some free and easy ways to savor Madrid:

1. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of my favorite museums in Madrid. This is the home of Guernica, a powerful and evocative masterpiece by Pablo Picasso. It is immense. Painted in black and white, it is an abstract representation of the destruction wrought by the bombing of Guernica, a small town in the Basque region…