Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thought For Food

          Lapu-lapu- grilled on sticks, baby squid salad, maronggay soup, langgka salad w/tuna, garlic rice.
                      Light morning breakfast: puto, boiled egg, sweet rice, mango, longanisa sausage.  In the mug, FRESHLY ground Filipino hot choco-late!
                                                       Mango crepe w/vanila ice cream.
                        Pinakbet, pansit canton, chopsuey at Bob's in Bacolod. "/BAH-kuh-load/" as Vanessa says.

                            We got crabs in Dumaguete. (and oysters, tomato seafood soup, relleno talon too!)
                               Steamed eggplant, ampalaya, okra, river spinach with a dried fish/citrus dip. ymmmm
                                 And for dessert, how about halo-halo?

                                              or....  a rich block of ube pudding w/fresh mango?

Do you Dumaguete Me?

                                    Lisa and Kathy and the Fire Tree- Silliman University, Dumaguete
The incredibly talented cast of "Children's Letters to God"; directed by Bart Guingona (yes! a cousin of the Bay Area's own Dave and Mike). : L-R: Kathy, Lisa, Nena, Bianca Cueva, Ikey Canoy, Jill Pena, Nicco Manalo, Nar Cabico.  Performance at Silliman U, 2/25.

Lisa with artist Florentina del Prado, proprietor w/husband Nonoy, of Florentina Homes. The hotel is her canvas.
              On the "seaside road" to catch the sunset at "the King's" house.   Nipa fronds here.  Imagine a road the width of a van, sandwiched on both sides by this view.  That was us on that surreal afternoon.

Mother to offspring: "Stay close to me and move along; there is a van of strange creatures on the other side of the road."

                     The seashore after the bumpy steep ride through the jungle. Here's Vanessa and Nena.
                                                                 The bamboo bridge
  Kathy with our Dumaguete guide, host, Do-mah-getteh-guy-extraordinaire", Moses Atega.  What can I say about Kuya Mo'?  High energy and passion about life and he NEVER runs out of energy!  Spending our days in Dumaguete with him was one of the highlights of our trip.

Spectacular Cloud Formations - one of many visual wonders

Monday, February 27, 2012


On the way back to Cebu from Dumaguete we passed through Carcar but didn't have much time because we were to meet my cousin, Dito Florido, thanks to the kind arrangement of his sister, Herminia, who lives in the U.S.
TONIGHT I MET MY RELATIVES ON MY MOTHER'S SIDE FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!  Our group has been in the Philippines for two weeks.  Every day I have been aware of planting my two feet into the Philippine earth in preparation for this moment.  We will meet together tomorrow and return to Carcar where my maternal grandfather, Celestino T. Alfafara, Sr. was born, accompanied by Vip Aleonor - Dicto's cousin via marriage, and an amazing historian.  The door is ajar and I see a whole lot of sunshine coming in.  Thanks to cousins back home in U.S.-Herminia Florido and Gemma Nemenzo for their kind assistance and support of the book project. 
                                          From L-R: Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Dito Florido, Dicto Yap (son of Telesfora,Grandpa's sister), Orange (her nickname)- Dito's daughter, and Vip Aleonar.

Delicious Dumaguete

I’m at the moment beyond words about yesterday’s day with Moses Atega, our generous, and endlessly high energy guide.  We visited the home of sculptor Karl Aguila who studied at San Francisco Art Institute eleven years ago.  We reached his home via “the seashore road”.   Said unpaved road, in many places, was just wide enough for our van, and a passing scooter.   Thick with nipa fronds, lined with the nipa-roofed and straw mat sides of huts housing families, we witnessed a pastoral scene, as Nena put it – purely, purely Philippines style.  Tranquil, yet vibrant with all living creatures from the family of cows to roosters and chickens scuttering about freely, to little children frowning at the sight of a white van driving through their town disturbing the peacefulness, until they caught a glimpse of our waving and smile , when their eyes and face lit up with a quick returning wave.  We bumped along for an hour, surrounded above and all around with greenery until we emerged on to a highway on which we completed our journey to Karl’s home.  

It is an artist’s home, no doubt, as well as his gallery.  As his wife said, holding their 8 month old son, Rafaelo, they are used to having visitors – of course by appointment only – because their home is one of Karl’s galleries as well.  Thus, baby Rafaelo is also very comfortable with new people.   The space is their family’s private space and in respect of that, suffice it to say, we all felt quite privileged to have experienced what we did in spending the sunset and early evening with the Aguila family.

Now, Mr. Moses Atega deservs an entry of his own, but for the moment I will say that the day was magical beyond any imagination, from his personal tour of Dumaguete and Silliman University of which he is an expert, to the party crashing of his friend Marie.  The words and story about him need more time to materialize, but this entry would not be complete without mention of him at least once today. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bohol-ed Over

2/23/12 Travel to Bohol via
Gotta go with the flow which sometimes means stopping the writing mid-sentence.
2/26, Dumaguete
It’s 5:30 a.m. That’s two hours past my average sleeping time since we arrived.   I’m learning to utilize the opportunities as they come, just as this awake time, allows me to write with little interruption.   And if  the Internet spirits are cooperating, it allows me to upload photos to the blog.   I wait two to five minutes for each picture to upload, only to find that I’ve lost the connection.
 11 p.m. turns into 1:30 a.m.   3:30 a.m. turns into 5: 00 a.m. Time flies when you’re having a cyber-good time and pretty soon you find that you’re in the midst of morning prayer because it is Uncle Lari’s birthday and the senior citizens and neighbors have gathered in his dining room to say the rosary and sing hymns to pray for his long healthy life.  Auntie Adele – “my full name is Adelia”, she smiles coyly when she discovers I’m already awake and writing—has climbed the steep stairs to invite us to have a small breakfast before our early morning departure.  “Oh praise be to God,” she exclaims, as she reaches the top step and makes out my silhouette on the sofa just ten feet in front of the stairwell. I hope I didn’t startle this precious, warm-hearted soul.  In my own, sleep-deprived state, I wonder did she mean, “WTF are YOU doing there on the sofa at the crack of dawn?”
[Pause for Real Time.  I ‘m self-consciousness of my dependency on electronics. I paused mid-thought to plug in my notebook.  Then I decided I should plug-in my spare camera battery to recharge it while I have the chance.  After that I groped around in the dark, by the light of my computer screen, running my hand, like a skittering gecko, bet ween my suitcase and the wall, trying to feel for another wall socket.  I’ve been up in the middle of the night for several days. 
Maybe I need to plug myself in for a little while.]                                                
We arrived in Dumaguete somewhere mid-day yesterday.  Honestly I don’t know what time it was.  Uncle Lari wanted to take us around before seeing us off at the harbor for our 8: a.m. scheduled boat to Dumaguete.  “Scheduled , as in  the “Estimated” in the term Estimated Time of Departure is a concept that comes in handy as the newcomer Fil-Am’s bridge word between  the lovely flowing nature of the Filipino synergy, and the American linear orientations.    He took us to his farm, lush with banana trees, a mango tree.  Jelly, the dog, was there to greet us. Selbina, one of the maids whom we had met at the main house, was over here taking care of the garden and grounds today.  A little girl, maybe three years old played in the garden.  I wondered if she might be Selbina’s daughter.   We drove down through the residential streets, passing townspeople gathering twigs and burning combustible trash in small controlled fires, sweeping the walkways.  Chickens, goats, and cows grazed in small areas next to the house.
“If you move here to this town, you will soon be given a job,” laughs Uncle Lari. “You will have a goat, or chickens to take care of, or maybe you will learn how to climb the trees to get the coconuts down.”  Uncle Lari said he decided to retire here in Bohol because back in the U.S. he felt lonely, with nothing to do.  He and Auntie Adele clearly love it in Bohol.     Incidentally, our group stayed at their Bed and Breakfast Inn, called the St. Joseph Town Inn.
                                         Loboc River - Bohol
                                       Merienda at St. Joseph Town Inn. L-R:  Nena , Auntie Adele-proprieter, Julie, her niece, Dading-one of the caretakers, and Oscar.
                                          Choco-lat Hills.  Heading up to the interior of the island of Bohol.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kathy's Blog: Saturday morning

Good Morning, it is morning, huh . . .Today the whole neighborhood is awake and stirring.  Outside the chickens have taken over my mind:  As I lay in bed asking myself where we’ve been, they answer in unison  “Punto Taytay”; when I query what’s today, all together now they respond “Happy Birthday” (of course referring to today being Uncle Larry’s big day); and when my mind inquires where are we going, the Chicken Choral chants “Dumaguete”
A third generation Filipino-American, visiting her ancestral homeland, I am both foreign and at home.
I am blessed with this opportunity, just short of my 56th birthday, to observe, enjoy a rhythm of life that is very familiar to me in even more ways yet to be discovered.   There are many signs and placards that delight me and make me laugh and make me think.  The messages are genuine and unassuming.  Is this quality a part of my cell-memory too? 
I'm on the Speed Cat boat going from Cebu to Bohol, coming up in the background there. I'm getting the feel of  the Philippines beneath my feet.  More to come on Cebu when we return there next, but this photo says it all.

BOHOL- 2/24/2012

"Be happy, be budoy!" greets our guide at Tarsier Nature Reserve.  Tarsiers became endangered because they were dying due to rough handling by visitors.  Tarsiers are very delicate, solitary creatures, so named because in their hands have a tarsal bone.  Tiny as they are, the tarsier is really five animals in one:
They have the ears of a bat, eyes of an owl, a tail like a rat (11 inches long), hands like a gecko (including the suctions at the ends of each tip), and the body of a mouse.  Do I have these right?

We also visited a butterfly park today, something I've always wanted to do.  Our guide Jemer was quite clever with words,  describing butterfly mating as "24/7 boom-boom, sir/ma'am", the hermaphrodite nature of some of the butterflies as "ladyboys".

CHOCO-LAT Hills.  Located in the interior of the island of Bohol, all 1,280 of the Chocolate Hills (no, I did not count them myself) were formed by calcium deposits, rain and erosion.  From this very skeletal information, can you tell I am not a geology major?  I will upload the plaque showing more thorough info here.   During this time of year, the chocolate hills are lush with greenery so they don't look so chocolaty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


 I'm trying out pinakbet at every place we go.  the ampalaya is so good here.  Like Japan and its miso, the Philippines has its regional bagoong, some made with shrimps, and others made with different types of fish according to the region. So different regions' pinakbet dish is infused with its own special complexity.  My body quickly restores after I eat ampalaya, so I've been eating it out of sheer love, whether my body needs it or not. Incidentally, the dishes are richly flavorful, yet never overpowering -- almost soothing.  Maybe it's my heart, not my mouth, that is tasting the food. 

bark bark bark bark bark bark.
bark bark bark bark bark
bark bark bark
bark bark bark
bark bark bark.   bark

That's the same thing that dog said an hour ago! Who could he be talking to at 3:30 in the morning?  And where'd he go now?

Bacolod & All That Jazz


Abe Lagrimas


Congressman John N. Orola, Jr., who generously gave us a tour of the Casa Orola compound and shared stories of his illustrious career.

Dr. Severo Lacson hosted a most elegant luncheon at his beautiful home. Two of the Twelve Christmas Trees seen here.

Mr. Raymond Alunan, our passionate and knowledgable tourgide at the Negros Museum.  Listening to his lecture restored my spirit for teaching in just one afternoon with this man.

They're even more magnifent in real life.

One of many amazing cloud formations in the Philippine skies, this shot taken from the airplane window on our return to Manila.