Monday, December 31, 2012

Year end and new beginnings - Happy New Year 2013!

From our family to all relatives and friends...As 2012 comes to a close, may you appreciate what the year brought you and with humility accept these as blessings that made you stronger and more faithful. We wish you all the best in 2013. May you thrive in adversity and face the challenges with renewed enthusiasm and excitement! May you enjoy life and may those around you enjoy your fellowship and share in your kindness! 

A Blessed New Year to all!

Friday, December 28, 2012

An unexpected concert

We already knew that Per Sorensen, the former front man of Fra Lippo Lippi, a very popular band of the late 1980's and early 1990's, would be the opening act for Tears for Fears. And so, we expected him to sing a few songs (five would be the usual), particularly the bands hits during our college days like "Light and Shade" and "Beauty and Madness." What we didn't expect was for Per Sorensen and his back-up musicians (which included his own son) to come up with a mini-concert. Easily warming up the crowd with hit after hit, the Clairvoyant and I thought it was a really good performance judging by the response of the upper box and gallery people, who were very appreciative of the front act as if it were the main act for the night.

I dare state the distinction because we thought these were the ones who actually came to the concert to enjoy the music. These were the people who shelled out hard earned money to get seats and, in the case of those in the bleachers, lined up early to be able to get good seats for the concert. Unfortunately, we were not among the "real" music fans as I was able to get good seats near the stage :P Many in the crowd in our section were people who obviously knew only a few songs and many were either too old or too young to identify with Fra Lippo Lippi and Tears for Fears music. Of course, there were those who were true fans who could afford the more expensive tickets (i.e., our generation is supposed to be at our primes at this time.) but it was clear to me that we weren't in the majority where we were seated.

Peter Sorensen on stage on keyboards
The band backing him up was good and included a Filipino musician on percussions and hi very own son on back-up keyboards.
The former Fra Lippo Lippi front man
Here's a short video clip from the concert last August 2012 with Per Sorensen performing as the front act for Tears for Fears' much awaited return concert:

Per Sorensen's voice was clear and flawless. Parang nakikinig ka lang sa CD! (It's just like listening to a CD!) The performance was a bonus for many of us who probably missed the Fra Lippo Lippi concert back in the day when they were big and we couldn't afford to get tickets for their gig. Fast forward to the present and it really felt like we were in college again, at least for a few hours to listen to a sampling of music of our generation. So this is what it feels like to be sentimental? I guess it is what our parents and grandparents feel when they listen to their music from their generation. Nakakabata! (You feel young again!)


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best kept secrets - Nic's Gourmet Desserts

The Clairvoyant and I had brunch with a good friend somewhere in Mandaluyong City. It was a long time since I've been in the area and so had to check the map for directions to Nic's Gourmet Desserts along Mabini Street in San Juan City, Metro Manila. The exact address of the place is in their homepage in the link provided. Going there and finding the place is quite easy and we did so via Shaw Boulevard, which to me was the most direct way of getting to Nic's. What we found was a nice small resto-shop that's full of delights, especially for sweet tooths like me. We had a good meal and tasted their smoked milkfish, which goes very well with their wheat crisps and to me would also go well with rice in a regular meal. We ended up buying a pack consisting of a bottle of spicy smoked milkfish and parmesan wheat crisps that we served on Christmas Eve.

Arroz a la cubana
What caught my attention and which amused the Clairvoyant was Nic's selection of cakes. We sampled two after brunch and were impressed by the quality of the red velvet (among their best sellers) and chocolate cake (I forget exactly which chocolate cake it was.).

A slice each of red velvet and chocolate cakes
Satisfied customers!

We should go back to Nic's to get some cakes for our consumption as well as to give to family and friends. :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

I have a lot of happy memories of Christmas and it is not just about the gifts, the food, and other material things. I think most of the happy memories are about family and friends. Christmas and the celebrations are a lot about companionship and fellowship - opportunities to renew and strengthen bonds. The sermon at the Mass last night was a good reminder for a lot of us that Christmas is about love. It is about giving oneself to others just as God gave Himself for our salvation. It is always a happy time and we should equate happiness not with material things but with being able to connect with others and to give a part of oneself.

Gloria in excelsis deo! A Blessed Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Remember - and do the right thing

I remember a scene in the movie "Look Who's Coming to Dinner" where the character portrayed by the lead actor, Sidney Poitier, was speaking to his parents. His father was admonishing him for what had transpired at dinner as the Poitier's (black) character and his fiance (a white woman) announced their plans of marriage to their parents. At the time when mixed couples (and marriages) were uncommon and presented dilemmas to families even in cases where both sides were educated and living in comfort. What caught my attention was the script where the actor snapped back at his father after the latter said something about the hard work and sacrifices he had to make to raise his son and give him a good education. I recall the father also mentioned something about his son owing him for this. If memory serves, Poitier's character said that he didn't owe his father anything and that it was his responsibility to raise him well and provide for him. I'm not so sure about the differences in the way we think and our cultures but that statement was, in many ways, in conflict with a lot of what we believe in as Filipinos, even those who are living abroad. Of course, the statement should be understood in the context of the story (in the film) but the message reverberates in some issues we face today including those recently tackled in relation to the controversial RH Bill. But that is an entirely different story I would prefer not to write about in this post.

Our concept of utang na loob is quite general in the sense that it can be corrupted but it is also a generous trait that in the right context strengthens ties among families and friends. I write about this now after a recent visit with my parents where Tatay casually mentioned some disappointments about a nephew, a niece and relatives in the south. It was the same comment I heard from him and the same ideas that came into my mind after some rather trying times in 2009. The days after Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana) were desperate times after the floods ravaged my parents' home in Cainta. Most of their things (and mine as well that I left at my parents' home) were destroyed or damaged so much so that I think Tatay became so depressed. No help came from relatives who were in a position to extend assistance. Those who did, ironically, were those who had much less but helped in any way they could. I understand where my father's frustrations are coming from as he was the breadwinner of their family for a long time before and after he was married and had a family. Though I'm tempted to tell him that perhaps, like the movie character, a lot of these people didn't owe him anything, it is something that's better left unsaid. It is a cruel notion given that it wasn't really his responsibility to extend unconditional help to a lot of his relatives given that he already had a family and children to feed. But he did help, and as I have learned from various sources, he did so out of the goodness of his heart and without expecting anything in return. No matter the circumstances and the distance, he did his best to help out everyone who needed help and asked for help.

I am connected to our close relatives from my father's side in Facebook and I see that many are living comfortably and some, perhaps in luxury. They have good jobs, properties, are well traveled, and can afford the finer things in life. Many are abroad and are already citizens of their adoptive countries, holding foreign passports. I, too, am disappointed and sad when I think about how they seem to have forgotten about people who have sacrificed for them and who are now in need of assistance themselves. I pray that they don't experience what we have experienced and that they won't need to ask for anyone's assistance. Tatay has retired from work many years ago and just celebrated his 74th (or 75th?) birthday. I think at this time in his life he is at a stage of reminiscing and thinking of what has become of many people, especially relatives who seemed to have forgotten about him. It was so easy to remember him when he was this engineer who had a good job in Manila whom you could ask for help to pay for tuition or to buy food or what have you. No one remembered or cared when he was in danger of drowning in a flood. Indeed, perhaps he only needed to know that people cared enough to remember him at the time he was down and out. A simple call perhaps would have been enough from people who benefited from his generosity. Owing is one thing...remembering is another.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Homecoming: St. Francis of Assisi Parish

It was not really a formal homecoming but I consider coming to Lourdes Mandaluyong and St. Francis Church homecomings. This is because the school and the church was and is a significant part of my life, particularly for most of the 11 years when I was studying there. These were formative years and helped shape what I am today. Hearing Mass at St. Francis one Sunday, I took a few photos around and in the church for posterity. After all, it is at St. Francis that I was baptized, had my First Communion, and graduated from Grade School and High School. Kulang na lang pala dito ako ikinasal! Nevertheless, the Priest who celebrated our Wedding Mass was the LSM Rector during my GS and HS (he's Rector again now).

Driveway from the church - the steel railing and the steel fences were not there when I was attending school.

The church's cross used to be the tallest structure in the area. Now, there are so many high-rise buildings in the area including these residential condominiums just across the street from the church.

Tiled floor - I remember the floor in our time was plain polished concrete and I seem to have a HS class photo in this same area. The air-conditioning is for the confessional box and wasn't there before.

Corridor along the side of the church - at the end is a staircase that leads to the parking lot and parish office. There wasn't a roof at the right back in the day so this was practically a balcony looking across the parking lot and Shaw Boulevard.

Main altar - I was a bit surprised when I heard Mass at St. Francis a few years ago and found the significant changes in the altar. This was a very simple altar before with none of the gold and other glitter. I guess I'm old-fashioned in the sense that I prefer the simple altar back in the day. I even remember that people didn't line up for Communion but instead filed along the wooden railing (this is also gone) around the first step of the altar and knelt to receive Holy Communion. This was similar to the old practice at UP Diliman's Parish of the Holy Sacrifice.

Pews and stained glass - I remember being amused by the stained glass of the church when I was a toddler. Those were simpler times and our family heard Mass here every Sunday even when we were already living in Cainta. At left are small altars including one dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Back in the day, it was only this small altar that I remember Tatay visited every Wednesday instead of going to Baclaran. At right is the confessional box.

St. Pio Chapel - this area has been renovated as it used to be just an open area with pews facing the main altar. The door leads to another corridor and a balcony facing the HS grounds. There is also a staircase that leads to the school grounds with an entrance beside the school canteen. Noticeable in the photo are ceiling fans that were a later addition to the church. The interior used to be quite breezy as the area surround the church and the school used to be vacant. Nowadays, it's not so because of the high-rise buildings in the area.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homecoming: LSM, Alma Mater

I received an invitation to speak before high school juniors at a career talk at my alma mater, Lourdes School of Mandaluyong (LSM). I made sure I arrived early so that I could have an opportunity to go around the school grounds reminiscing about my 11 years at LSM from 1977-1988. Following are a few photos I took during my visit and prior to my talk about Engineering.

Entrance - this was the usual sight when entering the school grounds. The grade school building is on the left while the old Instructional Media Center (IMC) was located at the open door in the photo.
Quadrangle and multi-purpose hall - there is now a multi-level building where the old tennis court used to be located along the side of the covered walkway connecting the old grade school building with the canteen and St. Francis church. On the foreground is the area where we used to line up for flag ceremonies and other assemblies. The tree in the middle of the photo is an old one and was already there when I first entered LSM in 1977.
Quadrangle - we used to have our Monday flag ceremonies and Physical Education exercises in the area. Also, during grade school, we lined up before entering our classrooms in the morning and after recess and lunch breaks. 
Another view of the quadrangle, this time showing the flag pole and the section adjoining the St. Francis of Assisi Church. The section to the right houses the parish offices and the living quarters of priests assigned to LSM and St. Francis. Clergy at LSM belong to the Order of  Friars Minor - Capuchins (OFM Cap.).
Yet another view of the quadrangle, this time from the covered walkway connecting the grade school building with the canteen and St. Francis church.
Covered walkway to the canteen - this is the view when walking from the grade school building. Turning right at the end of the walkway, the walkway branches out leading to the high school building. Turning left led to the library. At the end of the walkway and before descending the stairs to the canteen, there is (or was) a wooden door to the right that opens to a staircase leading up to the church.
Heritage tree? - this tree has been at the quadrangle since my entire schooling (1977 - 1988) and is a survivor given all those typhoons that have passed through since then. I guess the buildings surrounding it have mitigated the effects of strong winds that have toppled many trees elsewhere. Clairvoyant mentions a very old tree at the St. Theresa's College campus in Quezon City that has been declared as a heritage tree. Perhaps this tree at LSM could qualify for the distinction.
View of the back of St. Francis Parish Church - below is a small garden also dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and the school's entrance to the St. Francis Theater beneath the church.
Parish office as seen from the LSM parking lot - I was surprised by number of vehicles parked in the area. It seems a lot of students are driven to school these days and there are fewer school service vehicles compared to when we were students there back in the 1980's.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Concert night at the coliseum

We had tremendous fun at Sting's Back to Bass concert held at the Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, December 9. For a change, we weren't worrying about the rains and the possibility of flooding near our home unlike the time we were at the same venue for the Tears for Fears concert last August. And so we got to enjoy the music from the featured artist as well as the front act for the night who pleasantly turned out to be Aiza Seguerra backed up by Mike and Angelo Villegas. Their acoustic performance was great, too, though many in the crowd at the time they played didn't seem to pay attention to them, as if dismissing them as bakya compared to the guy who was to perform 30 minutes later. Well, a lot of those same folks including the ones who sat in front of us certainly weren't Sting or Police fans as they obviously knew only a few songs. Sayang! I believe others who couldn't get seats deserved to be at the concert than these pretenders who probably went there just to be seen.

Aiza Seguerra and the Villegas brothers Mike and Angelo warm up the crowd 

Sting performs at the Araneta Coliseum

More on the concert experience in the next post!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Block get-together

It has been awhile since my college barkada had a get-together. If my memory serves, it's been more than 5 years since we last saw each other with the obvious exception of Cedric, who is also a faculty member at UP (Computer Science) and Tony, who's become a good friend of the Clairvoyant. In the latter case, Tony and Marian have even met up on trips in Bangkok and Hong Kong when Tony was going around Asia during his breaks from work. And so we finally had our reunion of sorts last weekend after some exchanges on FaceBook finalizing the venue and time of our get-together.

There were more than 20 of us in the UP College of Engineering Block I-13 that entered UP Diliman in 1988. Curiously, the members of our block were mostly from different schools and most were private ones. This compared with other blocks that had compositions of mostly Philippine Science HS (Pisay) and Manila Science HS (Masay) graduates. I do remember that our barkada within the block included one each from Claret, Don Bosco Makati, Lourdes Mandaluyong, Manila Science, Marist, Pasig Catholic College, UPIS, USJ-Recoletos, and Woodrose. It was an unusual bunch considering we came from different schools and had different backgrounds. We did get along very well and shared laughters and meals while blending in at UP.

L-R: Laura, Angel, Ericson, Cedric, Regin, Marian and Tony
Unfortunately, we only remembered to take a few photos after our friends Tin and Alex have already left with their lovely daughters for another commitment (fetching their son) so they aren't in the photos. And so we've resolved that we should definitely meet up again, perhaps sometime in February when two members of I-13 will be celebrating their birthdays. It's mid-December but I am looking forward to February and another chance to exchange stories and reminisce about life at the university back in the day.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pasta al tonno and greek wine

We recently passed by the Greek store in our village to confirm some orders for Christmas. We ended up getting a bottle of sparkling wine and immediately paired the wine with our dinner of pasta. For our small advance celebration (our anniversary was due in a week), we even took out the pair of champagne glasses we got in Singapore where we enjoyed some wine once in a while to go with our dinners together at our home there.

Champagne glasses for the sparkling wine

Greek pink sparkling wine

Specs for the wine

A toast to dinner at home

The sparkling wine was good and went really well with the tuna pasta. It was sweet and fruity and definitely enjoyable so we look forward to getting another bottle soon. But of course, for Christmas and New Year's we already have reserved a bottle we brought home from Singapore and another from our San Francisco trip. Cheers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hong Kong nightscape

In Hong Kong only for the third time but staying for a few days rather than a few hours (the first two being on stopovers for a trip to Surabaya, Indonesia), I have some time available to go around after 3 days of meetings and presentations. Last night, we had a welcome dinner aboard a ferry that allowed us to have a splendid view of Hong Kong at night and when the lights made the city quite a sight. It was cold (about 16 degrees Celsius) but warmth was amply provided with the company of friends and acquaintances. I post a few photos below taken from the observation deck of the ferry.

Buildings on Kowloon district
Buildings on Hong Kong Island

Illuminated buildings on Hong Kong Island

Dredger working in the night as lasers illuminate the night sky

Chinese junk sailing along the bay

View from the ferry deck
Like other trips, the Clairvoyant and I haven't been to HK together and we do plan to travel here for some shopping and exploring early next year. While she has gone around with her cousin who's residing here with her family, I haven't really gone around except for a few long walks (the city is very walkable). And HK is just a couple of hours flying time from Manila so it's just like a long domestic flight. There is also no requirement for a visa like ASEAN destinations so it is really a  convenient trip to make.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy birthday Tatay!

We celebrate our father's birthday today when Tatay turns 74. I would have wanted to post some old photos here of him during his travels to Japan back in the late 60's and the 70's but those photos were destroyed by Ketsana in 2009. We still have not found any surviving photos from that time that I could at least scan and recover. And yet we were able to recover a few photos of us with Tatay, mostly during graduation. I have scanned these to be preserved (electronically) and what better occasion to post a few than on Tatay's birthday!

Taken during the recognition ceremonies at UP Diliman after I completed by MSCE degree
Taken when my sister Lani graduated with a degree in Physical Therapy
Taken after my brother Rey's grade school graduation at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong

Happy birthday Tatay! See you later at dinner...