Happy New Year 2010!!!

Happy New Year 2010!!!

Only two years to go before… “2012.”

Christmas Greetings 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, dear friends!!!

Damn “political correctness.”  Screw other religions which don’t even have the courtesy of tolerance.  Why take their crap when they don’t even allow ours freedom?  To quote Taki Theodoracopoulos out of context:  “Karma and all that shit modern Americans pollute us with.”

We wish you a Merry Christmas… and a Happy New Year!!!   😀   😀   😀

Comedy Relief: New threat to kiddies, 16 December 2009

I had a great big laugh yesterday late afternoon as I was at a department store shopping for Christmas presents…

A six year old boy was having a tantrum because his mother refused to buy him the toy he wanted.  Some new thing that cost Php thousands.  He was making a mess of himself right there, embarrassing his young and pretty mother no end…

“Tama na iyan!  Pag hindi ka tumigil, pupugutan ka ng ulo ni AM*ATUAN!!!  Papatayin ka ni AM*ATUAN!!!”  snapped the mother.

The little boy immediately stood up and behaved.

I’ve heard of various threats to kiddies.  But I’ve never heard of AM*ATUAN to be one of them!!!

How’s that for the Grinch who stole Christmas???

Harharhar!!!   😛   😛   😛

The Christmas Seasons of Childhood

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but the Christmases of recent years just feel different…  WHERE IS THE SPIRIT???  I’m not sure if it’s just my “advancing” age, along with all the various responsibilities, persistent worries, and endless problems that make me feel this way.  All I’m sure is that Christmas was much more wondrous, joyous, and fun when I was a child in the early 1970s, considering that those were not even wonderful years — rather dark, in fact — in our country’s history.

When I was a child, there was the rustle of the elders and the household staff in the dark of night — although the roosters were already crowing — as they dressed to attend the 4:00 a.m. “Misa de Gallo” at the parish church.  We children were not really taken along since we would just be irritable and sleep throughout the mass.  After the mass ended at 5:00 a.m., there was no going back to sleep as the day had begun.  Breakfast was prepared and afterwards everybody set out with their tasks for the day.

During the times I was taken along to the “Misa de Gallo,” I was fascinated with the “belen” [ Christmas creche ] near the altar and the occasional crepe paper “parol” [ “farol” / lantern ] hanging nearby.  The figures of the “belen” were big although not lifesize, and there were animals and real hay [ absolutely thrilling for a child ]!  There was an ox, a donkey, a camel, goats, and several sheep.  After the mass, there was a long line to kiss the image of the cute Baby Jesus in the “belen,” and Little Me, blissfully unaware of bacteria and viruses and infections, gave Baby Jesus’ stomach a big smack of the lips.  In those days, there was no fear — indeed no knowledge — of H1N1 or bird flu;  there was only good ol’ TB tuberculosis, which was chicken feed by Philippine standards, and which everyone had been exposed to one way or the other!   😛

During the nine days of the “Misa de Gallo,” the patio of the parish church turned into a veritable market with vendors selling all sorts of things.  Of course, Little Me and my younger brother and sister always wanted the multicolored sweet popcorn .10 centavos per pack [ which my mother thought was not clean enough and refused to buy for us ] and the color-splashed balloons .25 centavos each.  The elders went for the “bibingka,” the “puto bumbong,” and the “suman” rice cakes, although they always complained that the ones made at home were better.  All the sights, sounds, and smells during those chilly December mornings became the Christmas memories I have carried with me all my life.

Back in Lola Charing’s house, the Tampingco-style round dining table, the magnificent bone-inlaid sideboard, the JAO nests of tables, the Puyat library table, the cabinets, and most of the antique tables around were teeming with white boxes upon boxes of large “ensaimadas,” “tocino del cielo,” fruit cake,” “food for the gods,” and other Old Sulipan goodies on top of cans and trays with water [ to prevent the ants climbing up 😛 ] which Ate Talia Padilla [ daughter of the legendary Juan Padilla, chef of the 1898 Malolos Congress ], Lola’s “mayordoma” and resident patissier, had been churning out by the hundreds the last few days to be sent to Lola Charing’s relatives and friends around the city — various Gonzalezes and Arnedos;  various Lopezes, Cojuangcos, Madrigals, et. al..  We grandkiddies only had to ask Ate Talia for any of those sugary goodies in the kitchen as she had lots of them there.  Thus the Gonzalez diabetics of the future were bred.

Back in those days when I did not have to think of the employees’ Christmas bonuses, 13th month salaries, personal cash gifts, Christmas gifts to VIPs all the way to friends’ pet dogs, yearend debt settlements, etc., etc..  All I had to think of was what new toy I wished for Christmas from “Santa Claus,” who never showed up in person.

I thnk my first “loss of innocence” was when I was told at the age of seven, I forget by whom, that Santa Claus didn’t exist, that he was just some fairy tale.  You see, we children, courtesy of our “yayas” from the provinces, lived in an insulated, magical world where everything existed:  angels, demons, vampires, “aswang,” “manananggal,” “kapre,” “tikbalang,” “duwende,” “asong pascual” [ in Pampanga ], and Godknowswhatelse, etc..



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Comedy Relief: “Santo,” 1993

Comedy Relief: “for your Man,” 1993

Comedy Relief: “Squalid & Squalor,” 1993

“You have to see this house…  It has interesting handpaintings on the walls.”  Jo Panlilio declared as we stood — exactly like the “Peanuts” characters Charlie Brown, Schroeder, Linus, Lucy, and Sally — outside another old and crumbling Vigan ancestral house.

“Jo naman!  Ano kaya makikita natin diyan?  Eeehhh…”    I complained, my nose twitching in irritation.  Worse, the house smelled, even from the outside.

“Might as well go.  You never know what we will see…”  suggested Erick Agbayani.

“Baka may mga ‘santo’ sa loob…”  Tom Joven thought aloud.

“Yes, for research…”  Sandy Castro agreed.

And so we entered…

It was… “something else.”  For starters, there was a perpetual 12-inch flood inside the “zaguan” ground floor, so we made our way to the “escalera principal” grand staircase by walking over inverted soft drink cases weighed down with stones.  The fear of “dengue” or “H-fever” hemorrhagic fever, or worse, “malaria,” was enough to send shivers up our spines, that was, except for Jo Panlilio, whose unquenchable passion for antiques made him brave the most awkward and the most difficult of situations.

The “piano nobile” second floor was, for lack of a better word, squalid.

With the sheer elegance of Eleanor Parker as the “Baroness Schrader” in “The Sound of Music,”  Jo Panlilio politely introduced the group to the befuddled chatelaine of the residence, la Madame.  A gaggle of young, clueless people from Manila who want to see an Old Vigan house, fine.  After the required protocols, la Madame proceeded to show us around her very interesting habitation.

Oddly enough, the rooms had signs designating this and that;  over once-elegant double doors of costly hardwoods hung signs like “Amaryllis Room,”  “Violet Room, “Tulip Room,” etc..  When, upon our insistence and curiosity, la Madame ventured to show us one of the rooms, she casually flung open the “Amaryllis Room,” and it was a sight for our “innocent” eyes…  The naked tenant of the room was a well-built twentysomething man who was thoroughly enjoying his Saturday morning, abusing himself, with a pile of local pornographic magazines.  The moment he realized he had a willing audience and his private thrill lost, he hurriedly excused himself.   😛   😛   😛

Whoa, if that wasn’t a mise-en-scene, then I didn’t know what was…

Jo Panlilio and Erick Agbayani forthwith “christened” her as “Madame Squalid & Squalor”…

The very next day, we attended the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Holy Mass at the Vigan Cathedral [ Saint Paul the Apostle Church ].  We were all seated and waiting impatiently for the Mass in Ilocano to start, of which we surely wouldn’t understand anything, with our eyes darting from up to down and left to right taking in the elegant interiors and details of the antique structure.

When lo and behold, Madame Squalid & Squalor appeared, impeccably groomed this time, wearing an immaculate white dress, and accompanied by two white-uniformed maids, one ceremoniously carrying a small lace pillow for the kneeler and the other ceremoniously carrying a vase with a fresh flower.  Her elegant appearance and dignified demeanor was rather like the Croesus-rich Regina Beaufort making her entrance at the annual Opera Ball in New York in the Edith Wharton-based and Martin Scorsese directed movie “The Age of Innocence.”  Hahahah…

“Ay, si Squalid & Squalor!!!”  shrieked Erick Agbayani, gesturing towards la Madame.

“Ay, siya nga.”  agreed Sandy Castro.

“Bakit siya mukhang tao ngayon?”

“Ikaw naman.  Naligo naman ah, obvious ba?”

With the great dignity of a born royal, Madame Squalid & Squalor proceeded up the main aisle to take her accustomed seat in the front pew.  She “beso-beso” exchanged air kisses with her patrician peers.

APPEARANCES.  They’re Everything!!!

Harharhar!!!   😛   😛   😛

Comedy Relief: “Cote d’Ivoire,” 1993

Every time we are in dear old Vigan, antique lovers that we are, we always have to visit the wonderful antique-laden homes of dear friends, a few of which have home altars graced by unspeakably lovely antique ivory images.

During that particular trip in 1993, we were with Tom Joven [ who years later would emerge as the top ecclesiastical restorer in the Philippines, the singular choice of top Catholic Church officials and uberrich collectors and connoisseurs for the restorations of their various antique “santos” ], so his Santos-Joven cousin Jo Panlilio made sure that we would visit churches, chapels, and homes with beautiful antique “santos” so that Tom, whose passion in life were/are “santos,” would find the long trip up North worthwhile.

So we visited the home of dear friends, affluent Vigan patricians who had fortunately maintained possession of their many family heirlooms.  As always, they received us joyously and graciously.  We were led up to their private, actually secret, home altar upstairs, which was different from their home altar in their ground floor.  The private home altar was a veritable “Cote d’Ivoire,” literally an Ivory Coast graced by generations of gorgeous antique ivory “santos” in “virinas” glass domes.  The sight always made Jo Panlilio and I drool, and that time, Tom Joven too…

On top of the low built-in cabinets was an exquisite antique ivory “Calvario” in a big “virina” glass dome.  There was the Crucified Christ in the center on a cross of kamagong wood with 18 karat gold appliquees of 18th century rococo work, the Sorrowful Mother on the left, Saint John the Evangelist on the right, and Saint Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the Cross.  The bored-looking Crucified Christ wore a magnificently worked “tamburin”-style 18 karat gold loincloth and his 18 karat gold nails were studded with rosecut diamonds.  The three figures were arrayed with accoutrements of beautifully worked 18 karat gold and were resplendent in robes of silver gilt thread embroidered “tisu de oro.”  The gold content was so high that the accoutrements had not faded with some 200 years.  And there were many of those sought-after cutey-cutey blown glass Roman soldiers and citizens on the base set with glinting beetle carapaces [ according to the ubercollector Don Felipe Hidalgo, they were made by the inmates of the “Bilibid Viejo” prison ].

Perched on top of a secured wall bracket was an antique ivory image of the “Santo Rosario,” Our Lady of the Rosary.  The small crowns of the Virgin and the Child Jesus, the “rostrillo” around her face, the “aureola” over her head, scepter, baton, rosary were all of exquisitely worked 18 karat gold.  Her 18 karat gold earrings had small rosecut diamonds.  The gold content was so high that the accoutrements had not faded with some 200 years.   Her elegant vestments were of silver gilt thread embroidered “tisu de oro” and blue velvet.

Arrayed on top of the high built-in cabinets on the opposite side of the low cabinets were more antique ivory images:  “La Anunciacion de la Virgen Maria,” [ The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary ], “San Antonio de Padua y Nino Jesus,” “San Roque de Montpelier” with his bread-carrying doggie, and a singularly memorable kneeling “San Ignacio de Loyola,” with articulated veins on his forehead.

“But where is the ‘Virgen,’ Nana?”   Jo and I asked, referring to the antique, nearly lifesize ivory processional image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

“The ‘Virgen’?  She’s here… ‘Apo Baket,’ your friends want to say hello to you…”  the dear lady opened a cabinet in the corner of the little room, actually a passageway.

OUT tumbled some “walis tambo” [ grass brooms ], cans of red “Johnson’s” floor wax, “kacha” muslin rags, feather dusters, fly swatters, old newspapers, magazines, kettles, hot water bottles, “palangganas” plastic basins, rubber slippers, pink plastic curlers, and other impedimenta… finally revealing the magnificent, antique, nearly lifesize ivory Virgen in her white satin “house dress”…  As always, Wooooow…  We could feel our tongues reaching the floor…

“Ay, ay, ay!!!”  shrieked the dear lady, as she tried to catch some of the stuff spilling from the cabinet.

“My… the ‘Virgen’ likes to keep house, doesn’t she, Nana?”  mused the witty Jo Panlilio, in trademark Duchess of Windsor style.

Harharhar!!!   😀   😀   😀

Comedy Relief: “de buena demencia,” 1990s

The several crazy trips Jo Panlilio and I & Co. took in the 1990s to distant Vigan, Ilocos Sur, have left us with a fantastic store of both historic and hilarious memories.  They were made with all sorts of influential characters, from the staid to the saucy, from the sublime to the silly…

If I remember right, that particular time, Jo Panlilio and I were in Vigan as an advance party for an important group of the Katutubong Filipino Foundation headed by Patis Tesoro on behalf of the First Lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos.  I don’t remember exactly why, but that memorably warm morning we were joined by writer Glenna Aquino, A Muse of Manila intellectuals and wits, and by Martin “Sonny” Imperial Tinio Jr., Filipiniana scholar nonpareil and grand seigneur, in the van going to, as usual, another old and crumbling Vigan ancestral house…

Dear ol’ Sonny had to start with his usual investigation of one’s aristocratic lineage, or otherwise the lack of it.  As he was already familiar with Jo Panlilio’s and my Old Pampanga roots, he inquired with Glenna Aquino about hers…

“Hindi ba ang inyong mga Aquino taga…?”  he asked Glenna.

“La Union.” Glenna replied curtly.

“Ay, maraming kuwento tungkol sa mga Aquino…”  started Sonny.

“Talaga.  Sari-sari…”  Glenna said, obviously disinterested in the topic at hand.

And the desultory exchange quickly accelerated to rapid repartee…

“Ay nakuuu, alam mo naman ang mga “de buena familia,” may mga TILILING…”  recounted Sonny Tinio dryly.

“Hindi lang tililing, KALEMBANG…”  rejoined Jo Panlilio, adding fuel to the fire.

“Hindi lang kalembang… KALABOG!!!”  Glenna Aquino snapped.

Harharhar!!!   😀   😀   😀

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