Thursday, January 23, 2014

Music Then and Now

Many say Flipinos are a bunch of music lovers. Music pervades our culture. I’d bet that the most common appliance you would find in the communities straddling this archipelagic country is a music player in the form of the trusty AM/FM radio/transistor and in its sophisticated versions we now have – stereo, component, iPod, smart phones and what-have-you. In the 80’s and even into the 90’s, if I recall correctly, the walkman was such a hit with the youth, used with cassette tapes then later on with compact discs. The Apple revolutionized the platform for playing music in the new millennium with the introduction of the iPod. Of course, Filipinos were not to be left behind. Didn’t you just love your iPod? No? Oh, I didn’t have my own either, but I loved it just the same. It was the coolest thing.

Since the iPod craze, music has been made, distributed and enjoyed the world over via highly digitized platforms. With that, I think music has largely changed. I do not enjoy music as I did before. It could be that it has something to do with that fact that music is a lot easier to produce now with GarageBand and other music softwares, that there are now so many artists concocting songs, tinkering with melody digitally that the music scene has become louder than ever. For me, it kind of lost its “soul” so to speak, its lyrical, romantic appeal. I have long ago lost track of the new artists, even the most popular Grammy awardees. Not that I was ever a fanatic follower of the international and local music industry.

I’m a self-confessed sucker for mushy artists belting love songs, you know, the likes of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, and later of the more elegant and low-key Julia Fordham and Sarah McLachlan. But it seems I got stuck in their era, and since have had little interest in artists that succeeded them, except maybe for that British female artist who won a lot of Grammy awards last year for songs she herself wrote and performed. My memory is so poor, I can’t even remember her name!! Goodness me! See, I lost it really after the 1990’s era, and never moved on to the times of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Paris Hilton, Carrie Underwood and the many others. Show me their photos, and I wouldn’t be able to tell who’s who right away. Oh, well, but I know Jessica Sanchez, and the cute guy who beat her at American Idol, Phillip Phillips (but had to google the correct spelling). Haha!

Seriously, I can not claim any right to speak about music! But, I don’t know, this nice, cool, windy weather has perked me up. I wanted to sit at this table (where I am now) across this window where I see and hear the rustling of leaves of a mango tree. So now I know I’m sounding awful. But who cares? I wanna write! Just because. I got inspired by the wind and the music it orchestrates upon the leaves. And I want to curate my so-so thoughts, and take advantage of free blogging privileges of writers, and writer-wanna-be’s like me. Indulge me, my precious friend, reader. There are very few of you, so I really appreciate that you’ve cared to drop by again in my small world. I know my readership is not going to pick up if I do not take my blog content seriously and just write as I feel, without feeling the need to research my topic, make several drafts, customize this blog's look, and zero in on what's currently relevant or trending. But serious isn’t fun, and I’m here just to have fun, to pass time, and shake up my foggy brain. So, if I may go on…

Don’t we just sing along to songs of the past easily? We sing along songs on the radio that we really didn’t pay attention to before but surprisingly and unknowing to us, use up some of our brain cells. We are able to sing Beatles, Carpenters, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, James Ingram, Barry Manilow, Madonna, and among the Filipino artists, we know by heart the popular songs of Jose Marie Chan, Rey Valera, Odette Quesada, Joey Albert, Kuh Ledesma, Sharon Cuneta, Martin Nievera, and Ariel Rivera to name a few, even by Claire Dela Fuente (Sayang) and her contemporaries. The distinct melody of their songs and beautiful well-thought lyrics have seeped into our subconscious. Why, we’d be tapping the wheel as we sing Manic Monday, Border Line, You’ve Got a Friend! They’re the kind of songs that I miss. I don’t know the artists behind the songs most of the time, but play me the song and I’d be able to sing along.

The comeback of vinyl and turntables is refreshing. It is unearthing the music of the past, and hopefully it inspires new artists to look back and learn from the great artists/musicians that preceded them.

Now, so much of my blabbering. I should now be well on the way to fetch my son from school. I had fun writing this, I lost track of time. Until my next post, dearest. Bye!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cold Weekend-er

Lipa's "bed" weather did not disappoint. The wind was howling during the night. It felt like there was a storm, but the wind lulled this family to sleep until late morning the next day. The kids slept like logs and had to be woken up. 

The weather is great! How I wish we could always wake up to mornings like this. It’s such a treat to not have to use the aircon and even the electric fans the past days. I’ve just read in the morning paper that temperature in Baguio dropped to 8.1 degrees yesterday, the coldest in five years.

I am happy to write my second post for the year in this cold morning weather. I want to share about the weekend getaway my family just had. We drove South from Manila to our favorite weekender spot – to Lipa, Batangas. We go there every so often to visit with friends. On this recent trip, we were really thrilled to have experienced the near-Baguio “brrr” temperature. My kids who sweat easily and do not get to wear their sweaters back home despite cooler temperatures, had to put on extra layers in Lipa.

Upon reaching Lipa, we noticed that the car was registering almost the same temperatures outside and inside, 22 and 21 degrees Celsius. It was awesome! That got us excited as we expected the temperature to drop further into the night. The northeast monsoon or what we know as Amihan did not disappoint us. It got colder indeed. We were out (literally out in an open space) chatting with friends while the kids ran freely at 11pm. I thought that that “brrr” experience compensated for my longing for Baguio last Christmas. And I was very thankful.

I have a soft spot for Lipa. It is my mother’s birth place. We used to visit with relatives back in the 80’s. Our relatives are mostly in Mataas na Kahoy, a place named as such because of its high elevation. I remember going there during fiestas and distinctly remember how cold it was in the barrio/bukid, particularly in the mornings. Some years back, my husband used to frequent Lipa because of work, through which he met what is now his small circle of very select friends. Before, we would even contemplate retiring there when we are old and in our sixties. It’s the weather, the people, and the food that make Lipa a nice place to think about spending our sunset years in. It doesn’t hurt to plan early, you know. Hehe. :-)

When in Lipa, we never miss going to the small restaurant Goto sa Barangay for their Batangas goto and fried murang isaw (cow’s intestines). Their goto is nothing like the usual one I also love to buy from the fast food chain Goto King. It is not rice-based, consisting only of cow’s entrails boiled with onions, garlic and pepper, and served very hot with lots of fresh onion as topping, and fish sauce with calamansi and red chilies (siling labuyo) for the dip. I totally crave for this each time. It’s perfect with steamed rice. One cup is not enough. That yummy, yes!

My super favorite one-of-a-kind Batangas goto, and Garrett's favorite pancit canton. We love it here at Goto sa Barangay, Lipa.

Batangas folks are known for their hospitality. We are lucky to have friends who go out of the way to prepare delicious, mouth-watering dishes for us, like chicharon, sinaing na isda, and mais na gulay. We were treated to dinuguan and grilled fresh pig liver, a pre-taste of the food feast the following day for the town fiesta. We got the best puto (rice cake) from the town of Rosario, to dip in the 'bloody' delicious dinuguan. And to top it all, we had the famous kapeng barako to enjoy before and after meals, in the cold weather. Add to that the laughter and stories shared, and we really had a fun, relaxing weekend. 

L-R (clockwise): Kapeng Barako - Batangas local coffee; grilled liver, fresh from a newly butchered pig; my son Garrett with our host, Jet.

We are a family that likes things and places that are familiar, and so we tend to patronize the same restaurants and hotels. Sometimes I wish we were more adventurous. But then again, we come back to the same vacation spots for a reason, and we go home never disappointed. And so, for this trip, we preferred to stay again at The Suites at Mount Malarayat. It is within the Mount Malarayat Golf and Country Club and Residential Estates. There are these Suite Buildings (named after trees – Narra, Yakal, Tanguile, and Kaimito ) with rooms which can be booked online for overnight stay and extended vacation. It’s affordable. Last year, we booked via Agoda and got a standard room for only Php1,800 all in except breakfast. This time we got a bigger room in Kaimito Suites, and the rate was not also bad at Php2,787, net of tax and service charges. Breakfast is extra, but you get your money’s worth at their restaurant with a nice view of the golf course.

What the kids look forward to is swimming in the large pool. No matter how cold it was.

Aside from pool, there is a playground where my kids also love to spend time at. The playground is not fancy or big, consisting only of a couple of slides, swings and climbers. It’s nice because there’s lots of greenery. With the sun above and the canopies of trees offering shade, you are sure to go home with lots of beautiful pictures.

I know I am sounding like I am being paid for advertising the Mount Malarayat Country Club. This is not a sponsored post, obviously. I am not a blogger that way (I wish I were though!). But I like to share it with you, just in case you’d be interested, and by now, are mulling a weekender in Lipa. You will not be disappointed, but of course you have to keep your expectations in check, and not compare it with the hotels in Manila or other big cities like Cebu and Davao. The bathrooms are clean. The furniture is run-down, and the beds are not the comfy-soft type of mattress you have at Shangri-La, Holiday Inn, or at whatever your favorite hotel is. But all in all, the package would be worth the price. And the weather until February will surely make it worth the drive.

The drive by the way is very smooth via South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) toll gate. It only took us 1 hour and 30 minutes going home, covering a distance of around 90 kilometers. We left at 6:45pm on a Sunday.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Of Writing

Just when I think I got something to write about for my first entry this new year, I lose it the moment I open a blank document. I stare at the white screen for a while, type a few words. But it’s no good. The ideas do not play out for me, and so I close the laptop, deciding to wait for the moment when the urge to write comes naturally.

I feel like I have lost much of the enthusiasm that got me "writing" again around the time I left my job last year to focus all my energy on being a mom. Ok, let’s add to that being a wife as well. Hehe! Many times – in the shower, in the car, at waiting areas, or in the grocery – ideas come to me. Phrases, sentences form in my mind. But my lazy self gets the better of me each time I think of the task of gathering my thoughts together, connecting them, and making sense of them to come up with a story.

Maybe I’m scared to face the new year because an even bigger decision than when I went on leave from work needs to be made in the not so distant future. I have to decide if I am going to report back at work. That major decision that's hanging in my head is kind of stifling me to a point of non-action. It compels me to reflect, to assess my needs and wants, to do an introspection. And that, my friends, is very difficult to do. It’s hard to go deeper into one’s heart and confront one’s own fears knowing especially that you live not for yourself alone.

What’s good about writing one’s own thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and what-nots, is that your medium (be it paper or the computer screen) becomes like a sounding board, a counsellor that only listens. It gives you a space to talk, to create, and it allows you to make amends, take back your words, and tell them again in better ways.

I get to know myself better when I write. I love to write, but I’m scared to write because it also brings to the fore my insecurities about this craft. I can not write as often as I want to. There has to be something that inspires me to do so. I am no writer, trust me. To non-writers, my writing may be perceived as good. But I am fully aware that to those who are really in the business of writing, this and my other posts are all “sh**ty”. Yeah, that’s my stark reality. But I’m cool with that because I am not really doing it for business. And this blog works for me. It gets me inspired to write. And since I only write about personal stuff, I need to “live” my life, to get out there and experience "life" so I would have stories to share.

I love the written word. I feel excited to use words I encounter reading the paper, magazines, and books. I like using words that only get to be read because they’re so archaic or technical that you will rarely hear them used in conversations, say in movies. I loved how one of my ex-supervisors (an expat) used words like “perplex” and swears when he was annoyed, “Bloody”. I like to think that words are my friends. They offer me relief, they give me company, they let me be me.

Thanks, my friend, for reading me. You could never imagine how much that means to me. I wish you all the best this year, and courage and faith to face the challenges that it may bring. A happy and prosperous 2014 to you and yours!