Towns of Negros

This morning, self wants to honor the trek she made last month, all around Negros.  She pulls out the much-creased map that she used on that trip.  Recalling her energy and single-mindedness, she can’t help being amazed.  She knows it is unlikely that she’ll ever repeat such an undertaking.  Not only is her energy flagging, but this is her second visit to Bacolod in a month.  She’s beginning to lose a little of her “outsider” status.  Before, one could think of self as an eccentric woman from California whose whims could be comfortably indulged because she was only staying a week.  But, back again?  That’s more than enough cause for closer scrutiny, for asking:  What’s her story?

Truthfully, self doesn’t know what her story is.  In Redwood City, California, where she has lived more than 20 years, she is a wife, mother, and teacher.  In New York, she is a writer and an aunt to her Dear Departed Sister’s three children.  In Manila, she is an ex-Ateneo and ex-Assumption Convent student.  She is also a daughter and a sister.

In Bacolod, however, she is a woman traveling alone and exposing herself to all kinds of risks (Though there couldn’t be a more sedate hotel in the entire world than L’Fisher, self feels).  She hasn’t bumped into many foreign men (It’s mostly male tourists one sees in the hotels here.  Rarely does she encounter a foreign woman.  Oh, not so fast, self!  Don’t you remember once seeing, in the hotel in Dumaguete, a middle-aged American woman who apparently, like self, was traveling alone?  Wasn’t this the moment when you began to settle down and relax?)

From her reading, self knows that the towns of Negros are very old.  In 1571, the Spanish came and established an encomienda that became the town of Binalbagan.  Ilog was founded by the Augustinians in 1584.  Hinigaran was founded in 1765.  The city of Escalante has been continuously inhabited “since 11th A.D.” (Info is from the official website of the province of Negros Occidental)  Escalante was a scene of horror in 1985 :  21 people were killed by the town’s security forces as they demonstrated in front of the municipal hall, in the lead-up to the Marcos-Aquino presidential race.

A long time ago, self visited a chapel made out of cartwheels.  She asked Joel, the driver she used last month, if he knew of it:  he didn’t.  Now, browsing the official website of Negros Occidental, self stumbles across an entry for the town of Manapla.  Under a section called “Famous Landmarks,” she finds this:

The Chapel of Cartwheels is made of farm implements such as cartwheels, plows, mortar and pestle, margaha sand and broken pieces of glass of different colors.  It was patterned like a “salakot” and it can be found inside the farm owned by the Gaston family.

Now self knows she wasn’t dreaming.

In addition, she learns that the town is famous “all over the Philippines” for its puto.  There’s even a festival held every August to commemorate this iconic Visayan delicacy. During this Festival, which is called Pinta Puto, people paint their bodies white and green and dance through the streets.

August?  Darn, self will miss it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quoting Yet Again from Antonio Muñoz Molina

Even as you enjoyed what you had, you knew how temporary it was, how inevitable loss was, and when you succeeded at something — a job, a friendship, a house — you never believed it was truly yours or that you deserved to celebrate it calmly. Which was why you always did things with vehemence, as if it were the first and last time, why you liked to decorate the places where you lived with carefully chosen objects, so that wherever you were, it seemed you’d lived there forever, given their careful arrangement and intimate relationship to you, except you felt that you had just arrived and might leave at any moment.

— p. 80 of the novel Sepharad

Cebu Pacific: How Can You Not Be Entertained?

Would it be OK for self to ask Ida, company secretary, to accompany her to the sabungan this weekend?  She’ll probably say no.

Today, self saw a young girl in the Balay Daku.  The girl was about seven or eight, and she stretched her arms up to Ida.  “Your apo?” self asked, and Ida nodded.  Following the young girl closely was another girl, slightly older.  Since Ida didn’t bother to introduce this other girl, self figured she must be the yaya of Ida’s grand-daughter.  Since this is Bacolod, not Manila, the yaya was not wearing a uniform:  she was in jeans, like any other young girl.

Self was supposed to fly back to Manila this coming Saturday.  She figured she could stand to be away from Bacolod for one night:  she’d spend the night with Dearest Mum and fly back to Manila on Sunday.

Then she got a call from a man who said he was with Cebu Pacific reservations.  He told self that her flight on Saturday (which was to have left for Manila at 10:45 a.m.) was cancelled.  The next flight to Manila would be after 4 p.m.  Which, self realized immediately, would mean she would miss the 2 p.m. Filipino Book Bloggers event at Libreria, which was the only reason she was heading to Manila in the first place.

So self decided right then and there that she’d just stay in Bacolod.  She told the Cebu Pacific person that she wanted to cancel her ticket.  Could she get a refund?  After twice putting her on hold, he got back on the line and said that the airline would give her a full refund.

The Cebu Pacific flight self took to get to Bacolod, on Saturday the 15th of January, was delayed by four hours.  She was supposed to fly out of Manila at 2:25 p.m., and instead she got bumped to 6:45 p.m.  She was running around so much that Saturday:  she went to the Salcedo Farmers Market, then to Market Market at the Fort, then to the Rockwell Starbucks.  By the time self arrived at Terminal 3 in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, her energy was at an extremely low point.  There had been so much traffic on the way to the airport that self had gotten quite nervous.  There were lines in front of the Cebu Pacific counters, and by the time self got her bag checked in and passed through security, it was nearly boarding time.  She found her gate, down one flight of stairs.  No time to go to the restroom and freshen up, everyone seemed to be milling around in confusion.  By the time she actually boarded the plane, she was hanging on to sanity by her fingernails.  And then Ida and Edalyn showed up at the Bacolod-Silay Airport, and deposited a most grateful self in the L’Fisher Chalet (self’s home away from home!)

Today, self decided to give Dear Cuz Maitoni a call.  She was in the middle of a badminton game but said she had a few minutes to chat.  Cuz asked self if Cebu Pacific had called her.  Self said yes.  It turned out that Cebu Pacific had called Dear Cuz to say that her flight had been cancelled.  At which point, Cuz freaked out, because she was going to Bacolod in a few weeks, and had just confirmed her ticket.

Self had given Cebu Pacific Dear Cuz’s cell phone number as her “contact info,” because she’d purchased her ticket back in California, and didn’t know yet what her new cell phone number in the Philippines would be.  Anyhoo, that call to Cuz from the Cebu Pacific person was the cause of a whole day of mayhem, for Cuz asked her sister Malu to help her try and reach Cebu Pacific (Cuz said that every time she tried calling Cebu Pacific, she’d be directed to voice mail), and then Malu got a secretary in her office to try and help, and they only got the problem clarified at the very end of the workday yesterday.

“Sorry!” self found herself saying, over and over.  All these contortions self unwittingly subjects her family to!  Who knew it would create such a massive headache for so many people?

Self will say, though, that after using Philippine Airlines, her first trip to Bacolod, last month, she decided to purchase all her subsequent tickets from Cebu Pacific.  They were never late once, not in the three separate trips self ended up taking to Bacolod, in December.

No, wait, that’s not quite right:  her very last trip, the one returning to Manila the night before she returned to San Francisco, was delayed for hours and hours.  And she still had to see her dentist for one last check-up.  And she ended up seeing the dentist, who waited patiently for self in her office, at 10 p.m.  And then she had to be back in the airport at 4 a.m.  And she ended up arriving in San Francisco with her nerves in a perfect state of disarray.  And then she saw Gracie, who had gone stone blind without hubby’s noticing a thing.

So why, why does she still insist in flying Cebu Pacific?  For one thing, she admires the stewardesses very much.  No matter how crowded the plane is, they always walk upright, not a hair out of place.  They smile, too.  And there are all those silly games, which they manage to squeeze into a 50-minute flight:  self thinks it’s pretty amazing.  The prize for the guessing game, the last flight she took, was a Cebu Pacific tote bag, which self thought was pretty cute.  If only she’d known the correct answers to the stewardess’ questions:  how many planes Cebu Pacific had in their fleet (Self forgets the answer to this one), and when Cebu Pacific first started operations (Answer:  1996).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Lunch Today in Bacolod: Curly Tops and Other Fattening Delights

Today, hitched a ride to Santa Fe Resort with a cousin.  Cousin told self that her daughter now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.  After 12 years of marriage, the daughter found herself unexpectedly pregnant.  The child, born after 8 1/2 months,  had no lungs, and “no butt.”  (Self tried to picture this, but couldn’t —  what does a person look like who has no butt?)  Her cousin, who was there for the birth, noted that the child had unusually large hands.  It still cried.  It lived two hours.

Cousin asked self what she had been doing and self told her that she had eaten dinner the previous night at Bacolod Chicken House.  “By yourself?” cousin asked.  Cousin then expressed utter amazement.

Now to Santa Fe:  shortly after arriving, self decided to tote her bag of books and papers to the restaurant, which has now been re-named Crocodile Haven (It used to be known as the Golden Pavilion).  She selected a table overlooking the Olympic-sized pool.  There were many children playing in the water.  Signs around the pool said:  NO RUNNING.

Self ordered some coffee and it was the most delicious cup of Philippine coffee she had ever tasted.  Then, self told the woman at the main office that she would take a jeep back to the City, but the woman in the office wouldn’t let self leave.  The woman called around and then told self that she would be driven back to the city, in the Santa Fe van.

Self had herself driven to the Balay Daku.  She found Ida.  She asked Ida if she could take a tour of Victorias Milling Center this Saturday.  Ida said the cost of a guide would be 2,500 pesos (about $56) !!!  Self thought she had never heard of anything so hugely exorbitant.

Ida asked self how she was planning to get to Victorias.  Everything here is in code.  They offer, but self knows that the true purpose of the offer is to probe, to test: will she accept or no?  Self would have liked to ask for the driver she had last month.  Instead she said, “I can take the bus.”

No, no, Ida said.  Ida called around and then said that self would be taken to Victorias in the Santa Fe van, which she could keep for the entire day.  The driver would be Danny.  (So, self thinks, she’d better start drawing up an itinerary.  Which is not, actually, as hard as it might appear.  There are many towns in between Bacolod and Victorias)

“What time would you like us to start, Ma’am?” inquired the driver.  “7 a.m.?  Eight?”  Sheesh!  No!  Knowing she has to be up by a certain time will certainly put a crimp in self’s energy for the day.

Afterwards, self had herself dropped off, not at L’Fisher but two blocks away, at the Monsterrific store where she buys the “load” for her cell phone.  Here she found, to her utter delight, boxes of a candy she remembers devouring as a child:  Curly Tops.  Walking back to the hotel, she passed a dimsum place, went inside, and ordred deep-fried shrimp balls to go.  Now she’s back in her room, and here’s what her lunch looks like:

Lunch: Curly Tops, Deep-Fried Shrimp Balls in Sweet and Sour Sauce, Lychee Shake

No wonder self is gaining weight at such an astonishing rate, this trip.

Thank goodness she can still text Zack.  He is working in what self thinks is a truly disciplined way.  She should try to write.  No, make that:  She will write.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Antonio Muñoz Molina (“I don’t mind dying . . . “)

Now, things are beginning to feel a little haywire. Self has no memory of typing a post about Room Service here at L’Fisher Chalet. When she checked her blog stats at 8 a.m. this morning, the dashboard said she had posted it “five hous ago,” meaning at 3 a.m. — !!!

Back home in California, self has been known to sleepwalk. Yes indeed: at times, hubby, dressing for work, will notice a whole mess of food stuff on the kitchen counter.   In addition, there will be evidence that self has cooked something.  There’ll be a frying pan on the stove, oily with congealed grease (Self is grateful that, thus far, she has never inadvertently left the stove on.  Not only would that have sent hubby into conniptions:  she might possibly have caused her own unexpected demise)

Anyhoo, today, what with all the phone calls, she is beginning to feel a tad defensive. Dearest Mum asked self for her room number.  Shortly afterwards,  self walked to Lacson Street to purchase more “load” for her cell. When she returned to her room, there were three slips of paper under the door: two calls from Dearest Mum, one from Ida, the company secretary. Since she arrived, people have been calling and asking: “Where are you now? Are you alone?”

What gives, people? Self knows she sometimes does crazy things, but at her age, no one should be allowed to ask, “Are you alone in your room?”

You know, self knew, she just knew there was a reason she couldn’t go to Bacolod with even a good friend like ZL. Because the whole city knows L’Fisher. In fact, she wouldn’t be surprised if the receptionists and bellboys know who she is (though she’s trying her best to keep very decorous hours).

After that very very long introduction — below, at long last, is the promised quote of the day: It is of course from  Sepharad:

I don’t mind dying, but I don’t want to be buried where no one knows me, among strange names, that would be like living again in one of those apartment buildings where I was an outsider, stuck in my house waiting all afternoon for my children to come home, and my husband after nightfall, reserved or talkative, bragging about his job or bad mouthing the people in his office, superiors or subordinates, names I hear and get used to but then stop hearing and forget, just as I get used to the new cities where his work takes us and where I never have time to get completely settled, never have what I want most: my own things, furniture I’ve picked out, a routine, that’s what I miss the most, being able to settle sweetly into the passing of time, to get established, to occupy a secure place in the world, as I did as a child living in my small town, and although I always had a head for fantasy and imagined journeys and adventures, I enjoyed the safety of my home, my brothers and sisters, the presence of my father, the joy of looking out the window of my room and seeing the valley with its flowering almond and apple trees and, high above them, the bare tops of the mountains, with that color earth that’s the same as the houses on the road to the cemetery where I want to be buried.

Latest Book Deals (From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, 17 January 2011)

Latest deal announcements from Publishers Weekly :

Mystery/ Crime

  • Law & Order:  SVU Executive Producer Neal Baer’s Kill Switch, “a series featuring a female forensic psychiatrist who joins with a former police officer to look for a former patient turned serial killer, written with co-executive producer Jonathan Greene,” to Kensington, in a three-book deal



  • Academy Award-winning actress Sissy Spacek’s Barefoot Stories, “a memoir told in stories, spanning her childhood in Texas, her arrival in New York City with only a small suitcase and a guitar, and her adult life and distinguished acting career,” to Hyperion for publication in 2012

There were other fascinating deal announcements, such as former Cantor Fitzgerald partner Lauren Manning’s Every Day, A Choice, a “memoir of survival and self-renewal” about how she “survived terrible burns on 9/11, as documented in husband Greg Manning’s 2002 book Love, Greg & Lauren,” but, alas, self has many many things to do today, many relatives to visit and many jeepney rides to take and more adventures to embark on.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

So Fine

Isn’t this the cutest, dear blog readers?

T-shirt self bought today from L'Fisher Hotel Gift Shop

The gift shop in L’Fisher had only one size —  Large —  but when self tore off the wrapping of one shirt and tried it on, she saw that the Large is actually perfect for her!!!  Cost:  290 pesos, or about $6.

Yesterday, self attended mass at San Sebastian Cathedral and afterwards walked around the Plaza.  There was a light rain falling.  She came upon the monument to Private Theodore Vinther, who bravely sacrificed his life while charging the Bago Bridge to prevent the Japanese from detonating it (Had the Japanese succeeded in blowing up the bridge, it would have considerably slowed the advance of the American Army’s 40th Division, which had been charged with liberating Bacolod.  Who knows what atrocities might have occurred in the meantime!)

Right next to the monument was a knot of men conducting a most vigorous debate.  As far as self could make out (Her Ilonggo is atrocious), the men were arguing about the finer points of a passage of Scripture.  According to self’s cousin, this type of impromptu debate occurs every Sunday on the Plaza.

Men conducting impromptu debate in the Bacolod Plaza, next to memorial for World War II American Hero Theodore Vinther, who sacrificed his life at Bago Bridge to prevent the bridge's detonation by the occupying Japanese Army.

In other world occurrences, last night The Golden Globes were held (Self did not get to watch; she caught up this afternoon on “The Social Network” won Best Picture. Best actor was Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech” (YAAAY!). “Glee” won as Best Television Series (Comedy or Musical). Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture went to Melissa Leo, for her role in “The Fighter.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Starbucks, Rockwell/ And Back to the Trusty Ol’

This afternoon, had coffee with Judy at the Starbucks in Rockwell.  This is probably the fanciest Starbucks self has ever seen:  it is a stand-alone structure surrounded by lush green landscaping.  Within are beatniks.  Actual beatniks, with long ringlets and shades —  Filipino as well as white (European?  American?).  Also, many young people on laptops.  Also, many reserved tables with no actual occupants —  that is, notebooks spilling across tables, knapsacks draped over chairs.  There was one such table next to self and Judy, and the occupants never showed, not in two hours.

Shortly after the coffee date, self boarded the 6 p.m. Cebu Pacific flight for Bacolod.  Along with her on this flight:  many elderly men.  A one-legged young man on crutches.  A mother who could speak no English and her four-year-old daughter who spoke only in English, and Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Antonio Muñoz Molina’s SEPHARAD

A few days before leaving California, self began reading Antonio Muñoz Molina’s novel, Sepharad (in a translation from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden, published 2001 by Harcourt) So far, she’s gotten only as far as p. 22.

Every trip is different (Beginning a new trip is similar, in many ways, to beginning a new book).  This trip, self knows, will not be like the one she took only a month ago, in December, a trip when self’s normal everyday writerly anxieties were suddenly overturned by a fresh determination to travel to as many villages and towns as she could in her Dear Departed Dad’s native Negros (also because she knew she had a driver —  Joel —  she could trust absolutely).  That trip, she couldn’t even finish one book:  Jose Saramago’s The Cave.  (And, wildly optimistic, she’d brought three with her, including Orlando Figes’ immense Natasha’s Dance:  A Cultural History of Russia)

Anyhoo, here she is staying in Dearest Mum’s townhouse (As self just said, every trip is different —  har har har!), and Dearest Mum has taken herself off to early mass and then breakfast with some friends, hence self finds herself with reading time.

And, it just so happens that the passage self reads is about traveling.  Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes in the course of a journey you hear and tell stories of other journeys.  It seems that with the act of departing the memory of previous travels becomes more vivid, and also that you listen more closely and better appreciate the stories you’re told:  a parenthesis of meaningful words within the other, temporal, parenthesis of the journey.  Anyone who travels can surround himself with a silence that will be mysterious to strangers observing him, or he can yield, with no fear of the consequences, to the temptation of shading the truth, of gilding an episode of his life as he tells it to someone he will never see again.  I don’t believe it’s true what they say, that as you travel you become a different person.  What happens is that you grow lighter, you shed your obligations and your past, just as you reduce everything you possess to the few items you need for your luggage.  The most burdensome aspect of our identity is based on what others know or think about us.  They look at us and we know that they know, and in silence they force us to be what they expect us to be, to act according to certain habits our previous behavior has established, or according to suspicions that we aren’t aware we have awakened.  To the person you meet on a train in a foreign country, you are a stranger who exists only in the present.

Travel, exactly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Intrepid Travelers

Self is groggy:  the jet lag is really kicking in.  But, already, self has accompanied Dearest Cuz to Tagaytay, for a totally fab breakfast at Antonio’s.

Talk about pushing it:  Cuz served self a repast as soon as she got in from the airport, just before midnight last night:  siopao, Majestic ham, queso de bola, bite-sized tuna sandwiches.  This morning, Cuz awakened self at 7:30 and said we were going to Tagaytay for brunch.  First, though, we had to have breakfast:  Mary Grace’s ensaimada and slices of sweet papaya.  Definitely, self felt she had died and gone to heaven (Counting today’s brunch in Tagaytay, self realizes that she’s consumed three full meals in a span of less than 12 hours —  aargh)

Dear Cuz’s place in Dasma is like a spa:  there’s a pond stocked with the fattest koi self has ever seen and, in the garden, the loud chirpings of maya birds.  This quite vigorous animal life is in marked contrast to doors that slide open with nary a sound, and maids slipping unobtrusively in and out of rooms.

At some point last night, as self’s plane was circling in preparation to landing, self looked out the plane window and saw the lights of Manila.  It was a beautiful night.  The weather was 84 degrees, the skies were clear.  The first thing that hit her when she stepped out of the plane was the smell, a damp and humid smell —  it’s a familiar smell:  the smell of Manila, the smell of home.

Wednesday morning, Delta sent an extra plane to take the Manila-bound passengers who were stranded by the cancellation of Tuesday’s flight.  We all flew out together on Wednesday, on a plane that was mostly empty.  Here are some of self’s fellow travelers:

Fellow travelers, waiting in Narita for last leg of flight to Manila

Larry, cook of a Filipino turo-turo restaurant in Sunnyvale. He says Thursday nights are kaldereta nights. He's visiting new-born twins in his home province of Pangasinan, will be back to cook on Feb. 9. Self promised to eat there.

Midnight repast at Dear Cuz's place in Dasmariñas

Dear Cuz took this picture of self (over self's strenuous protests). She said she had never seen anyone apparently so excited to be home.

Tonight, dinner at Greenbelt 5.

Tomorrow morning, Salcedo Farmers Market.

Tomorrow night, Bacolod and L’Fisher.  Self told her Bacolod cousins she could just get a taxi from the airport, but they were adamant she would be met.  “This is not the States!” they texted.  “A woman traveling alone here is just not safe!”

Oh, really?  Then why didn’t they blink last month, when she had Joel drive her to Dumaguete and all over southern Negros?  Oh, guess that was because Joel was her “protection.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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