Complimentary Breakfast, L’Fisher Hotel, Lacson Street, Bacolod City

How, how can one manage to lose weight in Bacolod?  Especially when one is staying at L’Fisher on Lacson Street, so close to Café Uma and Pendy’s, Calea and Chicken House?

It is very hard.

Not to mention, L’Fisher has a complimentary breakfast, at which one has a choice of:

  • danggit (a local fish —  served fried, naturally)
  • longaniza
  • tapa
  • tocino
  • corned beef

Each of which comes with a choice of plain or fried rice, and an egg.

Self was chatting with the receptionist one day when two Americans came sauntering across the lobby.  Self didn’t realize that she’d been waving around her yellow complimentary breakfast card (She always gestures with her hands when she converses, and the receptionist had just handed her the breakfast card) when one of the Americans turned to her and said, “The breakfast here isn’t very good!  They only give you one egg!”

He was joking.  Probably.

Self murmured something like, “Well, you can always order another egg!”

Really, what is the big deal?  Self can never manage to finish everything on her breakfast plate.  Lately, the waiter has been allowing self to substitute fruit:  fresh mango or papaya or watermelon.

That day, self was wearing a bright yellow shirt she’d just bought from Nordstrom’s Rack in East Palo Alto, one Saturday spent shopping with Sandy.

And the bright yellow shirt matched the bright yellow complimentary breakfast card.

Self adores everything about L’Fisher:  from the young women at the reception desk, who always show up early in the morning with their hair damp and a few loose tendrils still clinging to their necks, whose maroon uniforms sometimes look a little worn, who field phone calls and requests from guests with cheerfulness and unflappable sangfroid.  Self’s little nest, this hotel has become.

One day, trying to exchange some big bills for smaller change for a taxi, the cashier (at the main desk, not in the Chalet) said, “Ma’am, we have no more small bills.”

Self was taken aback for about three seconds.  Then, another guest, who’d been eavesdropping said, “I have change.”

He was a young man, Filipino.

“Thank you very much!” self said.

Then off self went to Virgie’s on San Sebastian Street, for her weekly ration of piaya and mango tart.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mother of All Lunches

Butter Sans Rival, the new Calea Café, Lacson Street, Bacolod City

How much does self love Bacolod?  Let her count the ways . . .

For those poor un-enlightened who have not yet had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with this overly rich (Filipino) dessert, the ingredients are:

  • butter
  • cashew nuts
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • vanila
  • and more sugar

The new Calea has two kinds of sans rival:  the regular “butter” sans rival (pictured above, before self’s gustatory attack), and a mocha sans rival.

Stay tuned.

Bacolod, Mon Amour: July 2011 Edition

Self spends a lot of hours on her laptop:

The Hotel in Bacolod, Negros Occidental

Self read three books in two weeks:  quite a change from the last time she was in Bacolod (January 2011), when it took her a whole month to finish reading Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Sepharad.

So far, self has read and finished Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth and Bernhard Schlink’s (short, magnetic) The Reader.  A few days ago, self began Bernhard Schlink’s Homecoming.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Moon Tonight: Bacolod, July 2011

Manang Marilou

Ah, the Moon

The Daku Balay, July 2011

Self spent summers here as a girl . . .

View From the Main Lobby, Balay Daku

The Balay Daku was the first all-concrete house built in Bacolod City.  It had a working elevator that went up to the fourth floor.

Now it’s been converted into an office.  There are four floors of Villanueva secretaries —  oh my!  On Wednesdays, a man comes from Iloilo to practice “healing reflexology” on the employees.

The secretaries come from towns like Murcia and Magallon (now re-named “Moises Padilla”)

One of the delights of self’s childhood summers was being allowed to choose baye-baye, empanada, fresh lumpia, pinasugbu, suman, and other delights from the woven bilao of a vendor who came walking slowly down the main driveway, every day.

Self thought she was dreaming when, mid-morning, she saw a young man walking down the driveway with a bilao full of food.  Let me see, she ordered him.  He put down his bilao and this is what self saw inside:

The only thing new from the time when she was a child was the siomai.

Self bought a third of the bilao and distributed food to the secretaries.  Total:  160 pesos ($2.63).  The vendor (whose name was Nestor) was very abashed at having to relieve self of so much money.

Jerry is the Father of Ida, Dear Bros’ Passionate Adherent

Self spent some time interviewing a man called Jerry, who started working for the Villanuevas in 1952, when he was 32 years old.  He is now 81 and still goes to work in the Balay Daku every day.  He remembers a time when self’s Dear Departed Dad had an hacienda near Mambucal, named after Dearest Mum:  Hacienda Nena.

“Your father was always soft-spoken,” he told self.

“I look like my Dad, don’t I?” self asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

And now, self is off to meet another cousin.

Today is her birthday.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Peregrinations: July, 2011

Restaurant, Murcia, Negros Occidental

Tina, L'Fisher Chalet, Bacolod, Negros Occidental

The Mother of All Coconuts: Archie, Self's New Driver, Bought This for Self From a Beach Restaurant in Sum-ag

RORO (Roll On, Roll Off) Pier in the Reclamation Area, Bacolod, Negros Occidental

The Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City (built 1864)

The Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City (Dearest Mum's Mother, Gertrudis Hautea, Otherwise Known as "Tuding," Was Born in Jaro)

Pews, the Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City

View From Inside a RORO Ferry: Self's Rental Car Was Squeezed In On All Sides by Huge Trucks

Nothing Is As Beautiful as a Philippine Sea

More Beauty


Self is almost to the end of The Reader.  It is so inexpressibly sad!  As was the other book self finished reading here:  Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. As soon as self gets back to California, she will try loading up on humorous books (Hello, self!  Have you forgotten that the book that awaits you on your bedside table is Entering Hades:  The Double Life of a Serial Killer?  And after that, Paul Theroux’s The Elephanta Suite?)

What is it about this island?  This morning, self had just gotten up when there was a strange agitation beneath her feet.  She was sitting at her laptop, and it suddenly seemed that the room was not still.

Self waited, motionless.  She waited for the walls to start cracking, the ceiling to start shedding plaster.  She waited for footsteps in the hallway, or screams, or other sounds of human alarm.  But there was nothing:  only self sitting frozen at her desk.

Afterwards, when self was quite sure the rolling was over, she quickly went to her closet and donned jeans and a T-shirt.  Then she resumed writing at her laptop.  Then there was a second wave of motion, but much less powerful than the first.  And it only lasted a short while, not even a minute.

Later, self knew she hadn’t been dreaming because the news announced that there had been a 6.0 earthquake that morning in Dumaguete.

Self’s driver this time around is called Archie.  He is as different from Joel as it is possible to be:  he is only a few years younger than self, and is rotund whereas Joel was thin.  Archie has quite a colorful past, and self is just amazed that he actually knew the real story of how the activist Moises Padilla was killed.  It seemed that the then-governor of Negros, a Lacson, had not given the order that Padilla be killed, but two of Padilla’s guards belonged to a family that had long nursed a grudge against Padilla, and so these men took it upon themselves to torture and eventually kill him.

Sometime during the afternoon, self expressed a desire to sip fresh coconut juice.  Archie suddenly pulled up by a beach and spoke to some people at a nearby restaurant.  Next thing you know, a young man with tattooed arms came out and attacked a coconut with a machete.  Then he handed the sliced-open coconut to self.  The coconut was huge!  Self whiled away the afternoon in the back of the car, now and then taking a sip of coconut juice.  When she finally arrived back at the hotel, she had drunk only about half of the coconut’s contents.  Truly, it was the Mother of All Coconuts.

The other night, having dinner with her cousins, a strange thing happened:  a bottle of wine from a collection lined up against a wall suddenly flew off the shelf, completely unaided, and shattered on the floor, just a few feet from self’s table.  It was positively eerie:  self was the only one at the table who had actually seen the bottle shoot into the air.  Afterwards, she was quite distraught:  Why did that happen?  How could that have happened?  she kept asking her cousins, over and over.  It seemed like some kind of omen.

It’s a variation in the air pressure, her cousins soothed her.  It is nothing.

But self has been at many restaurants that feature bottles of wine stacked against a wall.  Never has she seen a bottle eject itself and shoot into the air, the way that bottle did.

Bacolod is full of poltergeists.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

To the Four Winds

Since Joel the driver has gone who knows where (His wife embarked for Dubai in late January, after which he seems to have vanished into thin air ???), self has had to make do in Bacolod without a driver.  Today she finally decided to bite the bullet and try to find a driver on her own.

She was given the number of one “Rudyard” (Rudyard, as in Rudyard Kipling, that is the beautiful and terrible lyricism of Bacolod, which never fails to strike deep into self’s very soul) and in conversation today with aforementioned, she stated her conditions:

  1. He must speak good English.
  2. He must be willing to travel at a moment’s notice (like, tomorrow) and stay one or two nights in a yet undisclosed place.
  3. He must not only be an excellent driver but also trustworthy:  “More a bantay than a driver,” self explained to Rudyard.

“Ma’am,” Rudyard replied with great enthusiasm and energy.  “I have that person.”

“You have what?” self said, scarcely believing her ears.

“I am telling you, Ma’am, that I have that person.  That person you have just described.  Exactly that person.”

Oh happy happy joy joy!

“Produce him forthwith!” self declared.

“At what time?” quoth Rudyard.

“OK, 8 a.m.!  Tomorrow!”  (Then self remembered that she had scheduled a manicure)  “No!  I mean 10 a.m.!”

“It will be done, Ma’am,” said the supremely confident Rudyard.  “And by the way,” he continued, “what shall be your code name?”

“My code name?” self inquired, completely at a loss.

“Yes, Ma’am, in situations such as these, requiring extreme confidentiality, we never ask the client for a real name, only a code name.”

(Self must have stumbled into a James Bond picture overnight.  Self, enough of these digressions!  You need to focus!  FOCUS!  Self must admit that, since arriving in Bacolod over a week ago, she has been so paralyzed with indecision that she has done nothing but eat.  And eat.  And eat.  Which is why Tina, the girl who does her laundry, who knows self from January, said to her four times today:  “Ma’am, tumaba ka.”)

“OK, make my code name Sea Bass,” self declared (How thankful she is that she remembers son’s handle from the long-ago time when he still lived in self’s house and played computer games all night, to the detriment of his grades.  Son’s “handle” was Sea Bass.  What a memory you have, self!)

“Sea — b- buh — ” quoth Rudyard.

“Sea bass!  Sea bass!”  self chanted.  “You know, the fish!  Sea bass!”

“Ah, yes,” replied Rudyard.  “We shall call for you tomorrow looking for Sea Bass.”

“That’s right,” self said.

And now she is all super excited.  Even though she is also exhausted, and fell asleep at 8 p.m. (after having Gambas at Pendy’s), and kept dreaming that she was on the set of The Mummy, the movie that starred Brendan Fraser.  She could hardly move, her limbs were so heavy, even though the horrible giant mummy (with strangely Aztec-looking headdress) had risen from the sand and was threatening self’s very existence.

Now she is awake.  There is a horrible clattering sound of a trolley in the hallway.

Yesterday, self was in Murcia.  She even spotted Ida’s lazy husband, shooting the breeze on a street corner with similarly drunk cronies.  Then she went to his house, and spotted the black Hi-Lux that she remembers Ida using to pick her up from the airport, a few months ago.  So the couple (or at least Ida) was home.

Self cannot yet explain why she feels such terrible animosity for this woman (who Dear Bro Yoo-Hoo claims is the very salt of the earth).  She would also like to impart that tomorrow, she will tell Elenita in the Balay Daku that if this erstwhile cousin keeps casting aspersions against self (during board meetings when self cannot be present), she will sue Elenita for defamation.  She thinks she might even have a slight chance of winning such a suit.  In fact, as she told a cousin today, “You know I have the money to do it.”  Ah, self, you are such a Bacoleña, so seemingly patient but given to wild bursts of improbable, imaginative activity!

Ready, world, here comes Sea Bass!   BWAH HA HA HAAAA!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Things Read, Wee Hours of July 10, 2011

Finished The House of Mirth.  The writing became refreshingly clean.  Self found herself crying unexpectedly.  Not as hard as she did when she read Janet Lewis’ remarkable The Wife of Martin Guerre (standing in her kitchen in Fremont, CA:  a sob-fest to end all sob-fests, while her not-even-three-year-old son played unconcernedly at her feet), but nevertheless it was the first time in years that self had ever cried while reading a book.

Began Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader.  She does not know how Schlink pulled it off, writing about this extremely difficult subject.  But oh, how powerfully he inhabits the point of view of the narrator, who at the beginning of the novel is 15.

She’s been re-reading the pieces of a student in a recently concluded UCLA Extension writing class, who has decided to apply to a Creative Writing Program, and for whom self has agreed to write a letter of recommendation.

She continued reading the signed copy of Rosebud and Other Stories by Wakako Yamauchi, edited by Lillian Howan and published by the University of Hawaii.

She has so many stories saved up for dear blog readers!  But now is not yet the time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Lily Bart, Insomniac

Almost to the end of The House of Mirth.  What a novel it has turned out to be!  If only Wharton’s writing hadn’t been so florid.  In certain passages, the sentences are as full of cornucopia as a baroque cathedral.

Still, self loves the characters.  And Lily Bart’s gradual degradation is very moving.

Towards the end, Lily’s love for Selden has such clarity.  It is the only clear thing in a life filled with confusing messages and rationalizations.

That a beautiful woman should be forced to earn her own keep is a travesty (or, it was in Wharton’s time.  No, perhaps in an earlier generation’s time as well.  Self remembers Dearest Mum saying, more than once, that self’s grandmother didn’t think Dearest Mum’s younger sister needed to go to college because she was so beautiful, she was sure to marry well.  That it turned out all tragically wrong for self’s aunt is further proof that Wharton’s steely unsentimentality about a woman’s place in society is still resonant today).

Here is poor Lily Bart, forced to make a living by working at a hat-making factory:

She began to rip the spangles from the frame, listening absently to the buzz of talk which rose and fell with the coming and going of Miss Haines’ active figure.  The air was closer than usual, because Miss Haines, who had a cold, had not allowed a window to be opened even during the noon recess; and Lily’s head was so heavy with the weight of a sleepless night that the chatter of her companions had the incoherence of a dream.

Self, searching around for a suitable image to illustrate Ms. Bart’s deepening insomnia, found this photograph of window shades:

Window Shades, Bacolod, One Afternoon in July

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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