Nostalgia: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 30 September 2016

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is NOSTALGIA:

  • What kinds of experiences stir emotions for the past within you?

The Philippines, specifically Bacolod City, where her father grew up, is the locus of all of self’s nostalgia. And of course, Dearest Mum, who met self’s Dear Departed Dad when she was a young pianist in New York City, and Dear Departed Dad was in Georgetown Law School.


The Daku Balay, Burgos Street, Negros Occidental: The Philippines. Self’s grandfather built this house, at the time the tallest structure in Bacolod City. Self’s father was born in this house.


Dearest Mum, in Her Early 30s


Bacolod City, Negros Occidental: June 2012

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Reading about Brazil is a lot like reading about the Philippines. A lot.

It’s not just the income disparity (Can you believe the Philippine president called POTUS a name — a pretty potent term that you only reserve for your worst enemy! Blush blush!), it’s the chaos.

Yesterday, there was a message from Dearest Mum on self’s cell phone.

She didn’t think anything of it but today she returned Dearest Mum’s call and how self knows that this is real: the maid, someone self has never met, asked who was calling, and when self said BATCHOY (Childhood nickname. Means FATSO. Even her college professors at the Ateneo called her this. Funny, when it’s self’s birthday on Facebook, her Filipino friends greet her saying BATCHOY and then her American friends scratch their heads and say, Mind explaining who BATCHOY is? LOL), the maid said, Oh, yes! Your mother has been waiting for your call! 

Which made self all kinds of guilty.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Gaah, this book. Doling out the suspense in teaspoon-size increments.

Anna is the current wife of Tom, who used to be married to Rachel. These three live near each other (Can you imagine? Bring on the pain!). The women in the story get their own points of view (Is this a feminist novel?) The male characters are either: a) louts; b) stinking ex-es; c) handsome unscrupulous jerks or d) clue-less. Hey, maybe this IS a feminist novel!

One day, when Anna is stuck at home minding the baby, she feels nostalgia: “I miss being a mistress.”

Yes. One day Anna’s flirting with Tom at an office party. Next thing you know, she’s a lonely stay-at-home mom.

On the idea of mistresses: there are a lot of them.

In Manila, self was included in an anthology of short stories all dedicated to “the mistress.” The title was Querida, something like that. (Suddenly, self realizes she never got her contributor copies. Why?)

This was Dearest Mum’s reaction to a short story self had written: “That’s not realistic,” Dearest Mum said. “There’s no such thing as an ugly mistress in Manila.”

Oh, Dearest Mum, you are hysterical!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



WIP: Memoir-ish

This is what I know of her past: She played in Carnegie Hall when she was just 14. I have the picture. It’s black and white, and in it my mother is round-faced, and her thick, curly black hair is held back by a hairband. Behind her, there is an orchestra.

To hear my dear departed aunt Terry tell it, my mother’s family took the train all the way across the country, starting in San Francisco. They wound up in Flushing. Self’s mother went to Curtis. She became classmates with the pianist Gary Graffman.

Honestly, self should do more with this story.

Stay tuned.

Numbers: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 3 June 2016


Dearest Mum Playing Solitaire: March 2016


Self-explanatory, really


Chinatown, San Francisco

Sentence of the Day: From Thad Carhart’s THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK

Self has an inordinate interest in pianos because her mother was a concert pianist: admitted to Curtis at 11, friends with Gary Graffman (who had self and her mother over to dinner at his apartment one night), winner of the New York Times International Piano Competition when she was 14. Dearest Mum played in Carnegie Hall.

Dearest Mum had not one, but two Steinways, one flown into our home in Manila through Clark Airbase.

As far as self knows, Dearest Mum is the only pianist in the world who has two Steinways.

Here’s a sentence from the book self is currently reading, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart:

No one knows exactly when the piano was invented.

Why is that interesting to self? Who knows. It just is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Music: Sylvain Landry Photo Challenge Week 28

The Sylvain Landry Photo Challenge this week is MUSIC.

Here’s a picture of the main stage of New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Took my first tour ever, December 2015. We were only allowed to take pictures when the musicians weren’t rehearsing.

Dearest Mum played a concert here after she won The New York Times International Piano Competition, when she was 14:


The Main Stage of Carnegie Hall, in between rehearsals: December 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Now: Other WordPress Blogs

It’s almost New Year’s. Self thinks 2015 was her most adventurous year. And that’s saying something. Because she has been traveling a lot since 2011. To Dharamsala. To Dublin, Cork, Galway and Northern Ireland. To Bacolod. To Venice. To Florence. To Edinburgh. To London. To York. To Boston. To New Hampshire. To Banff. To Calgary. To Minneapolis. To Culver City. To Venice Beach. To Virginia.

Funny, it is really ending with a bang. She got a piece picked up in December. And the week after, she began posting a new fan fic story that she thought would be a one-shot but has since turned into 30 chapters. Pure seat-of-the-pants writing. Everlark modern AU. But it starts off with Cheating Peeta. Self is the Mistress of Angst, for sure. It’s like she did her own personal NanoWriMo only in December rather than November. Who’d have thought?

2015 was the year she got her first tour of Carnegie Hall, the place where Dearest Mum gave a solo recital — when she was 14 years old. Which would make the year 1948.

She remembered Dearest Mum taking her to the Russian Tea Room, when she was 21 and a new grad student at Stanford. Self remembered she had French onion soup and cheese blintzes. She asked for the same, when she dropped by the Russian Tea Room earlier this month.

Self doesn’t have family over, she didn’t even get a tree this year, so she has no heartwarming holiday pictures to share. Instead, here are five other WordPress bloggers whose posts on the Photo Challenge — NOW — resonated the most with self:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Tell Your Stories, My Dear, You Have So Many of Them

So here’s yet another one.

Dearest Mum was a child prodigy who won The New York Times Piano Competition when she was 13 or 14. Self will find that New York Times article if it kills her! Kills her! She played in Carnegie Hall! Self has a picture of Dearest Mum standing on the stage and taking a bow. She’s in a cute little black dress, white socks, and black Mary Janes. And behind her is a full orchestra.

Carnegie Hall is celebrating its 125th Anniversary with Carnegie Hall Stories. If you have a story that involves Carnegie Hall, now is the time to drop them!

The closest she has come to writing about this family history is in the story “Lizard,” when she has Dearest Mum presenting with a kind of incubus stuck to her back. So heartwarming, self always goes for the cozy and reassuring, in life as well as in art!

That story’s in her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila.


Manhattan Stories

Shirtsleeve weather, yes!

Lost wallet twice. Got wallet returned twice. Nothing missing.

The soldier in camo who returned self’s wallet (the first time she lost it) found her on the PATH train platform for Hoboken. She had just been about to board the train. She’d just discovered her wallet was missing. She had five seconds of gut-twisting fear. Then the tap on her shoulder.

The soldier was young and didn’t even stick around for self to say “Thank you.” She had to shout it to him across the throng. He heard her, though, because he half turned his head and smiled.

Missed Drew’s concert at Carnegie Hall. To make up for it, she ate lunch at the Russian Tea Room. Cheese blintzes and French onion soup, just like what Dearest Mum ordered for her, 30 years ago. Was it worth it?

Self is determined to work on a story self is writing about Dearest Mum, will post on or on twitter #CHstories. Thinking of trekking to where Dearest Mum lived before she got married: Might have been Elmhurst. Might have been Flushing.

In fact, she did write this story. It is finished. She sent it to McSweeney’s two years ago. When she checks Submittable, it says “In Progress.” Self might as well take that as a rejection.

Black eyeliner a must because self gets so little sleep here. The city is like liquid fire. Fire! So, rim black around her eyes, please don’t look at self’s eyebags.

Last night, she was in the East Village, Avenue A. The streets were thronged with people in Santa costumes. She lived on 8th and 1st in the early 80s. She no longer recognized anything.

A young woman got up to read a piece about training in a police academy. “You’re going to be raped,” an officer whispered into her ear. How could he have known that she was raped, five years earlier, at 18.

Then another woman, reading about her hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey: “If you go to Bayonne, it’s because you live there, or you know someone who does.”

Self is also still reading student pieces for her UCLA Extension Writers Program class in Nonfiction writing.

Cacophony, yes?

A woman last night said to self, “You seem very nervous.” Which is probably why self keeps dropping her wallet. When she finally does lose it for good, self has decided, she will head straight to JFK and fly to the Bay Area.

But first, to write.

And it is fan fiction, all the way. Capitol Peeta! She has sworn. She will not abandon him on a train platform flanked by his handlers,  Tweedledum and Tweedledee. She will write this, even if it kills her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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