Past Squares 3: Sepia-Toned

If you’ve never heard of The Squares Challenge, you are missing something! The Challenge is hosted by Becky at Life of B, and the theme for this month is Past Squares.

Past Squares can be either your selection from a past round of squares, or something old, historical, etc

For the month, self decided she would focus on the “historical.” In the immortal words of William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”

For today’s Past Squares post, self is going back. WAAAAAY back. Back to the time when she and Dear Departed Sister were four and five-and-a-half years old, respectively (She and her sister were only 18 months apart).

Dearest Mum dressed us alike, all the time. We had the same haircuts, the same dresses, the same shoes. Everything the same. Except for our personalities. When self frowned, her sister smiled. When her sister frowned, self smiled. This was some weird form of sibling rivalry. Nevertheless.

In one picture, self and her sister are sitting in front of a memorial to her grandfather. (Yes, there are colonnades, yes there was a bust of her grandfather. We were in the family resort, in an island in the central Philippines)

The second picture, self and her sister are with her parents. In the exact center of the picture is her grandmother, her mother’s mother. She was a force! A piano teacher from Jaro, Iloilo, her grandmother propelled Dearest Mum all the way to Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher. Self has no recordings of those days, since Dearest Mum stubbornly refused to have ANY recordings made of her music. Self doesn’t even have the countless magazine covers that her mother appeared in.

Share Your Desktop: June 2021

Not sure how old she was here: perhaps in her 40s?

Self’s desktop this month is Dearest Mum, wearing traditional Filipino formal attire (the scoop back, the butterfly sleeves) at her beloved piano.

Her name was NENA DEL ROSARIO. A graduate of Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia (which she entered at 11), she won the New York Times International Piano Competition at 14, played twice at Carnegie Hall, passed away 4 June 2021. Long, hard fight: she got covid in Manila in March.

Much love to her nurses: Sol, Amy and Rodelyn.

One Word Sunday Challenge: TOUCH

There are so many challenges to explore!

Travel with Intent hosts the One Word Sunday Challenge. The current theme is TOUCH.

Self’s gallery:

  1. Elevator attendant, Manuel Benavides Library, University of Santo Tomas, Manila
  2. Jollibee attendant, Manila – Self asked the driver to stop by Jollibee on her way home from the airport. First stop! It was in the pre-dawn hours. Manila is a city that never sleeps.
  3. Self, Andrew, and nephew Chris Blackett in the very long ago, at an amusement park in California
  4. Self with an umbrella in Tokyo, also in the very long ago

Stay safe, dear log readers. Stay safe.

Appointment in Samarra Redux

Both of self’s parents were readers. The living room was lined with bookshelves, and there were always books on her parents’ nighstands.

Dearest Mum liked Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima.

Dear Departed Dad liked John O’Hara and John Updike.

One of Dear Departed Dad’s John O’Hara’s books was Appointment in Samarra. Self remembers loving it. The appointment in O’Hara’s novel is the same as the one in the excerpt below from The Silent Duchess, with O’Hara using Samarra as the stand-in for Samarkand. In both versions, the irony is delicious.

This morning, 6:30 a.m., self is racing to the end of The Silent Duchess.

She reads, on p. 226:

  • One does not truly escape by always escaping. Like that character in The Thousand and One Nights, who lived in Samarkand. She cannot remember whether it was Nur el Din or Mustafa. He was told, “Soon you will die in Samarkand,” so he galloped full speed to another city. But right in that unknown city, while he was walking peacefully along, he was assassinated, and as he died he saw that the square in which he attacked was called Samarkand.

Curfew takes effect in her area tonight: everyone must stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Obssessed with Origins

Domingo Salazar, who built the Manila Cathedral, received his assignment (from the Pope Himself) in 1579. He was from Salamanca.

Self has been to Spain only once. She went to Mojacar. Then, Dearest Mum got herself invited to give a concert in Madrid (at the Philippine Embassy), while self was in the middle of an artists residency, and like a dutiful daughter, she left her residency early, took a nine-hour bus trip to Madrid, stayed with Dearest Mum a week, and left Spain, never to return. She remembers the artists in residence with her: there were some amazing painters. She never forgot. They accompanied her to the bus stop. She must have said something about returning to complete the rest of her residency, but she never did. Like an endless foghorn, this pattern repeats. She was supposed to go to Belfast, several years ago, was about 60 miles away, when she got urgently called to Manila, for . . . umm. It’s hard to explain, it seemed like a terribly urgent thing.

Madrid was 1996. You think you have all this time, and then you have no time (Amazingly, it was then that she started being very interested in writing about 16th century Spain!)

What does she remember of that week? The Museo del Prado. El Greco. The broad, leafy avenues. Uh. Dearest Mum’s concert. Of course.

She cannot believe how much time has elapsed, but she feels like exactly the same person. Only, if she were to go back to Spain (like next year, or whenever COVID disappears, maybe never), she would definitely, given what she’s just read, make it a point to go to Salamanca.

Domingo Salazar, First Bishop of Manila.

P.S. One of the painters she met at Mojacar was Eizo Sakata. He gave her two of his sketches (one of the flat-topped mountain across the plains from their artists residence). Had them both framed and they are hanging now in her little house.

Stay tuned.

Manila, 1600

  • Given the honorific insigne y leal by the royal decree of 20 May 1574 and later constituted capital in 1595, Manila was the crucible where colonial architecture was forged. Here was the laboratory where through trial and error and disaster — principally incendio, hurracan y terremoto (fire, typhoon, and earthquake), the unique shape of Hispanic architecture in the Philippines evolved. By 1600, Antonio de Morga described a city that was completely surrounded by a wall, which incorporated the tower Sedeño had built. The cathedral was in stone; the Jesuit church and convent were in stone, so were the Dominicans’. The Augustinian church was being completed in stone and the Franciscan church was being repaired after suffering damage. He mentions three hospitals in Intramuros and the Colegio de Santa Potenciana with its stone enclosure and stone church dedicated to San Andres. He mentions about 600 houses, many in stone and some in wood with tile or thatch roof and many more being constructed.

— Fr. René B. Javellana, SJ, La Casa de Dios

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: HEARING

Think about what you like to listen to: a voice, the wind, the ocean, music, purr of a cat, birds singing, etc. Be creative and have fun.

Cee Neuner

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Son and his cousin celebrating New Year in the Long Ago

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Dearest Mum and the Widow of Dear Departed Dad’s Best Friend, Having a Good Time in Café Romulo, Manila

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Michelle Ruiz Keil, reading from her YA, All of Us With Wings, in the Mission, San Francisco

Looking over these pictures, self is overcome with nostalgia. Fun times, there used to be. Thank you, Cee Neuner, for giving self an excuse to reminisce.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Writes 16th Century

Self wrote the below section in a tone deliberately deadpan. It’s from her novel, Camarote de Marinero: Voyages.

An archivist to a young missionary who is shortly to depart Spain for the Philippines (1597):

  • As regards your health. The only hospitals are in Manila. You will be ill, but there is no help. There are two seasons, the dry and the wet. Fever is common during the wet season.

Poetry Friday: Eric Gamalinda

INCANTATION/ A SCROLL

published in Caracoa 18 (April 1988)

The madman and the hypocrite roam this city I didn’t want to die in
I have seen my generation scour the alleys for scraps and sex
have seen the gentlest people throw up in disgust unhappy and
impolite
and the needle piercing the skin and the ooze of impossible
blood
all of them fortify my battlements i.e. not even the leaves
tremble at the thought of decay
and even as this man dies or that one fails I am learned or
am fallen
not defeated but bracing for the next attack
the symmetry of vespers and arrows
now the inner midnight is descending and the fine opens and closes
over someone’s sad mouth holding back the howl
with its immaculate crises and blooms of violets
and always I am he
I burn in the beatified rainbows
I am driven insane by the simplest wind
and when this man fails or that one exults
I am he/I am lessened/I exult


What a poem. That first line.

Tuesday Photo Challenge: ACTION

There’s always plenty of action around us, so your challenge is to share some of your best captures of that action with all your blogging friends.

Tuesday Photo Challenge

Ever since self’s Nikon Coolpix stopped working, she hasn’t taken as  many pictures. Taking pictures with her Android is such a bear! Nevertheless, she did manage to take some action pictures:

  • Top Picture: San Mateo Farmers Market, the Yang Gang, January 2020
  • Middle Picture: On the street in front of Ottolenghi in Spitalfields, East London, Nov 2019
  • Bottom Picture: Jollibee Hamburger, a little past midnight, Manila, September 2019

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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