Monday, September 22, 2008

great photo

You won't find many photos of me on the internet, but here's one, with NY-based indie film maker Mike Sandoval, taken by Carlo Gabuco in Zambales, early 2007. Carlo uploaded it on Flickr some time ago, I suppose.

Great b & w image. Check out more of Carlo's photography and paintings on the same site.

currently reading...

Currently reading The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith. Wow, hanep.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

my brush with royalty

The International Board of Books on Young People opens its 2008 Congress in a program at Glassalen, Tivoli, Copenhagen, at 7 pm this evening. Winners of the Hans Christian Andersen award will be announced. Guest of honor will be the Queen of Denmark herself, Margrethe II.

This morning Vagn, who is proprietor of the publishing house Forlaget Hjulet and chief organizer of the conference, gave me a task: to wrap up a present for the Queen. I went into a tizzy, then in the next moment calmed down. Me ... favorite aunt who has earned a reputation in our family for The Best Presented Christmas Gifts, floored by such an honor? No way!

I went directly to our gift wrapper hamper (yes, we keep one) and found an unopened role of white wrapping paper decorated with lovely silver, gold and pastel star shapes, from Netto by the way, that I had been saving, for some unknown occasion, since 2006. It stood elegantly among the loose roles of Santa Claus and Happy Birthday wrappings. There was a sad roll of thin red plastic ribbon, the kind that the Danes like to curl up into corkscrews with the edge of a scissor-blade. No way. That wouldn't do.

But in my room was a beautiful roll of sinamay, fuchsia with gold lights, that I had bought in Dumaguete and brought all the way here for some un-dreamed of special occasion. Oh, it looked wonderful binding the gift and gathered in a huge knot. It was a present for the girl in every woman. The Queen must have a playful streak in her because she designs lovely stage sets and ballet costumes. Would she notice? Would she remark on the sinamay ribbon? Has she even entered a Netto?

So there was my brush with royalty -- these hands put together this little confection for Dronning Margrethe II: Some pretty holiday paper and a lovely length of sinamay, carried all the way from Handumanan shop in Dumaguete City, Philippines, to Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark. And the gift itself? I won't spoil the secret, in case her very pleasant lady in waiting, who telephoned the house this morning, if not the Queen herself, happens to surf into this little blog. ;-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

rowan berries

Ole came with his power saw and lopped off the tops and sides of the hedges, creating the smooth walls of green so beloved in Danish suburbs. He chopped off the ends of some rowan branches too, so when I got home last week I had quite a few to choose from lying in the mud, though I had to fight my way to the center of the hedge (thorn scratches and a face to face encounter with a four-foot high nettle) to find the best. They're drying berry side down ind skøret. Dean and Nikki can have some, for Rowan, if I find a way to dry them successfully and retain their color. I fear molds. It's cold and damp here. My gardening, and hence the main reason for reviving this blog, is over.


Contrary to what's been claimed in one blog, I am not "based" in Copenhagen. I studied at Roskilde University for one academic year (2006) and have visited Denmark often, having made several solid friendships and work-related contacts beginning September 2003. "Based" implies a fairly long residency, permanent in many cases, and/or a long-term job contract, neither of which apply in my case. Just ask the Danish immigration! I am currently visiting Copenhagen for several months.


I do think nasturtiums taste quite nasty, but I've found a way to make some use of them. (They self-seed in this garden every year, especially with the warm winters of late.)

I take the leaves, remove stems, chop them up and mix them with some chopped chives (needless to say, from the garden). I sprinkle on some salt, lime-flavored pepper flakes and add a dollop of creme freche. It's a combination of my own invention; I'm always finding some way to make up new stuff.

The taste of the leaves reminds me of the taste of unripe papayas. There's also a kind of slimy undertaste, which the combination of extra flavors and the creme freche serve to mask.

I've eaten ground elder, (svalderkaal) too. I gathered the small, new, yellow-green leaves. It would be best, I think, to remove all trace of stem. At first I simply steamed them for two minutes inside the rice cooker (above the freshly cooked rice, which stained the surface green), but since they remained quite stringy and tough (despite their tender appearance), I lighted on the barbaric act of putting them in the microwave for a few seconds, along with the butter-impostor I had tossed them with. They were easier to chew. I recommend boiling them for a short while, though.

What do they taste like? I've read numerous inquiries of this nature on the web. Lots of people recommend ways to cook this invasive weed, but nobody can describe the flavor. Well, it tastes ... good. Its merit, I think, is in the chewy texture, as most vegetables tend to be mushy even when steamed. If you grew up in Southeast Asia, you would understand this comparison: it feels and tastes like steamed camote tops. It has a flavor that is a stronger version than the scent of it as you pull it with your hands.

I can't keep digging up the ground elder; I have too much work, especially now that my stay in Denmark's coming to an end, so I just look out for new growth and eat it as it emerges.

latest news

A story of mine, ‘The Remedy,’ will appear in Cupido’s September-October 2008 issue, in Danish and Norwegian translation, under the pen name Aresgada. I have previously published two other stories for this publication, ‘Winter’ (2007) and ‘Always Connected’ (2006) under the same pen name. ‘The Remedy’ won first place in the magazine’s annual story competition, editor Terje Gammelsrud said in an email.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Free press awards

I learned last Friday that I had placed third in the essay category in the annual Philippines Free Press Literary Awards. A thousand thanks to the magazine, which has been ever-supportive Filipino writers, young and in mid-career. And special thanks to its ace literary editor Angelo "Sarge" Lacuesta, a very fine writer himself, for believing in my work.

The judges in the essay and short fiction categories were Katrina Tuvera, Vince Groyon and Dean Alfar. Here is the citation for my essay, which was penned by Alfar:

"Observations on the human condition are par for course for the best written essays, but the third prize winner for this year goes beyond banal statements of truth. Instead, we are taken on a road trip across Europe, from Denmark to Spain, where the crosses that commemorate road fatalities resonate with what makes us Filipino, and where the heart's internal geography is not a matter of location. At the end of the narrative, in a reversal of epiphany, the author shares something she already knew, even before the journey began - and that observation, that terrible truth, slowly and painfully revealed, strikes deep and hard.

The winner of the 3rd Prize for Essay is "The Absence of Sound Is Not A
Vacuum" by Lakambini Sitoy."

The ceremony was held during the celebration of the 100th Year Anniversary of the magazine, on August 27 at the Captain's Bar, Mandarin Hotel Manila.

First place winner in the essay category was Wilfredo Pascual, and in second place was Larry Ypil.