Monday, April 27, 2009

photo: Dala horses

Dala horse workshop and boutique, town of Mora, Dalarna, Sweden, July 7, 2008.

I love these painted, folk-art horses. My husband's house has a windowsill of them, all different sizes -- I didn't realize they're considered by some to be a symbol of Sweden until years later. I just thought they were really pretty. Once, at a secondhand shop in the Philippines, I found a dala horse with the authentication sticker still on the bottom. I don't think the attendant knew what it was (we also carve and paint wooden horses in Luzon) so she let me have it for sixty pesos (a little more than a dollar). It was brand new, some American's souvenir from Sweden that he/she didn't want. My niece Sofia loved it, so much so that when she learned I would be going to Sweden, I was given the task of buying more dala horses. Gaaa. Needless to say, I have never shown her my Mora workshop pictures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

photo: at Snowdonia, Wales

At Snowdonia National Park in Wales, a place of imposing natural beauty (and also one of the filming locations for a James Bond film), April 26, 2004.

Happy birthday, Mom Edith

National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo turned 90 on April 22. Congratulations, Mom Edith. We thank you for the inspiration. May this year be a good one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

She would have been 43

My sister, Leilani Sitoy Nodado: April 19, 1966 - November 18, 2007

This is the public photo still posted on her Friendster account. I keep my own Friendster account active, though I never use it, just to maintain that digital link.



In our rented home on the Silliman University campus
in Dumaguete City, against the infamous musical instrument
that has surfaced so much in my writing.
She was a much better pianist than me.
I still play from time to time, though. 1976.

Richmond, Virginia, March 1979

College Honors
at Silliman University (Luce Auditorium), 1984

Lani gets the Most Outstanding Student award, Silliman University, 1986

Solidbank's 30th anniversary,
Makati, Metro Manila,
July 19, 1993

Friday, April 17, 2009

Congratulations, Vagn

Klods Hans-prisen 2008 til ildsjæl der brænder for de varme lande

Det bliver forlægger og bibliotekar Vagn Plenge, som 16. april modtager ”Klods Hansprisen 2008” for sit store og idealistiske arbejde med Forlaget Hjulet gennem mere end 30 år og for arbejdet som formand for styregruppen, der stod for IBBY Congress 2008 i København i september. Prisen uddeles meget passende på dronningens fødselsdag. H.M. Margrethe II var protektor for IBBY-kongressen.
”Klods Hans-prisen” har været uddelt af Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, IBBY Danmark, siden 1984.
Den består af en originalillustration af en scene fra H.C. Andersens eventyr Klods Hans - i år lavet af illustrator Antonieta Medeiros.
IBBY står for 'International Board on Books for Young People'. Vagn Plenge har været medlem af organisationens danske bestyrelse fra 1999-2005. Fra 2002-2006 var han medlem af IBBY´s Executive Committee.
Prisoverrækkelsen foregår 16. april kl. 16.00 i Rundetårn i København. Her holdes pristalen af Jan Tøth, fmd.f. Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, mens skuespiller Peter Mygind læser Klods Hans.
De varme lande Vagn Plenges interesse for 'de varme lande' startede tidligt, og efter studentereksamen sejlede han på det fjerne Østen som restaurationsdreng på et fragtskib. Da han i 1969 var færdiguddannet som bibliotekar, fik han ansættelse hos Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, tog et par senere år bifagseksamen i Thai, og blev i 1992 cand.phil. Omdrejningspunktet for ildsjælen Vagn Plenge er Forlaget Hjulet, som
han stiftede i 1976. Forlaget har igennem tiderne udgivet o. 300 bøger og har siden 1980 haft et søsterforlag i Sverige. Forlagets fokus er selvfølgelig 'de varme lande'. Vagn Plenge har også skrevet bogen 25 års varme bøger, dedikeret hans afdøde kone Ruth Plenge. I efteråret 2008 blev han gift med forfatteren Lakambini Sitoy – kaldet Bing – fra Philippinerne.
Vagn Plenge har oversat romaner, noveller og digte fra bl.a. Sydøstasien og Afrika. Han har præsenteret forfattere og litteratur fra Sydøstasien, redigeret bibliografier og kataloger over litteratur om/fra Afrika, Asien og Latinamerika, og under navnet 'Andre Kulturers Selskab' har han stået for internationale arrangementer om børnelitteratur i den 3. verden

Den varme litteraturpris
I 1992 etablerede Vagn Plenge ALOA, der skal fremme interessen for og udgivelsen af litteratur fra de varme lande, og året efter indstiftedes ALOA-prisen – Den varme litteraturpris – som gives til forfattere fra lande i 3. verden. Selv blev Vagn Plenge i 1994 tildelt Nairobi-prisen af Nairobi-klubben (journalister med 3. verden som arbejdsfelt) og modtog i 1996 Døssing-prisen af Bibliotekarforbundet.

Yderligere info: Jan Tøth, fmd.f. Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, tlf. 3956 2214

Vagn Plenge and Jan Tøth

Vagn and artist Antonieta Medeiros

Actor Peter Mygend reads HC Andersen's fairytale Klods Hans

Hurrah for Susan Boyle

Who gave me goose pimples last Tuesday, as the first clips of her performance on Britain's Got Talent 2009 were uploaded on the net. Three cheers for the lady. I hope this is the start of a rewarding career. (Now I can't quit humming stuff from Les Miserables).

My friend, Cebu-based lawyer May Saga-Aguilar, posted a note about Susan on her Facebook account. I'm uploading it with permission here --

Susan Boyle and the Cynical World

Susan Boyle is probably the most inspirational event I have come upon in recent times. It is true: it is a big "wake-up call". Very often, more often than we care to admit, we judge people by their outward appearance. I wonder how many TRUE TALENTS we have killed by our cynicism and prejudgments, how many potential successes we have nipped because we refused to give them the opportunity, all because they "did not look right".

(I am reminded of the Olympics in China. One girl sang the song, the other lip-synched it on stage. Reason: despite her wonderful voice, the unseen girl was not pretty enough to be seen.)

In her interview prior to her performance, Susan Boyle was asked by a judge: "What's the dream?". Susan replied that she was trying to be a professional singer. I could see the face of one woman in the audience register a look of contempt and ridicule.

The judge continued to ask her: "Why hasn't it worked out so far?"

She replied: "Well, I haven't been given the chance before, but here's hoping that would change."

What is ironic is that Ms. Boyle had, in fact, recorded a song "Cry Me a River" in 1999. Why has Ms. Boyle not been discovered despite this fact? Was it because when the producers saw her, they thought she was too homely and too fat to appear on TV, that her album will never sell because she did not look right?

Ms. Boyle's performance on "Britain's Got Talent" has indeed changed things. Now, she has everybody's attention, and everybody is eager to give her the chance - a chance she fought to have, and has sadly been denied, for the last 35 years since she started singing at age 12.

I wonder how many Susan Boyles we have around us, and I am not talking only of singers or performers. I am talking even of athletes and leaders and other people with talents to share. How many have been denied the opportunity because they did not look right, did not dress right, or did not sound right? Do we need a show like "Britain's Got Talent" to reveal them?

I call this my "Susan Boyle Experience". I will keep this as a reminder that this is a cynical world, and that there are people around me who are better than they look. I can help change the world by being less cynical and less judgmental of people.

Yes, this is a cynical world. But "here's hoping that will change".

Photo of Susan Boyle from the Mirror website.


Tillykke to Vagn Plenge, recipient of Klods Hans Pris 2008.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On literature and housekeeping

My husband plans to invite a Booker prize short-listed author to dinner this weekend, so I took a bamboo stake and passed it over the angles between wall and ceiling all around the house, to get rid of cobwebs. I knew he wouldn't notice the good work when he came in for lunch, so I told him. In some ways there is no difference between a good housekeeper and a good editor. One never notices the ways in which they excel.

photo: gladiators at Piazza Navona

The nice thing about having a high-resolution fit-in-your-palm digital camera is that you can unobtrusively participate in someone else's holiday. Here, two enterprising local boys flank a North American tourist at Piazza Navona, Rome, April 2, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

photo: Italy hearts il bassotto

Doggie bag in shop window of Chopin apparel-accessories boutique near the Metro Termini station, Rome, April 3, 2009.

The color is a very popular one this season - to think I just tossed out a pair of probably-fixable Spanish espadrilles from 2005, when lavender was something you wouldn't be caught dead in.

Friday, April 10, 2009

photo: sidewalk artist at Piazza Navona, Rome

When I was ten, I promised myself I would do this when I grew up.

Photo taken April 3, 2009.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In Rome

About the only way I can manage to write text for this blog is to post excerpts of something being written for a different purpose, in this case a letter to friends --

"Thursday, April 2, we headed for the Vatican museum first thing. We had heard we would have to queue up to enter, and were relieved to discover this was not the case. This early in the season there were many foreign tourists, a good many of them students on school trips, and many Americans besides. So it became a game to keep ahead, or behind, these large groups of people, though sometimes it was fun to eavesdrop on a tour guide speaking English. Raphael's Stanzes and of course the Sistine Chapel were the high point of the tour and it was a fantastic experience to see these images that hitherto I had seen only in art books, most of them smoky and grimy. The frescoes, brilliantly colored after the restoration work of the last 20 years, were simply amazing. There were many other wonderful aspects of the museum, including the antiquities and the very building itself.

"We wanted to visit St. Peter's basilica, but were surprised at the length of the queue in the square outside, which was not moving. It was only the following day that we remembered that April 2 was the fifth death anniversary of John Paul II. So the people in the square must have been waiting for the end of memorial rites of some kind within the basilica. We mustered the energy to visit the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti (the Spanish Steps) instead, where a bride and groom suddenly appeared and kissed several times as the crowd gathered at the staircase cheered. People took photos and video, and we're sure those kisses have turned up on a few travel blogs this week! Then we walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was so crowded with people we literally queued up to get a slot to have our picture taken and throw a coin with right hand, over left shoulder, to make sure we would return to Rome. Then to the Pantheon, peering into the windows of some legendary boutiques along the way. The place was crowded, too, mostly with students (American by the sound of them).

"The following day, Friday, we headed to St. Peter's basilica, and this time managed to get in after just half an hour. (It's much more popular than the Vatican museum -- perhaps the 12 euro entrance fees at the latter act as a deterrent). Again, at least for me, there was that feeling of unreality, of being in someplace you had always heard about but did not expect to visit. Our visit was pleasantly lengthened by the appearance of an ambassador and his entourage on their way to visit the Pope. There was much pomp and circumstance. First the basilica marshalls held back the crowd, then came Swiss Guards, some religious persons in robes and the ambassador and his wife and three young women in black (complete with veils) who must have been daughters. The whole entourage appeared to have come from some Latin American country. They seemed incredibly wealthy and chic. They paused at the altar containing the Pieta, and then again at the altar before the great apse, where the ambassador and his wife knelt and the daughter snapped photos. The crowd snapped photos of them too -- we felt like papparazi! Totally unexpected, theatrical things seem to happen on an everyday level in Italy.

I love the juxtaposition of black veil and killer stilletos on one of the young women, standing beyond the religious personage in purple robes.

"From the basilica, we walked what seemed a great distance (given that we were on our last legs after two weeks of sightseeing) to the Forum and, beyond it, the Colosseum, passing by the infamous monument to Vittorio Emanuele. We knew we were approaching the Colosseum -- something quintessentially Roman -- because we began to see more and more people costumed as gladiators, happy to pose with tourists for some euros. The Colosseum, with its crowds, has certainly changed from the day when Henry James used it as a setting for a scandalous tryst in his novella "Daisy Miller". Then, it was silent, moonlit and mysterious, not to mention malarial. There, I found a bevy of noisy Italian high school students, among others, and witnessed a group of the faithful going through one of the stations of the cross, in preparation for Easter. Again, another reminder of the legacy of ceremony and ritual in this part of the world."


We are following the coverage of the earthquake in central Italy with concern and sympathy for its victims.

Monday, April 06, 2009

photo: Suchart and Sridawryang

At the home of acclaimed writers Suchart Sawasdri and Sridawryang in Bangkok, September 2006. Suchart, Bing, Sridawrang, Vagn.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

photo: Kawai, Hawaii, April 2007

Celebrate Reading literary festival, Hawaii, April 26-28, 2007, organized by Lorna Hershinow. Participating writers following a presentation (readings and discussion) at the high school in Kauai island). Back row, from left: Celestine Vaite, Graham Salisbury,Chip Hughes, Adam __ who was the emcee; and, front row, from left, ___ Lakambini Sitoy, Lynne Cox, Cris Crutcher and Ian McMillan.

Would appreciate if readers could help me fill in those blanks.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

the library as playroom

Manuel L. Quezon III has written a brilliant essay on his book-filled childhood, without cynicism and full of faith:

This excerpt, on the drudgery of formal education, makes me smile: "What sort of a life is this, I perpetually asked myself, that condemns us to be trained, like little dogs, to urinate ink on pieces of paper, and then to derive satisfaction from being praised for the performance?"

Friday, April 03, 2009

photo: from Il Giudizio Universale e L'Inferno

Detail of an engraving based on a fresco by Buffalmaco in the Camposanto, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, titled "Il Giudizio Universale e L'Inferno." A print of this engraving can be found in the Museo L'Opera at the Piazza.

What kind of man

What kind of man tells his terminally-ill wife, "Ang pangit mo, ang baho mo, kaya lang ang sarap mong kantutin?" The memory of how she looked as she confessed this to us -- her attempts to understand ("it was almost midnight," "he was drunk" "I had been fixing some food and had't had time to tidy myself"), and the soft, sheepish, apologetic way in which she spoke ("this will make you angry, alright?") -- keeps me up at night.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

photo: violas

A bed of pansies (violas) at a small square near the center of Pisa, March 30, 2009. In this city they seem a favorite winter flower for public parks and such, in other parts of Italy we visited we saw them brightening up window boxes and tubs at the entrance to restaurants and shops. The style seems to be to mass them in, all colors at random, different from the usual style of equally spacing plants of the same color bloom. In the cool weather and bright sunshine they grow HUGE.