Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cebu Update

Thursday - Dinner at Pino's Restaurant, a new chic restaurant in Camp Lapulapu, on Wilson street. Dined with Toti Villalon, Eva Gullas, Jackee Gullas Weckman, Jing Ramos, Amparito Lhullier, Teresing Mendazona in a private room, with champagne, Chilean wine pouring endlessly - superb Western-style food. Pino's also serves Filipino food and when Toti heard this, he whispered to me: Let's come back to eat Filipino food. Which doesn't mean the lobster and steak and all the wonderful trimmings weren't good. They were, but coming from the US I would have been curious to sample their Filipino food. After dinner, Toti, Eva, Jackee, and Jing came to my place for lemoncello and a stimulating conversation about book publishing and books. Very interesting.

Jackee and I talked about the famous sikwati or chocolate that her grandmother (?) used to make in the Parian; and she told me she continues to make this and promised to give me some. Ah - it will be nice to taste test the Gullas sikwati, versus Argao, Batangas sikwati, and Mexican chocolate.

It was a very fun evening. The conversation was stimulating; in fact Toti commented that there were six conversations going on. Indeed energy was high and ideas sparked all over the place.

I hope I'm not jumping the gun but Joy Martinez Onozawa (architect and environment planner) who was also at Pino's stopped by and chatted with us. Did I hear correctly - is it true that she was asked to draft an ordinance by the City Council? Joy has been promoting a revitalization program in the downtown area. Once I get the story straight, I will post in this blog.

Saturday: Terry Manguerra, Erma Cuizon, and I made a pilgrimage to the Marianne site of Theotokus in Perilos, Carcar. Father John Rona, and Sister Remy Yares talked to us. The site drew 80,000 people in 1992 when the "dancing sun" phenomenon occurred during sunrise. Called a "place of conversions" by Msgr. Salvador, miracles have also occurred, although Father Rona does not emphasize such healings.

The story goes that Father John Rona, a diocesan priest, was looking for a church site outside the city. Guided spiritually, he found the beautiful piece of land in Perilos, on a hill, overlooking the sea. Every 12th of the month, from 10 p.m. until sunrise the next day, people gather and pray. The church has not been built as of yet, although there is a lovely chapel area, and the grounds are lovely. We arrived when there were hardly any pilgrims and it was very restful there.

After donating for Masses we moved on to Argao where we had lunch at Alex Kafe. The Cafe is a converted warehouse, done up in an antique style, simple, with charm. I am afraid the food was not that good and it was also a bit steep, considering the place, but it was a nice rest stop and the bathrooms were okay. Around the corner is the famous Torta place, and we bought some. Here's a bit of trivia: tortas began during the Spanish times when egg whites were used in construction and the yolk was then made into this cake/pastry. If I recall right, pork lard is used in Tortas; I am not sure if they still use this, but it's supposed to give the best flavor. Cebuano Torta is like a cake or muffin. Sigh - I got three huge tortas.

In Argao, we also visited their Museum, which had mostly Spanish Colonial stuff: santoses, priests' vestments, paintings, ivory statues, other religious artifacts. The nicest thing I thought was that the priests and personnel in Argao had not stolen these artifacts that date back to the 17th century. Apparently Argao had direct connection with Mexico; the galleons stopped there; and the old section indicates that it was indeed a small walled Spanish colonial post.

We headed toward the city, stopping in Sibonga to see the Simila Shrine, another Marianne site, which is called the "Fatima in Cebu." The church was much bigger than I expected, and there were numerous people. It has a shrine with white veils. Our Lady apparently wept and her tears fell on these white veils. You cover your head with the veil as you pray. There is a huge display of crutches, wheelchairs, and written testimonials of healings and assistance from Our Lady. There were also numerous nuns posted all over the church to collect donations for Mass intentions.

All for now,

(Top photo shows l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Toti Villalon (standing), Jing Ramos, Amparito Lhullier (standing), Jackee Werkman, Eva Gullas (standing), and Teresing Mendozana
Next photo shows l-r: Erma Cuizon, Father John Rona, Cecilia Brainard, Terry Manguerra
Bottom photo shows the Argao Museum)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fiesta in Parian, Cebu, Philippines

The Fiesta celebration of the Parian District in Old Cebu, Philippines came to pass, without rain and with old world touches. First the tridium (3 day) pre-Fiesta prayers were held at the Casa Gorordo, and attended by members of the Cofradia of St. John the Baptist. There was one evening when the rain fell and the wind blew, but it quickly passed.

The actual fiesta day was yesterday, June 24. Members of the Cofradia met in Casa Gorordo at 5 p.m. Each one was assigned to carry a standard with a painting of one aspect of St. John's life. Visiting scholar from the University of Wisconsin, Michael Cullinane carried a standard as well. There were three antique carrosas: one carrying statues of the Holy Family, the second carrying two statues of the young John and Jesus, and the third carrying the antique statues of John baptizing Christ, with an angel by the side. The carrosas (carriages) were decorated with fresh flowers and pulled by men. The lineup then was: Holy Family carrosa, some standard bearers, Young John and Jesus, some standard bearers, adult John and Jesus, followed by candle-bearing devotees who trailed behind.

There was a 5:30 Mass in the Parian chapel. It was concelebrated by four priests from the Cathedral, including Msg. Alesna who now heads the Cathedral. After the Mass, the procession started. It wound around the small district. The highlight of the procession, was when the carrosas passed by Casa Gorordo. Following old tradition, each carrosas stopped in front of the window facing the street. Below there were seranaders who sang religious songs, accompanied by guitarists; and above, viewers threw down flower petals onto the carrosas.

It was also quite nice to "process" in front of the Yap-Sandiego antique house. The house was dolled up, with dining tables and above, guests of Val and Booging watched the procession.

There is another section in the Parian where people decorate the street with banana trees and fireworks and they watch from the balcony.

After the procession, the carrosas, and banners were returned to the side of the Casa Gorordo for storage. There was an induction of the 3 new Cofradia members: Teresita Manguerra, Chona Bernad, and me. There was dinner in the lovely garden of the Casa Gorordo, simply stunning that balmy star-studded night.

For entertainment, there was singing and dancing provided by the Sandiego Troupe. It was delightful to see the Franco sisters, Marilou Chiongbian, and many others in Filipiniana attire. Seen among the guests: Resil Mojares, Linda Alburo, Chinggay Utzurrum, Inday Blanco, Erma Cuizon, Jaime Picornell, Beth Reyes, and the Manguerra kids and grandkids were also there.

Cofradia members Louie Nacorda, Pepit Gorordo Revilles, Joy Gerra, Gavin Bagares,Cheding Hermosa, Margie Mattheus were flitting about talking to city officials, their Manila, US guests, and others.

And down the street, Val and Booging Sandiego hosted their first fiesta celebration in the antique house. We visited the house, talked to Val's mother, Luz Mancao Sandiego (a friend of a Cuenco-aunt) and admired the recent developments in this beautiful treasure of a house. The downstairs has now been opened up; they discovered a window and a door, that leads to nowhere now, but it's fun to speculate that it once led to a garden. The ancient well still has fresh water! The Yap-Sandiego is such a magical place, I highly recommend it as a must-see if you are in Cebu.

For more pictures of the Fiesta, click here, Louie Nacorda's flicker site.

All for now,

(top photo: Cecilia Brainard, photo by Louie Nacorda;
next photo l-r: Chona Bernad, Terry Manguerra, Loy Alix, Cecilia Brainard, Marilou Chiongbian
Other photo shows Casa Gorordo with guests throwing flowers)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More from Cebu

My goodness, an honest-to-goodness typhoon blew into Cebu, Philippines - wild rain, wilder wind, cool weather - it was fantastic! Hadn't experienced that in a long time. People brought out their sweatshirts and coats! This typhoon was only a Number 1 - the lowest caliber, although I heard there is a boat sinking right now, somewhere. If this was a mild typhoon, I dread to think what a Typhoon #3 is! Believe me streets were drowned, trees strained against the fierce wind.

The tridium prayers for St. John the Baptist in Old Cebu's Parian District began last night - typhoon or no typhoon. This year, the prayers were held in a covered area; we couldn't have it on the gorgeous open air balcony. Louie Nacorda had dressed the santoses: Jesus, St. John, and angel; and there they stood on the altar, resplendent in their gold braided velvets and satin. Louie also presented two statues of baby John the Baptist and baby Jesus. He found them in an antique shop in Manila. He first saw the St. John the Baptist baby statue. He wanted the buy it but wanted a stand and a sheep made; the owner didn't have the wood, couldn't comply, Louie did not buy it. But when he returned a year later,there was a new statue of Baby Jesus, and according to Louie, he immediately understood why the St. John statue did not wish to be purchased the first round. He waited for the Jesus statue.

Aside from the members of the Cofradia of St. John the Baptist, there were some guests, members of the Urdaneta 500, a commission lining up events to celebrate Fray Urdaneta's anniversary here in the Philippines. I am not sure which anniversary specifically, but Urdaneta came here with Legazpi in the 16th Century.

I heard that it's official: there are now tourism police patrolling the Old Historic Cebu District. I find this thrilling because now visitors can feel safe as they visit the five museums in the area: Casa Gorordo, Yap-Sandiego House, Cathedral Museum, Santo Nino Museum, and Fort San Pedro Museum. I don't know if the exhibit is still there apparently the Fort San Pedro Museum had displayed galleon artifacts uncovered by Jacques Costeau.

All for now,

(Photo shows Louie Nacorda and devotee of St. John the Baptist)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cebu Philippine in June

It's technically the rainy season in the Philippines, and here in Cebu it drizzles now and then. It's terrible humid and hot. In a way it is more uncomfortable than Egypt which has dry desert heat. It's stiflingly muggy and you just swelter.

I asked a taxi driver about the shortage of rice and he said there are warehouses full of sacks of rice, so he doesn't believe there is a shortage. I think what is happening is some vendors are hording rice, holding on them until the price goes up. The fact it that the very hording limits the amount of rice out there, thus driving up the price. I'm sure this isn't legal, but I don't know what the government is doing about this matter.

I'm thinking of the 1960s when the Philippines was exporting rice. There was a lot of experimentation in IRRI (International Rice and Research Institute) to be able to grow rice several times a year. Unfortunately the government did not encourage rice farmers, and for years rice farms lay dormant. I wonder if they are now cultivating those rice farms.

I'm in Cebu for personal business and for the fiesta in the Parian Old Cebu District. For the second year now, Louie Nacorda, Pepit Gorordo and I co-host a fiesta dinner at the Casa Gorordo on the feast day of St. John the Baptist. In fact, Louie and Pepit have been doing this for years. I'm a johnny-come-lately. Louie leads the tridium prayers for St. John the Baptist at the Casa Gorordo (3 days before the fiesta). Devotees go all out decorating the antique statues of St. John and an Angel. They also decorate the prayer area - last year it was on the beautiful balcony of the Casa. It's all quite lovely, with a guitarist, singing, prayers, followed by a merienda and stimulating conversation. I recall that last year Louie talked about the Ghosts of Casa Gorordo, which was quite a lot of fun.

All for now,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day 2008

St. Monica's Parish Church does this really nice thing on Mother's Day and Father's Day. During the Offertory of the Mass, the priest invites mothers (on Mother's Day) and fathers (on Father's Day) to surround the altar. They are given flowers as well, and the community says a special prayer and blesses for them. It's a nice touch. Today's 9:30 a.m. Mass was standing room only. This 9:30 Mass is usually attended by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver and their family.

On another matter, my online class (Essential Beginnings in Creative Writing, UCLA Extension) ended last week. It was a particularly good class. There was a lot of talent and the participants bonded nicely. It was nice to see them develop dramatically in six weeks.

All for now,

Friday, June 13, 2008


Here are four books that I'm reading/will be reading:

1. The Hacienda a memoir by Lisa St. Aubin De Teran, (Backbay Books 1997) - I found this in a used rare bookstore in Santa Monica. The bookstore is really cool. It's near Santa Monica College on the corner of 17th and Ocean Park. It's an account of Lisa's life in Venezuela. The world she describes is fantastic, I felt I was reading something fictional - a child that turns green, her pet vulture, her bizarre husband, the other characters of the gente in the provincial hacienda. It's dark and gothic and a fascinating read.

2. Queen of Angels by Janice T. Connell (Paraclete Press, 2008) - This is a religious book about Mother Mary. The subtitle is Mary's Answers to Universal Questions - and the book includes questions to Mary and answers by her. The book includes meditation and prayers. The book is a prayer guide. Initially I thought the first person part where Mary is talking were quotes from Mariane apparitions. I was somewhat disappointed to realize it's the author who wrote these parts. But I'm giving the book a chance. The author does suggest keeping a spiritual journal wherein you write, daily:

a) How do you feel that day;
b) Why do you feel that way;
c) Who or what you have encountered that day and their effects on you;
d) An honest evaluation of how, where and why God does or does not fit into your day and your experiences;
e) A small personal prayer for light.

The above looks worthwhile doing.

3. Mortal Beauty, God's Grace by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Vintage Spiritual Classics, 2003) - I've had this book for a while. After reading Merton and C.S.Lewis, I bought this book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Merton and Lewis. I'll give it another try. Gerald Manley Hopkins ia one of those great Christian minds so he has a lot to offer. I just have to reeeaaaaddd his work.

4)God's Spy by Juan Gomez-Jurado (Plume 2008) - This is a bestseller thriller set in the Vatican. I bought it for my husband to read in Egypt and he actually enjoyed it, so I'm going to give it a try.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

St. Cecilia Poem by W. H. Auden

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

W.H. Auden

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review Movies - The Savages & Grace Is Gone

Saw a couple of movies last night: The Savages and Grace Is Gone. I think they may be the most depressing movies out in Blockbuster, so if you want an evening looking at what surviving families do after their mom is killed in Iraq or when their father has dementia - go right ahead and rent them.

Grace Is Gone is a character-driven film. It presents a character under stress and follows the actions of that character. I generally like character-driven films, as opposed to plot-driven films, but this one left me somewhat irritated. The dad, Stanley, is just doing impractical, whacky things after he is informed of his wife's death in Iraq. I know people wig out when they lose someone they love, but it's fantastic to me for a father to suddenly suggest to his daughters a trip to Enchanted Gardens, a several-day trip it seems, and without packing, without informing school and work, without securing the house (mail, newspaper, plants, etc.) the father and two daughters drive off to Florida.

This one reminds me of a movie we had seen in Princess Theater about a second wife whose husband dies and she brings his ashes to the daughter in Santa Barbara. At least that one was funny.

The second film we saw was The Savages. I swear the shorts of this one made the film sound funny, but the actual film isn't. A middle-aged daughter and son make arrangements for the care of their father after his old girlfried dies and he himself has dementia. This film shows you the last depressing scenes of some people's lives - Sun City, old people driving golf carts, women doing exercise, convalescent homes, and oh, listen to the middle-class whining of these two kids whose lives have been rudely disrupted by all this.

Character - character- character, my teachers in film school and writing often said - so maybe it just boiled down to my not feeling sympathetic enough with the protagonists.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More on Computer Problem

My son tested my husband's computer at his place and it worked without any problem at all. The laptop at home started becoming stupid again. Tech Support Son said to call Verizon to complain about the router. Verizor's tech support gave us directions by phone, and essentially we had to change the channel. It worked. So all three computers are functioning.

Right now we're cleaning up all the computers of spyware; it's incredible the number of stuff in there.

We downloaded Spybot and have installed AVG for virus protection.

I hope this solves the computer problems.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Our youngest son, also known as our Tech Help for computer problems, believes in Tough Love. When one of our computers started to slow down and act stupid, we turned to him.

"It's slow," I emailed him.
"I need more information than, 'It's slow,'" he replied.
"It became slow, constantly 'loading' and then it became difficult to connect with the internet. Then it stopped connecting with the internet entirely."

We have three computers, and my husband's computer was the sickest of all three.

My son gave me three sites to download for free anti-virus and spyware software: AVG, Avanti, and Spybot. "Try these and if they don't work, I'll check out the computers," he emailed back.

I hate being dependent on anyone. I've hated this reversal of roles where we, the parents, have to ask our sons how to operate computers and these new-fangled machines. So, the other night, I worked on this problem, staying up until 3 a.m.

First, I decided to diagnose the problem. Using the computer that was still functioning, I googled phrases like: computer slow spyware, computer not connecting internet. There were numerous sites with other people complaining about the same problems. Some said the problem could be caused by spyware, some said, a virus.

I checked for solutions. There were many suggestions to do a Systems Restore. I googled, "Systems Restore" and felt assured that it couldn't damage the computer.

It's amazing what you can learn from the internet. I learned to click on programs, accessories, systems tools, then systems restore. Assured that this action was reversible, I bravely clicked on an arrow on the calendar and moved back in time the systems-brain. My understanding was that if the virus was picked up a couple of days ago, if I go back a week when the computer didn't have a virus, I could restore that functioning brain.

OK - I did that to all three computers. But - lo - this didn't help. I did a second systems restore, and still the computers were becoming more and more demented. One could no longer connect with the internet.

Some of the Google suggestions was to use an anti-virus programs, as my son had suggested. I tried to download the programs suggested by my son. I got one computer to download AVG, and when I ran the anti-virus program, found that the machine had over 400 Spyware! I felt some satisfaction deleting Ad-ware and all that crap. The thought that these insidious little spies live in your computer and keep track of everything you are doing and are reporting back to their Evil Masters is absolutely infuriating.

The one computer couldn't connect with the internet, so I couldn't even download anything on that one. I did a triage and set that aside. I had to save what I could.

The second computer had to be tricked to be able to connect with the internet. When I tried to connect, I'd get a message that there was no internet connection, but if I actually typed in the url, it would connect. However, when I got to the anti-virus programs, the computer couldn't download the free program. It was caught in la-la land just downloading forever.

I decided that if the doctor couldn't come to the patient, maybe I could get long-distance help. I found out about Trend Micro Housecall, where their program can diagnose and heal your computer. I was able to connect to Housecall and this got rid of some spyware and cookies. Afterwards, the machine seemed better, well enough so we could download the Avanti anti-virus free program, which my other son swears is the best. We ran the Avanti and discovered the machine had a Trojan virus hiding in a music file! Troj_caiinj - hateful, sneaky virus, screwing up my computer! Got rid of that.

With the help of two sons, we got the two computers more or less back to normal. (The husband wasn't much help; he just pushed the same buttons over and over and fretted that his computer wouldn't connect with the internet.) The third computer is still sick, in deep malaise. Using a disc we were able to run an anti-virus program, which said it had no virus. We ran Spybot to check for spyware - some infections were cleaned up. But it still would not connect properly, and was extremely slow. My sons were wondering if it was a connection problem. But why would the other two computers connect properly? On and on the discussion went - TCP/IP, ping, etc. The sons kept asking for the password for the router. The husband said there was no password. The sons insisted there had to be a password. The husband found a piece of paper that the Verizon man had given him - with the password. "DAaaadddd...." the boys went.

Not wanting to spend hours with strung-out parents, our Tech Help picked up the sick computer and it's now with him, in ICU, so to speak. I'm sure he'll get it fixed. Meantime, I'm crossing my fingers that the other two computers really are healed.