It's that time of year again, when I am called back to this beautiful place. Its vast central square surrounded by historic homes from an era past seems bathed by this golden light that slows down my weary and timeworn senses; shedding off the superficial shell that the city forces one to wear. Everywhere, even the faces of strangers turn into friends, and in their withdrawn yet polite smiles, comfort. Three years I have been coming back to this place, with one less stranger and a new friend made as I cross the streets, looking up at old house windows, praying inside Saint Anthony's brick and stone church, and enjoying the company of every new friend I have made.
Who would not fall in love with Pila?
This historic town that traces its name as far back as the 10th century [the date was April 21, 900 AD] when the place was still called 'Pailah' as mentioned in a small fragment of an engraved sheet of metal called the Laguna Copper Plate; which I first heard mention of during my History 165 class at the Ateneo. But it would not be another eight years before I would actually walk the streets of Pila, ascend the steps of its century old homes, and watch the early morning sun illuminate this blessed place from the window of one of its old houses owned by a family that has welcomed me three years hence.
It was a rainy late afternoon when I arrived in Pila last June 11th, a day or so away from the annual celebration feast of San Antonio de Padua, the town's patron saint. Local lore has it that the Diocesan Shrine of San Antonio located at the edge of their Plaza Mayor [an old name for the central square, which is always more rectangular in the Philippines, I noticed] was actually transferred brick by brick and stone by stone from its old location by the lake, called Pagalangan of what is now the town of Victoria. It is said, during the Spanish colonial times, the Friars and the Luminaries of Pila decided to relocate the church due to the flooding of the Laguna de Bay. The new location, once known as Hacienda de Santa Clara, which was owned by the brothers Felizardo, Rafael, and Miguel de Rivera, is now the heart of modern day Pila. Without Don Felizardo Rivera's pioneering move, Pila would not have been. Rumor has it, the happy spirit of Don Felizardo still roams Pila, a sentinel of a time past.
It was three years ago when we were first invited by Ms. Jessica Rivera, one of the current heirs of the Rivera Ancestral House, to attend the annual Fiesta of San Antonio de Padua. Now for those of you who are uncommon to the Filipino tradition of celebrating a Fiesta, it's simply a community based celebration which has religious roots. Each town has a patron saint, and when the patron saint's feast day comes, it is celebrated with feasting and revelry to give thanks to the patron saint for gracing them with a good year of blessings and/or a good harvest. But I babble again...
So, three years ago, a new found friend named Manuel [a distant relative of the Riveras] and I were invited by Miss Jessica Rivera for a traditional fiesta luncheon and the solemn procession of the image of San Antonio de Padua. Miss Rivera herself owns an image of San Francisco de Asis [the founder of the Franciscan Order] which accompanies San Antonio during his feast day procession along with the images of San Roque, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was an enjoyable experience and from then on, my fondness for the town of Pila began.
But Manuel felt that the processional images of San Antonio, San Francisco, and the others, must be accompanied by Santa Clara de Asis the next year, following the tradition that she is friend to San Francisco and took from his example. Add to that, since the town now stands where Hacienda de Santa Clara used to be, there was a certain serendipity. And come 2010, I began my devotion to what I call 'babysitting' Santa Clara de Asis. Manuel commissioned a processional image of the and founder and first abbess of the Poor Clares to join the procession in her saintly glory, while I volunteered to help supervise the logistics of taking out the image for procession ensuring that she arrives at the church door -inclusive of traversing bumpy roads, dodging electrical lines and festive buntings, and the occasional rain.
Meanwhile Doctor Rufino Francia, a cousin of Miss Jessica Rivera, also commissioned a processional image of Saint Joseph with face and hands made of ivory to escort the Blessed Virgin Mary. A stunning piece of statuary, Dr. Francia's San Jose was executed in the local sculptural style of the late 19th century wearing vestments of amber and green velvet embroidered with jilos de oro [metallic gold thread].
Another son of Pila, affectionately called Tito Vic, opens his home to the images of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Under the old trees around his property, these sacred images make their temporary stop. The carrozas [wheeled processional mounts/platforms] are decked with flowers and other complimentary foliage, the arrangement artfully executed under the watchful eye of Tito Vic, making sure that every leaf and flower falls or stands rightly so. And after a full day's work, an hour before procession, the carrozas would make their way from his gates to the church courtyard, in their vibrant floral gloss.
There's a certain drama that comes with tradition, and as the procession moves throughout the town past ancestral homes, their windows all open with spectators leaning over to watch like those that came before have done so, I am thankful for Pila's cultural advocates: the Pila Historical Society Foundation. The most prominent of them, Ms. Cora Relova, is a living reminder of the refinement and genteel manners the people of Pila have been known for since the time of the Spaniards. Her advocacy is to maintain Pila's status as a Heritage Town following the declaration of the National Historical Institute back in 2000. She welcomes people who have a heart for a town such as Pila, taking them along on heritage walks, armed with history, local lore, and a resolve to keep Pila the way it is. Who would not, if you get to wake up at a place like this?
If you think about it, the town of Pila is not like other Laguna towns that always has something associated with it; like say Pagsanjan or Los Baños which are resort towns, or Paete with carving and workworking, or Lumban with native textile and embroidery, etcetera. The town of Pila, plucked by the bay and moved to what was once an hacienda, would simply be like any other agricultural town made prosperous by the land. Yet somehow, there's this inexplicable draw that the place has over a jaded suburbanite such as I, maybe it's that combination of old world charm, a certain pride of place, and a people that you would fancy for their warmth and community spirit.
Before and after each procession come June 12 and 13, and I would look forward to watching the image of Santa Clara de Asis pass under the arch of Baranggay Santa Clara, it seemed a fitting and dramatic punctuation to the story of how Pila was relocated to a vast plantation then named Hacienda de Santa Clara. I relish the smile on my face as I watch thus, and with a prayer wish to be there again the next year.
For two years now, the fiesta processions of Pila would mark the end of my Processional Obligations, so to speak; which starts on Holy Week and encompasses Easter, the Feast of Saint Joseph, and the May-time Processions locally called Flores de Mayo. And Pila, with its charming historical homes and stunning processional images is a fitting finale. But without its people, the descendants of old families that would come home from halfway around the world for the sake of tradition, their cultural advocates, the devout men and women who help lend a hand in taking out the images of the saints, and the locals smiling amidst the constancy of their daily routines -all of them faithful and grateful- Pila would never be so blessed.
Until the next sojourn, I would like to thank: Ms. Jessica Rivera Dr. Rufino Francia Manuel Djajakusuma Ms. Cora Relova Father Dennis Estrella Paul Baisas Pagalanan Jeffrey De la Paz Tito Vic and the House of Victor Juan and to the carroza pullers of Santa Clara de Asis
Congratulations to Kevin Anthony Donelly for taking home top prize in this year's Mr. and Ms. EcoTourism - The Mossimo Bikini Summit 2011!!! You deserve it. Now I know I almost never post a photo of any guy in his skimpy best [I think this is the first time ever in this blog], I'm willing to make an exception for this guy... He's got that boyish charm about him with a bit of a naughty streak. *wink*
Touching moment, the guy was in tears when he heard the results... makes him more endearing, doesn't it?
The Barefoot Baklesa is quite excited for this year's Cinemalaya... Although the Barefoot Baklesa has been averse to anything that has come out of the Cinemalaya mill the past few years, he's willing to give this year a try. One of the reasons why is this entry:
Cinemalaya Presents A Film by Alvin Yapan A Vim Yapan/Alem Chua Production In Cooperation with BIGTOP Media Productions, Inc. and Far Eastern University
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa Starring: Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino, and Ms. Jean Garcia
Did that just say Paulo Avelino??? Well, that's certainly going to be enough reason. Hehehehe...
Here's a beautiful song from a talented musician I'm glad to have known in this lifetime. My first impressions of Khael were summed up by the following words: unassuming, friendly, and polite. Later would I add the word talented to that list. But the most important word I have added of late is sincere. The mark of a great song for me is that it actually describes or communicates a specific moment in your life when you feel at a loss to describe what it is that consumes the entirety of your being; freezing that moment and expanding it into words and music... just listen to it.
There's Mario Maurer Fever abound in the Philippine Archipelago... the pinoy teen masses have been introduced to the multi-racial cutie from Thailand over the weekend after ABS-CBN premiered the movie Crazy Little Thing Called Love. This time, The Barefoot Baklesa shall share with thee the movie that skyrocketed Mario Maurer into fame a few years ago: The Love of Siam.
~Oh yeah, beware the spoiler alert
I just couldn't shake it off... I have been watching this movie or a part of it,everyday this past month...
I've written some sort of review on The Love of Siam a while ago, but I felt that it was a bit inadequate with the kind of impact it had on me. I would like to thank joey torres for the mp4 file and strangerinsiamsquare for sharing the musical score and OST.
So, here we go...
I first learned about The Love of Siam [ Rak Haeng Sayam] after seeing another film called Bangkok Love Story. I think it was at the G4M Forums when they were discussing the latter that i stumbled upon it. I really didn't have anything to do that night, and thank the gods for wireless technology, I was able to watch it; and there was no turning back since.
I will have to admit, at first, I didn't really like it that much. I felt it was too melodramatic at times. But it does hit some chords right as per the emotional key of the scenes in the storytelling.
On the outside, seeing the way the movie was promoted in 2007, The Love of Siam seems to be one of those run of the mill teen romance movies. But at the core of this film lies a love story between two boys. Much to the surprise of the Thai audience a year ago. Well, I guess the Filipinos and the Thais really have the same mindset that gay characters must be effete, cross-dressing, and funny. Notice that every gay role commercially viable gay role written has to be the animated effeminate and people will find that amusing [ and don't use Brokeback Mountain as an example to the contrary because that i just plain crappy ].
But unlike the usual formulaic teen romances that only want to sell the "kilig" moments, LOS bears a sort of balance to the other relationships and subplots that are woven around the two leads.
LOS is the story of Mew and Tong, who were neighbors when they were young boys. Mew, a stubborn and introverted child living with his grandmother, finds a friend in Tong who is as a boy their age should be; playful and outgoing.
At what seems to be their happiest as children, Tong makes Mew hunt for his Christmas present, a woodblock sculpted christmas doll, which by some unfortunate circumstance would be missing its nose.
What I also found appealing in the storytelling is the dimension and contrast of their family structures. Mew lives with a spinster aunt and his beloved grandmother while across the street Tong is part of a Catholic household with his teenage sister Tang and parents Korn and Sunee [not what you would normally expect from a predominantly buddhist population]. I remember going, "Oh...they're catholic..."
For there is a tendency for some gay themed films to abstain from the parental dimensions of their relationships. Because perhaps, in this reality, having distant and un accepting parents reflect the cinematic view that their story is not worth telling.
When Tang goes missing during a trip in Chiangmai, Tong's family is forced to deal with the loss when there seemed to be no hope of finding her by moving away. Goodbyes are tough, and Mew would rather not deal with it. And as stories must, time passes...
But a chance encounter reunites Mew and Tong some years after during their late teens. Mew [played by Witwisit Hiranyawongkul] is now the composer and lead singer for an upcoming band called August [which to my surprise is a band for real] while Tong [played by Mario Maurer] typifies a boy his age: with a pretty girlfriend, and is part of a somewhat popular clique.
But Tong's home life is far from typical. His father, Korn, depressed, then wastes himself into drinking after Tang's disappearance leaving Sunee to hold their family together.
As the boys' rediscovered friendship progresses, Mew's strong attachment towards Tong inspires him to write love songs. And the lyrics to one goes:
"If I say that I wrote this song for you, would you believe me? It might not be as well written or beautiful like other songs. I want you to know that a love song can't be written if you're not in love. But for you, I can write this song so easily"
After hearing it for the first time, Mew tells Tong that without him in his life, that song would never be. Tong responds with a kiss -probably the most innocent and the most heartfelt kiss i have seen on film in my existence.
[and the music...oh the music in this movie needs to be commended. Whether it be the songs or the musical score. I don't know a word of Thai but the i have been humming the songs in my head -indeed, if it be the food of love, it's been blasting out of my earphones to a glutinous extent]
But in discovering themselves Mew and Tong find out how their own smalls worlds and the fragile hearts they bear would collide: Sunee asks Mew not to make Tong take the wrong path, Tong faces coming out to his friends, Mew at odds with his band endangering their debut, and Tong's father's deteriorating health.
And even against Sunee's insistence, you will love Tong for running out at night and screaming at Mew's window to let him in, but to no avail.
And when all seems lost, they learn that as long as there's love, naturally there's hope.
Perhaps the line that will define this movie is when Tong tells Mew, "I can't be with you as your boyfriend. But that does not mean I don't love you." Then Tong hands Mew the missing piece of the wooden doll he had gifted him when they were kids [one which he had a hard time acquiring]. And it hit me, just a few moments ago what that meant! That wherever life leads them, Tong leaves Mew with some hope...That perhaps it may take a little longer for them, and like that wooden doll missing its nose, somehow Tong would find a way to complete it, to complete their love.
And I can't believe I'm using this Theology 131- Marriage & Human Sexuality lesson to prove a point. "A genuine loving relationship must be able to exist with other relationships." Tong and Mew take a step into their maturity by accepting that they can't take a "you-and-me-against-the-world" stand on their love. If indeed what they have is true, it will be a love that they shall be able to share with their loved ones, friends, and all.
LOS does not take into account the typical requirements of what makes up love story. It doesn't give you that "dancing under the starlight" ending expected of the genre nor does it leave you with a heavy heart even if the last you see is Mew in tears [The love I know well is this: "it does end in tears." And the writer/director, Chookiat Sakveerakul presented that with no romantic pretenses]. But LOS does leave its characters with a glimmer of hope.
And that "Love", whether it between boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls, parent and child, friend and friend, between you and your god, is transcendent and unending.
And to answer Mew's question, "If we can love someone so much, how will we be able to handle it the one day when we are separated?" I would tell him this, something that Gabriel Marcel said, "To say 'I love you' is to say 'thou shalt not die'..."
There's Mario Maurer Fever abound in the Philippine Archipelago... the pinoy teen masses have been introduced to the multi-racial cutie from Thailand over the weekend after ABS-CBN premiered the movie Crazy Little Thing Called Love over the weekend. The Barefoot Baklesa thought it best to share to you some of Mario's other movies. Here's one of them [warning, plot spoiler]:
Do you remember the time when you were in high school? When, for the most part, as much as you were on the verge of burgeoning maturity, you would easily cast it away for some happy time with your friends? Too often you walk around with this sense of invulnerability that goes with youth; bearing your then unscathed heart and your unbound dreams. This is where the Thai film FRIENDSHIP takes me back to. [It’s been a bit timely to have seen it lately considering it has been ten years since I graduated from high school]
FRIENDSHIP is the story of a teenage boy named Singha and the love he had for a girl named Mituna; the new girl, who transferred at the start of their senior year in high school. Singha, played by Mario Maurer [who shot to instant fame after his debut as a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality in the film The Love of Siam -click on the link to read my review], was as typical as a teenage boy could be: a bit of a smart-aleck who hangs out with a boisterous set of friends, sexually curious, and often flirtatious with the girls. While Mituna, played by a lovely Thai actress named Apinya Sakuljaroensuk [there’s something about this girl that reminds me of a crush I had back in high school], was a girl that kept to herself and did not say much. It would have been a perfect boy meets girl scenario but instead Singha picks on Mituna due to her chosen silence, and as each act of teasing moves into the next, Singha pushes the envelope further until Mituna can’t take it anymore and could do nothing else but hit Singha in the face which somehow snaps him into a realization that he may have gone too far this time.
I love the way the film portrays that haze of infatuation often acted out as something else before a guy realizes that he actually likes the girl but the damage is done. I don’t know if it’s my love for Mario Maurer or the way his character is written [or maybe a combination of both], that can’t make me hate him and what he did. I mean, the first time we see Singha is when he helps out this lady with a cane at the bus stop who got knocked over by a passing commuter rushing for the bus. He then hands her a marigold which he has in his shirt pocket before he leaves to ride the next bus. He’s not that bad a guy; he just gets it wrong sometimes. Moving on…
It’s not until Singha secretly follows Mituna around that he realizes how mean he has been to her; he follows her to a social welfare facility and learns that her mother is deaf and mute. The apology that follows is a montage of a boy that has fallen in love with the girl who fought back. I’m not that versed with Thai pop culture so I have no idea if the song in the montage, which had this two-decades-ago-cheesy-quality to it, was actually a vintage tune; but it works.
Now, the movie itself is full of those teen situations of underage drinking, getting wasted on weed for the first time, misadventures into haunted houses, the generic out-of-town trip [thank god, no one broke into a song and dance by the beach, or rather the pool on this one like those really horrible Filipino movies], and the dynamics of the relationships with the people they share these with. After all, don’t they say that the friends one makes in school are the friends you have for life? I think the movie does well in establishing these within the plot elements in the sentimentality of it all. [I don’t want to focus too much on the other characters and how they figure in to the storyline in this review because they are best appreciated when seen]
I guess when you’re young and in love, there’s so much energy you can spare. For when things got a little better between them, the boy finds a way to understand her and to be understood. Just like what Singha said about words not being enough, he finds a way to learn how to do sign language. Now, it takes a certain kind of filmmaker to understand the difference between acceptable and revolting sentimentality. The sign language thing would not have worked if some generic Filipino director took a shot at it, I think. There is a pace that the film takes which makes it rather lighthearted and feeling like you were reminiscing on a lazy Sunday afternoon even if there’s a visually established flashback in the plot.
And as the end of senior year fast approaches with teenagers wanting to squeeze in so much before it does, a tragedy comes upon them. Lam, one of their friends, gets stabbed by a former schoolmate who joins up a gang that is hunted down by the police. Lam transferred in the same time as Mituna and was responsible in making Singha realize his true feelings for Mituna. You know that feeling when things are happening all at once and you don’t seem to have the chance to slow it down and you have no chance but to bear with it? It’s excruciating to watch Singha and Mituna’s lives take the direction that will start to bring them apart. Singha’s father, a police officer, gets assigned to another district and they have to move out; while Mituna’s absentee father decides to sell the house they are living in and tells them to live in the country convinced that it will be better for Mituna’s mother. But both of them have no idea that this was happening to the other.
I don’t know what a “friendship book” is exactly, but the way I understand it from the movie is that it’s some form of scrapbook or memento that your friends pass around to write stuff on. Singha hands Mituna his pages for her to write on. Mituna promises to return it on the day they release the final exam results.
This reminds me of something my friend Sandro told me about last Friday; that we are where we are because God has a perfectly good reason for letting it be so. Watching it unfold before my eyes, I felt as if God was a little too harsh on Singha and Mituna. By mere moments they would miss each other; one turning left, the other tuning right. In the place where they promised to meet, in the places where each thought the other would be, and in the place where a desperate hearts clings to the hope of seeing one’s love, would they learn that they were not to see each other that day. Singha would spend years carrying this love for Mituna wondering why she did not at least keep her promise. Even during their class reunion, Singha was kind of hoping to at least see her there and be happy for her if she had a family of her own. One day, while doing work with the indigenous communities in the mountains, Singha chances upon Mituna’s mother. Singha learns that Mituna is gravely ill. Okay, remember when I said that God was a bit harsh on Singha and Mituna a paragraph ago? Take that as an understatement.
That fateful day when they had promised to meet each other, something happened to Mituna; something that I commend the writer for not showing and just merely suggesting. I don’t think I have the heart to see that.
When Singha finally gets to see her, he realizes how gravely ill she really is. By this time, the movie hits you with a realization why it chose Friendship as a title. As much as we know there is a story of youthful romantic love, what moves one’s heart is the enduring power a deeper love has in their lives; and that is their Friendship. Don’t get confused on that one. You have to see the movie to really appreciate that amidst all that falling in love they built a great relationship between themselves for simply being genuine. I think some writers lose that kind of dynamic in order to come out with commercially viable romances. I don’t know if I’m communicating this properly, or if I’m speaking in tongues by this point. But maybe I’ll get back to this post sometime later and find my words.
There’s beauty in sadness as one friend of mine articulated. And I have a penchant for watching movies that portray this not just because I’m Asian [not many Filipinos would want to admit they are Asian though] and that is expected of me to understand but also because the barefoot baklesa is such a sap and he’d much rather have a good cry. Hahahaha!!!
I decided to start a recipe series since The Barefoot Baklesa was actually cooking lasagna barefoot when his dear friend, Sandro Lopa, called him The Barefoot Baklesa for the very first time. It was a few days to Halloween back in 2006 when that came to be... And just this evening, I experimented on something that deserves to be the first recipe to post.
The Barefoot Baklesa's Three Mushroom and Grilled Eggplant Pasta [serves 3 to 4 very hungry people] You will need:
250 grams button mushrooms, sliced 250 grams straw mushrooms, quartered 200 grams dried shitake mushrooms, rinsed twice and soaked in distilled water for at least one hour, rinsed a third time and soaked again in distilled water two medium sized garlic bulbs, crushed and minced 4 large eggplants, whole 1 heaping teaspoon dried basil leaves, if fresh ones are available, then substitute 1/4 cup minced 1 and 1/2 cups of either vegetable, chicken, or beef broth -fairly concentrated. if not available, dissolve one instant broth cube in a cup and a half of hot water 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons tomato paste [optional] 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar Worcestershire Sauce crushed red pepper flakes 500 grams cooked pasta in flavored pasta brodo, Barefoot Baklesa Style salt, sugar, and pepper to taste Grated Parmesan Cheese
1. Preparing the Eggplants With a steel tong, take the eggplants and grill them directly above an open flame -the stove is best if you're in a rush, keep a good watch and turn them constantly. once most of the skin is singed to black and the eggplants are soft, take them off the flame and place them in a large container and cover with plastic cling wrap and let them steam for a few minutes. after they have steamed, take a clean damp kitchen towel or paper towel and run the eggplants against it -this will peel of the singed skin cleanly, if not automatically. chop the eggplants into half inch cubes then set aside.
Pasta Brodo, Barefoot Baklesa Style in a pasta cooking pot, add the proper measure of water to cook your pasta, 1 laurel leaf, a pinch of dried basil leaves, 1 whole broth cube, a few teaspoons of salt -or subsitute liquid amino salts if you're watching your salt intake, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, and a few teaspoons vegetable oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. allow to boil and cook pasta the usual way.
TIMING IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THIS RECIPE, sautee only when the water is boiling and you have just put the pasta in to cook.
2. In a deep non-stick pan or skillet heat 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, flavor the heated oil by sprinkling a dash of crushed red pepper flakes and allow to fry for a while; add garlic and sautee in medium heat until golden -take great care not to burn the garlic.
add in the basil leaves and allow to cook a little before adding the shitake mushrooms, the straw mushrooms, and the button mushrooms, allowing some time for each type of mushroom to cook. sautee for another minute or so after all the mushrooms are in the pan. shake in some Worchestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.
Remember, other than the varieties of mushrooms with a woodsy flavor like the shitake or porccino, most farm cultivated mushrooms are bland and in some cases lightly sweet. thus they require some flavoring from the garlic and spices.
3. After that, add in the chopped grilled eggplants and your choice of broth and the 3 tablespoons tomato paste, bring to a boil and allow to simmer in medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. you will notice the sauce thicken due to the grilled eggplant breaking down during the cooking period. add the balsamic vinegar and allow to boil and simmer once again before stirring.
The tomato paste enhances the basil in the sauce while the balsamic vinegar balances the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms. you can add sugar upon what your taste requires.
4. By this time, the pasta will be cooked al dente. Drain the pasta using tongs or a kitchen spider, do not rinse, and mix them in with the sauce -don't worry about some of the pasta water going into your sauce -it's also flavored anyway.
5. Plate and top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.
I also discovered cream cheese goes well with this when still warm... hehehehe!!!
I do hope you enjoyed my first in The Barefoot Baklesa Cooks Series