Archive of ‘whatever’ category

daily art: essay-a-day

Inspired by Summer Pierre’s one-page story writing exercise, I started an essay-a-day daily art project, a diary-slash-creative non-fiction effort.

Summer’s method of using keyword flashcards to choose a topic is interesting but I’m too lazy to make flashcards. I suppose instead of flashcards that I’d have to carry around, I could flip through a book and point to a word.

For now I rely on serendipitous random happenstance of whatever floats to the surface of my mind when faced with a blank sheet of paper, though I do have a theme going on now; all the pieces start with “In [add name of city].”

Here’s my second entry in a pocket plain Moleskine.

Materials: vintage Sheaffer Agio fountain pen inked with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Derwent Coloursoft pencils.

I follow Summer’s rules of writing whatever comes first to mind and no editing. The length of the piece is constrained by the size of the page, although I’ve done a two-page piece.

I posted the picture above on Instagram and Twitter, and tweeted a link to Summer’s article. That got a retweet and a favorite from Summer herself! (Follow her on Twitter @summerpierre).

I asked if she didn’t mind that I adopted her idea.

Her reply? “@jennyortuoste of course not! I am THRILLED you took to it!”

Art is global and knows no boundaries. 

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pop goes the world: paradise in mindanao

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 June 2012, Thursday

Paradise in Mindanao

Maayong buntag ka ninyong tanan. (Good day to all of you.)

I’m practicing my Visayan because I have fallen in love with Mindanao, after visiting Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, and Davao City last week.

In Cagayan de Oro City last Friday, I witnessed the turnover of an integrated health facility by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Employees Union (PCSO-SEU) to the residents of a typhoon Sendong settlement area built by Habitat for Humanity in Barangay Canitoan.

It was my second visit to the city; the first time was in January, a few weeks after Sendong devastated the area. We spent less than a day in both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, not enough time to get to know the place.

This time around, I got to stay a couple of days.

The PCSO-SEU project is an advocacy of the PCSO employees, who have internalized the agency’s mission of charity. By contributing a portion of their bonuses to the SEU fund, they were able to put up a 54 square meter clinic on a 100 square meter lot donated by the city government under Mayor Vicente Emano, through a linkage of the SEU with Mater et Puer (Mother and Child) Foundation, a non-government organization whose members are women professionals, most of them from Davao City.

The PCSO-SEU Integrated Health Facility at Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro. At the left are personnel from PCSO-Manila and Misamis Oriental who attended the inauguration.

The clinic includes a reception area, treatment room, birthing room, recovery room, and standby water tank, all donated by the SEU. The rest of the land will be planted with vegetables and herbs.

Mayor Emano attended the ceremony, along with personnel from the PCSO: physician Jose Bernardo Gochoco, special projects department manager, and SEU officers Chris Bautista, president; Andreo Nualda, first vice-president; Andrew Barcelona, second VP; Soledad Rasing, third VP; Jerusa Corpuz, secretary; Estela Divina, treasurer; Alex Asuit, auditor; Teddy Tomas, budget and accounting department representative; Archie Sopenasky, PR department representative; and lawyer Ravena Joy Rama, VisMin cluster representative.

PCSO will be donating medical supplies and equipment for the clinic, while the Cagayan de Oro government will provide the people to run it – doctors, nurses, dentists, and maintenance workers.

PCSO-SEU water tank in Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro. A similar tank will be installed at a PCSO-SEU clinic in Iligan City.

The PCSO-SEU plans to put up a similar health facility in a settlement in nearby Iligan City, which we also visited. Details on its construction are being worked out with the project partners.

Among the other places we got to see were the Agus 4 and Agus 6/7 hydroelectric facilities in Iligan City, the City of Waterfalls. Unbeknownst to many are the vast catchment basin of Agus 4, covered with water plants on the surface, while underground tunnels honeycomb the earth beneath. Three giant turbines of shiny steel there are among those driving power to the region.

Underground tunnel at Agus 4 hydroelectric plant, Iligan City.

The cascading waters of Maria Cristina Falls power Agus 6/7. The foliage around the falls are lush and exotic; its waters rush down to a nature park which welcomes visitors who take pictures under the spray of the falls.

Maria Cristina Falls, Iligan City. It had rained the night before our visit, hence the muddy waters. Usually the waters are clear, say the locals. 

There’s a nature park in Davao, too. Nestled in the pine-covered hills of Toril is Eden Nature Park, which has a zipline facility, buffet dining hall, and activities for visitors such as hiking.

Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and Davao have highly urbanized centers with malls and shops. The ambiance is Quezon City or Las Piñas, but with more trees. Everything is so clean. The roads are well-paved. Many of the cars tooling about on the roads are late models. The area looks prosperous and developed, but still closer to nature than Manila.

So close, in fact, that the beaches on Samal Island are a mere half-hour away from Davao city proper, including a banca ride across a stretch of sea. At Chema’s by the Sea, a private garden resort on the island, a pocket white sand beach and saltwater infinity pool invite relaxation, as the wide-spreading branches of talisay trees provide shade.

Saltwater infinity pool at Chema’s By the Sea resort, Samal Island. 

SMART’s 3G signal is fairly strong; I can imagine myself filing my MST columns from there, toes in the sand and drink in hand, cackling evilly while my editors hunch over their keyboards in their cramped windowless offices in Makati.

I now know where I’m going to build my retirement cottage.

A cup of brewed mountain arabica coffee at Chema’s By the Sea.

Mag-amping kamo. (Take care.)  *** 

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S. Check out my Instagram feed: @jennydecember

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how to reach the top

Image reblogged from this Tumblr.

What were the books that shaped your thinking and gave wings to your imagination? What books do you read now that give you inspiration, new ideas, and worlds to escape to?

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“father, forgive them”

Photographer Karlos Manlupig was taking photos inside San Pedro Cathedral, Davao City, today, Good Friday (6 April 2012), when he chanced upon this incident and took a shot which he posted on his Facebook page.

Here’s his caption for the photo:

FILTHY HYPOCRITES. As I was shooting in Davao City’s San Pedro Cathedral during the observance of Good Friday, I noticed a Tagalog speaking man instructing this security guard to throw out a half-naked man who is silently kneeling and praying inside the church, saying that the churches in Manila prohibit persons with mental disabilities and vagrants to enter its premises.

The security guard then assaulted the poor man without any warning poking him in the ribs several times using a “ratan” truncheon…I immediately took several burst shots of the detestable incident.

Suddenly, an old man with a Bible in his hand tapped me on my shoulder and told me that it is improper to take photos of the incident and that it is also improper to take photos inside their heavenly church.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? Tama si [redacted]. Banal na aso, santong kabayo.

NOTE: I opted to post this blurry picture to preserve the identity of the victim.

Within less than three hours of posting, the image has been shared on FB 1,967 times.

Photo by Karlos Manlupig at his Facebook page here. The image is tagged “Public”.

I have sent Karlos a message on FB asking for more details, and am waiting on his reply. Meanwhile, I am posting this here, as a reminder for all of us what NOT to do.

I am reminded of Jesus’ own words (KJV):

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” Matt. 23:27

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt. 25:40 KJV

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 KJV

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midsomer murders mayhem

After finishing all the episodes so far of Downton Abbey, I remained enamored of Britain and looked for another series to immerse in.

Enter Midsomer Murders. Perfect. I’d loved it on TV during the ’90s, the few episodes I caught of it, and enjoyed settling down to follow the sleuthing activities of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and  his various DI (detective inspectors) around Midsomer County.

The area in which the action takes place is a fictional county of 66 villages with quaint names like Midsomer Mallow and Eleverton-cum-Latterley. Based on the real county of Somerset and the town of Midsomer Norton, the absurdly high number of murders that occur in what seems a sleepy country location adds a sense of surrealness to the series and gives DCI Barnaby a chance to show off his skills while teaching his DIs a thing or three.

A cottage garden from season 3. Look at the vines and the lovely white wood trim on that cottage.

I loved the first four seasons, with settings ranging from lovely emerald villages to cozy cottage or imposing castle interiors and warm glowing pubs. The characters were always eating or drinking. The detectives seemed to have the perfect job of going around town interviewing people in their parlors and being offered countless cups of coffee and tea and plates of home-baked scones and biscuits.

The gardens are lovely, with lush wildflowers carefully tended. The furnishings are antiques. Everyone is polite. DCI Barnaby loves his wife Joyce and daughter Cully to bits. Now where can I find a man like that? He seems too good to be true – intelligent, resourceful, responsible, and an upright family man.

Barnaby walks with his aunt under the rose arbor at her nursing home (s3).

Well, this is fiction, after all. Sink into this world of rose arbors and crumbling church towers and meandering bike rides through picturesque woods and, at the end, always – puzzles solved.

A young Orlando Bloom plays a burglar who meets a grisly end in this 1999 episode (season 3, epi 3).

Image of John Nettles and Daniel Casey (who plays the first DI, Gavin Troy), here. Screenshots by me with an iPhone 4S, Instagram effects.

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mary grace cafe

Looking for a place that serves great food in a warm, inviting, cozy atmosphere? Check out Mary Grace Cafe at Greenbelt Makati and Serendra Taguig.

My first visit to this restaurant was last month, and I’ve been going at least once a week ever since, on a weekend, sometimes to eat there twice a day – brunch and dinner.

First, let’s look at the interiors. They’re all country, no rock-n-roll. Think of a cottage decorated with Papemelroti accessories and salvaged architectural elements such as carved wood trim and balusters and stained-glass windows.

The facade of Mary Grace Cafe in Greenbelt, Makati City. Notice the fairy lights around the windows! Information such as store hours and contact numbers are painted on the glass door, rather than inscribed on a sign that would mar the view.

Inside, look up and be amazed at the ceiling’s display of clusters of lanterns  and glass jars. I love this! I will duplicate this in my home. One day. When I get around to it.

The upper level of the cafe in Greenbelt is a loft that might be the dining room and sala of your quirky artist aunt’s cottage in Laguna, or something. It murmurs “come in, sit down, eat!”

The interior of Mary Grace Cafe – Serendra. It’s small but still warm with brick and wood trim accents, and all sorts of country-style decor. There are racks of magazines to read while waiting.

Now for the food!

The tables are wooden, the tops covered with glass, underneath which are handwritten notes from happy patrons. Popular menu items include Mary Grace hot chocolate, Filipino-style with ground peanuts, served in a mismatched cup and saucer for a colorful touch; and the cassava chips and onion dip. You must try these. YOU MUST.

Here’s a tip: bring a large 16-oz tumbler with lid or a thermos and combine a cup of the hot chocolate with a cup of brewed coffee. It’s mocha, Pinoy-style.

Their iced teas are really good, and come in several fruity flavors. Our favorite is the apple and cinnamon honey – “Apple pie in a glass!” my youngest daughter calls it.

Start with a bowl of hearty soup. This is my eldest daughter’s favorite – the cream of mushroom soup. It’s savory without being too salty; it’s just right.

The menu runs to salads, pastas, and pastries. Craving a rice meal? They serve Filipino breakfast with rice until 5pm. This is the Vigan longganisa (sausage) plate that comes with two eggs anyway you like it. 

The seafood pasta blends flavors of the sea with earthy vegetables and bread.

The tomato pasta is muy delicioso.

The Kesong Puti salad with Calamansi Vinaigrette teases your palate with interesting flavors.

The mushroom and cheese pizza is on a crunchy thin crust sprinkled with cornmeal for added texture.

Cap off your meal with a slice – or two – of  cinnamony, nutmeggy, whipped cream-y apple pie.

Grilled ensaymada – grilling melts the cheese, toasts the top of the pastry, and warms it through.

Mary Grace started out as a home business in the mid-90s, with the owner selling melt-in-your-mouth ensaymada from her dad’s machinery store along Vito Cruz Street, Manila. I remember how fame of her pastries spread via word-of-mouth, and bought boxes of ensaymada one holiday in the late 90s to give as gifts. I gave a box to the late Speaker of the House Ramon V. Mitra Jr., and was surprised when he called back saying he loved them and asking where to buy.

It’s heartwarming to see that from those humble beginnings more than a decade ago, Mary Grace has grown, giving it more ways to bring its delicious baked goods and food to a wider clientele.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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waterman lady patricia

The Waterman Lady Patricia was released in 1930 following the spectacular debut of the larger Patrician line a year earlier. This model is the Ink-Vue, lever fill. They are small and dainty, perfect for lady and child hands.

This one has a 14k Ideal firm nib.

 The “Lady Pat” came in various colors and transparency patterns, such as red and the rare turquoise and moss-agate. This one is a hard-to-find Persian. Best of all, it comes with a semi-flexible nib, for that good old line variation.

A closer look shows the black celluloid section, silver cap band, and lovely marbling of the barrel and cap. The nib has a heart-shaped breather hole.

This writing sample shows the wonderful line variation such a nib can give. Take care, though, not to push it into the “danger zone” when flexing, otherwise the nib will spring.

Waterman made  ”wet noodle” nibs back in the day; alas, modern manufacturers no longer do. Something to do with the metallurgy, or some such technical matter. Look for antique and vintage pens on eBay or from fellow pen collectors, which is how I get mine.

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mondial lus stylo

This is the Mondial Lus Stylo fountain pen – tiny, yet sturdy and packs a wallop. I won it in the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines raffle holiday penmeet last year; it was donated by anthropologist Butch Palma, penmeister extraordinaire.

This is my first French fountain pen. FPs are still widely used in Europe and come in models to fit all ages and budgets.

It’s a no-nonsense pocket-size pen that is small and easy to carry, yet still long enough to use when posted. It comes with a functional steel nib that is a nail yet with a slight hint of give for that extra touch of comfort when writing for long periods. A short cartridge fits perfectly inside its transparent plastic barrel that allows you to see how much ink you have left.

Function – check. Style – check, if you like simple modern design. It’s a good budget instrument to make sure you’re never without a fountain pen in your bag.


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pop goes the world: an introvert’s holiday

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 March 2012, Thursday

An Introvert’s Holiday

It’s summer, when temperatures rise and nerves get frayed to snapping.

School is out and children are bored at home. Parents want to wean them off their electronic teats – Internet, television, video games – and send them out to play and learn in the real world. Stress-wrecked grownups who can’t calm down despite the regular inuman with friends or coffee-shop me-times want to reclaim their inner peace.

But how to accomplish all this without having to part crowds like Moses and deal with the yammer of the multitudes?

Rolando Tolentino, columnist and dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, tweeted yesterday: “Pag umaapaw ang aligaga na kahit ang usual treat-to-self ay di na umuubra, panahon nang pisikal na pagtakas. Fly high at bumalik na lang.“

A change of environment is called for.

Last December I took my two daughters with me for a tranquil yet creatively stimulating week in Baguio City. For many of us it was the default vacation location of our childhood. It’s still a magical place, channeling a Buddhist vibe of serenity despite the burgeoning pollution, construction, and population explosion.

Veer away from the usual haunts and immerse in places you haven’t yet been. Baguio is a city that is a living artwork. At Chocolate sa Batirol open-air café at Camp John Hay, even the stumps of trees that serve as seats are gaily painted with words and figures.

Paintings, sculptures, and antique wood carvings fill National Artist Ben Cabrera’s BenCab museum; its basement shelters Café Isabel and overlooks foliage-blanketed hills as fog rolls across your field of vision. Sip a cup of hot Benguet Arabica while you meditate on nature and art coming together in one enchanted dell.

View from the BenCab Museum balcony.

At Cafe Isabel, BenCab Museum.

Along Session Road, visit Namaste at Porto Vaga for bespoke crystal bracelets and Buddhist artwork from Nepal. Sit and read at Mountain Cloud bookshop, then walk a few steps to Hill Station restaurant next door for apple pie and more coffee. Go to VOCAS/Oh My Gulay at La Azotea for vegetarian meals inside an art gallery.

Namaste is visual bliss.

A “bookshelf chair” at Mt. Cloud bookshop.

Aerial view of Hill Station, from the Casa Vallejo inn staircase.

Vegetarian dishes at Oh My Gulay within VOCAS art gallery.

At Hotel Elizabeth along Gibraltar Road, enter a state of Zen at Bliss Café, and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Café by the Ruins on Chuntug Road.

Interesting interior of Bliss Cafe. The light is warm and enveloping.

Cafe by the Ruins is adorned with artwork.

The easiest way to get to Baguio is by bus. Victory Liner has a fleet of airconditioned buses bound for points north; the deluxe ones have an on-board toilet and acres of legroom. An online ticketing system makes getting seats stress-free.

The Victory Liner terminal at Baguio City.

The people of Victory Liner are kind and helpful – the kids and I wound up at the wrong terminal, and the people there called ahead to the right one to let us know we were on the way to catch our bus. When we arrived photo-finish, puffing and panting, only smiles greeted us as willing hands reached out to stow our luggage in the cargo hold and guide us into our seats. A bus attendant handed out bottled water, snacks, and magazines. It was like taking an airplane flight.

For accommodations, book reservations online for the Microtel Inn right beside Victory’s Baguio City terminal. The food is great, the breakfast chef cooks your eggs the way you like it, and there is free-flowing coffee in the lobby.

The Microtel Inn is right beside the Victory Liner terminal.

Take your journey, the one that will help you rediscover your balance, gain peace, and recharge your soul.

* * * * *

Last December 17, typhoon Sendong obliterated entire communities in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, leaving over 3,000 persons dead and missing and 342,000 more displaced and homeless, living in tent cities or barangay sports courts.

In the aftermath, 56 people, some of them young children, tried to take their own lives. There is an increase in incidences of teenage pregnancy, incest, and rape, especially in the tent cities.

Psycho-social intervention helps by coaching survivors in stress-relief techniques based on yoga and proper breathing. To help continue sustaining the Art of Living trauma relief workshops being conducted in the area, Hongkong-based opera singer Wayne Yeh and international theater performer Lissa Romero-de Guia will be singing on March 26 at the “Opera vs. Broadway” fundraising concert for the benefit of the survivors of typhoon Sendong.

Image from Lissa de Guia.

Wayne will sing opera and Lissa Broadway hits, in a duel of style and sound at the Isla Ballroom, EDSA Shangri-La Hotel Manila. Ticket details at or call Madeline Pajarillo at (0917)820-2081. *** 

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danitrio cumlaude

Danitrio fountain pens are handmade from rods of Italian celluloid (cellulose acetate), hand-turned on a lathe, and polished by hand for days. It’s available in two sizes – large and small – and comes with either an 18k nib or a steel (iridium) nib. They are well-made and most collectors try to acquire at least one.

Danis are a bit pricey, and I thought I’d never own one until I learned about their Cumlaude model. It’s the basic, entry-level Dani, and since I got mine on a “group buy” with fellow members of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, I was finally able to afford one.

The pens we got were from the “close-out” Cumlaude sale, the last few stock left of this type of pen. (Dani no longer makes celluloid pens, concentrating now on urushi and maki-e from ebonite).

This is a large brown Danitrio Cumlaude, Fine nib. It also comes in blue.

Earlier Cumlaudes had markings on the cap band – “Trio Cumlaude” – and a metal section, according to Peaceable Writer. The clips of both types are marked with the brand name.

The “close-out” Cumlaudes have no metal internal parts. It has a converter fill system. I’ve heard it can be turned into an eyedropper fill, but the ink would stain the celluloid material and reduce the translucence.

When filling it for the first time, I chose J. Herbin Vert Empire and removed the converter from the barrel, in case of spills. I don’t want to stain the pen’s lovely marble-y brown body.

The large Dani is fairly fat. Although I have small hands, I got used to its size right away, as it requires less of a grip to hold on to it and manipulate it, unlike with smaller pens. It won’t exacerbate the focal dystonia in my right hand.

This is a Fine steel nib. It is a nail with very little give. Here’s a writing sample.

While the nib is smooth and buttery once it gets started, I had problems with the initial flow and with doing curves – it skips on the upstroke of a cursive “J” or “N”, and the top of “S”.  I don’t have this issue with other pens, like my equally new TWSBI, for instance. This problem was resolved when I used a different ink – Waterman, which flows well and is a “default” and safe ink for many FP users.

I find it also messy and blotty sometimes – see what happened when I unscrewed the cap the other day. I have yet to observe whether the change in ink will eliminate this particular issue.

Overall, the Danitrio Cumlaude is a handsome pen and an interesting and welcome addition to my collection.

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