Archive of ‘whatever’ category

yankee candle illuma-lid

The Illuma-Lid is an inspired invention by Yankee Candle. Exclusively made for their large Jars, the gadget helps shield the flame from drafts and prevents tunneling (when the wax melts faster in the middle, leaving high walls of unmelted wax around the sides).

The Illuma-Lids are made to fit exactly within the mouth of the candle jar.

Not only are they useful, they’re pretty too. Sometimes that’s all something needs to be, for it to have a place in your life.

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thank you, UP masscomm

The University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication celebrated its 47th founding anniversary week, “Magpasiklab, Plaridel!” last March 5 to 9 with various activities. Among them was a recognition (pagkilala) ceremony where certificates were awarded to students, faculty, and staff who had earned achievements the previous year.

It was my honor to have been one of those chosen to be recognized (for my Palanca Award win in 2011) and to deliver a short message as one of the graduate students so honored (I am still a dissertation away from receiving my PhD Communication degree).

With UP-CMC dean Roland Tolentino and college secretary Patrick Campos. 

My deepest thanks go to Dean Roland Tolentino and UP-CMC for this signal honor.

Here’s the brief message I delivered that morning. I am proud to report no one fell asleep during my speech.

Message at the UP College of Mass Communication

Pagkilala sa Mga Natatanging Guro, Kawani, at Mag-Aaral recognition ceremony

CMC Auditorium, 9 March 2012 

Magandang umaga sa iyong lahat, Dean Tolentino, Dean Encanto, faculty, fellow students, staff, alumni, and guests.

Ipagpaumanhin nyo na po na hindi sa wikang Tagalog ko ibibigay ang aking mensahe. Chabacano ang tatay ko, Ilongga ang nanay ko, kaya sa wikang Inggles ko po ito isinulat.

First of all, thank you for bestowing this honor on me. I appreciate it even more because it is given on a very special occasion – the commemoration of UP CMC’s 47th founding anniversary.

CMC occupies a significant corner of my heart. I was an undergraduate here in the ’80s, under Dean Encanto. I used to hang out with other members of the UP Journalism Club on the steps of Plaridel Hall till 2am. I would like to assure Dean Encanto that we were not drinking. We were poor students on a budget; we couldn’t afford to.

MassComm itself back then couldn’t afford a lot of stuff. Much of the equipment and furniture was old. We students had to make do with few resources. During MassComm Week or rallies, we’d create makeshift placards or decorations from newspapers, scrounged materials, and paste made from leftover rice that we begged from the canteen. There were few communication textbooks and journals available – we had to borrow or photocopy.

After graduating with a degree in Journalism, I wrote sports articles for the Manila Chronicle, got married. That marriage failed, but it produced the joys of my life, my two daughters. When my husband left us, I had to go back to work, after ten years of being a housewife.

The horseracing industry gave me a break, out of pity. I was apprehensive, having been out of the professional scene for a decade.

At this point, my undergrad experiences in MassComm came to my rescue. It was here that I learned to produce much with the least of resources, to produce something out of practically nothing, and always at the very highest standards of excellence. It was at MassComm that I learned to be maabilidad, madiskarte, and marunong magtrabaho under pressure. (Sa katunayan po, sinulat ko ang mensaheng ito 30 minutes bago dumating dito.)

Twenty years later I was faced with a choice between this college and another one on the other side of the campus for my PhD studies. I chose MassComm, of course. It is my alma mater, my comfort zone, my home. The first sem I was back, I was struck by how so many things had changed – more students, more and better facilities.

But some things stayed the same. While the faculty cohort now is not the same as that of 20 years ago, I am happy to say that the present group of professors carry on the MassCom legacy – of training you to do more with less, to identify the boundaries of your discipline – and shatter them, to think for yourself and define for yourself who you are and who you want to be.

Thank you, UP College of MassComm, for this recognition of my humble writing achievement of last year. I will treasure this certificate, and this moment, always.

But the greatest things you have given me, that I can never thank you enough for, are the skills I’ve used to support my children; the knowledge I employ in building my career and life; and the freedom of mind and thought, a freedom that knows no limits.

Again, thank you, and good morning. Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

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pop goes the world: words wild and wondrous

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 March 2012, Thursday

Words Wild and Wondrous

“Poetry is a great deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Poetry is story; it is experience and emotion described in words carefully chosen and combined in such a way that they exude cadence and rhythm. Set to music, poems become songs. Filipinos are a poetic people more so because we are also a musical people. We can point to a poetic tradition in the old epics such as Lam-Ang, in the works of Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, and all the way to the modern-day versifiers.

One such makata was lauded in the international arena recently. Romulo “Joey” Baquiran Jr., assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters, received the 2011 Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the SEA Write Award) last February 16 in Bangkok.

The award has been presented annually since 1979 to poets and writers in SE Asia, though not all countries are represented every year. The award may be given for lifetime achievement or for a specific work. The award was organized by the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, with backing from other corporate sponsors, and is supported by the Thai royal family, a member of which graces the awards night each year.

Among the 32 other Filipinos who have received the award are Nick Joaquin, Greg Brillantes, Jose Maria Sison, Bienvenido Santos, Virgilio Almario, Alfred “Krip” Yuson, and Vim Nadera.

Baquiran says among the memorable moments at the SEA Write awarding ceremony was meeting fellow ASEAN writers. “One awardee, Nguyen Chi Trung,” he said, “from Vietnam, is more than 80 years old. He has been active in the people’s army most of his life. He wrote novels about the struggle of his nation. Amazing lolo.”

He also found interesting the reverence that the Thai people bestow upon the members of the royal family. “When Princess Sirivannari Nariratana entered the room, everyone bowed and deferred to her with their whole being.” Even a dog she had with her “was treated with the utmost respect.” It’s cultural observations like this that inform his writing.

“Writing is a social act,” he says. “Writers must always externalize their concerns, for it to resonate in their community. I will stick to this concern.”

Baquiran teaches creative writing and literature in Filipino to undergraduates, and literary history at the graduate level. He has published two collections of poetry with another one due for publication soon, and a collection of personal essays, among many other published works.

Various awards-giving bodies have heaped recognition upon him; he has won several prizes from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and two Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards (poetry and creative non-fiction).

On the present state of Philippine poetry he says, “We have a writing boom right now among the young writers, both in English and Filipino. It’s pretty exciting. And the veterans are very productive too.”

Baquiran is completing a poetry collection titled Kung Nanaisin (If It is To Be Wished) to be published by the UP Press, while a Thai publisher will soon be releasing a Thai version of his essay collection Hospital Diary.

The significance of his achievement is such that the Academy of American Poets and the United States-based Poetry Foundation have Tweeted the news to their tens of thousands of followers, with the latter even posting an article on their website.

May the day come soon when international-award-winning Filipino writers and artists will be feted by the nation with as much enthusiasm as they do the boxers and singers. Literature carries within it a nation’s history and narratives, even those of its singers and boxers, and, along with other art forms, is the repository of a people’s soul.

Let Baquiran have the last word, with the opening line from his “Gagamba” (Spider): “Heometriya ng pagnanasa ang hinabi ko sa hangin…” (I wove the geometry of desire in the wind…)

* * * * *

The UP College of Mass Communication celebrates its 47th Foundation Week from March 3 to 9 with various activities including an alumni homecoming, launch of the latest issue of its journal Plaridel, and the blessing of various new facilities.

A recognition ceremony of outstanding students, faculty, alumni, and staff will be held tomorrow morning. Congratulations to the honorees and to my alma mater on reaching another milestone! *** 

Image of Prof. Baquiran here.

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nine west lock n loaded tote

The Nine West Lock n Loaded is my kind of bag – functional and stylish. It’s large and fits the kitchen sink yet still looks good. It’s got a lot of pockets, inside and out, good for stashing fountain pens and makeup mirrors and other little whatnots. It has long handles for slinging over a shoulder, leaving hands free for tasks. It’s practical and eye-pleasing at the same time.

The trim and handles are black patent (including the bottom of the bag); the rest of it is gray faux leather. The metal hardware is gold-colored. The front flap hides a pocket and is adorned with a patent strap and faux circle “lock” engraved with the brand name. The other round black circle, on the right, is a pocket mirror. 

A zipper on top ensures things inside won’t fall out.

There are pockets a-plenty on the front, back, and inside.

There is a pocket hidden under the front flap! How cool is that – a little secret repository for valuable things.

The cavernous interior can hold an entire kitchen, not just a sink. Useful, eh?

Stuffed with my daily arsenal, it still has room for more. Clearly this is a  bag to be reckoned with.

The Lock n Loaded is available at the Nine West store at Powerpoint Mall, Rockwell Drive, Makati.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S. Isn’t that 8-mp camera simply amazing?

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tim tomlinson comes to town

It was with great pleasure and interest that my daughter signed up for the three-day creative writing workshop conducted by writer Tim Tomlinson at the Filipinas Heritage Library last month.

It was a coincidence that I bought online, just a month before, the CW textbook that Tim co-wrote – The Portable MFA in Creative Writing – and that he drew on as a basis for the workshop lessons.

I got it online via Amazon

I asked my daughter to take it with her and have it autographed. She waited for the right moment, and figured it was after Tim told the workshop participants to try to get the “hard copy”. So she brought out my book, and his eyes widened in surprise.

That is why he wrote this dedication.

“For Jennifer – Thanks so much for purchasing the hard copy. All the best, T”. 

With e-books now becoming more common, and photocopied handouts more the norm rather than not in countries such as ours where some books, especially textbooks, are not easy to come by, it must be even more gratifying for authors when readers go to the trouble and expense of purchasing an ink-and-paper copy.

I’m glad I did get the hard copy of this book, because through the serendipitous happenstance of fate, I was able to get it autographed – a tangible, physical mark of the author, which elevates my copy from the disembodied words of experts into a living, breathing work of a person who practices what he preaches.

Too bad I did not get to meet Mr Tomlinson, nor was my daughter able to have her photo taken with him and the other workshop participants. But what counts is that she learned much that will help and guide her in her fiction writing.

Life works in mysterious ways.

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yankee candle food scents

I’ve loved Yankee Candle ever since I was introduced to it on a trip to the US East Coast about 12 years ago.

Here’s one of my latest acquisitions, just last year – Jelly Donut. It smells like a raspberry jelly-filled doughnut.

The Yankee Candle Illuma-lid is made of metal and is supposed to prevent “tunneling”. That’s when wax builds up around the sides instead of melting into a flat pool as it should.

I chose an Illuma-lid that depicts butterflies, my totem animal/insect/contingent being. They signify rebirth into a brighter and better life, where one can soar and reach dreamt-of heights.  

I love food scents. I got this particular jar of Vanilla Cupcake over ten years ago. The scent oils have darkened and become concentrated, and as a consequence the throw is very strong. Its smell is intense even when cold, more so when it is burning. In ten minutes, an entire room is filled with fragrance.

This scent was discontinued for many years, and revived only some time ago after popular demand.

Last year (2011) I acquired more food scents – Lemon Chiffon, Brown Sugar & Cinnamon, and Fruit Salad among them – and look forward to burning them, and having my room smell like a bakery or deli.

They’d smell stronger if I wait ten years, but you know what I’ve learned since the first time I bought Yankee Candles?

Life is short. Take the simple pleasures where you can, while you can.

 All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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krip yuson: lush life

Last year, through the social connectivity magic of Facebook, I had the privilege of “meeting” writer Krip Yuson and  adding him to my list of Friends. From time to time he’d comment on links I’d post on my Wall. One particular weekend, I found a handful of literary links that he was quite pleased with, enough to send me an autographed copy of his newest book Lush Life: Essays 2001-2010 (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011).

I received the package he sent via LBC the morning I had to leave for the racetrack to attend a horseracing event. Excited, and wanting to savor the treat, I took the parcel along with me.

“Lush Life” nestled in the base of the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners (MARHO) mother trophy, created by sculptor Ed Castrillo from brass. The event was held at Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, from 15-20 November 2011.

Alfred “Krip” Yuson is a prolific, multi-awarded essayist and columnist who writes a column on literature and culture for the Philippine Star and teaches poetry and fiction at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Here’s an excerpt from “Getting Literary in Oz-Land”, first published in Philippines Graphic magazine, 29 May 2006. I love the Heinlein reference:

Walking through the Botanical Gardens [in Sydney] one early evening, I chanced in on a midsummer open-air concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s “1812″. The freebie audience I joined manifested the national character. Aussie couples, families, and large, motley groups were all lolling about in their comfort zones on the grass lawns and hillocks, romancing their beers. Some lay supine on mats, taking in the night sky as the musical strains led to the climactic crescendo-cum-cannonade – which was of course accomplished by real cannons by the bandstand.

Fireworks lit up that night sky to complement the cannonade, the mighty percussion, and ascending, spiraling strings. Oh what a scene to be in, to be part of – no stranger in a strange land, but one in the midst of casual if sublime revelry, all senses gratified, even one’s sense of marvelous environment.

Krip autographed the book’s flyleaf for me.

The collection of 75 essays is “proof, were further proof needed, that [Krip] has few equals in the field of non-fiction,” says UST Publishing House director and University of the Philippines creative writing professor emerita Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo.

The book, she adds, “demonstrates how a life fully lived – its dizzying heights scaled, its dark depths plumbed – combined with a large soul, an ironic vision, an unfailingly playful sense of humor, and the gift of bending the language to his every whim, are what lead to great writing.”

Not only did Krip send me a copy of his book, he also, with thoughtfulness and kindness, sent me a pack of Pei Pa Koa throat lozenges, which I shared with the racecallers at Santa Ana Park that cool November day.

Clutching the pack of Krip’s Pei Pa Koa, I pose with Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park racecallers – Vergel Caliwliw, Romy Cheng Tejada, and senior racecaller Ricardo de Zuñiga, whose father was racing writer and poet Oscar de Zuñiga. November 2011.

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downton abbey mania

It’s escapist melodrama that does not hesitate to employ the cliched tropes of the genre, but there’s something about it that is fascinating and compelling. I spent the past week watching all the episodes – two seasons and a Christmas special – and can’t wait for the release in the fall of the third season, which will begin filming early this year.

“Downton Abbey” is a hit British TV series that has run two seasons, broken viewership records in the UK and the US, and reaped awards and nominations.

Promotional still showing the cast. Image here.

The action is set in a world long vanished, the world of the English aristocracy and the labor class that served them. It is familiar to those who read fiction set in that era, notably the works of detective fiction author Agatha Christie, who herself came from the privileged class and wrote what she knew, setting her books in the drawing rooms and conservatories of grand houses, her characters in a milieu of elegance and wealth enjoying a lifestyle that ended with World War I, which changed the economy and society.

Sometimes we need to escape into a different world, if only to recharge our spirits with something entirely removed from our own reality. This world’s as good as any to visit, if not better than most. The accents and the language alone are fascinating, and there are the fashion and interiors as well, mixed up with history lessons.

Watch it. Learn something. Prime your pump of creativity with something new, something out of the ordinary.

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moleskine pocket plain “le petit prince”

My first Moleskine notebook, a pocket ruled, took me three years to fill up. It had been with me on all my travels, was the repository of my secrets and shopping lists, and over the years got so battered and beat-up that I had to mend the cracked spine with pink duct tape from Bleubug.

With the new year and its potential for new beginnings and moving on, I decided to break open a fresh notebook.

It’s still a Moleskine pocket – it’s my favorite format. This one is a limited-edition “Le Petit Prince” design, shown here with a vintage 1930s Waterman Lady Patricia “Persian” lever-fill fountain pen.

The inside front cover is adorned with illustrations from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Each Moleskine notebook comes with a multi-language insert that is a masterpiece of branding. Moleskine positions itself as a purveyor of fine quality notebooks and planners, keyed to the words “culture, imagination, memory, travel, personal identity”, which conjure up a wealth of potentials and possibilities for the user’s positioning and reinvention of self. 

The Le Petit Prince edition has a mobile of the title character on the back cover, with instructions for assembly.

A closer look at the mobile insert.

The mobile, fully assembled. I attached a length of gold thread and hung it from the whiteboard at my office.

I have other kinds of Moleskine notebooks, plain and with different artwork, but I chose this particular one to remind me that “what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

And that which is truly essential cannot be written down in any notebook, but only on the heart.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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pop goes the world: have you hugged your kids today?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  26 January 2012, Thursday

Have You Hugged Your Kids Today?

Last Saturday was an interesting time for our family as we went to support our youngest in her first cheerdance ever.

Erika is a high school freshman at Colegio de Santa Rosa-Makati, and she’d been waiting for this moment since she was in elementary school. My eldest, Alexandra, who graduated from the same school several years ago, was as intense about the annual experience as her sister.

Apparently it’s a big deal to kids nowadays, this cheerdance thing. It pits year levels (“batches”) against each other in about ten to fifteen minutes of competition, featuring new cheers authored by the batch incorporated into dance routines that blend jazz/funk/modern dance styles with gymnastics. The batch that has dancers and gymnasts has an edge in the competition.

We didn’t have this during our time, so I asked my kids, “It’s an event that brings batches together in unity and camaraderie while honing skills in friendly competition against the students of other years to build school spirit and sisterhood, right?”

They looked at each other and frowned at me. “No, Mama. Cheerdance is war.”

CSR Freshmen do their routine in the 2011 Cheerdance Competition. The dancers are in front, the pep squad in the back. An iPhone 4S image.

At CSR-Makati, elementary students perform simple dance/exercise routines called “field demonstrations”. The children wear costumes and dance to music in line with a theme for that year. Last year, when Ik was in sixth grade, they swung to 70s and 80s music while dressed in bellbottom jeans and platform shoes and let me tell you, the parents were dancing along with their daughters on the CSR field. It was that fun.

But field demos are for babies. Cheerdance is a whole ‘nother level, and it’s only for the high school. Students in each batch join one of three groups, according to skill and inclination – dancers, pep squad, and propsmen.

The “props” take care of physical requirements such as banners, boxes covered with glitter, cardboard motorbikes, and other accessories that the batch requires in its routine.

The pep squad comprises most of the students in a batch and they are backup dancers. The dancers are the stars of the show, and are chosen via auditions held by the choreographer hired for that year.

Yes, these competitions are serious enough to require the services of professional dance and cheerdance choreographers, who are often members of cheerdance squads in universities and colleges.

Each high school batch at CSR comes out on the field dressed in the colors assigned to that year level – freshmen green, sophomores yellow, juniors red, seniors blue. The propsmen and pep squad members wear jogging pants and batch t-shirts specially designed and printed for the occasion, often with the batch name. The dancers wear more elaborate costumes in keeping with the chosen theme or music. The parents and connections come wearing shirts in the colors of their daughters’ year levels.

 Cheerdance Competition 2012 at Colegio de Sta. Rosa-Makati. The batches assemble on the field to await the results of the contest. An iPhone 4S image.

Because it’s a contest, watching a cheerdance is more suspenseful and tense than watching a field demo. Parents crowd to be in the front, or stake out seats on the second floor of the school building and set up camera tripods. There’s play-by-play commentary from bystanders, more often than not school alumni who come to support their younger sisters, who have been preparing for this day through rigorous daily practice over a couple of months, and by watching videos of performances of previous years.

Originality of choreography, cheers, and costume; level of difficulty; energy level; and number of lifts, human pyramids, and tumbling runs are among the criteria used to judge the winners. Because they are older and bigger, first and second place usually go to either the juniors or seniors. This is something accepted by the freshmen and sophomores; they’re content with just not coming in last.

This year’s cheerdance winner at CSR turned out to be the Juniors, who rocked an exotic Bollywood theme with the dancers dressed in “Princess Jasmine”-inspired bodices and sheer headdresses. Their advantage was that they had a former UP Pep Squad member as their coach.

The University of the Philippines Varsity Pep Squad is perhaps the most famous university cheerdance group today. They have won seven UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) Cheerdance Competitions, the most recent in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. The UP Pep Squad led Team Philippines in the 6th Cheerleading Worlds held last November 2011 in Hongkong, placing third in the Cheer Mixed category.

UP Pep Squad winning the 2011 UAAP Cheerdance. Image here.

Cheerdance combines the athleticism of gymnastics with the aesthetics of dance, and it’s also an enjoyable exercise for teaching the values of teamwork and harmony. I hope other schools that don’t have this yet will consider it for their students. Government and non-government organizations could look into this for their youth programs. What better way for kids to spend the afternoon than tumbling with each other in the grass, rather than being stuck indoors playing video games?

This entire cheerdance thing also reminds me of a couple of things. The first – a bumper sticker that my former father-in-law, a veterinarian and racehorse trainer, used to have on his old car – “Have you hugged your horse today?”

The second – the way my father showed his affection for my sister and me. When he’d come home in the late afternoon, he’d greet us by planting sniff-kisses on our heads and saying, “Olor del sol!” And off we’d go for our evening baths.

Our children are special. Let them know. Gather them in the circle of your arms right now, kiss them on the top of their heads that smell like our tropical sun, and share the warmth of your love for and pride in them.

* * * * *

The National Youth Commission announced the opening of applications to the 9th Parliament of Youth Leaders.

The parliament, which was started in 1996, gathers young people from around the country to brainstorm policy recommendations for youth issues. The recommendations are sent to government leaders to be considered as proposed bills and administrative policies.

This year’s theme is “Revolutionizing Youth Development”. The event hopes to expose young people to how political and organizational procedures and mechanisms may be used to effect positive changes in society.

Scheduled for the first week of May 2012, the parliament is expected to have over 200 youth leaders 15-30 years old as participants. Learn about the qualifications and download application forms at or email The deadline for applications is February 29.

* * * * *

The Carlos Palanca Foundation is accepting entries to its Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature from February 1 to April 30. Contest rules and forms will soon be released at its website,  * * *

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