Posts Tagged ‘family’

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,  * * *

taste more:

a conversation with ik

“Hey, Ik. What should I write about tonight for my daily blog post?”


“Why pandas? I know nothing about pandas!”

“Because they’re the most non-racist animal? They’re black, white, AND Asian.”

“Riiight. What else, other than that?”

“Water, because it’s important.”

“But you could die from too much of it. You know, like, drown.”

“Sigh. I mean it’s important, because you have to drink it. How about you write about your daily activities?”

“You mean ‘eating a lot’?”

Another long sigh. “That’s not a good thing.”

“What else?”

“Dolphins. Almonds. Unevenly-placed slats in furniture. Foods that have caused temporary insanity.”

“You’re making that up.”

“Twinkies and cupcakes. No really, there’s an article.”

Thanks, Ik. <3

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pop goes the world: one family, many cultures

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 15 July 2010, Thursday

One Family, Many Cultures

Baguio City – It is lovely this time of the year in the City of Pines, Luzon’s “Summer Capital”. I am here with my two daughters, ages 18 and 12, and my two sisters, whose ages I will not disclose for fear of reprisal.

One sister, Aileen, has been based in Dubai for the last 16 years. The other, Tiffany, was born in Manila but moved to California’s Bay Area when she was four. This is her first visit to the land of her birth in 15 years.

Aileen and I finished our education in local schools and did not get to travel abroad until after college. While we bear the mind-broadening effects of education and travel, still we are Pinoy to the core, thoroughly acculturated with Philippine values and norms, and aware of its traditions and rituals, in particular those of the urban area we grew up in – Manila.

Aileen is more traditionally Filipino than I am in her observance of rules and rituals that I prefer to ignore. She believes one should not sleep in, even on weekends. She insists that everyone must take at least one bath a day, no matter how cold it is, nor sleep right after a shower with wet hair. She tells Tiffany not to wash her hands in cold water as she might get pasma and asks her why she eats with only a fork and not a spoon too.

My mother and stepfather imbued Tiffany with traditional Filipino values – respect for elders, the importance of family, the significance of a good education. They have The Filipino Channel at home; Tiffany watched P-Noy’s inauguration before stepping on her Manila-bound Philippine Airlines flight. She watches Mom cook dried fish and eat egg with bagoong from a jar. Uncle Joe has instructed her to bring back Hizon’s ensaymada, the kind with grated queso de bola on top.

Not having grown up in Pilipinas, she cannot speak Tagalog nor Ilonggo though she can understand a sentence or two here and there in both languages. She is clueless about the Filipino way of doing things and wonders why motorists here weave dangerously in and out of their lanes, who Kris Aquino is and why she seems to have such a big impact on Philippine society, and what pasma is and why she should care.

My daughters, who grew up exposed to American culture on TV and the internet and in books, straddle the divide between cultures. They are at ease with their Tita Tiffy’s American twang and respect Tita Aya’s strict insistence on routine.

They are the true multiculturalists in the family, who understand the nuances of both mindsets and may at times act as ‘interpreters’, having the learning advantages of mass media, education, and travel in addition to meeting and interacting with people who are from or have been exposed to other cultures.

Alex, the elder, studies at De La Salle University, where she counts Koreans, Japanese, Indians, and Italians among her classmates and professors; online, she has Australian and American friends. Her best friend, Penelope moved to Singapore recently and chats with her often about her experiences and life in general there. Erika has classmates who grew up in Indonesia, Japan, and the US.

Their fondness for Japanese anime and Korean pop music has inspired them to study those languages. Now they speak and read a little in both, as well as being aware of the various differences in societal mindsets stemming from the country’s particular culture.

The kids cosplay (costume + roleplay) their favorite characters from “Hetalia”, a Japanese anime.

With the overseas foreign worker phenomenon growing even more as Filipinos seek economic opportunities unavailable at home, there is an expanded awareness of foreign cultures that did not exist 15 years ago to the current extent.

Now Aileen, having spent the past two decades in Dubai, can tell the difference between nationals of different Western, Asian, and Arabic-speaking countries from their accents and dress. She can easily switch between British and American speech codes, saying, “Has the lorry delivered the telly to your flat yet? No? Bloody hell! ” and in the next breath “Yeah, the old TV in your apartment sucks like a Hoover. I know, right?”

Yet the norms and values that guide her behavior are Filipino. She works beyond office hours to finish a task. Before she makes a decision, she assesses its possible effects on her family, which is her priority. She keeps snacks in her desk because God forbid that she or anyone else in her sphere go hungry.

My sister at Versailles – “a transformative experience,” she says.

When Aileen and I were growing up, we received knowledge about other cultures primarily from mass media. The younger generations have the added advantages of advances in communication technology, the shared narratives of the experiences of family and friends who work and live abroad, and friendships with people from other countries in the flesh and online to create the “mental model”, as theorist Peter Senge calls it, that is the lens through which they look at the world – a multicultural lens.

Here in Baguio City, the weather is cooler than in Manila and Tiffany is grateful for the respite from the lowlands’ humidity. Aileen says it must be much like that in San Francisco, and wouldn’t she like to live here instead? Tiffany smiles, because it’s not just the climate that will induce her to stay. Would she be able to adjust? How long will it take her to learn the language and norms so that she can fit into this society better?

My daughters shrug and say, “What’s the problem?” For them, there is none. Their knowledge of different cultures and ability to compare and analyze them gives them a broader picture of the world, making them global citizens while remaining Filipino at the core.

I dig my spoon into a jar of sweet sticky Good Shepherd ube jam and marvel how the confluence of cultures resulted in these four women, my family. I wonder where the coming years will take us.

One thing I am sure of – we are Filipino, and we carry that identity embedded in our heart and soul. ***

taste more:

pop goes the world: we are family

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 10 June 2010, Thursday

We Are Family

If the Philippines had a theme song, it would be Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”.

Taking yesterday’s proclamation of senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as president –elect and of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay as vice-president-elect at the Batasan Pambansa from a semiotic viewpoint, the theme of ‘family’ emerged as one of the dominant signs.

Present were children and babies held by nannies or parents, because it is part of Filipino traditional culture that significant celebrations be held with family.

Also in the hall were members from the several dozen ruling dynasties of the country. Some were incoming, others outgoing, elected or appointed public officials. Their faces and genders and credentials may change, but the names stay the same, election year after election year. We might as well be a monarchy with a hierarchy of nobility and aristocracy.

The Aquino family members received much on-camera exposure during the television coverage of the event. Noynoy’s sisters Ballsy, Viel, Pinky, and Kris were seated in a row, clad in black, showbiz celebrity Kris in a glamorous off-shoulder number, her older sisters dressed more conservatively. Apart from showing the difference in their personalities and fashion taste, the clothes were a sign of two things: that the customary one-year mourning period for their mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, is not over; and of just who their mother was, and her place in history.

President-elect Aquino, Enrile, and Nograles are joined by Aquino’s sisters and brothers-in-law. (Photo by Voltaire Domingo/NPPA).

By extension, their dark garb was also a reminder of the other family member they lost – their father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., whose assassination may be said to have set this wave of events in motion, bringing an entire country to this point, where his only son holds the highest office in the land, borne to power on the crest of public sentiment for his parents.

This image references Kris’s hosting of game show “Deal Or No Deal”, which ended 2009.

Seated near the Aquino sisters was Shalani Soledad, Noynoy’s significant other, speaking to singer Ogie Alcasid. The showbiz family of Kris Aquino was well-represented too. It is from their ranks that the incoming president considers recruiting heads of government agencies – Boy Abunda for Tourism, Dingdong Dantes for the National Youth Commission, and Grace Poe for the MTRCB are some of the names he mentioned. Of course he makes these choices based on their qualifications, because it can’t be out of gratitude, can it, for their help in his campaign?

Shalani Soledad being interviewed by a radio news reporter. (Photo by Voltaire Domingo/NPPA)

In behalf of yet another prominent family, Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada read a message from his father Joseph. The senator extended his father’s “humble” acceptance of his defeat to Noynoy in the elections, and wished him well. From there the speech degenerated into a rant, citing the “failures” of Comelec and Smartmatic, stating again, as if we didn’t know, that the elder Estrada once served as president, and warning the Filipino people to guard against the corruption in government which he was unable to stem during his own administration.

There too at the Batasan were the Binays of Makati City. With son Junjun taking over from his father as Makati mayor, and daughter Abby the new congresswoman of the second district, they carry on decades of Binay administration in one of the country’s richest cities. The same goes for the Belmontes of Quezon City – father Sonny moves up from mayor to Congress while his daughter Joy steps in as vice-mayor to Herbert Bautista, who for years has held that same position.

We could go on and on.

But what about the families of the millions of people who gave the reins of government to these people via their votes? Who thinks of them?

As a citizen of this republic and the head of a family of my own, I lay this solemn charge upon the incoming set of political leaders – remember the families.

Think of the overseas contract workers who endure separation for years from their loved ones to toil in foreign lands to ensure the survival of their children in a country that cannot provide jobs and better life opportunities for them and their parents, while the government brags of a high GNP pumped by the billions of dollars they remit, ignoring the social cost and its consequences.

Seek to improve the lot of the widowed and children of those murdered in the Ampatuan massacre; those who die fighting on both sides of the insurgents’ war; those who live in hovels mired in abject poverty in sight of your grand mansions; those who cannot continue their education because of financial constraints.

Rescue those who are victims of abuse by the military and private armies and by those who because of the inflated condition of their pockets and egos assert their power over those who have little or none, since they thrive unpunished in a culture of impunity.

Filipino culture values family above all, even above God and country. The way we address each other reflects this – kuya or manong security guard, ate or manang food vendor, nanaytatay this or the other. And how often have we heard someone say, “Gagawin ko ang lahat para sa pamilya”? A Filipino will do, endure, and sacrifice all, for the sake of family.

To our new leaders, do not forget you are Filipinos, imbued with this land’s culture and norms. Accept that you are members of a larger family – the nation. Perform your mandated tasks, bearing in mind that you have our trust, because we have nowhere else to put it.

Remember the Filipino families – not only your own.   ***

“My Brother’s Keeper” by Ronnie T. Tres Reyes. Top Five finalist, 2008 Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office “Isang Pitik sa Charity” photo contest. Reyes describes his photo: “Taken one chilly night outside a McDonald’s along Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City. For over a year, this five year old boy has been taking care of his baby brother every night on the steps of the restaurant. Sometimes he lies on the concrete and allows himself to be the baby’s bed and source of warmth.”

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on writing

Someone once asked me, “What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?”

I couldn’t think of anything else I would rather do.

I grew up in homes full of books. Wherever we lived, there were always bookcases stuffed to bursting with my mother’s self-help books, collection of hardbound classics, and mystery, fantasy, horror, and science fiction paperbacks, or low shelves on the floor with my father’s choices in literature – Somerset Maugham, Gore Vidal, Sholom Aleichem.

My parents never consciously encouraged me to read, but surrounded by books and little else to do, I gravitated towards the shelves that were always open to me. I thrived on a literary diet of Enid Blyton and Louisa May Alcott, Nancy Drew and The Bobbsey Twins, Bulfinch’s Mythology and old-fashioned poetry, the rhyming kind like Gunga Din and The Ballad of Sam McGee.

In time, words and the putting together of them in sentences to convey meaning came as naturally to me as breathing. In school, my favorites subjects were the ones that used a lot of words – English, Social Studies. Math was anathema. In college, I took up Journalism. It was either that or English Studies, and I figured I’d have a better chance of earning through writing if I were a journalist, although my mother always said that there was no money in writing.

Today I make my living from it.

Often people ask, “Can you teach me how to write?” It’s a difficult question to answer, because the process is different for everybody. Some say that the talent is inborn. Perhaps to some extent that might be true; I believe some inclinations come naturally to people, like musical talent or athletic ability. But writing is also a skill that can be learned and cultivated, and anyone can do it. For the philosopher Jean Jacques Rosseau, “However great a man’s natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once.”

Some thoughts on writing that I’ve formed over the years:

1. Writing is a form of communication, just like speaking. Having problems starting your piece? Pretend you are talking to someone about it. Write it down that way. Then go back over what you’ve written and edit.

2. Writing uses language. To write effectively, you must know the language and its rules. Words are the construction materials, grammar the nails and mortar that hold them together. Immerse yourself in the language to build up your vocabulary. Even if you are writing in your mother tongue, don’t take it for granted that you know all the words or even enough of them. Read books and magazines. Watch television shows and films. Listen to native speakers and soak up the rhythm of their speech patterns. Choose a usage and composition guide – I was introduced to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style in my freshman year of college, and have adhered to its tenets ever since.


3. Less is more. I’ve always clung to Strunk’s Rule Number 17: “Omit needless words.” Bombarded as we are on all fronts by information vying for our attention, why make it harder for your reader to decode your message? Related to this is White’s advice: “Avoid fancy words.” If there exists a simpler word that conveys the same meaning and nuance, use it. But in the end, always go by your ear – use whatever sounds right. As Matthew Arnold said, “Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.” The exception would be if you were deliberately using the fancy word or words to achieve a certain effect.

4. Organize, organize, organize. I believe this is the most important part of the writing process. It doesn’t matter that you can use big words like venustation or ptochology if you can’t put your thoughts and facts down in a sequence that will help the reader understand the message you wish to convey. Pay attention to the flow of your ideas; for your piece to be effective, it has to make sense, one thought leading to another in a logical manner.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a skill, like bicycling or blacksmithing. Write something everyday. Said Doris Lessing: “You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.” Or take Mary Heaton Vorse: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” It takes discipline, but it pays off, I promise.  Take advantage of today’s technological advances and the myriad means of self-expression. Write your feelings down in a journal, or publish your opinions on a blog. One of the easiest ways is microblogging using applications like Twitter. If you can text, you can write!


6. Edit, edit, edit. Few, if any, first drafts are perfect. Go over what you’ve written and clean up typographical errors, spelling and grammar mistakes, factual inaccuracies, conceptual inconsistencies, and sequence flow. Science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh asserted, “It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.”

7. Be yourself. In the beginning, writers tend to copy the style of the authors they admire. But the most natural and authentic voice is your own; have confidence in yourself. Said Bill Stout: “Whether or not you write well, write bravely.”

8. Write from your heart. Whether you seek to persuade or inform, the reader responds best to pieces that are sincere and honest.

Winston Churchill, one of the best statemen and writers that Britain has ever produced, once declared, “Writing is an adventure.” It is a journey anyone can take. May yours be filled with the thrill of discovery and the joy of creativity!

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happy new year!

Filipinos customarily greet the New Year with a barrage of fireworks. Many families lay in a supply of things that go bang or explode in a shower of colorful sparks. Even humble households will try to buy a box of inexpensive sparklers or pop rocks for the children to enjoy.

Lighting fireworks on New Year’s Eve is believed to frighten off ghosts and other evil spirits, and welcome the New Year in with joyous celebration. A practice borrowed from Chinese culture, it has led to the growth of a fireworks industry concentrated in the Bulacan area of Luzon.

My children, my sister, and I spent New Year’s Eve at my aunt’s home in Quezon City. There, as everywhere in the country, super lolos, trianggulos, sinturon ni Hudas, fountains, showers, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, watusi, pop rocks, sparklers, luces, and other fireworks were lit and consumed in a burst of flame, to the applause and glee of spectators.

It was raining, which wasn’t good for the fireworks set out in the street. Wet gunpowder doesn’t go off. It was the first time that it rained on New Year’s Eve in many years, as far as I can recollect. Many, though, were actually relieved; the drizzle reduced the risk of fire.

Happy new year! May 2009 bring us all the good things that we need and wish for!

Image above P’shopped from this original.

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what’s in your bag?

Assignment: Turn out your handbag. Make an inventory of the items inside. Why do you carry them around? What is their significance or value in your life? Discuss.

Some of the things in my handbag:

  • Black Moleskine ruled pocket notebook for jotting down random thoughts and quotes dropped by strangers, like the man of Indian heritage whom I overheard at the Rockwell Pancake House say, “They sprayed the restaurant with bullets…and it happened to be beside our favorite hangout”. This was just after the recent infamous Mumbai massacre.
  • Vintage (‘70s) Sailor “21″ long-short fountain pen, inked with J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose. It is a cartridge fill, convenient and practical.
  • Pink brocade wallet that holds US$1 bills collected from all the purses and handbags my mother has sent me through the years; she inserts them in the pockets as “lucky money” to attract more money. It works, in a way, but they attract Philippine pesos and not more US dollars. *Sigh*.
  • Red FaceShop nail polish to touch up chips.
  • Clinique sample size lipstick in “Blushing Nude”. It came in a box of freebies my sister Aileen sent from Dubai, and for which I thank her profusely, because in it there was also a bottle of eye makeup solvent which I needed for the velvet black Clinique mascara which also came in the box, along with samples of facial soap, Clarifying Lotion, Dramatically Different moisturizer, and a jar of Night Repairware that claims to minimize fine lines and crow’s-feet which I will use only when I’m old and wrinkly, which will be starting tonight.
  • Two bars of Food for the Gods baked by my aunt, with plenty of dates and other dried fruit. Essentially “pocket fruitcake”.
  • Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 that my sister bought me the other day after I said I was looking for liquid lip balm in a tube because Chapstick wasn’t helping all that much anymore to moisturize my aging puckers, and, she said, so that I would have “at least one item of Kiehl’s” in my cosmetic bag. I also mentioned that I was looking for a car, maybe a compact with great mileage, power steering, and candy-apple red body paint, but she didn’t get me one that day although I don’t have one of those yet.
  • One-gigabyte USB thumb drive with a swivel cap. Another freebie from my sister. It was a souvenir from the company she used to work for.
  • A sample vial of Flower by Kenzo fragrance from my mom. She put it in one of the pockets of one of the handbags she sent for Christmas in a balikbayan box. You really have to look in all the pockets of stuff when you get things from my mom.
  • A sachet of 3-in-1 coffee – Choco Fudge by Nestle. My favorite instant coffee with the powerful kick of robusta beans mixed with a hint – only a hint, mind you – of cocoa.
  • A blue, gold, and glitter pearl handbag hook from one of my bosses, who bought it in Hong Kong. The enamel medallion is backed with rubber; you place that on the table surface at, say, a restaurant, allowing the hook to dangle down, from which you then hang your bag, obviating the need to carry your bag in your lap while you eat, which, from personal experience, is a good thing, because sometimes accidents happen like you spill your drink or drop a forkful of food in your lap, and you don’t want to get that gunk on your bag, but it’s okay if it falls in your lap because in theory there should be a napkin spread there.
  • Cherry Chapstick. What can I say? I’m a loyalist. And it smells great. And it’s famous because it was mentioned in that song by Katy Perry, although as a bit of an old-fashioned person I don’t hold with the rest of the lyrics aside from the words “Cherry Chapstick”, “the”, “and”, “it” and “of”.

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gogirl: eartha kitt

This year’s Christmas was cause for celebration, yet many fans mourned upon learning that one of showbiz’s most enduring performers, Miss Eartha Kitt, died on that day at 81 of colon cancer.

Born in poverty in South Carolina, she was the daughter of a white father, a cotton farmer, and a black-Cherokee mother. As a mixed-race child during the first few decades of the century, she endured racism, neglect, and rejection.

For a while she attended the New York School of Performing Arts, but dropped out to take various odd jobs. In the mid-40s, she auditioned for the Katharine Dunham dance troupe and earned a place, performing in the Broadway production “Bal Negre” as one of the San Souci singers.

Orson Welles once called Eartha “The most exciting woman in the world.” She spent much of her life single. She married Bill McDonald in 1960 but divorced him after the birth of their daughter Kitt.

Her experiences with the troupe led to other opportunities in dance, singing, and acting.

As “Catwoman” from 1967-68 in the “Batman” television series, replacing Julie Newmar, she filled out the prescribed catsuit with her svelte 35-23-35 (inches) figure, making her one of the sexiest villains to purr her way around the small screen.


Eartha as “Catwoman” in the “Batman” episode “Dressed to Kill”

She traveled the world and learned to perform in more than ten languages. She performed exclusively overseas after her anti-Vietnam War activism led to her investigation by the FBI and the CIA.

Upon returning to the US, she was cast in many Broadway roles. In 2000, she was tapped to be the voice of the villainess “Yzma” in Disney’s cartoon “The Emperor’s New Groove”, bringing her more fans from the younger generation.

She was also a published author who wrote three autobiographies and, in 2001, Rejuvenate, a guide to staying physically fit.

In her six-decade career, she was still performing well into her late 70s, and maintained the curvaceous figure that made her famous.

Her life was a celebration of beauty, joy, and art. While she wasn’t always happy, she made the most of what she had to carve out her own niche in the world that no one else can fill. There are many lessons to be learned from her life – of strength, perseverance, and endurance. She makes our list as a certified Gogirl, an icon of feminism, grace, and style.


The incomparable Eartha Kitt.

17 January 1927 – 25 December 2008.

Personal footnote:

Eartha’s deep back bends remind me of the ones which made our very own Pilita Corrales, “Asia’s Queen of Song”, famous as a performer.


Eartha_kitt_perrinpost_2 Eartha-kitt-lg-0807 Kitt-cp-3614983

Eartha_bend_santa Eartha-kitt-2

Eartha’s images from various points in her career (from all over the ‘Net).

…and Pilita.


Pilita on a concert program from 1973 (

My father, who was a fascinating raconteur, often told a story of taking me with him to work one day at the ABS-CBN broadcast network studio where he was a newscaster and we ran into Pilita. I must have been all of four years old. Upon seeing her, my dad said, I immediately went into a backbend, holding an imaginary microphone to my lips. The good-natured Cebuana songstress laughed.

I don’t know if this story is true. This was told, after all, by the man who assured me in all seriousness that on days when the sun is shining at the same time it’s raining, somewhere in the world it’s a gorilla’s birthday. Go figure.

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the significance of trees

The Christmas tree is a ubiquitous and uber-commercialized symbol of the holiday, yet the etymology of its use could hearken back to old animistic practices. In many ancient religions, trees were worshipped as sacred, held to be the homes of gods or spirits, or believed to be capable of bestowing enlightenment on mortals.

My aunt Nana Barcelona’s tree, decorated with ornaments collected through the years. The hand-painted eggs are actual eggs from Chechoslovakia; the gilded glass spheres, Philippine-made.

In today’s context - festooned with winking lights, laden with colorful ornaments, circled by wrapped presents – a Christmas tree certainly has the power to bring smiles to children’s faces.


Ik’s wide grin makes all the preparations worth it!

Even a “sign” (in the Jungian sense) that consists of electric lights strung together in an elongated pyramid formation and decorated with various ornaments can symbolize a Christmas tree, which in turn symbolizes the holiday and all its attendant shared meanings and associations.


A tree made of lights and ornaments greets all comers to our barangay (neighborhood community) in Makati City.


A closeup of some of the ornaments decorating our neighborhood tree.

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