Why on earth are you afraid of dogs? I had been asked this question many times and I would shrug my shoulder for an answer. Or, ignore the question. Or, give a lengthy explanation why at the sight of a dog I cringe.

Yes, I am afraid of dogs. And I have not conquered this fear until this time.

Today my hair still stands on end when I share a space with a dog–whatever breed, size, on leash or stray.

I must have been 10 or 11 then. One normal day after school, I went about my usual routine of walking home after classes, less than a kilometer to where we lived. When suddenly I found myself in front of a barking dog, fiercely, as if it wanted to pounce on me.

My instinct told me to move away slowly from it, and when I saw I had the opportunity, I ran for my life. Without looking back, I ran as fast as I could, past my house and onward to wherever there was road. I knew the dog was behind me as I could hear the sound of its paws on the pavement. My heart was pounding, imagining this dog could tear my flesh apart and render me like dinner to a lion.

I turned my head once and found myself running past Magallanes Gate, Masbate’s multipurpose hall then. I saw that I was approaching a gate to a house that I believed was my grandfather’s, barged it open, closed it behind me and went straight to the main door. I must have startled the old folks, I don’t remember.

There I realized I lost my slippers and had run barefoot. I felt relieved as it was indeed my lolo’s house. I escaped the dog’s wrath.

I haven’t run that fast and that far in my entire young life, or even in my adult life.

They say dogs can smell fear, fear of them that is. Believing that, the only way I manage this fear today is to pretend I don’t fear them. Pretending also means ignoring they are around me, in the same space that I am. Even pretending they don’t smell this ridiculous fear of mine.

I hope this fear does not go anywhere near cynophobia, not any more.


Friends are a life's riches

Nothing is more important than time, time spent with people whom you have spent time with one way or another.

In good times and bad, you know they are there to lend a hand, or an ear.

Time may be the best present you can ever give a friend. In whatever season.

As a young girl, I would have gusts thinking about this far place called Zamboanga. In my young mind, I thought it was miles away from where I was growing up. I would have daydreams of seeing a real vinta or riding it for I only saw pictures of it in textbooks. I thought it was colorful, and I thought it would be an emotional experience seeing real ones lined up in the city’s coastline.

A few years into my 40s, I had the luck of experiencing not only the sight of vintas, but the city itself—abuzz with Chavacano, its seafood markets brimming with curacha and pugot, Alavar sauce waiting.

Here, I saw them again, this time calling people to zoom in on the city, in this tourism campaign ad called Zoom in: Zamboanga City, which was launched two days before what would become a 20-day crisis that left hundreds of destroyed homes, billions of business lost, and hundreds of thousands of people in trauma. But you will rise up, Zamboanga City, as you had done in the past.

Dreams do come true; not only for Boots and An, but for me, too. I had been wanting to spend a day or two here since last year, but time wasn’t always on my side. I let it be, and I forgave myself for not making it happen.

What do you know. I was here this week, nary an effort.

I was charmed. Casa San Pablo has an effect an enlightened human being can easily feel. It is as if one had been there before, introduced to it some time in the past. There is instant connection, comfort, charm.

The wood, the grass, the iron, the trees, the concrete—had a smell all too familiar for the provincial lass in me. I was taken back in time when life was uncomplicated, quiet, and gracious.

I dream again, this time to go back and smell more, feel more, touch more, and be charmed more.

See you again, Casa San Pablo.


Dining at Casa San Pablo lets you in the red door.


Pinaputok na tilapia, lumpyang hubad, tinolang tahong, litson


All pickled! Onion, bitter gourd, papaya, dried tomatoes


Finding relations from North to here


That nook


And this


A charmed life I dream of realized at Casa San Pablo


Nag-iisa lang ang Bayang Barrios.

70s Bistro packed. Shrieking audience. The artist in her element. The band ready.

She opens her show with Popong Landero’s “Malaya.”

Singlaya ng ihip ng hangin

Singlaya ng agila sa himpapawid

Singlaya ng agos ng batis

There isn’t a song to throw away in her new album, MALAYA, her fifth, a re-birthing to songs of her heroes—Lolita Carbon, Gary Granada, Joey Ayala, Sammy Asuncion, Onie Badiang, and husband Mike Villegas.

She tells a story or two about the songs, saying for example that “Gising na Kaibigan” of Lolita Carbon is a favorite since her high school days. “Alam ko lahat ang kanta niya,” she says.

She tells how she misses singing Joey Ayala’s “Bathala,” that she would exert every effort to follow him in his gigs so she could sing it with him. Bayang profusely thanks Joey for allowing her to include the song in this album; and for adding two more, “Bata Batuta” and “Awit ng Mortal.”

The artist and the song, "Bathala" could be a most solemn prayer one could ever recite, or sing.

The artist and the song, “Bathala” could be a most solemn prayer one could ever recite, or sing.

Gary’s “Iisa” is her favorite, too. Two of my favorite artists sharing the same stage blows me away.

Ang kalayaan mo’y kalayaan ko

Ang digmaan mo’y digmaan ko

"Sa kadulo-dulohan handang sumama sa iyo." — Gary's "Iisa" is romanticism in tune.

“Sa kadulo-dulohan handang sumama sa iyo.” — Gary’s “Iisa” is romanticism in tune.

There are 12 songs in MALAYA, which are Bayang’s expression of her call behind the album—Nasa sa iyo ang kapangyarihan upang maging malaya. Isulong natin ang ating kultura. Mahalin nating ang sariling atin. At iba pa.

To paraphrase Aia de Leon, who indulged the audience with her "Sundo," when Bayang asked her to jam, 'Bayang is gold of the industry.' I agree; she is.

To paraphrase Aia de Leon, who indulged the audience with her “Sundo,” when Bayang asked her to jam, ‘Bayang is gold of the industry.’ I agree; she is.

Thank you, Bayang, for sticking to your dream of having us listen to the culture, the wisdom, and the message, and how wonderfully and pleasingly to our sometimes deaf ears.

“Sana’y maraming ang makarinig.”

Yes, Bayang, we are listening.

I wrote in my Facebook status recently that these are the kinds of stories that should be in our history books, like this one written by a friend, Lucien Dy Tioco’s daughter, Mary Justine. She wrote about her Lolo Joe (Jose Mendoza Dy Tioco) in her school’s magazine called Young Observers. “Lolo Joe was a war veteran,” she wrote, “who fought as a guerilla against the Japanese during World War II and who lived to tell the tale.”

A snapshot off the Young Observers magazine. Lolo Joe lives to tell the tale to young granddaughter Mary Justine.

A snapshot off the Young Observers magazine. Lolo Joe lives to tell the tale to young granddaughter Mary Justine.

Mary Justine is fortunate to be growing up with her Lolo Joe still around. At 87, he has the same fortune to tell Mary Justine about the life he had at the time of war. Mary Justine can listen to him tell  the contrast between war and peace.

History may also be about dates and places and persons, but it is more if not equally about thoughts and feelings in moments that only those who were there could tell us today. Pages of history textbooks I read in my early school days were bereft of these emotions, hence, they left me no remembrance of the suffering of generations past. Hence, Lolo Joe’s generosity to share the story of those times with his granddaughter ought to be appreciated, lest we forget that we have peace today because of the brave ones like him.

Mary Justine also made a slide presentation of her Lolo Joe’s story. I am lucky to have been given the permission to share it with you here. If there are photos that aren’t showing up, pardon please for the glitch.

Revived and Reused

ImageThis sink has been dead for more than a decade. It came back to life when I found a plumber who could be trusted. The original fixture had three knobs, and so replacing it with this single faucet left two holes on each side. Used candle holder, filled with used coffee grounds, adorned with earrings that had no companions came handy.