Archive for January 2008

gilda cordero-fernando,my national artist

January 28, 2008

last friday, i went to visit gilda cordero fernando. i had made many mandalas for her when she got ill last july but never brought it to her. on january 25 , i found myself putting the mandalas in a huge box and wrapping it with sinamay. around one pm i got my brother sonny’s driver oman to drive me. as i got to her street, i saw a car entering her gate and i got out to catch the driver as he was opening the gate. i told him i was delivering a gift to gilda. gilda opened the car door and i went to hug her.” i keep sensing you and i had to come”. then with arms magkalingkis, we went into her garden. what a lush garden and she showed me hers and husband marcelo’s garden . so many sensations ( a leafy palm ) and ferns. “wow, gilda, i have not been here for many years and it feels great !” i gushed. ” ” yes, you haven’t visited for sometime,” gilda said as she steered me to her bedroom, laid out her chinese food pasalubong and invited me to eat. gilda’s room is a small but airy room, with a huge mural and a wooden table where one can dine and talk about serendipity . ” i saw ning yesterday and asked about you”, gilda began, ” ning said you are fine.” “yes, i kept feeling you and the only way to know how you are is to see you face to face.” then gilda opened her portfolio and showed her new paintings, ” here are my new paintings, after the art exhibit, i had more energy to paint more.” the paintings had a lot of play energy in them from my chakra’s point. she had the tree mountain marias : maria makiling, maria sinubukan and maria sinukuan ( my tagging, not hers ). i like the cross bearing christ whose face had the look of a messiah having second thoughts. i told gilda, i liked that painting. gilda, at 77, can portray people having all kinds of serendipitous experiences on water color paintings. “am not an artist,” gilda explains,” but i like doing this. ” ‘ i quipped ‘ if you can paint people, delight them and hold a sold-out art-exhibit , what’s an artist?”

one christmas, gilda brought a red cloth wrapped gift to our house. ed and i opened it – it was her autobiography ” the last full moon.” inside the book cover, she wrote that we were not to give her a gift in return because our birthday gift then was enough :a funny photo of her ed redigitalized, shredded colored paper and some peace cranes . for me this autobiography gift of gilda’s is as precious as a woman’s resource center. whenever i want to prepare my blogs on marriage and family, i read gilda’s stories of her youth and her years as a budding wife and mother. when i want to remember what historical legacies my parent’s generation have given us , i read her book- she was born in the same period as my mother -1930’s. when i want to learn how to be in the cutting edge of culture and knowledge, i read her chapters on work and business. when i want to be sexy, i read her tempest in a teacup years. you learn from her that trusting your inner voice gets you growing the woman you dream of. as gilda is still writing columns, i hope to learn more. i recommend to all my friends to read gilda’s last full moon… and many more sunrise and sunset stories that she will produce.

i know why i am still cutting mandalas for gilda cordero fernando. am wishing she gets the national artist award on literature soon. may the divine muse give her this affirmation.


energies that embrace and wake you up

January 23, 2008

this morning i wanted to lounge around in bed. we call it ‘inin” taking time to wake up, savoring one’s time in bed, like  cooking rice that needs time to absorb the water. but an energy embraced me and push me gently to rise. if you believe in a subconscious self, it must be that other self. i usually go to the toilet first to clean myself but this inner energy took me to the dining room and set me to work without eating. i  started cutting many mandalas and i asked” Are we going  to put up mandalas somewhere ?.” a name “urduja’ flashed and then i remembered the eight urduja women who had lunched last monday in cyma. i sent a text to gie and she said she has been getting so much texts that morning from the urdujas –  the energy to do something great. she also told me the mandala i gave her kept flying and she had to hold it so it would  stay in her garden. seeing and believing in sacred space is in the realm of spirituality. when i do mandalas, i just let my subconscious take over. i learned to trust my inner spirit and it has served me well.

so what did i gleanse from this energy with a name urduja? a voyage that crosses the 14th century to the 21st century. i quickly check the history book written by onofre corpus and there seems to be no entry on urduja. well, that is what we are going to do. search for urduja and let history take her in. so gie and i exchanged ideas (via sms). we will hold a march 8 event, 8 days with 8 women introducing urduja. we will invite many women and men  to gather around. we will get the overseas families to come and honor their overseas parents with stories. i look at my art portfolio, counted the art materials. i decided i would use paper, all kinds of paper. dont we like the sound of paper /the touch of paper/the taste of paper? then i saw shapes dancing in my head so i went up the bedroom to look at the skies. i saw a panorama of courageous women. in response, i put up three red mandalas around the bougainvilla canopy and thank urduja. yes, i will dedicate it to all the overseas women, the modern urdujas who are building and developing a global care chain and brain gain. for you all – chato, mila, raquel, dottie, ria, deeda,delia, marita,mayet,vhangie, atet, baby, connie and all you there in the global bayanihan , i will create a  mandala prayer garden.

urdujas in the age of globalization

January 22, 2008

my monday lunch is a sumptuous meal in cyma. marietta goco is our host for the urduja study group.we are happy dining in her son’s robbie’s greek restaurant. starting with a warm juicy watermelon salad that stimulated our amygdalas , we set out slicing the food business with marietta sharing robbie’s food philosophy. virginia told us about her japanese trip. shrinking japanese cities are joining other cities to stop the trend of declining urban population . there are not enough people in japan to fill its cities due to an aging population and stringent immigration policies. we spice up the dishes with japanese women refusing to marry japanese men because they want to be free of double burdens. as we sunk our teeth into lamb ribs the business of mail order brides for japanese farmers came up . then gloria linked it with the new immigration policy of our government towards mainland chinese. foreigners can get permanent residence in the philippines if they pay $40,000 as entrance fees. sounds like we women are doing political economy ? no, we are just covering topics that will get our enzymes runningwith the main dishes.

cyma waitress tina brought all kinds of dishes : roasted lamb’s ribs, steamed chicken in a secret sauce, skewered fish with bell peppers and an al dente pasta. as our hormonal pleasure rose, we felt like urduja and her court. fe mangahas brought a document on urduja for marietta goco to read some lines from the vignettes . we got fired up with the vignettes and finished all seven dishes with our palates in the key of C ( culinary music). we agreed that the historical document claiming Urduja was a warrior ruler of Pangasinan around the 14th century was worth exploring further. we followed the greek tradition of culinary pleasure heightened by challenges to the imagination with questions and puzzles. we asked everyone to gather evidence that Urduja had a royal court that thrived in the 14th century. why ? because we want to rise to the crises of 21st century globalization . we want our ancestral stories to strenthen our roots and raise the level of discourse on feminization. relevant ? we believe we are not an inferior race nor a weak people. in the age of globalization, the new urdujas are alive and capable of governance.

while tying to finish the thesis that lamb goes well with humus and pita bread, i offered the meaning of mandalas and logotherapy. i gave everyone a paper mandala and described the value of each mandala conveyed. the reading of the potential mandala meaning started another stream of storytelling. as ice cream with dark chocolate melted in our mouths, we felt bouyed up by the idea to define our life’s research . yes, we will find urdujas and hope to get stories of courage woven into modern frames. but i will not blog who urduja is tonight. i shall reserve her story for an appropriate feast.

my next appointment was in the institute for popular democracy where dr. bill robinson will present the crises and trends of global capitalism. formidable topic and it was. bill’s lecture took off with the warning of imminent danger. the history of economics and why we are in crises is important. from fordism to walmartization, i understood from what paradigm he was sharpening his cognitive knives with. but i will not summarize his views here. what i will close this blog is the reading list that ed and i are compiling. for heavy readers, i recommend eric d. beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth : Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics. it is a thought provoking book and allows one to review economics 101, simmer with classical and modern theories and then leap into the complex universe of freedom and wealth creation. i particularly like the metaphor of the Maasai and what wealth is to them.

what is wealth to us Filipinos? my parents regard land and higher education as units of wealth. ed and i will add lifelong learning opportunities. the knowledge economy creates learning assets especially when various cultures and nations are open societies. on this note, i say finis , a latin word that connotes the end and the beginning of a goal. yes, we will blog about wealth and what, why, how do we create wealth.

living on a jet plane

January 20, 2008

living on a jetplane is the theme i started with ed. i told him that flying to sao paulo will be good since it is the biggest city in south america and has one of the largest immigrant population in the world. yesterday, ayen and i surfed the web to prepare him for this trip. i learned that sao paulo has started to make the city clean of advertising even if it is the engine for growth in brazil. our mmda should learn from sao paolo . as i scanned the many cultural attractions of 900,000 events annually, ayen was surfing the shopping centers for havaianas. both of us got excited and told ed, wow, we should fly with you ! ed replied ” that’s $9000 travel fare if we fly as a family”. ayen” quipped” haha, i will just give you the shopping list and save the money.” ayen nor i will not spend that kind of money for a shopping trip. but what does ed really do when he flies to expensive places like brazil?

he makes his questions bigger than the answers. this is a law of lifetime growth,according to dan sullivan, lifetime mentor. questions open bigger doors and we need to explore daily the meaning of our life. travelling is important in making sense of what the world has in terms of resources. change is everywhere and people are the signs of change. when ed meets new people, he finds a culture that allows him to think and compare what the philippines can offer and learn with. whenever ed gives his talks, the replies he gets affords him to retool his insights on education. the lessons he gets are bigger than what he can experience in his lifetime or mine altogether.

i will be waiting for ed’s blogs from sao paulo. lifetime learning in a jetplane.

make mandalas, create meaning

January 15, 2008

mandala is a sanskrit word for sacred space or vehicle. i read in one political history book that mandala means a network in the old trading stories of pre-colonial filipinos. this was the pre-modern web! mandalas are good for meditation. as i was cutting paper to make mandalas for friends and family, i realized why i make mandalas. my significant discovery is ” mandalas carry stories”.

since 2003 , i made mandalas for friends who were ill and offered them for healing. i painted, cut paper and folded them into balangays or boats and peace cranes. i made mandalas for family as a form of prayer and the stories that flowed like tears. for special occasions like christmas, i would give them as lanterns and mobile arts. this year,every morning, i would look at them with the light streaming through and somehow i could feel a story coming for blogging.

friends have asked me how to make them. lea and hazel, two therapists, are opening their ginhawa house in kamias this march. i offered to help them learn how to make mandalas. they suggested i teach women with hivs and aids. i accepted the offer and will see how mandalas could provide healing stories.

while planning mandalas in my head, i brought out the Man’s Search For Meaning book of Viktor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist who started logotherapy . he survived three prisons in germany during the holocaust. rereading it made me think of what people say ” anything can happen to you. what matters is what you do with what happens.” i found women who have been violently abused take courage as their right to be. i have learned from men who have been tortured but have forgiven their torturers. both women and men have found meaning in moving and discovering a second chance at life to be good. Viktor Frankl said ” live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.” he stated that by acting and fulfilling a potential meaning, one’s life becomes worth living. i offer that to friends who feel their marriages have been burdened by troubles, to parents whose children defy them, to grandparents whose lives are in the final boarding phase.

i especially devote time to making mandalas for my parents ( cesar, nene and adang) because they have so much meaningful material in their lives. i keep telling ed that we should write about them, now that they are in their senior moments. nanay adang will be 88 this feb.7, nene will be 78 on april 4 and cesar will be 85 on nov.6. viktor frankl said that people like my parents have ” realities in the past – the potentialities that they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled,the values they have realized and nothing, and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.” am emphasizing assets from the past – these are their granaries which we are proud to harvest from.

honor thy parents and ancestors. make our gratitude greater than our success ( quote from dan sullivan)

i hope mandalas bring you stories of meaningful lives.

loving in this life and beyond

January 15, 2008

i tried painting unconditional love. unconditional love is one of my empowering themes for reflections. yesterday, i spent time at the garden to review my paintings if they described the experience of people crossing to another life. they looked flat, like children’s slash and paint. my painting of finding heaven looked like figures floating amidst faces. my spirit guide looked like a jester. when i painted it, i wanted to express some lightheartedness, some fun in crossing. i did not want the usual portrait of angels guiding someone to reach the waves of heaven. after all, if one is free of human burdens, one could be literally light?

i thought ” perhaps i am not allowing myself to immerse completely in what should just flow.” i approached ed the other day on how to paint with a perspective and he told me to use lines. lines are good except i do not have enough imagination to draw them, like the lines to a life beyond. ahh, perhaps i should do more research so i went to view all the savants in YouTube.

i found three interesting child prodigies, two are blind and one is a baby just playing with sounds on the piano. the first one is Derek Paravicini, who was born prematurely and had been given too much oxygen, he lost his sight and had learning disabilities. at 27 years, he is a walking sound expert and can translate all kinds of sound into music. he has been studied by neurologists and musicologists in the UK. they found him a real savant because he can play any music and can identify an incredible range of music within seconds. in fact they tested him in many situations, from identifying the sounds of a whole symphony playing in various keys simultaneously to getting the whole range of sounds in a train station. he can play the piano as a virtuosio , even pieces he has never heard before. upon hearing a difficult score, he can play the music on piano. but he is partly autistic and cannot communicate nor think logically. when they looked at his brain, they found it incredible and the theory is that, having been free of any distraction from visual and logical stimuli, his brain had developed an outstanding capacity for musical sound and his hands could translate them on the piano. and yet, he is incapable of taking care of himself and has to be cared for the rest of his life. he needs unconditional love.

the other prodigy is Yeh Eun, a five year old korean girl. she is blind and was adopted by the mother who brought her to the tv studio to compete . when she plays, her little hands and fingers try to cover all the piano to get the music right. she impressed many viewers and made them cry when she played and sang her piece. the koreans found Yeh Eun so inspiring that they gave her the highest score of 95. i would give her a 100 because of who she is despite her blindness and her being just 5 years old. unconditional love recipient.

the third is a 9 month old baby and his playing the piano just for laughs. it was a relief just to watch him play. yes, playing is the creative act. if babies do not play, they must be ill.

so going back to my paintings and the theme of unconditional love: is there really a life beyond what we know? can we ever have a glimpse of the people who cross? i wanted to know how painting unconditional love can help communicate with those who have another life beyond.

the answer came late yesterday. a friend i have not seen for years came to ask for help. she wanted to know how she could make her dead husband stop coming back. i listened to her talk. she had been losing sleep and had a sore throat. i asked her a few questions and suggested rehydration. i told her i would try meditating and she could do the same. i promised to get her better, but told her i cannot contact her husband. i was honest that communicating with those beyond this life is possible but i dont have reliable means. i can only imagine and pray that the other person from beyond would open up.

did her husband open up? i found my morning with lots of sense – sense that i translate into words. i sent the message to my friend who slept well into the night and just woke up to receive the message. we will know during the day if the message helped her.

so what is the connection to unconditional love? that is the message.

designing a dream home

January 11, 2008

a home is a social womb, starting one’s life to grow . this morning, i brought out the plans for our dream home. an indigenous homes advocate – architect ning encarnacion-tan designed it with us last july 16,2007. we have set a date next week to finalize the house design. ed and i, ning and juju will build joint conjugal homes in san mateo, some 15 minutes from diliman,quezon city. when gilda cordero-fernando was told of our communal housing dream project where the co-owners are two couples, a single mother and two teen girls, she was a bit anxious that it may spell difficulties. she said that three families living together in one compound may not work out because houses have their own drama. she warned us that people may think we are having orgies. we all smiled and let the dream grow for three years. we want to build this year since we have bought the land together. our third partner rea will join us in due time.

the design elements for us are stories in progress. each level is called a story. the two homes will have three stories. we agreed on an open silong for the ground level so that our spaces will weave around two themes : a garden that ning and juju will cultivate and a kitchen for events where meals are cooked and shared. i got a story about social space from minda groeneveld , a pinay friend who worked in Africa . she said that Africans place the stove at the center of their homes because it is where people hold their social events. many of our old homes had the kitchen outside of the houses, called dirty kitchen. in new dining places, the chef cooks in front of the guests, and the process brings aroma and colour to the conversation.

the second stories will hold our family spaces. ning and juju will have their bahay kubo while ed and i will have our portfolio space for love, writing and studying. ed and i do artwork, so we need a lot of light, like the sun that amorsolo celebrates in his paintings. the artworks and the books that we own will weave around our walls, like synapses inside our bodies. we will wire the house so that we can bring our laptaps everywhere.

the third story will be for laraine, our 17 year old daugther. she wanted a space for her generation and asked for a vanity room where she can transform herself. it will be a chrysalis space for dreaming, ipod casting and having fun.

how much do we think it will cost? the going rate now is from P15,000 to P20,000 per square meter. if we build a hundred and eighty square meters in three stories, it will cost P2.7 million to P3.6 million pesos. that will mean that ed and I have to earn three million pesos this year if we start storytelling. so how can we earn three million? both of us are in social sectors where many of our work is pro bono. when ed goes overseas, half of his work is still pro bono. now we have to scan the horizons for consultancies that pay enough for at least two years equivalent to our modest domestic earnings. we have two book projects, a joint art exhibit and several competencies in education. how much are its earning value? am not sure how to generate three million pesos but we can earn a million if we engage international development partners. mag-overseas workers tayo, says ed. but short-time lang, sabi ko.

what we need is to engage social sector funders that our education portfolios can handle strategic programs. we can do something about the 11 million children out of school and the 15 million adults who need to be functionally literate. our achievements in the 90’s and 2000s will be our tickets to a journey of learning and earning well. ed is turning 65 and i just turned 57 so we have a few silver linings. ning said that when people start building, they also earn enough to meet the costs.we hope we strike some precious gems and get our dream home built before we become octogenarians.

our houses and gardens will invite people for conversations and reflections. as of this stage, our dream plans are ideas for stories. we will get our family and friends to bless our space with their own story ideas. our homes will be born when dreams dance in this social womb. peace and joy to us all.


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