Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

Nothing prepares you for the spontaneous unpredictability of Irene Villamor’s Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story) starring Dingdong Dantes as Sid and Anne Curtis as Aya.

Dingdong Dantes and Anne Curtis in a scene from “Sid & Aya” (Not A Love Story). A good story and superb cinematography.

The story is simple enough, but the thing is it says a lot about the class divide inhabited by a go-getting stockbroker (Dantes) and an imaginative waitress (Curtis) who has found creative ways of augmenting her income.

She probably doesn’t know anything about how the stock market works but she starts to get an idea when she agrees to an escort service job initially without intimacy involved. Because the stockbroker is an insomniac and he needs someone to talk to and his offer was something she couldn’t resist. The pay was good, and the stockbroker was a hunk and quite a looker. She decides she might as well accept it and have fun.

Then Sid discovers Aya also works as a laundry assistant to his pleasant surprise.

In the process, she gets to know the man and the stockbroker. As she sorts out his clothes for washing, she picks up assorted papers from his pants’ pocket from receipts to unused condoms. When she tells her friends about it, the gay one exclaims, “Strike anywhere pala siya.”

Poster of Sid & Aya. A surprise box office hit.

In time, mutual attraction turns into something else that baffles both of them.

They become friends and then they get intimate and they start asking questions about how both of them live and survive. Love is not anywhere hinted, but it was obvious something is in the making.

This although she has a girlfriend who wants to move in with him and hopefully settle, so to speak.

Aya follows her mother’s fate in Japan and one night when Sid accepts a job in Japan, he discovers she has become a japayuki – like her mother before her.

Direk Irene’s latest film (her previous equally good output include Camp Sawi and Meet Me in St. Gallen) has an innate charm that works slowly but surely into the moviegoer’s heart. She has a good film narrative of two lives merging as one and she is in total control of their unpredictable fate. Meanwhile, she gives her viewers a view of the stock market and how everyone slaves for the big money. While Aya settles for the crumbs, Sid is always aiming for the big time. Indeed, the director has a good feel for big and small people and how they cope with the work-a-day world.

Not to be overlooked, the storytelling is enhanced in no small way by the ravishing cinematography by Pao Orendain.

But what is amazing is that Direk Irene was able to get the spontaneous best from Anne and Dingdong and thus striking a good rapport without trying too hard.

Anne charms her way into her role and got to pin down the character’s ups and downs with all the emotions showing without effort. Dingdong probably had a model in the stock market and he delineated the part with such commendable dispatch.

While the movie is touted to be anything but a love story, it very well unfolds without showing too much.

Director Irene Villamor with Dingdong Dantes and Anne Curtis in Tokyo. A sensitive writer-director

The characters are real, and they are not exactly figures from franchise rags-to-riches story. But Direk Irene has a versatile pen and a sensitive one to make something magical out of a something unromantic and unexpected.

This is where she hooked the audience who found another story they could connect with without the subplots.

Like it or not, Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story) is another beautiful variation of love in unexpected places.

And she found the right actors who can do justice to her story.

Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story) is now showing in cinemas.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

The only family home I remember was the one facing an islet in my hometown in Baras, Catanduanes.

Minabalay Island in Baras, Catanduanes facing what used to be the author’s house by the sea.

I suppose that house stood in the late 50s before a strong typhoon completely wiped it away.

It is made of light materials with a roof made of nipa shingles and with bamboo floor in the living room. In the center which is also our dining area was an image of Our Lady of Salvation. I remember we had that holy image even when we moved to the capital town.

What was idyllic about that old house?

Well, it faces the Pacific Ocean with an islet we call Minabalay partly shielding us from storm surge. We get our drinking water by taking a boat to a water path full of mangroves and in this small place called Lini. That was the time our source of drinking water was a spring. It is a daily ritual – the boat ride to this spring by the hill — to get drinking water.

For washing dishes, we go to an artesian well near the church and near the school where I would recite Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios during a grade school graduation.

That school kept a lot of childhood memories for me. There was a school principal named Dionisio Tolledo (he was a former town executive) who kept on rooting for me come recognition days. I got good grade in English composition but fared badly in Math and gardening. There was no way I could be an honor student.

Author grandson Emmanuel with Minabalay Island in the background.

In my young mind, I could feel a good teacher and a very encouraging one. In his last act of encouragement, he made sure I played Jose Rizal in the grade school graduation and that’s the last I would remember of this gentle old man in my grade school days. One day after a strong typhoon, he visited what was left of our school and accidentally stepped on a rusty nail from a fallen post. He moved on soon after.

I missed his presence when I moved to the capital town only to find a high school principal who was his opposite. She looked stern any way you look at her and she looked like the equally stern and foreboding Miss Tapia in a popular TV show with lots of classroom episodes (the one who played her character recently passed away).

I didn’t like her the first time I saw her, and it was destined that there would be no love lost between the two of us until my last year in high school. I have loving memories of high school teachers, but that principal never left me anything I could cherish or learn a lesson from. Sad but true.

Tariman’s granddaughter Tanya in Baras Beach.

I do remember her tight fitting clothes, her high heels, the stern face and that absurd senior prom reminder that dancing partners should not be too close to each other. To ward off unnatural instincts, senior prom happened at 3 p.m. in the heat of a hot summer day.

Back to my hometown, there is no trace of what was once our house by the sea.

What remained was what was left of the house of our Uncle Ben and Tia Conching who sheltered us when our abode disappeared after a strong typhoon.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to make of that little land which is part of my childhood memories.

Dispose it, I told my sister-in-law and she insisted we should keep it even if there is no one there interested in building a new house.

Totally obliterated by typhoons, the house we used to have has been reduced to a landscape of memories I try to visit once in a great while.

The house represents my parents, my only brother, loving cousins and gentle townmates.

Author’s grandson Emmanuel and granddaughter Keya in author’s hometown.

It is a reminder of the many typhoons we survived and
a repository of memories of youth.

In one visit, I asked my grandchildren to play in that beach facing the islet.

They played in the sand, they picked up shells and stared in the wide open sea of my past.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

This place called Sta. Elena in Virac, Catanduanes holds a special place in my childhood memory.

We lived in an abode behind this Sta.Elena home of the Balmadrids. (Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol)

That’s where some of the island Guerreros come from and if you didn’t know it yet, my mother is a Guerrero on her mother side.

Her stepmother also comes from this old neighborhood and her house sat at the back of her uncle’s abode. From below, you see naked wooden posts supporting the main house usually with wooden floors with the rest of the house made of bamboo planks.

The water from the kitchen sink flowed directly into the soil below where piglets were sometimes raised.

In my grade school days when my mother worked as a casual employee of the department of social welfare, I used to stay overnight in the house of the stepmother. Used to the loving concern of my paternal grandmother, one found her a bit cold. She chewed betel nut all day long and there was perennial scowl on her face as she spit out the red saliva at the end of the masticatory ritual.

What I remember about this place was the angelus at 6 p.m. when people dropped what they were doing, make the sign of the cross and mumble a prayer. On late afternoons, the streets of Sta. Elena teemed with children and I could hear their voices mixing incessantly with the voice of adults ordering kids to come home for early dinner. The yearly santacrusan in May was always the year’s attraction in this street where we used to live.

Later, we lived in another rented house just a few houses away from the resident of the governor whose son was a childhood friend. On weekends, we could just walk to the nearby beach in our swimming get up. Later in the afternoon, watched a movie in the only theater in the island — now gone.

Another house we got has an open living room and an equally open kitchen area. There were two rooms with temporary lock and when couples from the old hometown came to stay overnight, one could feel the floor shaking in the dead of night in the other room and with some muffled moaning waking me up.

We also lived in a house near the Sta. Elena chapel in Virac. (Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol)

Like most houses in this part of the capital town, there was a creek behind it and that’s where some residents answer the call of nature. At that time, most houses didn’t have washrooms and when you venture onto the beach early in the morning, you could see male residents exposing their butts out in the open sea.

After leaving my hometown, I grew up frequenting the sea dikes in the capital town and taking a dip. This part of the sea near the port was unusually deep and yet one enjoyed swimming in it for many years. This was where I’d see the island poet (JAT) swim as well and how swiftly he negotiated one distance to the other point of the beach with learned strokes.

In time, I learned to swim from one part of the sea to the open port. Getting bold with experience, I would jump from the far end of the pier and enjoy the feel of the sea in my juvenile body. This was the moment I really felt like an islander. Many years after, I found myself facing my first libel case in the island with the complainant no other than my high school teacher.

I asked a friend to see my teacher to help me ask for forgiveness. During the hearing, I could see a very hurt teacher and for the first time, I realized you could not be too honest with your writing without some consequences. I didn’t name him in the article, not even the island but good fiscal reminded me one could be liable for libel if the characters were identifiable.

After one hearing, my friend treated me to endless rounds of beer and at midnight, I asked him to watch over me as I decided to dive into the sea totally unclothed.

I have never felt total freedom as when I found myself negotiating the quiet sea, naked on a moonless night. My friend was a bit worried. But alcohol made me a lot bolder and oblivious of danger. We went home thinking I should brace for the worst as my teacher said he’d never forgive me.

Many years later, one did not hear from the court and I was told later my teacher drowned during a class picnic in the island.

Meanwhile, my friend — who was working for a local politician at the time — died in a plane crash and left bundles of cash floating by the sea.

Growing up in many parts of Sta. Elena through the years, I began to treat the old neighborhood as my second hometown.

Those assorted dwelling places in Sta. Elena were witness to my growing up years and finally my high school years where one debuted as an actor in a school play and where one wrote articles for the school paper.

Every time I visit, I would walk the streets of Sta. Elena and recall how the place looked like in my early youth.

The street of Sta. Elena now. The old landmarks buried by internet cafes and tourist inns. (Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol)

Sadly, the landscape has changed drastically with pension houses and internet cafes lining up the streets and with the only theater gone.

For some reason, I missed the John Philip Sousa marches from a local station as one prepared for school.

The one march I was waiting to hear – the Triumphal March from the opera Aida frequently used as graduation music — didn’t materialize as one ended up graduating not at the CNHS but at the Quezon City High School.

But that is another story.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

Tears flowed profusely as a Lumad father looked at his son who just finished college.

A Lumad father cries during graduation day of her daughter.

Same for the poor farmer whose son graduated at the PMA with high honors.

When you watch news on TV every night, you see tears of relief for those judged not guilty and tears of sadness for those sentenced to spend their remaining lives in prison.

In another setting, you see tears of jubilation in awards night when awardees are choked with emotions and overwhelmed thus, they didn’t know what to say and because they didn’t expect it, they didn’t know how to react. (This is a very spontaneous reaction although some say that very emotion and projected surprise can be a product of a thorough rehearsal.)

In the same medium, you see relatives of victims of violence awash with tears asking the father of the land for justice in primetime television.

You see parents in distress like this famous mother some years back crying over public television for son who probably took his own life. Where did she go wrong? She wailed. Poor son probably didn’t live up to family and public expectations and for him, saying goodbye to life was the only way out.

Having lived almost 70 years of a life, I have seen all kinds and went through all kinds I cannot say that years of living desperately has rendered me incapable of tears.

PMA graduates jubilant on graduation day.

Some years back, I was overwhelmed with emotions when after travelling for almost 12 hours, you see your daughter behind bars and that it would take the usual long bureaucratic process to produce a bail. She was doing research on the state of farmers in that part of northern Luzon and in one so-called encounter, she was caught with high-powered firearms almost physically bigger than her persona.

Illegal possession of firearms was non-bailable and so one was advised to write to the court and plead for a motion for reconsideration.

After raising bail money, you start another long journey to go through another process.

On the big day she got her bail, you take it as a blessing as you resist expressing any emotion.

Other chapters of one’s life are virtual invitations for literally breaking down.

A dying filmmaker invites me to a screening of a documentary on her art and life. She didn’t have much time, one could see that as one saw a white medical mask covering her face during the screening.

The film directed by one of her students was her ode to her productive life and her quiet acceptance of her fate. She told me before the screening, ‘Pablo if you can accept me as friend, surely you can accept death as part of our existence. Don’t you dare cry, or I’ll hit you.”

But as the documentary rolled with testimonials from friends and film colleagues, you know that you are witnessing a life coming to end.

One could not bear to see her after the screening even as you realize how brave your friend was to stare at her fate just like that.

A few years back, she cried unabashedly when our common pianist-friend was diagnosed with cancer. “Why her and why not me?” she wailed loud enough to be noticed by her film students. It turned out to be false alarm.

But when it was her turn to be diagnosed with cancer, she took it very well but we her friends didn’t. The pianist asked me if I could go with her to our friend’s first chemo session and flatly said I couldn’t.

One can admit tears can be happy outcome for some happy chapters in one’s life.

When my daughter graduated cum laude in this rich man’s school, one couldn’t help being overwhelmed enough to let a tear fall.

Because that moving up ritual in the campus signified the years you were visiting her in this boarding house and making do what one earned to make ends meet.

One told her one couldn’t finish the ceremony as one was overseeing a concert at Philamlife Theater.

Victims of violence asking for justice.

When she arrived at the concert hall after her graduation ceremony, I proudly gave her a bouquet and I could see my daughter was in tears.

That she finished college in a school one couldn’t afford — and with honors at that — was for me something one can be proud of.

Years later, she’d earn a master’s degree in the same school while she was teaching. She took German lessons later and flew to Frankfurt and later earned a degree in finance and business management.

When one saw her graduation picture with all those foreign classmates, you couldn’t help reprising the same emotion when she graduated with honors.

There is probably some truth when a wise man said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

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By Pablo A. Tariman

I am not one person you can invite to a place just because it was fashionable to be seen there.

Boracay on a clear day. Tourism’s glory became nightmare for the environment. Photo: Otavio Licad Meneses

Thus, many years earlier, I was not in a hurry to see Boracay.

I was born in an island probably as idyllic as Boracay and I am not easily impressed by tourism come-ons.

Imagine my shock when a major network invited me to cover a re-screening of an old film called “Temptation Island” with all its original cast attending. When I first watched the film in 1980, the members of the cast were mostly beauty queens in their 20s or 30s and meeting them once again in this paradise island many decades later would be a virtual test if they grew old gracefully.

After swimming at day time (by the sea and in the hotel pool), a media colleague and I were invited to beach party with some of the members of the original cast of the campy film in attendance.

Pianist Cecile Licad in Boracay after a concert.

When you have turned 60 and find yourself in a beach party for movie stars, you know this was not the place for you. The music was not pleasing to my ears and to drown recurring attack of ennui, I downed one bottle of beer after another and soon I became friendly to the stars now into their 50s and 60s.

“Temptation Island” is not a favorite film but as I reflect on that Boracay trip some years back, it might as well describe the island for all that it has become.

When I said yes to the trip, I imagined a quiet moment by the beach, contemplating the moon and the stars and enjoying the fine, golden sand.

But none of that would happen.

The beach party music was the moment of truth and even as I enjoyed one bottle of beer after another to blend with the dominantly young crowd, I felt betrayed. You get a good hotel accommodation and meals, but you have to survive this party, survive the crowd and survive the banal conversation.

Nearing midnight, I went with a media colleague who was a cross between a movie star and a beauty queen and together with another media friend, we lay over the fine sand and reflected on the beauty of the place now reduced to an inferno of sound from drums and electric guitars.

That was all I enjoyed in the island, this moment you could lie on the sand and contemplate the universe.

The author’s granddaughter in Boracay. The closure of the island paradise is wake up call for LGUs to beware of “progress” in the name of tourism.

My favorite spot in the island was a coffee shop called Sonata and while I enjoyed the mineral water which was all I could afford, I wonder how the place looked like minus the phalanx of tourists literally crawling all over the place.

Years later, my granddaughter would make sand castles in Boracay and I would avoid it like a plague even if hosts would dangle free hotel accommodation and other amenities.

This year when the island earned the moniker “cesspool” from no less than the president of the country, I knew that this moment of truth was bound to come sooner or later.

Like the banal film I re-watched, the place has evolved into a virtual Temptation Island with luxury hotels and casinos sprouting like mushrooms, so to speak.

As it is, the closure of Boracay is a wakeup call for LGUs to take care of their natural attractions. Its message is beware of tourist influx at the expense of the environment.

Sunset in Boracay. Photo: Senedy Que

Because when a natural paradise deteriorates into a “cesspool,” no one is to blame but the very important visitors masquerading as tourists and investors.

Also equally guilty are the local villagers and the island demigods who allowed the virtual rape of paradise.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

There is something foreboding when you realize you are hitting your 70th year when the year ends.

The author at Sumlang Lake in Camalig, Albay. Travelling can help you grow old gracefully.

As far as your body is concerned, you are still productive as you beat weekly deadlines for national, provincial and online publications.

You still experience great delight seeing your byline and down below in the internet version of your story, you see good feedbacks which meant you connected very well with your readers.

This is your life ever since high school as you religiously follow your favorite writers in your favorite weekly magazine. Of course you started with sophomore pieces in the school paper (then only mimeographed). You don’t know where it will lead but as you break into national publications and finally getting paid, your forge a contract with yourself that this is going to be your life.

Never mind that writing (for all that it signifies) is a virtual vow of poverty because doing PR is not exactly your cup of tea and you can’t write good speeches. But sometimes you give in because you are dealing with your favorite artists who share your vow – that money isn’t everything.

Out of the blue, you figure out seven decades of a life can be quite colorful. It highs and lows can be materials for a movie and for, horror of horrors, MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya TV series).

To be sure, pushing 70 is a good time as any to start writing your memoir and collect some of your passable outputs into a book.

You get this reminder from your readers, from your editors, from FB friends and some well-meaning acquaintances. But you don’t take them seriously as you are too busy doing weekly deadlines and making ends meet.

The author’s grandson enjoying a deserted beach in the island. As you grow old, you begin to treasure every moments with your loved ones.

You can’t stop writing just to focus on a book that a publisher — who doesn’t read you – will find strange. Who will read a book about artists and musicians when everybody is too busy texting, instagramming and facebooking than going to concerts?

But many artists (young and old) will always have fans who will die for their idols and can buy books by the bulk. But you hate computing the way you figure out what it takes to fill up a concert hall.

The first order of the day will be educating a publisher whose encounter with classical music is attending recitals of musically inclined friends and relatives. She or he can’t see why such a book should even exist. You recoil when a much-seasoned book writer tells you how much she earned in copyrights and how even rich relatives hate buying books. I once volunteered to collect for a great mother who wrote about her great daughter and when I saw the computations, you tell yourself book-writing will be another invitation to poverty.

But then who knows. When I am ready to face all these, I will consider writing a book even if it meant another chapter of a lifelong vow of poverty.

To be sure, this is the age when people think of leaving a legacy, of thinking how he or she wants to be remembered and — to restate that cliché, how to make a difference.

Honestly, I don’t know what legacy means. Legacy is something you connect with, something you have lived with and something you want to carry all your life. It is not anything you keep restating in your biodata as you contemplate being nominated for this and that award.

I love this artist because she lived for her art as she honestly lived her life and acquired world-wide following without having to pay publicists who will sing endless alleluias about her/his world-class status. She doesn’t lose sleep over awards nominations. Because in my book, you earn what you deserve and not by keeping a stable of publicists whose pronouncements are utterly predictable. You have lived your life and your art the way it should be lived and not how awards nominators want you to live it.

Because it is utterly tragic when a national artist is announced in a big gathering with no less than 20 people able to connect with his art and life. To be sure, the musicologists love him, but he produces the kind of music that can only be edifying to people in the run for a doctoral degree.

What I am saying is that you can still live a simple life at 70 and above without losing sleep over re-imagined legacy or its equivalent. Legacy is something your followers will live on to remind them of the person as artist and human being. It is not something mouthed by people who introduce you as a guest speaker for something or the other. Legacy is memory of a good concert or a good book or an unforgettable film that elevated you beyond your mortal self.

With daughter and granddaughters. Life is short and moments like this should be treasured.

A life simply lived will resonate in what you write and not how you are expected to behave during your lifetime. You had your good moments and bad ones, even tragic, ones, too. But as the wise men say, there is no such thing as a perfect human being. You can fall, stumble and only you can bring yourself back to living a borrowed life.

But one day, one would like to really figure in an honest-to-goodness book-launching where I can tell my imaginary fans that those chapters were part and parcels of a life. It’s mine and no one else’s.

Hopefully, I didn’t have to be a Shirley Bassey to be able sing “This Is My Life.”

With conviction.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

When I think of summer, my thoughts inevitably turn to the island of my birth in Baras, Catanduanes.

Image of summer in the island. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol.

Where I was born, I think of the high bright sun of barrio Tilod where the river ends where the sea begins. From the bridge, you see the silvery horizon of the wide Pacific Ocean.

Westward down from the barrio chapel, I see the school where my mother used to teach. While my mother was busy with school chores, I was usually entrusted to a gentle old lady I called Lola Cayang and her daughter I called Tia Lily. Growing up with them, I saw a second family I would seek out even as some of them would settle in Metro Manila. It was pure destiny that I found Tia Lily’s daughter on face book. Tia Lily has since then moved on and her daughter has settled in Canada.

So much memories of this barrio of my birth. Where the river begins is our mountain land we call Sogod and that part with the clearest stream I ever saw in my life we call Minacahon was where we used to take a bath, catch fresh shrimps and cook them with coconut milk with paco (fresh ferns). It was the summer we would pick up farm produce (corn, camote and other root crops) including abaca hemp from local farmhands. For giving them free use of the land, we divide farm produce two-way. Our share we transport to the town proper by sea using bamboo raft passing the shallow coastline.

In barrio Moning was where a grade school classmate lived and come fiesta time, he would invite me to his place where all you can see are abandoned nipa huts and endless rows of rice land. In one such abandoned nipa hut, young townmates do some merry making with some of them proudly showing off their newly “baptized” private parts in a triumphant show of their new state of manhood. One such young townmate would grow up a military general and in the early 80s, I read from the papers that he died from an encounter with Mindoro insurgents.

The bridge where the river ends and the sea begins in barrio Tilod in Baras, Catanduanes where the author was born.

That rite of passage was memorable in the summer after grade school. First year high school found us in this battered building near a store that rented out Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines including local comics. Come recess time, male classmates would check bandage on their private parts in a secluded part of the school and where they thought nobody was watching. Until they heard girls giggling from another room.

Once healed, they’d go swimming naked in that river behind our school. At that time in the island, nobody thought of swimming in birthday suits as obscene. The sight came naturally as treading on the rice paddies back to the town proper.

I thought some summers in the island were highlighted by endless dancing some summer nights. The dancing hall near the sea had improvised fence and everybody was free to join. Like it or not, they reminded me of scenes from popular Fellini films.

In the late 50s, we lived in a house by the sea just near the house occupied by a woman who was a church singer. We presumed she was a widow because we never got to see her husband. But once a year, a daughter who looked like Marilyn Monroe would visit her for a short vacation. My then 9-year mind presumed she had a good-looking foreigner for a husband.

A common summer sight: young man jumps from a cliff and into the sea. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol

But one early morning before sunrise, the neighborhood was awakened by the voice of an angry woman shouting by the window of the church singer’s house. “Come here you Mary Magdalen you,” she roared with her lips trembling with anger. “You sing in the church every day and then you have the gall to sleep with my husband! How dare you!” This was followed by endless island expletives.

The poor lover, a police officer in our town, came out of the house and sheepishly escorted his wife out of the place.

But the early summer I would not forget was when my Uncle Joel (not his real name) figured in a love affair straight from the blockbuster Maryo J. de los Reyes film, The Other Woman.

The incident has since then long been forgotten and my late Aunt Charing (not her real name) has long since forgiven my late Uncle.

The 1950s letter – which went back to the sender for lack of anti-TB stamp – had the scorching passion of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.”

The author contemplating the sea on a cliff in Binurong Point, Guinsaanan, Baras, Catanduanes. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol

Some excerpts: “My dear, I still have happy lingering memories of that meeting with its happiness that often ends up in loneliness for we are apart. You once asked when we will be together again. Well. I knew not when. I’m (sic) too waiting for that time to come.

The letter came with a dolorous poem which read thus: “My heart in your hand, to fool it beware/ For till death you’ll always have it dear/ To nourish you with love forever and ever.

As I recall this island episode, Shakespeare’s Juliet entreaty came to mind –

“My bounty is as deep as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”

In my ripe old age now, acceptance comes easy as Shakespeare once noted —

“Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.”

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By Pablo A. Tariman

“Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight
With lilies o’er spread is baby’s wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed”
                                              – Brahms Lullabye

My daughter Kalon with granddaughter Keya in a beach resort in Mexico during the holy week.

I like freezing the picture of my eldest daughter who fetched us at the Hong Kong airport and billeted us in a hotel for a four-day holiday.

Apart from me, she sent for her sister and two nieces who were traveling for the first time abroad.

As she took care of our tour and inland transport and hosting intimate family lunch and dinner, I can’t believe she was the same daughter who was born in Albay on a Black Saturday. She grew up in a house by the sea with a good view of the perfect cone, lording over the hill I used to climb with a friend.

Now she is a busy business consultant and in the middle of business trips, she found time to see us in a foreign soil and spending for air tickets and hotel accommodation and asking how everyone was.

We exchanged stories in this restaurant called Social Place, we took a tram to Victoria Peak and at that time of the year, the weather was cold, and the icy wind nipped on your skin.

As you view the skylines of this former British colony, you come to terms with what it took to raise three daughters with varied interest.

One is into the arts (she was involved in school theater), another was an activist and the third was into sports before she became a full-time mother.

My daughter Tamara Irika with granddaughter Tanya in Caramoan Island.

Into their growing up years, you cooked their breakfast, walked or biked them to school, escorted them to their first ballet lessons, attended their PTA meetings and before you knew it, they are in college and years later, you figure in their commencement exercises.

In the next three months, three daughters turn a year older, two are mothers of one and the youngest a mother of two.

As you brace for their birthdays, you reflect how you raised three daughters with different concerns and how you coped with their individual life choices.

Before she left for Frankfurt, my daughter taught and tutored staff of diplomats.

Another daughter attended the state university, worked in the university newspaper and just a couple of years before graduation, she disappeared and was soon found in the jungles of Isabela figuring in an armed encounter with the military which claimed to have found several Armalites in her possession.

My daughter Kerima in a Cavite resort with grandson Emman.

This episode in my second daughter’s life saw me travelling from Manila to Cabagan, Isabela and back every month for two-and-a-half years to attend the hearings. Those years were difficult, almost harrowing.

Meanwhile, my youngest was into sports and although I have not seen a single live volleyball game in my life, I could only offer moral support. Now I make up for my absence in her high school and college volleyball games by helping take care of my granddaughters

A top student during her high school years and graduating cum laude in a school for the well-off along Katipunan, my eldest probably sensed there was no way she could be stable with a degree in development studies and a master’s degree in Pilipino. While in Manila, she took courses in German language, later flew to Frankfurt and acquired another master’s degree in business and finance.

Every time we are reunited in Manila, I could see a daughter with a good business sense. But her affinity with the arts remained as she and partner watched concerts and hosted dinner for the celebrated pianist-godmother of her only daughter.

The view from the upper terrace of Victoria Peak was fantastic and I thought it was just as magical as the island’s Balacay Highland Point and Binurong Point in my island province.

All throughout our four-day stay in HK, I recalled the younger days of my eldest daughter staying in the island with her grandmother. At that time, I couldn’t manage deadlines and raising babies and my parents decided to help me out.

My daughter Tamara Irika with my granddaughters Tanya,Tyra and Keya at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

As she personally arranged all those HK itineraries and made sure we had an Uber car from hotel to airport, I realized I had a good daughter who could give me a special treat in my old age.

To be sure, I enjoyed HK but with it came the realization that my eldest has evolved into a seasoned global citizen and a good daughter who cared a lot for her sisters, nephews and nieces as well.

Back in Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, I remember this was the same place recreated by a film inspired by a Han Suyin autobiographical novel, A Many Splendored Thing.

Up there with an exhilarating view of Hong Kong, you rewind your life and times with your three daughters as you recall the Han Suyin film and song that made it popular —

Oh, once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched my silent heart
And taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing

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TV Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

There is a rare, if, intense, sense of daring as broadcast journalist Atom Araullo documents a day in a life of a family living underneath Jones Bridge in the heart of Manila.

The Atom Araullo Specials. New subject, new explorations.

The passage to that unknown dwelling is by clambering through a rope and going down a dark labyrinth and you are ushered into a small, cavernous space that passes for a home.

The woman of the house gathers usable garbage for a living and gets to eat only after selling what she found. She goes back to this house underneath the bridge and takes a rest and hoping to make it through another night.

Araullo did not stop by just reporting what he saw; he sleeps in the same abode and see for himself what it felt like living under the bowels of the bridge.

Stretching himself on a make-shift floor that passes for a bed, he soon finds out the ventilation is bad and that the entire abode shakes often as it does when ten-wheeler trucks pass by.

The April 1 edition of the Atom Araullo Specials on Channel 7 shows us how far broadcast journalism can bring us deeper into looking at the less privileged sectors of society.

The episode is at once shocking, and by turns, moving as poor wife reveals how she was separated from her children who now live with her in-laws.

Entrance of Marawi tunnel used by terrorists as escape and sleeping quarters. Lo and behold, Atom Araullo finds a terrorist’s camera.

Staying overnight in this house under the bridge, Araullo connects with his subject not just as part of his figure gathering but as a living proof of neglect and of how society has turned deaf and blind to her plight.

The other episode brings him to the caves of Samar where he explores the natural attraction of the place.

The thing is he chose the most dangerous cave and descends on it ready to confront danger, if any. Deep into the bowels of the earth, he finds a waterfall and enjoys a brief immersion.

What secrets it holds he reveals as in another part of the cave, he discovers a burial area where victims of epidemic are disposed of during the earlier times.

This 32-kilometer Sulpan Cave is touted by the country’s longest and in one part of the cave, he discovers a giant tooth from a prehistoric shark.

The closing episode is an exploration of Marawi’s underground tunnels which served as the terrorists’ escape routes and sleeping quarters at the height of the siege.

Atom Araullo descends on a little known abode underneath Jones Bridge. In that small, cavernous space, urban dwellers make it through the night.Ao

The guided tour reveals the extent in which Marawi was practically decimated but Araullo will not be satisfied. He breaks away from the group and does his own private exploration. In the process, he discovers a terrorist’s camera which recorded the villains’ lair and what they do as part of the day’s battle regimen.

As it is, Araullo gives us a view of the often unexplored life and leads his viewers to contemplate both the mystifying beauty of Mother Earth and the extent to which urban dwellers are reduced just to survive.

He explores the subject inside and out, lives with his subjects and at the end, he gets a balanced and very personal view on why people live the way they do.

The Atom Araullo Specials is first-rate broadcast journalism that goes beyond reporting.

It is what television needs in the jungle of asinine shows that have sunk into the lowest pit in the name of the ratings game.

Another part of 32-kilometer Sulpan cave in Samar yields a burial area where victims of epidemic were disposed of during earlier times.

In the end, it shows us that broadcast journalism can be enlightening as well as edifying when news gatherers go deep into the heart of their subjects.

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Hometown Memories
By Pablo A. Tariman

Aunt Alice — the last of my paternal aunts — passed away last week. I told my cousin I couldn’t make it to the wake. I prefer to remember her happy moments when she’d demonstrate newly choreographed dance for her grade school pupils.

A picture of my Aunt Alice. I remember her for her cooking and her innate kindness.

Seeing her inside that coffin was out of the question.

As a boy growing up in the island, my first happy glimpse of her was her wedding at the old town church in the late 50s.

In the eyes of a nine-year old, I recall her happy face framed by the church facade as she emerged from the church in a white wedding dress.

I believe Aunt Alice is one of four aunts I can easily connect with because of her innate kindness and her sense of humor. I believe my fondness for a local delicacy called candinga (bopis in its Manila version) started from my fondness for her cooking.

Aunt Nieves (the eldest on my paternal side) married a rice merchant and I remember my first picture as a child was taken in a Guimba (Nueva Ecija) studio with my cousins. When her husband died, she followed her eldest son to the USA and lived a happy life.

Every time she visited the hometown, she’d be walking along the long stretch of the sea dike every morning and showing off her brand-new clothes that to me was like what the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe wore. She contrasted very well with the nearby Minabalay Island. I get unconfirmed stories of how she had a love life before she died. Nevertheless, I only remember her as my aunt strutting like a seasoned model while Connie Francis was singingDo not forsake me oh my darlin’ in my Uncle Ben’s brand new 1950s radio.

The old Baras church where I suppose all my aunts were baptized.

When I heard of her death, I remembered her laughter and her kindness. I believe she sheltered us while family was forever coping with hard times.

The youngest aunt on my paternal side was the dread of my cousins. What one remembers of her was her temper which erupted for reasons only she could fathom. She’d kick cans used for storing rain water in our house by the sea and in another setting, she’d wail like a child telling everyone nobody loved her even as she thought she deserved more of it as the youngest in the family.

Naturally, her nephews and nieces abhorred her, and she knew it. My one act of unkindness was when she visited me in my old BLISS abode asking for help. It pained me that I could not even ask her to come in. Instead I asked her what she wanted – outside the living room. I told her I could not help her. She didn’t get a glass of water from me and not even a piece of bread. I remember seeing her walk away with a heavy guilt weighing on me.

I did not like what I did. My then ten-year old self was full of hate for her I found it strange that it stayed with me even in her old age.

Coming home every summer, I’d see her tomb virtually devoid of candles and flowers. Strange that my cousins didn’t even want to talk about her.

The rest of my aunts – notably Aunt Trining –were kind and so did their children. Our trademark was our loud and boisterous laughter which today I am still associated with.

The last resting place of my Aunt Alice in Quezon City. A long way from Baras Church where I first saw her happy face framed by the church facade on the day of her wedding.

When my paternal grandmother died in Manila in the early 60s, I saw how my other aunts fared later in their lives. One became a public-school teacher, another whose wedding I witnessed continued her schooling while her husband drove a taxi to support his night studies.

Another aunt with whom I stayed during my early college years had quite a life after her retirement. She had a love child who became a pastor and — like me — was bad with finances. This cousin was forever quoting the Bible and when he married, he’d visit me in my Pasig abode with her wife who volunteered to do my laundry for a few pesos. Years later, he became a widower with two sons to support. He continued as a pastor and fared badly as a father. What he went through I would not wish on anyone.

Years later, his mother died a lonely death outside Manila.

When another cousin asked me if I could go to her wake, I said no. That was the moment I realized I was such a bad nephew.

I said it’s better that I don’t see her. Although she is not hated like her younger sister, I would prefer to remember her kindness and laughter we shared. Seeing her for the last time in a cardboard coffin was out of the question.

When I asked another cousin what he saw during the wake, I regretted ever asking him.

He said when he went to this battered abode — more like an abandoned hut than a house — he saw our dear aunt in a miserable condition. She was in this make-shift coffin with no visible visitors paying respect. My cousin said he was too shocked to make anything of what he saw.

Minabalay Island facing our coastal home in Baras was witness to my life and times with my aunts.

What I learned later was that she died when she was just alone in that hut and when my cousin found her, she was in an early stage of decomposition.

The last time I visited my aunt who just died was with my Australia-based cousin and nephew, she was in good health, looked very well in fact. But she could not remember who I was. I told her I remember her signature candinga. Luckily for her, her kindness was reciprocated by a good son who loved her even with the sure signs of dementia gnawing at her memory.

Trying to make sense out of my love-hate relationship with my aunts, you realize love begets love and hate stays longer than it should.

As you can see, the life and times of my dear aunts varied.

But every time I hear the song Do Not Forsake me, oh my darlin’ played in the early morning program of Richard Enriquez, I remember an aunt who strutted like an aspiring model and the aunt who died a lonely death and yet another one I hated even in her old age.

Yes, life was not fair to some aunts and I believe nor was I fair to them.

For one, I chose a life that made me totally unable to help others.

When I recall all my aunts on my father side, my favorite scene is my other aunt who used to croon a theme song from a 1952 Stanley Kramer film High Noon –

“Do not forsake me oh my darlin’
On this our wedding day.
Do not forsake me oh my darlin’
Wait, wait along.
I do not know what fate awaits me.
I only know I must be brave.
Or die a coward on my grave.”

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