When I was in college I tried to ride the bus going home from SM City (now called SM North EDSA), the new mall that was at the end of E. de los Santos Ave., or EDSA, back to my university campus. I was rather sheltered, and had never ridden much public transportation alone before. When the conductor of the bus came to me to sell me my ticket and asked where I was getting down, I said, “Crossing.”
I was thinking that by saying “Crossing”, I meant the nearest big intersection from the mall I came from. Then I realized that I had paid too much bus fare. I ran after him and said, “Sorry po, Quezon Ave. lang.” The conductor looked kind of mad, but he refunded me the excess fare.
I had no idea that “Crossing” was a specific location. Shaw Boulevard corner EDSA, to be exact. The question was recently asked on Reddit, but of all the answers, I like best the one that said it used to be the only major intersection in EDSA, back when it was still called Highway 54, but of course we can’t be sure that’s the correct answer. I’m asking that question on Facebook, maybe some of my friends know the answer.
Addendum: One of my friends commented that there may have been a pre-war railway crossing in the area, given that it was a major intersection without a rotonda. Interesting theory!
One of the members of our Manila fountain pen group decided to start a small book club. We had our first meeting last weekend, where we figured out what books we’d all like to read. We’ll focus on a book each month, focusing initially on Filipino writers writing in English. There are so many good books out there, but it’s a shame not to read the writers of one’s own country. The guys in our group made a request not to have to read romance novels, and the rest of us heartily agreed (hahaha!).
This May we’re tackling the late Kerima Polotan‘s 1961 Stonehill Award-winning novel “The Hand of the Enemy”. In June we’ll be reading her collection of essays “Adventures in a Forgotten Country”. Both books are published by the University of the Philippines Press. Also in our list is Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.‘s Killing Time in a Warm Place (Anvil Publishing), a novel based on his experiences as a Martial Law detainee. (Incidentally, Butch Dalisay is the founder of our fountain pen group. We’re asking him to sign our copies.) We’ll follow with National Artist Nick Joaquin‘s May Day Eve & Other Stories. Next up is Esteban Javellana‘s 1947 classic “Without Seeing The Dawn” (which was made into a Tagalog tv mini-series when I was a child). We’re also reading young Palanca winner F. H. Batacan‘s mystery novel featuring a “Jesuit priest who is also a forensic anthropologist as sleuth”, Smaller and Smaller Circles (UP Press). Then we’ll read another classic of Filipino immigrant fiction, Carlos Bulosan‘s America is in the Heart (Anvil Publishing). Just so we don’t get stuck on novels, we also picked a book of essays edited by Erlinda Panlilio, The Manila We Knew (Anvil Publishing). Then for something totally different, there’s Resil Mojares‘s Isabelo’s Archive (Anvil Publishing), a compilation of essays and notes on Philippine culture and history, based “on Isabelo de los Reyes’ groundbreaking attempt to build an archive of popular knowledge in the Philippines.” And then there is Bambi Harper‘s new historical novel, Agueda (University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House). There is also Luis Francia‘s History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos to consider.
The titles or order of reading might change. But it’s good to have a reading list. If we didn’t sit down to plan this, we wouldn’t know where to start! We can’t always meet in person, but we can always email our reading notes to each other.
From this list you can see we all have this common interest in literature, history (national and personal) and culture. Indeed, in Jose Rizal’s words, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kanyang paroroonan.” (He who does not look back from where he came will never reach his destination.)
Last August I joined a group of friends on a day tour of Pampanga. It’s north of Manila, about a drive of an hour and a half. We had a special ten-course lunch scheduled at Bale Dutung, but had the morning free to visit a couple of old churches and take photos.
The San Guillermo Parish Church of Bacolor dates back to Spanish times. After the original church (constructed in 1576) was destroyed in an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1897. In 1991 half the church was buried in laharduring the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. In one of the photos below you’ll see that the arched windows on the sides of the church are now as low as the tops of the pews.
From Bacolor we traveled to Betis, Guagua – an old town famous for hand-carved furniture. Built in the 18th century, the Parish Church of Santiago Apostol (St. James the Apostle) is known for its splendid retablo art. Its facade is quite simple and relatively recent, but old carvings decorate the church door and selected pieces of the church’s original wooden furniture. The altar is rich with more carvings, gilt and saints. But the showstopper is the church’s ceiling, painted in the early 20th century. We were requested by church staff not to use flash photography, to protect the artwork.
The lovely thing about these churches is that they’re still working churches, serving loyal parish families throughout their town’s history. If you have a long weekend coming up, a map, a camera, and a sense of adventure, this sort of trip is immensely rewarding.
Some Saturdays come with a happy surprise. A package arrived for me last weekend! A good friend from the US sent over a combined Christmas and birthday gift in the form of a vintage Waterman’s Ideal No. 3 set of fountain pen and matching propelling pencil! It came complete with an original Waterman’s box, complete with paper insert of instructions on how to fill the pen and pencil correctly.
I could not stop staring. The celluloid was beautiful! The pen is pristine – the clip and lever are absolutely clean and shiny, the Waterman’s imprint on the barrel strong and easy to read. There are no major use marks. It’s been resacced, ready to fill and write with. The pencil still had its original eraser, and contained the right size lead!
When I removed the pen and pencil from the box I was delighted to discover a pencilled inscription: “Frank Jr. Christmas 1941 Annie Carrisa Edna John.” I like to think this was a gift to Frank Jr. from his siblings.
The paper insert mentioned a patent date of 1932, so the date of manufacture could’ve been close. (Later, my friend, a member of the Pen Collectors of America, discovered the very pen listed in a 1933 Waterman’s catalogue. The beautiful silvery-grey swirls in a black matrix with random red flecks is a celluloid pattern simply called “Black Pearl”.)
The nib is a sweet 14k no. 2 flexible fine. My friend tuned the flow to be able to write well under a light hand, and to be wet enough to handle flexing. I haven’t really tried any sustained Copperplate-ish writing with it yet, but I feel it can certainly used that way. (I’d say my Wahl and Swan pens have slightly softer flex nibs.) I did try a fancy capital W in my writing sample, however.
A big thank you to mason28viz for posting this on Youtube. As a city, Baguio turned 100 years old this year.
My dad grew up in Baguio. In 2006 he and Baguio City High School Class of 1956 celebrated their 50th Golden Jubilee. He and his company were among the rescuers during the major earthquake that destroyed the historic Pines Hotel. We have a photo of him and his colleagues with then-President Fidel Ramos at Malacanang Palace.
I thought he might enjoy this video, as you all might 🙂
The Philippine Daily Inquirer taught me something new today – the Philippines gave visas to Jews escaping Nazi Germany in WWII. Read about it here. Kudos to our Filipino artist, Junyee, whose monument at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Tel Aviv I take my blog title from.
Here’s the story of Ralph Preiss, who spent a part of his childhood in wartime Manila, by PDI’s Volt Contreras.
When we were in college they never taught us this in Philippine History. Or maybe they did, we just didn’t remember. Schindler’s List wasn’t a movie yet, so our consciousness of the Holocaust was limited to the diary of Anne Frank.
The lesson here is one of compassion – something everyone around the world is in need of these days, since we seem to be not at war with other nations, but with concepts. “War Against Terror.” “War Against Global Warming.” “War Against Poverty.” “War Against Greed and Corruption.” I guess they make good sound bites, but it’s difficult to wrap one’s head around it. The question of “when will it ever end?” worries us all.
The Open Door Policy was a good move on President Quezon’s part. Times were simpler then, and it was easier to do things right in the name of humanity, that now seem pretty heroic in scale.
It’s hard to feel compassion when you’re faced with an abstract concept. It’s easier when you think about fellow human beings, one at a time. To learn more, you might enjoy reading An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by one of my personal heroes, the Dalai Lama. No, I’m not Buddhist, but there are things to learn from every major belief system if you also try to keep an open mind.