A Quadrifecta of Delightful Experiences

Pilipinasblitz Forever:
Reflections of a lifelong learner
By Blesilda (Bles) Carmona ©2015


Quadri-one: Last Oct. 10, Saturday evening, my sister E, J (her S.O.), and I watched “The Martian” (directed by Ridley Scott) at Century Hayward. Hot daymn! Damon is hot in this one, and one of the ways I define “hot” is if someone is scientifically inclined, like MacGyver perhaps, or here in this film, botanist/engineer Mark Watney. Libra native Damon is a delight to behold onscreen, oozing with self-confidence, charisma, and smarts. Actually he had me at “Good Will Hunting (1997),” this precious precocious screenwriter/filmmaker/actor. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen the film yet, and I don’t recommend movies lightly, but you should definitely see the “The Martian.” Winner line from Damon’s character: “I’m going to have to science the s**t out of this.”

For those of you on a budget, I propose a system on how to determine what is worth watching on the big screen. So for example, there you are in the cinema, watching the “revista” or trailers of films to come. You see the trailer of something called, let’s say, “Easter Lilies,” which is a rom-com, “Daisy Fades,” which is a tearjerker, and “Black Jasmine Patrol,” an action movie. Of course, first determine which of these three you like most. Supposing you love them all, the next step is to ask yourself which one has the most “cinematic” features. Which film lends itself to the big-screen experience? If you like the explosions, fight scenes, wide shots of dystopian landscapes, and other characteristics best visualized on the big screen – then the choice is easy, right? You can always catch the other films you missed on DVD, Netflix, and other more intimate streaming media when they become available later.

Quadri-two: Still, that did not stop me and my friends from watching the Filipino film called “Etiquette for Mistresses” the following week, on Oct. 15 (Thu) at Century Union City. This is based on the book with the same title which was written by social commentator Jullie Yap Daza in 1992. Honestly, I thought I was going to be bored by the film, but I was pleasantly surprised at how the narrative engaged me. Mr. Armando Dela Cruz, a respected film critic in the Philippines (filmpolicereviews.com) put his finger on the one scene that I marveled at and told my friend Yvonne about: “While the film is technically sound—a confrontation scene between Georgina (Kris Aquino) and Chloe (Claudine Barretto), surely the film’s highlight, makes for a compelling moment what with its single-shot chiaroscuro beauty…” Reading that, I felt my own observation vetted by expert opinion, which tells me that my eyes were not playing tricks on me. It was a single-camera, one-continuous-shot “eksena.” Director Chito Roño really knew his stuff on that one. Other co-stars are Iza Calzado, Cheena Crab, and Kim Chiu.

Here are some of the rules that mistresses (and mistresses-in-training, ref: see film) must observe:
1. You’re a mistress, not the wife. Know your place!
2. Mistresses don’t complain. It is the wife’s role.
3. Even if he tells you he loves you more than his wife, don’t let that get into your head.
4. Mistresses should not call the man first; wait for him to call.
5. Mistresses should avoid the wife as much as possible.
6. Mistresses should be able to give up Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Holy Week, and his birthday.
7. As much as possible don’t patronize the wife’s beauty parlor, jewelry shop, dress shop, or father confessor.
8. Wives have their own network of spies and amigas. It is helpful for the mistress to have her own.
9. Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number one.
10. When all fails, leave him.

And the moral of the story is —? Far be it from me to impose morals. I guess that if you’re interested enough, you can always catch “Etiquette…” when it’s out on other media and then decide for yourselves.

Quadri-three: Last Oct. 24 (Sat), the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS) held its conference at the Koret Auditorium of the Main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. BLHS is a non-profit 501c (3) organization. Its mission is to educate the public on the historical significance of the Bataan Death March and World War II in the Philippines by presenting the war from different perspectives – Filipinos, Americans, soldiers, and civilians. During the conference, we heard from various sectors affected by the Second World War: civilian prisoners of war, infantrymen, military officers and other veterans. Notable personages also spoke, among them State Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson, Philippine Consul General (“ConGen”) Henry Bensurto, Jr., David Chiu of the California State Assembly, and Congressman Mike Honda. Of course, we also heard from BLHS Executive Director & Founder, Ms. Cecilia I. Gaerlan, and Ms. Consuelo Hall-McHugh, Founding Member of Memorare Manila 1945. There were many an instance during the panelists’ “testimony” that I had to hold back my tears. A part of me is saying, “Why bother listening to these hurtful, cruel war memories?” but then another part of me says, “As long as your gut and tear ducts are affected by war, then you know deep inside that war in any form is wrong and should not be allowed to continue.”

Another good thing that happened in this conference was that I was able to connect with a long-lost relative. She was one of the panelists in the Battle for Manila forum: Mrs. Marietta Carmona-Flores. After the program, several people approached Tita Marietta, wanting to set up appointments so that they could hear more of her experiences as a young girl in the midst of war. The common feedback was that Tita M’s emotional delivery of her statements made it appear like it was a “declamation,” and this moved a lot of people in the audience, aside from the atrocities and horrors that she was recounting. In conclusion, Cong. Mike Honda said that lobbying for the benefits and salary of war veterans should be a community affair, not just the job of the Representative.

Quadri-four: Oct. 31(Sat), my sister E and I went to the “Everyday Mystic Halloween Fair” hosted by Cinthia Varkevisser at the Angel Light Bookstore in Berkeley, owned and managed by Ms. Valencia Chan. Cinthia is a channel, energy reader, graphologist, and coach (www.everydaymystic.com). On this day, a handful of her students were giving 10-minute readings for $10 as part of their practicum. Ms. Cinthia herself was available for readings, and she made me realize things about myself, even going as far as to suggest a “brand” for my astrology and tarot readings to help me along. I also got a reading from Ms. Nancy Leung, a certified massage practitioner who combines Swedish, Shiatsu, Trigger Point, and Deep Tissue Massage with energy reading and interpretation. Needless to say, my sister and I (with J as our chaperone), both having the Life Path number of 7 (the number of the loner, the seeker) are truly into these mystical things and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Every now and then it’s good to get the perspective of someone who can be totally objective with you since she does not know you except for the energy and vibes you give out. It may sound “woo-woo” to some of you and rightly so because metaphysical issues are not really your cup of tea (or tea leaves). It’s all right. Really. Each of us is on a personal journey which you and I know is never the same for any two individuals. At the end of the day, what remains is a live-and-let-live sensibility that does not coerce and force, but loves and respects.

We will always be drawn to the things, people, and phenomena that interest us and capture our imagination. My hope is that, to paraphrase Jalaluddin Rumi, we can still meet in that field beyond all these conflicting ideas.

Maybe someday, huh?


“Thankfulness and National Grandparents’ Day” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Sept. 9-15, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 9-15, 2015

Thankfulness and National Grandparents’ Day

We have so much to be thankful for! First, I am thankful because the column I wrote a month ago, “Pistahan notes: Bataan Legacy, our history (vol. 26 no. 32; Aug. 12-18, 2015, page A5),” encouraged three readers to write me, and so I forwarded their emails to Ms. Cecilia I. Gaerlan, the founder of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. I want to help Tita Cecilia by drumming up support for the upcoming opening of an important exhibit at the Main San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) this coming Sept. 12, called “World War II in the Philippines: The Legacy of Two Nations,” An Exhibition and Conference. For this reason, allow me to clear this writing space for Ms. Gaerlan who wrote the following press release:

“In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Bataan Legacy Historical Society, Memorare Manila 1945, the San Francisco Public Library and the Philippine Consulate General present “World War II in the Philippines – The Legacy of Two Nations,” an exhibition and a conference. The four-month exhibition will open on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 10:30AM at the San Francisco Main Public Library (Third Floor) located at 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. The Conference will take place on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 10AM at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Main Public Library. Both events are open to the public. Admission is Free but Registration through Eventbrite (Bataan Legacy) is recommended for the Conference. The Exhibition from September 12, 2015 to January 9, 2016 will depict the story of World War II in the Philippines, a seminal piece of history that has been mostly forgotten. The exhibition will present a compelling story of the sacrifices of Filipino, American and Allied soldiers and civilians. One million civilians perished in the Philippines during WWII and its capital Manila became the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw. It will depict the Bataan Death March, one of the most horrific events during WWII. Keynote speaker will be Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, U.S. Coast Guard Commander of the Pacific Area and Defense Force West. The Conference on October 24 will feature speakers from different perspectives of the war. WWII veterans Chief Johnny Johnson of the USS San Francisco, the most decorated carrier during WWII and Maj. General Richard Keith of the 511th Parachute Infantry will be among the speakers. Veterans and survivors of the war will also act as panelists. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson of the California Department of Education will give the opening keynote speech while Congressman Mike Honda will give recognition to the WWII veterans. For further information, please visit our website at http://www.bataanlegacy.org.”

Like I said at the start, we have so much to be thankful for. Did you know that in 1978, then President Jimmy Carter declared the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day? So this year, we’re celebrating this special day on Sept. 13 (Sunday), which is just a day after the opening of the World War II exhibit at the main SFPL sponsored by the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been talking about gratitude, thankfulness, “pagtanaw ng utang na loob” (paying back a debt of gratitude). Nothing exemplifies these concepts more fully than the way we love and respect our elders. I hope you make sure that you spend quality time with your grandparents in the next couple of days. Actually, the ideal scenario is that it should be Grandparents’ day every day. Why? Because most of them (I’m saying most of them) are fun to be around, oozing with gravity yet not above bribing you with a sweet or a cookie. And even if your grandpa or grandma is a little bit feisty or forgetful or a terror, you still cannot deny the fact that without them, your parents wouldn’t have been alive and you wouldn’t even have been born. So this life that you’ve been taking for granted is actually rooted in years of shared and valuable family history, securing your place firmly on earth and under the skies to continue the legacy of your blessings. Many people spend a lot of money tracing their ancestry, but you and I can actually hold and embrace our grandpa and grandma right here and now, if they’re still living. What’s keeping us from doing so?

Here’s my mini-tribute to my grandparents. My Mom’s father, Prudente Ragasa, was a law student who became a high-ranking guerilla officer in the boondocks of Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur. Lolo Puding was killed in action so my Mom didn’t even grow up with a father. My Lola Remedios (Meding) Lazam-Ragasa, my Mom’s mother, was a brave and enterprising Aries woman who raised my Uncle Jess and my Mom Aida by teaching grade school and making clothes through her Singer sewing machine which is “de-padyak.” Lola Meding remarried, and it was to Lolo Juan (Johnny) Santos, a good-looking Virgo teacher-administrator who was so generous to us kids with presents and coins. Imagine, this was in the early 1970s, and he would give me 25 centavos per single white hair that I plucked from his head! With Lolo Johnny, my Lola Meding Santos had three more children, my two aunts and only uncle– all of whom later had their respective partners and children. Lola Meding had a younger sister, Lola Tomasa (Chata) Lazam, who in turn had a BFF, my Lola Candelaria (Andie) Manarang. Lola Chata has passed on; Lola Andie is still alive. They are my grand-aunts.

On my father Ron’s side, I have another “Lolo Johnny,” my Dad’s dad, Juan Carmona, a solid Taurus who worked as a city engineer for Gattaran, Cagayan, and actually has a small bridge named after him in the area. My Lolo Johnny was a US WWII veteran, having served in the USAFFE. My Lola Margarita (Margie) Sumabat-Carmona, or Lola Mamang for short, is a bubbly Gemini who made a home for my Lolo Johnny, Dad, and his brothers and sisters. Lola Margie likes reading suspense novels and dancing. Of my immediate grandparents, only Lola Mamang is still alive today, and we cherish her as our family treasure. Lola Mamang, at 88 years old, still has the sharp wit, the wisdom, and that wonderful quality of being appreciative of the people who are helping her now.

So segue upon segue upon segue… are we really surprised that gratitude, thankfulness, World War II, the Bataan Death March, and (this week’s) National Grandparents’ Day are all somehow interconnected?! So here are the takeaways from this week’s column:
1. On Sept. 12 (Sat.), please attend the opening of the exhibit: “World War II in the Philippines” at the San Francisco Main Public Library.
2. On Sept. 13 (Sun.), honor your grandparents, grand-aunts, and grand-uncles. Respect.
3. From last week’s column, heed a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Give us, O Lord, thankful hearts which never forget Your goodness to us. Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which do not waste time complaining.”

Please check out my new Facebook page: facebook.com/blessingsandlight.org

“Pistahan notes: Bataan Legacy, our history” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Aug. 12-18, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of August 12-18, 2015

Pistahan notes: Bataan Legacy, our history

Last weekend, Filipino-Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area celebrated the 22nd annual Pistahan Parade and Festival once more. There was something for everyone: food, music, entertainment, health advice, art, culture, lambanog – you name it! This is probably my 8th year of volunteering, choosing to serve in the Heritage Pavilion for the past 4 years. I believe that the Wells Fargo-sponsored Heritage Pavilion at the Pistahan allows me to meet interesting people – volunteers and visitors alike. I also believe that by helping set up the exhibit of artifacts, photos, and such with fellow volunteers, I get a much needed history lesson and a reality check. Ganito kami noon, paano kayo ngayon? “This is how we were, so how are you doing now,” asks the Tagalog title of a film by Eddie Romero.

But do we really know how it was before, especially when it comes to important pieces of our common history as Filipinos from the motherland? The only way to know for sure is to look back through the eyes and experiences of those that came before us. Then we need to document these stories so that they are preserved, disseminated, promoted, and leveraged to increase in value going into the future. We are trying to avoid oblivion – what we want is recognition.

Recognition for whom? You ask. This year, the Heritage Pavilion is the proud exhibitor of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society. It’s a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization with the mission of educating the public on the historical significance of the Bataan Death March and World War II in the Philippines. The Society continually fulfills its mission by presenting the war from different perspectives – Filipinos, Americans, soldiers, and civilians.

“Bataan Legacy Historical Society was created as a response to the lack of information on the Filipino defenders of Bataan. It began during public readings of a historical novel, “In Her Mother’s Image,” written by the founder of the organization Cecilia I. Gaerlan. The novel was inspired by the many WWII stories that Cecilia heard while growing up as a child in the Philippines. Her father, Luis Gaerlan, Jr., was with the 41st Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army Forces of the Far East and survived the Bataan Death March as well as his incarceration at Camp O’Donnell.

During public readings of the novel, she realized that not too many people have even heard of Bataan or the war in the Philippines. While doing research about the war, she discovered that many history books only mention the American defenders, even though seven-eighths of the main line of resistance were manned by Filipinos. There are also some sources that deride or even malign the Filipino soldiers even though they did most of the fighting and the dying.

Drawing from interviews with Filipino and American veterans, survivors and Bataan experts as well as extensive research using books and documents from many sources (e.g. military documents from the national archives), a comprehensive picture has emerged from different points of view. The first Bataan Legacy presentation took place on April 9, 2012, during the 70th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan at the California State University, East Bay Campus. With each presentation, the multimedia production continues to evolve and brings the WWII experience firsthand to the audience by featuring veterans and survivors.” (“History of the Project,” written by Cecilia I. Gaerlan, http://www.bataanlegacy.org)

At the Heritage Pavilion, which housed archival material like soldiers’ uniforms, photographs, and other memorabilia related to World War II and the Bataan Death March, I proudly served as a volunteer alongside the bigwigs of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society themselves like Tita Cecilia Gaerlan, the Executive Director and pavilion manager; Tito Edgar de Leon, Board Member, whose 6-footer son Jon also helped during the setup before he had to report for work; and Ret. US Navy Senior Chief Mass Communications Specialist Robert “Bob” Hansen, also a Board Member and veteran of the Vietnam War. We also had volunteers from Lowell High School, plus Anna Millan, Tito Del Esmane, and a couple of others whose names escape my memory now. It was a two-day festival so I’m sure there were a lot of other volunteers. I salute you all, my fellow workers.

I have some stories to tell about World War II, heard from my grandparents and parents while I was growing up, but maybe I’ll save it for a written account that would go into the Bataan Legacy Historical Society’s ongoing campaign to get various accounts of the WWII in the Philippines, not just from the soldiers’ point of view, but from civilians and other nationalities as well. For now, let me just pay tribute to a man who left behind a book to chronicle his own experiences of the war. His name is Mr. Angel Pagaduan and I met him as he was browsing through the displays in the Heritage Pavilion on Aug. 11, 2013. His book is called “The Japanese Sneak Attack in Subic: An Untold Story of World War II,” which chronicles Tito Angel’s life, starting from the bombing of Subic, his birth town, when he was in fourth grade in 1941 (available at Arkipelago Books, SF). He had copies of his book, and he was willing to bend the ear of anyone who would listen to his animated stories about how it was during the war from the POV of a kid like him at that time and how the war influenced him and the community from then on. Tito Angel and I talked for maybe an hour. Then he let me buy his book at a discount and graciously autographed my copy: “To Bles, May the best of everything in life be yours always, Sincerely, Angel Pagaduan.” To tell you the truth, I’ve been meaning to read the book, and I did reach Part 5, but somehow I stopped. Just like a gracious older lady who dropped by the pavilion this year said, “When I see these photos, sumasama lang ang loob ko, gusto kong maiyak.” (“I feel bad, I just want to cry.”)

Fast-forward to mid-May this year. Suffice it to say that I saw Tito Angel’s obituary notice at the Hayward Daily Review. He lived a fruitful life of 83 years, surviving many previous health challenges and also achieving many milestones as a grade-school teacher. Rest in peace po, Tito Angel.

Now if you or anyone that know have stories you want to share about World War II and the Bataan Death March, you can contact the Bataan Legacy Historical Society by visiting their website: http://www.bataanlegacy.org. There will be an Exhibition which will open on Sept. 12 and a free-admission Conference on Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Main Public Library.

Bring your histories, bring yourselves.


“All about book lovers and PIstahan revelers” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Aug. 5-11, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of August 5-11, 2015

All about book lovers and Pistahan revelers

What’s the cheapest way to transport yourself to another world? For many people, the answer still remains the reading of a book. Every year, on August the 9th, most holiday-themed websites declare that specific date as “Book Lovers Day,” while a minority of sites say that Book Lovers Day is on the first Saturday in November. Anyway, if you’re a true and seasoned book lover yourself, I’m sure you don’t mind celebrating it on both days, right? For the dedicated reader, one can never read enough, so one doesn’t stop reading — as time and inclination permit.

While researching about some trivia on books, here are some facts I have uncovered: Barbara Bush’s book about her English springer spaniel, “Millie’s Book,” was on the bestseller list for 29 weeks. Millie was the most popular “First Dog” in history. Dr. Seuss wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” after his editor dared him to write a book using fewer than 50 different words. Edgar Allan Poe introduced mystery fiction’s first fictional detective, Auguste C. Dupin, in his 1841 story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Ghosts appear in four Shakespearean plays: “Julius Caesar,” “Richard III,” “Hamlet,” and “Macbeth.” Frank Baum named “Oz” after a file cabinet in his office. One cabinet was labeled “A to N,” and the second was labeled “O to Z.” Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind between 1926 and 1929. In her early drafts, the main character was named “Pansy O’Hara” and the O’Hara plantation we know as Tara was called “Fountenoy Hall.” (http://corsinet.com/trivia/k-triv.html) We thank Ms. Mitchell for reconsidering the name options for both the iconic heroine and the plantation. “Pansy” O’Hara does not hold as much gravitas and defiance as “Scarlett” O’Hara, and we couldn’t imagine the plantation being named anything but “Tara.”

As for me, my book-reading trajectory started with Nancy Drew mysteries like “The Mystery of Lilac Inn” or “The Hidden Staircase” when I was in the 2nd- 3rd grade. By 4th grade, I was already reading Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High Young Adult (YA) romances. During the summer vacation before my 5th grade, I finally cracked open a paperback that’s just lying around the house being ignored by me for the past three years: “Mist Across the Moors” by Lilian Peake, my first Mills and Boon romance. I was 10 years old and all I could think about after reading it through was: that wasn’t so bad. Now here’s the “bad” thing: I wanted more of those prefab book romances from then on. It’s a good thing that there’s a library nearby, and I had the luck to have a neighbor who has a lot of Mills and Boon and Harlequin paperback romances. Throughout the years, I’d like to think that my reading tastes have acquired some sophistication. It turns out that after surfing the net, what I considered guilty pleasures before are now popular bestsellers in their own right, for example “A B N K K B S N P L Ako?!” by the facetious yet mysterious Bob Ong and seven other books penned by him are dominating one Goodreads list, with only Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” to break the top-ten sweep. Bob Ong’s prose in the vernacular is about keeping it real, poking fun at himself and society in hopes of triggering self-reflection and perhaps positive change among his readers. (But what if we find out that “Bob Ong” is actually a pseudonym for a female writer? Just throwing it out there.)

Book Lovers Day being observed on August 9 every year, right at the mid-beginning of summer, it’s not really hard to celebrate the spirit of this holiday. Just find a cool and quiet spot, grab your favorite book, crack its spine somewhere and start reading. Sometimes, though, you’re looking for a certain book, or sometimes a book finds you. In my case, I found a whole book store, a veritable gem in the Mission St. – 6th St. area in San Francisco, CA in the form of Arkipelago Books. Owned and operated by Ms. Marie Romero for the last 20 years, Arkipelago Books is housed within the Bayanihan Community Center at 1010 Mission St. Within such a limited space, you’d never guess at the untold literary and assorted other treasures just displayed in an orderly manner in the book shelves: from hard-to-find Filipino cultural titles on colonization to more pop books on gods and “aswangs” to shirts to DVDs to “tubaws” and basket-weave backpacks. As part of the Arkipelago Books’ outreach every year, you can find Tita Marie in her usual booth at the annual Pistahan Festival, held every second weekend of August at the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. You can get in touch with Arkipelago Books at (415) 553-8185 or arkipelagobooks@yahoo.com

This year is the 22nd Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival and the theme is “Home Away from Home.” Whenever it’s near Pistahan time once again, I couldn’t help but look back on how I first got involved as a volunteer with this yearly Filipino-American cultural event. It was the year 2006 and I had just won first place in an international poetry contest in Las Vegas. Coming back to Hayward, I was surprised to get a letter from the Filipino American Arts Exposition (FAAE) through its President Al Perez. News travels fast. Apparently, FAAE is extending an invitation to me to be one of the “Pistahan Centennial Awardees” on the strength of my winning poetry. My grand-prize winning poem was called “Villanelle of a retired overseas Filipino worker.” FAAE was asking if I was willing to create my own float (“carroza”) and to join the parade during the first day of the Pistahan festival.

On the day of the Pistahan parade in 2006, my family – Dad, Mom, and my youngest sister – borrowed a pickup truck and enlisted the help of neighbors and friends of the family in the general design and movement of the vehicle. I remember Ernesto P. and his brother helping us out, as did Tito Ramon and Tita Mellie Ebriega of Pittsburg, CA. Dr. Antonio Nolasco of Milpitas was also there with his wife and boys in a touching show of support. I remember waving to the Market Street crowd in my improvised Filipiniana dress — blue almost-floor length denim with lavender tulle butterfly sleeves, anyone?— and distributing photocopies of my winning poem. That year, 100 of us in the roster of Centennial Awardees were honored and presented to the crowd at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

Loving the experience so much, especially the feeling of being among my fellow Filipino-Americans, I decided to come back the following year as a volunteer. My Mom and I helped distribute food to the VIPs and the parade participants. We braved standing for long hours and donning aprons, and we did this for two consecutive years. During another year, we volunteered in the Baybayin artist Kristian Kabuay’s pavilion. The following year, I helped out in the Heritage Pavilion and have been choosing to volunteer there ever since. This year, I signed up for the chance to work with Ms. Kat Mulingtapang, my energetic pavilion manager, again.

So: book lovers and Pistahan revelers, kitakits sa Pistahan 2015 at the Yerba Buena Gardens!

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“Friends, sisters, and forgiveness” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (July 29-Aug. 4, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 29-August 4, 2015

Friends, sisters, and forgiveness

Three special days are always celebrated on the first Sunday of August: Friendship Day, International Forgiveness Day, and Sisters Day. There’s a common thread running through these days: they amplify the importance of our relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances.

International Forgiveness Day was created by the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance in 1996. It’s a nondenominational educational foundation established by Robert W. Plath of Mill Valley, California. Following is the WFA’s Mission Statement: “The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is a non-profit 501(c) 3 tax-deductible organization whose mission is to evoke the healing spirit of Forgiveness worldwide. We declare that “Forgiveness Is the Greatest Healer of Them All (Dr. Gerald Jampolsky)” and that “Without Forgiveness There Is No Future (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).” WFA focuses on providing training in the techniques of forgiveness as well as in the knowledge of the psychological, physiological, emotional and spiritual benefits of the forgiveness process. WFA also promotes the spread of awareness and knowledge of the scientific findings related to forgiveness (www.forgivenessday.org). If you type in “techniques of forgiveness” into your search engine, you will encounter many websites for this valuable resource. One of the simpler ones to understand is the article, “How to Forgive and the Value of Forgiveness” by Lisa Claycomb: “There are a variety of techniques through which people can release resentment and welcome serenity into the mind and body. Sometimes people become offended when they believe that another person has purposely caused them harm. Looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective and choosing to believe that the intentions were good can be a helpful start to forgiving. Reciting words of encouragement, affirmations and forgiveness quotes can also be useful for replacing negative thoughts and feelings with kinder images. Visualizing the resentful thoughts floating away from the mind and inviting forgiveness through the law of attraction are other effective techniques. And, using a combination of all of these approaches can be extremely powerful.” (https://suite.io/lisa-claycomb/4f8d2tq)

Last year, WFA reports that 1.7 million people took that moment to forgive. This year, on August 2, 2015 (Sunday) at 2 pm, we are all invited to take 2 minutes to forgive someone. You can go to the website above if you want to be officially counted among the 2 million people targeted this year to take those couple of minutes to forgive. Now suppose you are at a loss about who to forgive. Maybe you’re thinking that you’re a pretty laidback, easygoing person so you actually have no enemies to speak of. I have an app for that: Forgive Thyself. For that part of you which keeps setting unrealistically high standards for yourself that you never really meet: forgive. For that part of you which makes many stupid mistakes: forgive. For that part of you which is too shy or too bold or too anything: forgive. Even better, why don’t you forgive all of the many beautiful and imperfect parts of yourself? Guilt and worry could only be counterproductive and a waste of mental energy. On the other hand, gratitude is big. An “attitude of gratitude” actually makes it more likely for people to be forgiving of themselves, others, and uncontrollable situations, and makes people kinder and happier as well (www.forgivenesschallenge.com). A song by the Beatles goes: “Try to see it my way/ Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong/ While you see it your way/ There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long/We can work it out, we can work it out/ Life is very short/ And there’s no time/ For fussing and fighting, my friend/ I have always thought that it’s a crime/ So I will ask you once again…” (Beatles – “We Can Work It Out” Lyrics |www.metrolyrics.com)

Sisters Day is also celebrated on the first Sunday of August. This one applies to most of us, being or having a sister. In fact, around 80-90% of us has at least one birth sibling. I am the eldest of four children, having two sisters and a brother. With this special Sisters Day, I will be paying tribute to my sisters Cherry and Edna. They have been with me through my ups and downs, showing me incredible understanding, love, support — and forgiveness when needed. For these and many other reasons known only to sisters, I would like to express my gratitude to them. However, sisterhood goes beyond being related by blood. There are sororities in schools where “sisses” build lifelong friendships. There are friends who refer to each other as sisters — such is the closeness of their relationship. We also have our sisters-in-law who can be very compassionate and present when we need them. There are all sorts of sisterly bonds.
Let’s mention a couple of films about sisters and friendship. First of all, who among us hasn’t seen Disney’s 2013 film, “Frozen?” Your children certainly loved them, right? Their new idols are sisters Elsa and Anna, and they want to wear their own tiaras. Even if it’s only based on a fairy tale, “Frozen” still has something to say about the power of love between sisters. When Anna, seeing that the villain Hans is about to kill Elsa, blocks the attack and turns to ice, the rest of the ice thaws later on because Anna’s decision to sacrifice herself constitutes an “act of true love.” This act of love is enough to lift a curse, restore a kingdom, and allow us the closure of a happy ending, as usual.

A 2005 film, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” exemplifies the friendship among four young women. Per imdb.com, “Four best girlfriends hatch a plan to stay connected with one another as their lives start off in different directions: they pass around a pair of secondhand jeans that fits each of their bodies perfectly.” They’re best friends from Bethesda, Maryland who are all going to different places for the summer: Lena (Alexis Bledel) is going to Greece, Carmen (America Ferrera) is going to visit her father in South Carolina, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is staying home, and Bridget (Blake Lively) is going to soccer camp in Baja California, Mexico. So what’s with the pair of jeans that they bought and called the “Traveling Pants?” To me it’s a symbol of the magic of their friendship: the pants apparently fit all four of them despite their differing sizes. Despite the internal changes and realizations they each go through during the summer, the one constant is that pair of pants that they pass around among each other, one-size-fits-all, like the inclusive, non-judgmental quality of their four-way friendship.

Therefore, let’s now talk about the third special day we are celebrating on the first Sunday of August this year: Friendship Day. It’s a great day to get in touch with your friends: old, current, and new. With your old friends, some of whom may already be living far away from you, why don’t you surprise them with a phone call, email, or card/e-card? To catch up with your current friends, be sure to invite them to lunch or an interesting activity before the day is through. While you’re at it, why don’t you look around for opportunities to gain a new friend or two? You get extra points if you make a new friend on August 2, 2015 itself, which is this year’s first Sunday of August – when we get to celebrate a trifecta of special days: International Forgiveness Day, Sisters Day, and Friendship Day. Please make merry responsibly.


“A historic Pride and Fourth of July 2015” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (July 1-7, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of July 1-7, 2015

A historic Pride and Fourth of July 2015

What distinguishes this year’s Pride celebration in the USA from previous ones? Well, this year there is actually something concrete to celebrate: the 5-4 decision of the US Supreme Court declaring that states can no longer ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying. For the LGBT community in their decades-long fight for equal rights without exception, This. Is. Huge.

This year marks the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York which happened on June 28, 1969, in which the gay community spontaneously erupted in violence in response to an early morning police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay enclave in Greenwich Village. In other words, “Stonewall was a riot” – but definitely not the fun kind. For so long, being homosexual was a crime. But I believe that we have come a long way since then.

The same-sex marriage battle began in the early 1990s. The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the state must show a compelling interest in prohibiting same-sex marriage. By Sept. 21, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became a federal law, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. On the heels of this Act is Proposition 22 in California, approved by a 61 percent majority of voters on March 7, 2000, which says that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid. In defiance of state law, then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples at City Hall beginning Feb. 12, 2004. This activity was short-lived, since the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop marrying gay couples on March 11 of that same year. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage, followed down the years by Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), and so on down the line, like dominoes on fire!

A federal judge ruled that DOMA, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was unconstitutional on July 8, 2010. By June 25, 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down part of the DOMA of 1996 that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples. The decision did not guarantee a right to same-sex marriage, but allowed couples in states that allow same-sex marriage to receive the same federal benefits as man-woman couples. Then on June 26, 2015, here we are, here we are! In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court rules that the US Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states!

So where were you on that historic date, and how did you feel? My gay friend CI told me that she was at home and found out through the breaking news on TV. Her gay friend, L, found out about it via Instagram. My straight friend DL said that he learned of the news when someone PM’d him on Facebook. CI and L thought it was fabulous news and were actually dressed to the nines when they went with me to San Francisco Pride to wave our rainbow flags and radiate our authentic selves. We had so much fun on the sidelines of the parade! DL, being more conservative, said that it sure was a triumph for human rights, but that in the eyes of God, a valid union is only between a man and a woman. No, DL was not on the SF Pride parade with us, of course – but we respect his point of view. Live and let live. Love and let love win the day.

Hot on the high heels of Pride comes USA’s 239th Independence Day on the Fourth of July. Traditionally, we celebrate this occasion with fireworks, picnics, family gatherings, patriotic parades, and of course, shop-till-you-drop binges. My Mom remembers that she and my youngest sister arrived in the US on the eve of the Fourth of July, 1994. The following day, they joined their very first picnic with family and friends. My Mom remembers being awed by the abundance of material goods in America and the generosity of people. She rejoiced at the wide open spaces and the different beauties of the earth. There were places where she felt truly one with nature.

With this latest victory upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry across the United States of America, then this year’s Independence Day celebration will truly be all the more significant. The Declaration of Independence, long ago drafted to declare freedom from the rule of Great Britain, attains a new meaning in relation to the Supreme Court ruling: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

I know same-sex couples who are married and living “happily ever after” lives just as in a fairy tale. Personally, I have known A and K since 2008 but they have been together since 1991. They’re both experts in the cultural field. I met them when I joined the cast and crew of Eve Ensler’s “The V Monologues” produced by the Filipina Women’s Network. Also in 2008, I met T, who has two children with her partner. She recently resigned from her job to fully take care of their two very young kids. In the meantime, I have known a doctor-friend who got married to his lawyer-partner last year. My doctor-friend has been voted one of the best SF Bay Area doctors in his field of specialization. These couples and more are all very committed to the improvement of society. They are all productive, contributing positive forces in our environment.
On the Fourth of July, when we watch the fireworks blazing colorful trails across the sky, we are reminded of the rainbow trails of the LBGT movement, giving the meaning of freedom in another dimension. O, di ba lalong masaya?

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com