Doing the Universe of Good

A few months ago I watched with amusement at the resulting celebrations rising from the announcement that the Philippines had yet again won Miss Universe.  Putting my book down for a few moments – a struggle such as that was – I joined the party because it meant a chance of free food!

A couple of things of late have reminded me about Catriona Gray, firstly Ren’s post on Filipino films, especially Buy Bust which is set in Tondo, and secondly, the below music video, again set in Tondo, where Miss U does a lot of charity work.  It gives an insight into one of the areas so often glossed over when people talk about the Philippines.

The last question posed on finals night was, What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how will you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?  Her answer:

I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very… it’s poor and it’s very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it; to look in the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful. And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this I think if I could also teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children will have a smile on their faces.

Advertisements

A Writing Retreat

This weekend saw us go on an adventure to one of our favourite places, Bag of Beans, in Tagaytay.  Battling the usual heat, and a cold – which rendered my voice incapable of anything above a croak – it was a relief to clear away the cobwebs and stretch the legs.

The view is always going to be the major pull, inspiring as it is, and has the added bonus of effortlessly making my photography skills seem like talent, despite being a bit ropey in reality. Relaxing here is always the perfect pay off after yet another crazy week.

Despite the beautiful and distracting vista, there was also plenty of reading and writing successfully done, accompanied by a pleasant, cool breeze. An iced mocha at my elbow further stimulated the brain cells into action.

Breakfast was an absolutely treat as well. Sweet and savoury combined to complete my satisfaction, and a creative day was off to a great start.

An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!

Recently Crissy and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and before I made my way to Manila on the afternoon of the 28th Jan, a bunch of 99 red roses were duly delivered to the Philippine Airlines offices, to make a statement.

Travelling to Manila is always an ordeal, standing for an indeterminate amount of time under the beating midday sun, with little to no shade.  This time made more interesting by the two pickpockets, who assumed that I had no idea what they were doing.  I had to suppress a snigger every time they checked a box off of my mental checklist of Robber Form; shuffle surreptitiously near target, separate, distract, engage in conversation to show no threat, etc.

Leaving these two inept thieves behind, I got on a van which took the scenic route to Mall of Asia.  The highlight of the journey being when the driver attempted to thread our van through the eye of a needle, that being a concrete wall and speeding articulated lorry, it was pretty fun actually!

Its been a great year, reflecting on the adventures as I made my way around MOA, I thought of the build up to the ceremony a year to the day, then the wedding itself and the people who attended. The adventures had since.  I also had time to read a bit of book as well.

Heading to posh casino Solaire (chosen partly because it has a free bus to and from Mall of Asia, we are by nature frugal people) later that day, we get to our buffet restaurant early and took advantage of the photo ops whilst it was quiet. Continue reading “An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!”

Ironweed – William Kennedy

Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger full-time drunk, has hit bottom.  Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike; he ran away after accidentally – and fatally – dropping his infant son.  Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.

Having never heard of this melancholy tale before, it now seems like a bit of a travesty on my part to have gone so long without doing so.  Although it’s the third book in the Albany Cycle, it can be read as a stand alone (as I read it), and will probably be followed by a wish to read the rest.

A (pleasing) mention of the infamous H.G. Wells radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds sets the time of the novel in late 1938,  a few years before America would enter the soon to start World War II.  A time when opportunity would present itself in an unprecedented scale, the irony of which will not be lost on the reader.

Likeable Francis, a drifter returning home, is the central focus of a story that encapsulates, poverty, the failure of the American dream, guilt and the consequences of his actions.  Francis undergoes an unlayering of personality – almost archaeologically so – throughout the book,  as circumstance teases out his recollected memories of both his high and low points. Continue reading “Ironweed – William Kennedy”

Sand, Sea, Mountains, and My Poor Toenail

The last time I caught you all up on my adventures was back in August and since then a good few things have happened, including losing a lot of photos so what remains is below.

We took a cruise around Manila Bay, one Friday evening. Whilst we headed up the bay, we ate a tasty rice based meal and were treated to an aural accompaniment by a musical duo.  This ranged from ballads to the Spice Girls, because that is what happens if you ask for requests from tone-deaf people with no sense of atmosphere.

As we made our way back down the bay, the sun had finally set and all the lights started to flicker on, which made Manila look surprisingly beautiful.  Although I do hold to the opinion that it is a beautiful city, it just depends on how tenuous about the word beautiful, or romantic you are about it.  We had prime seats for the regular Friday night firework show, which was another bonus.

It was great to see the city from another angle, one less seething with people, and free from the traffic and the noise.  Watching the planes coming into land every couple of minutes, encouraged me to muse on the people arriving. They would soon enter the fray, and fight through the chaos to wherever they are going.  I hoped they were prepared.

In November, it was All Souls Day which is a bit like Mexico’s Day of the Dead but with less make up.  We went to the cemetery, with its party atmosphere –  complete with fantastic barbecue smells and balloons for sale – and had a big family picnic, before planning an impromptu trip to the beach the next day.

It was beautifully and sunny, with good food and plenty of swimming.  I spent a few hours floating on my back, watching the occasional plane fly over thousands of feet above, before the odd rogue wave would wake me from my musings.  It wasn’t a busy beach and as the sun set, there were some gorgeous photos ops to be had. Continue reading “Sand, Sea, Mountains, and My Poor Toenail”

An Eye for a Good Book

In case I didn’t already know that I had a keeper – and I do, just to be clear – every so often Crissy will gift me a book she has picked up before coming home from work.  I am impressed at her taste in book choices, from the known classics like Don Quixote, to the lesser so, in Ironweed, which I am currently enjoying at the moment.

On another note, I don’t know if anybody else has been having this problem but my recent two post review of A Suitable Boy (which went up earlier this week) was randomly given the posting date from the week before so I am unsure if notifications about it went out, or if it even appeared on the WP radar.  Lack of visits would suggest that it hasn’t shown up on the reader, or reached many regular readers.

The only way I can find to correct the date is by, somewhat bizarrely editing the ‘publish immediately’ date.  That still shows as today’s date but for some reason registers as the 17th January when published.  Shameless plug for my own posts complete, have a pleasant day.

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)

This is a remarkable book, and big, so big in fact, that I am taking up a second post for all my remaining remarks. Starting with a quote that I really love:

“She paused by the science shelves, not because she understood much science, but, rather because she did not. Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her – the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world.”

There are a whole slew of characters to meet in A Suitable Boy, yet I didn’t feel confused with them at any point.  Partly this is due to my reading a little each day, retaining the thread of who is who, but the four family trees provided, and side characters who are easily associated with certain characters or places helped, and I was rarely troubled placing a character  who was returning after 200 pages in the wilderness.

Seth is a big fan of poetry and his playful rhyming couplets are seen throughout, most noticably describing each chapter, and then through the incessant creations of the Chatterji family.  There are also myriad references to various Indian mythological works which encourages a deeper reading into Indian mythology.  Sprinkled throughout are bits of the local language which was a nice touch, especially when I started to recognise what was being referred to, or which familial names were used to denote relationships.

The plot is unhurried and slowly expands to include all of life and society, it really allows the world to be shown in richness and depth.  Whether the reader thinks this much detail is relevant or not, it is certainly worth the exploration and gives the book a much more authentic feel.

There is plenty of conflict, whether it be class, religious and political divides, or generational.  Everybody has a prejudice of some sort, whether conscious of it or not.  Seth explores all sides of these, offering plenty of insight which has the capacity to bring out both sympathy or revulsion at various times. Continue reading “A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)”