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28 December 2010

Five years in India

FIVE YEARS ago today, I arrived in India to work with a startup hypermarket retailer. As I had never lived here before, the first three months were exploratory but greatly intolerable. Chaotic infrastructure, inefficiency of public services, and often fetid climate made me want to seek less confining places to live outside India. It didn’t help that there were no Filipinos I knew in Mumbai, where I first stayed (except for high school batch mate Gil Amilbangsa in Pune, and he had to leave a few months later). Worst, the Baha’i center was 20 miles by car from where I lived.

12 December 2010

Filipino Christmas in Kolkata

THE FILIPINOS of Kolkata got together today at Roger and Lori Calvo's warm, spacious residence in south Kolkata to celebrate Christmas togetherness.  As expected, there’s the exchange of gifts and tons of food.  The first to go was sisig, a much-beloved Filipino delicacy consisting of chopped pig head—sounds detestable but truly delectable.  I packed two full plates of leftover pansit (Filipino-styled rice noodles) and pork afritada for dinner back home.

24 October 2010

TRAVEL TALES : High school reunion in Toronto

GEORGE DEL Rosario and Lois Kimwell-Mijares organized a last-minute dinner gathering of high school batch mates in Toronto, and when I asked for it to be postponed due to tangled schedules, Lois didn’t seem to be too sure about reorganizing it. On hindsight, I don’t blame her: it’s not easy for those living outside central Toronto to travel downtown. While public transportation is accessible, it gets confusing if you’re not familiar with the city streets and the subway stops. If you do have a car, there are car-parking issues and confusing one-way street directions. Most of all, it’s always a challenge to organize last-minute gatherings of friends living all over a big city.

Up and down Toronto

FIRST, THERE'S that lake next to Toronto. Viewed from the 23rd floor of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel where I checked in during my last week in Toronto, Lake Ontario looks like a sea, not a lake. It’s vast. It’s dotted with yachts and ferryboats. It’s blue. Lakes are supposed to be green, but this one’s blue. I’m told it’s not even the largest of Toronto’s bodies of water. Lakes in the Philippines suddenly look like ponds.

Well hello, Toronto!

I FINALLY landed on North America, by way of Toronto. Arriving on a sunny Friday afternoon, I immediately saw the familiar pleasantness and graciousness that endeared me to the Canadians whom I worked with in Israel many years ago. Even their sense of autumn fashion was mannered: with navys, grays, and blacks around me, I stood out like a sore thumb with my red sneakers and denim jacket.

18 October 2010

Jet Airways bounces

JET AIRWAYS, India’s second largest airline, has always been consistent with its excellent quality of service in both domestic and international sectors. This is why I had to praise then scold the airline teams last week, when I flew from New Delhi to Toronto.

SIGHTED SITE : IGIA Terminal 3, New Delhi

TERMINAL 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) comes across as “world-class”: soaring industrial look, superb check-in procedures, convenient directional signs (for an airport this big). And then the expansive pre-departure area opens up, revealing an endless spread of carpeting. I shiver. In horror.

31 August 2010

August wanderlust

AMIDST THE terrifying scene wrought by a Filipino hostage taker and the electrifying win brought by a Filipina Miss Universe charmer, the passing month has marked special milestones for me. It was in August that I began living the itinerant life in three cities across Asia: Haifa ten years ago, Dubai five years ago, and Kolkata three years ago.

01 August 2010


WHEN DEREK Sivers, founder of independent music store CD Baby, emailed me today about his new projects for independent musicians, he stated that he has sold CD Baby.  This surprised me, as I didn’t know that (1) he owned CD Baby, and (2) the company has been sold.  But more compellingly, he added a link to his Website that explains why he sold the company.

28 June 2010

FOCAL POINT : The Voices of Bahá in India

Choir and venues in Mumbai and New Delhi
Image source: Paul Ancheta

ONE HUNDRED twenty Bahá’í singers from twenty-five countries flew into India this month and sang in chorus on stage. The result: an experience that dazzled with the expressive majesty of the divine word, the ethnic sophistication of Ravi Shankar’s melody, and the effervescent power of the choral voice.

19 June 2010

Turning 45

FOR 45 years, I've been celebrating my birthday on 16 June with my eldest sister, Kathleen.  Mama had this story: I wasn't due that day, so my mother--very heavy with me, her seventh-- went to the market along with our nanny Felisa to buy groceries for Ate Kathleen's 8th birthday that day.  While shopping, Mama realized I was due, so she proceeded to the San Pablo City Hospital ALONE and instructed Felisa to call Papa in the office with news of my delivery. Six babies before me must have made it easier for Mama to bear me.  She brought me to this world after 2PM.  I must have been screaming when I came into the world, as "quiet" has never been used to describe me as a person, alas.

17 April 2010

FOCAL POINT : Martha Argerich, “Rachmaninov : Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30”

"CONSIDER HOW much marvelous notes . . . influence the spirits! A wonderful song giveth wings to the spirit and filleth the heart with exaltation . . ."

These words from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings describe Martha Argerich's 1982 performance of Rachmaninov's monumental Third Piano Concerto, now immortalized on YouTube. On the first movement captured on the video above, Ms. Argerich brings marvelously disparate notes together in ferocious harmony.  At first, she exchanges quiet melodies with conductor Riccardo Chailly, a man of emotion himself (watch his expressions during the first theme, from 02:43 onwards). Then, from out of the blue, she leaps and soars into what seem to be endless climactic stanzas, throwing fire and thunder all around her. It’s unfortunate that the video does not reveal much of Ms. Argerich’s hands as she chops the ivory keys through this rampage.

And then, just as suddenly, she dives back to a gentle shimmer, closing the movement. Gosh. What an act.

09 March 2010

Turning diva

Snickers "Road Trip"TV commercial
Link reference:

SNICKERS® HAS unveiled a cute TV commercial that shows the prima-donna side of men. Starring real-life divas Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli, the commercial pokes fun at what makes a man turn womanly. Or a woman turn manly. Gender exclusivities are truly blurring lately in Hollywood!

The time has come

Kathryn Bigelow and Barbra Streisand at the Oscars

"WELL, THE time has come," declared Barbra Streisand after reading the name of Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director at the 82nd Academy Awards last Sunday evening.  Ms. Bigelow thus became the first woman to take that prize. History had been made.

14 January 2010

Clash of the Titans

GOOGLE HAS announced a possibility of ending operations in China after yesterday’s disclosure of alleged China-borne cyber attacks on Gmail accounts.  Finally, a giant taking on another giant, each standing on its own moral grounds.  It will be an interesting watch ahead. I just hope the ranks of the unemployed won’t swell.

Since everything now seems to be manufactured in China, its 300 million Internet users shouldn’t despair: they can always end up using a “Made in China” copycat of Google!

Ni hao, Googao.

09 January 2010

Human thunderstorm

PERPETUUM JAZZILE, a choral group from Slovenia, performs a rendition of . . . an African thunderstorm. It looks easy (and extraordinary!) on video, but having performed in a choir before, I can tell you that this takes a lot of difficult, endless practice to get the coordinated sounds right.

This is excellence in human achievement.  Next, I’d like to hear them do a Mediterranean volcanic eruption and a Mumbai traffic scene.  (Those two actually sound the same.)

Thanks, Norelyn, for sharing the video!

07 January 2010

What goes around, comes around

RAHUL, a friend of mine, tells me that he has lost his phone in a public bus.

Somewhere else, a grocer finds a similar phone in his shop.  Finding it useless, he decides to sell it at a nearby second-hand store.

The shopkeeper turns out to be Rahul’s landlord.  He recognizes the phone and immediately contacts Rahul. 

Rahul rushes to the second-hand store with the original purchase receipt. By matching IMEI information on both the phone and the receipt, the ownership of the phone is proven.

Rahul then realizes that he has actually misplaced his phone in the grocery store, and not in the bus.  The grocer is just too pleased to see the phone reunite with my friend.

A true story in a place called Kolkata, the original center of the Indian film industry.

06 January 2010

FOCAL POINT : Leyla & Ryan Haidarian,
“Beyond King of the Mountain”

Beyond King of the Mountain from Doubletake TV on Vimeo.

DEMOCRACY, FOR all its adherence to the principles of equality and freedom, has repeatedly shown how it leads to such destructive forces as economic inefficiency, short-termism, and “tyranny of the majority".

But do we have a better choice than this form of government?  Can a genuine “by the people for the people” system truly exist in this world, one that is driven by gentleness and justice for everyone?

Filmmakers Leyla & Ryan Haidarian think so. In the new documentary Beyond King of the Mountain, they explore alternative assumptions to democratic rule, begging the question: Can we conceive of democracy that is win/win and non-adversarial?

Watch it at

And do tell me what you think.

03 January 2010

Idiotic credits

HERE IN India, author Chetan Bhagat and the makers of the holiday blockbuster movie 3 Idiots are slugging it out noisily over Mr. Bhagat’s accusation that the film makers did not give him due credit for the story.  The movie is based on the Mr. Bhagat’s debut novel Five Point Someone, but he claims that the movie gives bigger credits to another person.  The film makers have denied this, even posting up a copy of the studio’s contract with Mr. Bhagat on their Web site to prove that they’ve done their fair end of the bargain.

01 January 2010

Three bounties

TODAY, I look back at three reasons why the 2000s, for all their triumphs and turmoil, are the most spirited years of my life.

1. Lighting up the terraces

Colleagues in Israel

In 2000, I was invited to serve at the Audio-Visual Department of the Bahá’í World Centre, seated on the terraces of Mount Carmel in Israel. The ensuing four years at the headquarters of the Bahá’í Faith remain most spiritually and morally transforming ones. It was also during this time that I began to assimilate new technologies in media. Hello, LiveJournal. Hello,

2. Linking up the past

Batch mates from high school and college

Early in 2005, batch mates from high school and college got together with unprecedented frequency. I hadn't seen most of my high school friends in 23 years, but the anxious moments quickly turned to lasting hours. Childhood and teenage familiarities, after all, never disappear. As Facebook would reaffirm years later, they buttress the links between past and future.

3. Lining up the windows

Colleagues in India

And by windows I mean show windows in India, where I've been trying to inspire (and get inspired by) others in visual merchandising since 2005. This is also the land of creative individuals whose first and lasting idea of "color" came to them as infants--from seeing the sarees that their mothers wore! For a visual merchandiser, it doesn't get any better than this.

As the 2010s roll in

AND SO the first 10 years of the new millennium have drawn to a close.  It's been a sensational ride, starting with the Y2K scare, treading on 9/11 and the threat of climate change, and ending with the financial meltdown.  The decade has shown the world changing in ways that we've never seen before, at least not by my generation.