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24 December 2020

The night before Christmas

LIKE ANY other social activity this year, Christmas meant new ways of connecting and celebrating. Our Zoom gathering last night was gripping for a big reason: this was the first time we all gathered together on Christmas since the mid-1990s. It might also have been the least expensive gathering ever! My nephews and nieces showed up to surprise us; two of them even sang and played the guitar. We exchanged our usual jokes that never got stale. It was a day (or night in my case) that was incredibly merry and bright.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The Night Before Christmas, 2006
The Night Before Christmas, 2007
The Night Before Christmas, 2008
The Day Before Christmas, 2009

17 December 2020

Happy birthday, Mr. Beethoven!

LUWIG VAN Beethoven was born on or around this day 250 years ago in Bonn. As we end the year, we remember the Ode to Joy—a paean to the humanity's triumph against war and desperation—from his Ninth Symphony as a fitting deliverance from this ravaging year.

29 November 2020

Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

THIS MONTH, Bahá'ís around the world commemorate two Holy Days associated with ‘Abdu'l-Bahá: The Day of the Covenant (26 November) and The Day of His Ascension (28 November). On these two occasions, we remember and celebrate the presence of the oldest son of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith among us. In their 26 November 2018 message to the global Bahá’ís, the Universal House of Justice wrote:

In this season . . . every Bahá’í heart is stirred by remembrance of Him Who is the Mystery of God, the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s impregnable Covenant, the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the embodiment of every Bahá’í ideal, the Most Mighty Branch of God whereunder all can find shelter.

28 November 2020

1,000 YouTube subscribers!

MY YOUTUBE channel, Paul Ancheta, has just hit the 1,000-subscriber mark! I can't thank each one of them enough.

21 November 2020

FOCAL POINT : Wayne Roberts, "The Professor"

THE PROFESSOR starts off well: a dying upper-middle-class English professor decides to be nonconforming in the few months he realizes he has left in his life. Unfortunately, the movie's suspense dies ahead of its main character. What could have been an emotional roller coaster turns out to be a meandering train of many promising twists and turns, none of which leads anywhere.

15 November 2020

Honoring mothers : a birthday salute

THIS VIDEO, backed up by JJ Heller's "A Mother Like You", honors two of the finest mothers in the world: my sister Carla and sister-in-law Tara. Both were born one year apart many Novembers ago. Happy birthday, sisters.

07 November 2020

ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, "Prayer for America"

EARLIER TONIGHT, my siblings and I got together and offered a prayer for America. It is one of two that ʻAbdu'l-Bahá revealed a hundred years ago for this country, a nation so worthy of divine bestowals and mercy.

Hi Joe Bye Don

"KAMALA" IS Sanskrit for "lotus". May the new POTUS and "LOTUS" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue help bring in the fragrance of healing and unifying these disunited states of America.

31 October 2020

Honoring mothers : a family memorial

AS CATHOLICS commemorate saints and souls in this solemn weekend , I remember departed members of my family and honor their selflessness and nobility. They include the parents-in-law of my siblings: because of them, stronger love and blessedness exist in our family.

30 October 2020

FOCAL POINT : Seth Grahame-Smith, "The Last American Vampire"

FACT AND fiction collide in Seth Grahame-Smith's otherworldy novel, causing hilarious sparks of adventure and horrifying flashes of gore. The collision is delicious and so difficult to avoid. The Last American Vampire (along with Mr. Grahame-Smith's first book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) will entrance those who love Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. This is not at all for fans of vampire romance and other supernatural light fare.

26 September 2020

Moschino's marionettes in Milan

JUST WHEN the pandemic is changing everything we do, here's Moschino presenting a new opportunity: a more sophisticated use of couture and craftsmanship. At the ongoing Milan Fashion Week, the brand presented its Spring-Summer 2021 collection with no guests . . . and no models.

13 September 2020

FOCAL POINT : Narges Fani, "Dastam-Begir, 'Abdu'l-Bahá"

THIS IS the majestic "Dastam Begir, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Hold My Hand, 'Adbu'l-Bahá)" performed by Narges Nouhnejad Fani and the Bahá'i World Congress Choir at the Second Bahá'i World Congress in New York City in November 1992. The song was written by Nikki Manevi with lyrics based on a poem by Habib Mu'ayyad. It is an exquisite melding of eastern vocal music and western classical and choral traditions.

27 August 2020


MUSIC HAS always helped in blocking out work distractions. Working from home has one big perk: playing music the way you want it, without having to worry about distracting your officemates. Spotify is my music service preference: Pandora isn't available in India, and YouTube Music's dashboard is too clumsy to use on my gadgets. Back in the office days, I listened to Spotify through earphones. Now, at home, I have Spotify filling the room with its gloriousness through my sound system.

12 August 2020

It's a Biden-and-Harris show!

I GREW up in the Philippines saying "Hey Joe" to any American I'd see, and lived in India saying "Hi Kamala" to acquaintances. So it's such a welcome and hopeful treat to now say "Hello Joe and Kamala, it's so nice to have you both where you belong"!

06 August 2020

13 years on Twitter

DO YOU remember when you joined Twitter? I do—it's been 13 years, since 6 August 2007. I signed up after hearing an American speaker at a conference gush over this newly-launched app. She proclaimed its ability to keep you instantly updated on news due to its real-time messaging technology.

25 July 2020

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, "Sing!"

2020 marks 60 years since Barbra Streisand sang live for the first time. Since then, her stage performances in clubs, concerts, television shows, and fund-raisers have become unparalleled channels for showcasing her bounty of grace and warmth, her dedication to excellence, her passion for truth, and her gift of song.

04 July 2020

COVID-19 : Virtual family gathering

NINE OF my siblings and I gathered together tonight on Zoom. This is the first time we have all come together and reached out collectively to each other during the pandemic. It was initially challenging to decide on a time that would work for everyone with five different time zones. Breakast on Saturday in Toronto and Virginia was dinner in New Delhi and late night in Manila. But it eventually worked out.

16 June 2020

Turning 55

I TURNED 55 today, a milestone of sorts as I've just entered the middle of the quinquagenarian decade. But like anything else happening this year, this birthday has come and gone with bigger priorities in mind. There was no singing of birthday wishes, only receiving greetings with replies of "Are you safe?" or "Hope you're doing safely". There was no birthday cake, only the quickly-prepared lunch before the 1PM office meeting on Zoom.

15 May 2020

COVID-19 : Nature takes over

WITH ROADS and workplaces practically deserted, COVID-19 may have brought in a positive consequence: lower pollution levels and wildlife taking over human space. Smog has lifted in places like Los Angeles and New Delhi. The canals of Venice are sparkling, and swans are swimming. Around the world, animals are venturing out in places previously held by people.

10 May 2020

The calm after a storm

IT WAS another midsummer morning in Delhi, with temperature hovering at 38 degrees Celsius. I was expecting the heat to top yesterday's temperature, which touched the highest mark this season at 40.9 degrees Celsius. Suddenly, the skies turned dark, dusty winds howled, and rain threw its pellets. Then, just as suddenly, it all stopped. A massive dust storm just hit the city, and it left behind an eerie stillness.

FOCAL POINT : Jim Chappell, "Field Day"

FOLLOWING UP on my earlier post about Jim Chappell's Acadia, I must share another piece that has always stayed with me.  Mr. Chappell's Spotify playlist is on permanent playback during the lockdown, and topping it is the magnificent "Field Day" from 1990's Saturday's Rhapsody. No other song on Mr. Chappell's 1990s catalog exemplifies the breezy Chappell melodiousness better than this track.

09 May 2020

FOCAL POINT : Jim Chappell, "Acadia"

THE AMERICAN composer and pianist Jim Chappell is quite famous in the Philippines, where several of his albums received heavy airplay on smooth jazz radio stations in the late eighties and nineties. The poignant song "Gone", from his sophomore album Dusk, became a huge hit in Manila in the aftermath of Mount Pinatubo's cataclysmic eruption in 1991. Afterwards, the Chappell sensibility never left the country. He held a series of sold-out concerts in Manila in the summer of 1993, and released a contemporary jazz album with the quartet HearSay titled Manila Nights in 1994.

27 April 2020

COVID-19 : Stepping out of the office

THERE ISN'T much movement to do these days, so I stepped out of my office . . . into my living room. Watch for those three furry officemates.

23 April 2020

COVID-19 : Lockdown essentials #5

AT A corner of my study room—now my work-from-home office—is a second-hand console table holding a Keurig coffee machine given by my sister Kathleen three years ago.  To replicate the pantry in our Lenskart office, I've include a bone-china tea jug that I once found in the cellar of my brother's apartment building in Toronto.  Aluminum containers carry assorted tea sachets, while the table's drawers contain coffee packs and my daily medicines.

17 April 2020

COVID-19 : Lockdown Essentials #4

THE KITCHEN has been my sanctuary of calm since the lockdown began. This is the place where I can take the focus away from the all-consuming anxieties of the pandemic. I prepare and have my meals at 11:30AM to 1:00PM (lunch) and 7:30PM to 9:00PM (dinner), a routine that has kept me grounded.

16 April 2020

COVID-19 : A walk in the park

WEARING A mask, I stepped out of the house in Garden Estate to pick up grocery delivered at the main gate. This was the first time I ventured out during the lockdown, and the experience was astonishing. I saw the bluest sky I've ever seen in Delhi, and heard choruses of birds seeming to outdo each other's chirps. Spring flowers were in a blaze of morning glory. The sun, normally hot this time of the year, was unusually warm—the wind was in fact rather breezy.

06 April 2020

COVID-19 : Lockdown essentials #3

WHEN I lived in Israel nearly 20 years ago, the health services center always advised me to drink water as a preventive measure against general sickness. It did make sense, considering how Israel's dry weather could speed up the risk of dehydration. The Associated Press has reported that drinking water won't prevent contracting COVID-19. But there are ways that water can help in these perilous times. The body needs water to function, as it optimizes body processes and fortifies the immune system. Drinking water can also improve cognitive functions, allowing better judgement and wiser decision-making.

04 April 2020

COVID-19 : Lockdown essentials #2

WITH RESTAURANTS closed and kitchen helpers banned from entering our housing society, dining at home during the lockdown means self-reliance. This became a challenge to a man like me who's living alone and strenuously balancing work and domestic chores. As it turned out, reawakening my culinary skills has become rather uplifting and unwinding. It's a task I now look forward to twice a day (lunch and dinner).

It's also gratifying when you concoct a meal from whatever ingredients are available in the fridge and pantry. Plus, all those cravings are now literally in the palm of your hand, ready to carve the dish in the exact way that you want it. My favorite home dish has always been spaghetti, since it's easy to prepare and creates a welcome break from the heavier Filipino dishes eaten with rice. I'm now exploring so many possibilities with pasta—impossible to do before the lockdown as I was mostly in the office.

I've started planning meals for each day of the week. The lockdown is truly making me take charge of myself. That's a good thing.

02 April 2020

COVID-19 : Lockdown essentials #1

A HOT mug of Philippine cacao drink is a piece of bliss in times of uncertainty. To prepare:

  1. Boil one cup of milk.
  2. Add 2-3 cacao pellets. I use SaBroso, a pure cacao brand brought by my friend Conchita Velez during her India visit last February. Otherwise, use a one-inch block of dark baking chocolate.
  3. Whisk in the cacao or chocolate pellets until they liquefy into the milk.
  4. Turn the heat off as soon as the milk starts to rise.
  5. Add sugar, if you wish. (I don't.)
  6. Serve and indulge immediately.

01 April 2020

COVID-19 : Working from home

AS WE enter the fourth week of COVID-19's spread in India, Lenskart has taken the decisive call to support the larger cause of fighting the virus and to secure the well-being of its employees, partners, and customers. All our offices across India are now shut down. We are working from home to ensure that no operations are negatively impacted and the optical requirements of our customers are continously serviced.

The idea of working from home sounds delightful until you actually start working from home. I've quickly learned that it calls for solid self-discipline and full self-accountability. The familiarity of living rooms and bedrooms can tempt, and the hustle and bustle of domestic chores can distract. It's important to create a boundary between the space to work and the space to unwind.

The photo on the left is my makeshift but comfortable workstation. The glass coffee table in my library is now my desk. I never managed to bring home office stationery when we started the remote work arrangement, but I've kept what is needed to always keep the motivation running: a pot of air-purifying sansevieria, a water jug, a tea mug, and Barbra Streisand.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by COVID-19. Please stay safe.

24 March 2020

COVID-19 : Total lockdown

THE GOVERNMENT of India ordered a nationwide lockdown today. For the next 21 days, all social movements outside homes are banned across this subcontinent of 1.3 billion people. No one is allowed to step out of their homes. Travel and transport on land and air are frozen. There are already ten reported fatalities in India, with rates of infection expected to leap in the coming weeks. The fight against COVID-19 has now entered a severe, historic stage.

22 March 2020

COVID-19 : India begins its fight

THE GOVERNMENT of India declared a 14-hour "Janata Curfew" (people's curfew) today as it began to step up its fight against COVID-19. The number of infections in the country has now reached 500, and several offices have started requiring their staff to work from home. Today's curfew meant that nobody is allowed to leave home from 7AM to 9PM.

08 March 2020

FOCAL POINT : Matthew Vaughn, "Kingsman: The Secret Service"

ONE OF the joys of video-on-demand services is the immediate access to must-see movies that flew under the radar. Kingsman: The Secret Service has been on my shortlist since its release in 2015, but I never managed to view it. Netflix finally gave me that opportunity this weekend.

27 February 2020

A college reunion in India

WE FIRST met in October 1984 as interior design students at the University of the Philippines. Through the next three years, we assisted each other with our class assignments, projects, and semestral theses. After college, we had each other's back through the struggles and triumphs of building careers and families. Last weekend, we were old friends getting together again, reminiscing on those many years of friendship.

26 February 2020

40 years of being a Barbra Streisand fan

FORTY YEARS ago today, I fell in love with Barbra Streisand. I was watching the live telecast of the 1980 Grammy Awards, and suddenly I beheld an unannounced performance of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Neil Diamond and her. It was the most romantic pairing of voices I had ever heard. It was pure. It was electric.

09 February 2020

FOCAL POINT : Brian De Palma, "Mission to Mars"

I MISSED watching Mission to Mars during its theatrical run in 2000. After finally seeing it on Netflix tonight, I was disappointed. Nothing is remarkable except for the fact that Brian De Palma allowed himself to aggrandize a very lame plot. It gets worse with an imperiously dated and soggy soundtrack and a predictable and soggy ending.

I should have kept missing it.

02 January 2020

As the 2020s roll in

THE 2010s were an incredible decade for technology. As we welcome the 2020s, we look forward to how technology will continue to impact our communities and industries in positive ways. Speaking of technology, I can't believe it's been 20 years since the Y2K bug!

This year also marks the 60th year of Barbra Streisand in the entertainment industry. The passing decade was an era of Ms. Streisand giving back—to her fans and to the benificiaries of her many philantrophic contributions and advocacies. Here's a video of the decade's highlights.

Happy new year and new decade, everyone!