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Her first solo exhibition was in 2019. That early,her fascination with empowered women spoke through her symbolic “Maria Clarasexpressed as modern Filipinas. Through the years, this theme almost always found expression in many of her art works. Somehow evolving, but the message remains and its meaning more clearly professed and manifested. Added in are the iconic abanicos (fans) and the kalachuchi flowers.

A few taking residence in her temporary art studio.
In Her Studio

Mona Clara. I remember this as the title of her first painting of a Modern Filipina. Mysterious just like Mona Lisa. “Confused” just like Maria Clara. Maria Clara in today’s language has come to mean either the country’s costume, or describe the traditional, shy, demure, noble and virginal Filipina. It is also one of the main characters in the book “Noli Me Tangere” where she is said to symbolise the state and sad plight of the motherland, our Philippines.

In this artist’s mind, her character MONA CLARA combines the qualities of mystery, tradition, confusion and some traces of humor. Perhaps one can even detect a subversive element. Through the years, the series depicted the Modern Filipina in today’s culture in a very satirical way. The approach and treatment leave the viewer to draw his/her own interpretation. Without question, the artist wittingly invites the viewer to discern a serious message.

LEÓN GALLERY
Work In Progress

This 6th solo exhibition is titled “Redefinition”, which explores, celebrates and challenges what it means to be a Modern Filipina. Using the Filipino terno as a visual device, it is a challenge to the standards set by Maria Clara — by Filipinas themselves, through the brushstrokes of Filipina artist Anna Bautista.

Emblematic of the history of Maria Clara, the Philippine terno has long stood for tradition. These were what a woman was to wear but more than that, what a Filipino woman had to be. It is a living time capsule of the culture,art, fashion, government systems, politics and societal norms that thrived in old Philippine society. Anna believes the Philippine Terno has evolved alongside Filipinas — partly in how it looks, but mainly in what it stands for.

Anna Bay in Port Stephens


The weather forecast was gloomy but we were dead set to spend our weekend with the boys in Anna Bay. The preceding week in Kiama was an all girls (errr ladies) bonding adventure which included a visit to our favorite Benedictine Abbey in nearby Jamberoo. So for this weekend, we were hoping to join the boys on some thrilling adventures. Anna Bay belongs to the Port Stephens area in the Hunter Valley region and is one major entry point to the beach and sand dunes of Birubi Point. Here, there’s an assortment of things to do. Whale-watching, fishing, surfing may sound exciting but many find more thrills with the camel and horse rides along the shore, sand boarding and 4 wheel-drives across the sand dunes.

We weren’t in luck with the thrilling rides. But we sure got extremely lucky spotting pods of whales. The downpour was put on hold to allow us some time at the Gangan Lookout, the beach and sand dunes at Birubi Point and lovely walks by the shore just right behind our crib here in Anna Bay. We could have waited for sunset (before 5pm!) but it grew cold and the looming downpour dampened our spirits. The waters were so calm and so soothing to frayed nerves. Many residents and guests like us spilled out of the apartment buildings to idle away the hours at the beach, playing with their dogs or even letting their toddlers play around the huge “sandbox”.

Back in Kiama, I missed the pods of whales. I saw more than enough here in Birubi point. The beach behind our serviced apartment here is another whale-spotting area but after putting on a show for us in Birubi, these aquatic mammals must have thought we’ve seen enough. Evenings here are so pleasant, if not wonderful. The waves crashing to shore lull you to sleep and early morns are marked by visits of different birds perched on your balcony. Imagine having your morning coffee while these birds chirp in chorus and while watching dogs frolic by the beach. Happiness!

Our Crib

My Vivid Sydney 2022


Finally, I found the chance to experience my Vivid Sydney after countless visits to Sydney. Running till June 18, this festival is truly a must-see. The Opera House looks majestic on any ordinary day, but its splendour is all the more amplified with all the lighting and well-curated designs. Viewed up close by the steps, or from across the harbour, one can only gasp appreciating its beauty.

The festival in the Circular Quay area is not limited to the Sydney Opera House. That iconic bridge looks real grand too, along with the buildings lining the quay. A real standout is the Customs House which has quite a story to tell.

The only drawback is the low temps. I’ve always experienced mild winters here but certainly NOT this time. The wind factor adds to the chill so you can imagine how briskly we walked from Darling Harbor through Barangaroo towards Circular Quay. All spots by the water edge so yeah, cold. Really cold. And windy. When the Hare Krishna band paraded through the crowds, dancing to a beat and with the slightest clothing, I can only sigh with awe over their high tolerance for the cold.

We managed to check out only a few, but the more significant displays of this Festival of Lights, music and creative ideas. But for those who are eager to cover the entire spectacle, have a good walk around 11 Sydney CBD locations: Circular Quay, Sydney CBD, The Rocks, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Darling Square, Darling Quarter, The Goods Line, Central Station, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo. Not sure if there’d be more fireworks after the grand festival opening on May 27, which I missed. But hey, this Sydney event shouldn’t be missed!


This Fish Market smelt soooo good. I was adamant to put oysters on the bed of my tongue as soon as I landed in Sydney and those cravings just had to be satisfied. I didn’t expect there were so many oyster choices! Good thing our food guru friend’s instructions were simple enough. Get the smallest oysters. Have the Balmain Bugs cooked with Singapore Chili. Then throw in a piece of lobster, calamari, grilled salmon and octopus on skewers, and some sashimi and Kani salad to start with.

Frankly, I couldn’t tell rock oysters from Coffin Bay oysters (yeah, what a name for a bay that yields really good oysters). Nor whether they were sourced from Sydney or Merimbula. I can only tell the Pacific Oysters are the largest, yet nowhere as large as those served to us in San Francisco, California. Enjoyed these appetizers way too much, along with the freshest tuna, salmon, scallops and other fish sashimi. I could have stopped there and gone home real happy but those bugs are still a-cooking! And the salmon and octopus a-grilling!

Balmain Bugs in Singapore Chili
Grilled Salmon and Octopus with Lobster Mornay

Heaven landed in Nicholas Seafood Bar in Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont. Next to our table is a band of athletic men feasting on scampi and bottles of wine. They were happy to down their alcoholic delights and the scampi was just an excuse to keep their stomach linings warm and not empty. In fact, they hardly touched them as they got busy with their spirits. Not so with us 3 Oriental ladies who feasted on all these lovely seafood finds like there’s no tomorrow.

An hour and a half passed and we were bursting at the seams. Even before we capped our lunch with a cup of our favourite brew, I was already planning on setting this gastronomic treat as a Sydney tradition. Unforgettable. Each morsel a culinary delight. All that for 3 ladies with discerning tastes. Please don’t judge us 🙄


It started out as a heritage house tour and simple get-together of long time friends, then as bienvenida for visiting family members, and finally as a pseudo wedding reception for a young couple whose most significant ceremony we all missed because of the pandemic. There were 18 adults and 2 toddlers meeting for the first time who hardly warmed up and interacted with each other. Topics covered a broad range and the long table divided between the senior and younger members of the family. All’s well.

Palacio de Memoria

We nearly went overboard with the pseudo wedding reception. A bridal bouquet, a flower girl’s flower basket, the ring bearer’s pillow, the wedding cake. All in good fun. That happens when we all felt deprived missing a young couple’s wedding. The sprawling garden provided a beautiful backdrop for our group picture as well as bridal bouquet toss up between a spinster and a widow! The little girls from the past have all grown up, some with their adult children and toddlers. And the more senior members have done away with the dyes, proudly bearing their greying hair. The laughter across the long table sounded just as loud and crisp, the jokes nearly the same, and the banter seemingly endless but fun.

All In The Family
The Long Table

Here’s one unforgettable get together of family and friends. Never mind that the museum tour was cancelled and the bar housed inside one of the airplanes (spotted the 3 aircraft collections parked in the lawn) were closed. We enjoyed the antipasti and the main entrée as well as the refreshing beverages and vanilla-flavoured wedding cake. The pre-ordered al fresco lunch was seamlessly served and there was time enough to loiter around the gardens. For sure, I’d be back for the guided tour and the date at the bar. Por supuesto!

The Antipasti and the Wedding Cake
A Choice of Lamb, Beef, Salmon or Pasta

Palacio de Memoria is now an events and auction venue consisting of a historic mansion restored to its pre-war glory. Abandoned for 2 decades and now owned by the Lhuilliers to house their antique collections including the 3 aircraft, one of which has since been converted into a bar. One can just imagine how this heritage mansion cut a majestic vista right along the wide Roxas Boulevard just across the Manila Bay before parts of the Bay were reclaimed. I bet many parties were held in its sprawling lawn while the breeze gusts in from Manila Bay. At the time we visited, tents were being set up in the front lawn for what looked like a wedding event. I can also imagine what great parties one can host here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or just about any momentous occasion. And there’s La Loggia Restaurant housed in a separate al fresco structure right beside the Mansion to provide the Italian food and refreshments. I heard one can even arrange picnics under one of the trees or just outside the airplanes with a picnic basket packed by La Loggia. Swell!


The last 2 years were marked by non-activity and a much-limited social life. My last trip was just a few weeks before the lockdown and meet-ups with family and friends were restricted to zoom meetings and Viber chats. Finally, this.

Boracay

Flying into this island south of Manila was a thrill by itself. After all, it’s been 2 years since my last flight. Travel today involved many health protocols, but seeing this slice of Shangrila is worth all the “trouble”. The hotel was fully booked and it’s good that people are spending their holidays and traveling again. Overcast skies and intermittent rain didn’t deflate our excitement. In the four days we were in the island, we had 2 days of sun. Not bad.

Sunset Watch

Unlike our previous trips, this one tops the list in the leisure and R&R department. Most activities centered around the beach and the hotel pool. We even managed to put to good use the excellent hotel facilities for kids such as the entertainment center, fish feeding ponds and playground. There were shuttles to take us to the more crowded and busier boat stations and Resto/shopping spots, but the hotel has been our little corner of paradise we truly enjoyed staying in. A perfect way to enjoy this break from our pandemic confinement.

Happy thoughts. Happy memories. May this pandemic finally blow over so we can spend more holidays under the sun with sand between our toes, sipping our piña coladas, mango daiquiris and margaritas or cold beers. As the wind slaps our salty faces and ruffles our sandy hair, we feel grateful to enjoy these slices of paradise. A real Shangrila.


It’s been over a year now and while the lockdown has restricted us to our sacred bubbles and sanctuaries, I am particularly entertained by how productive my Nieta has been with her art. Since the pandemic changed our new normals, Nieta has had 3 solo exhibits and a spattering of group exhibits. Of her artworks, some evoke more Covid memories in my book. I’m sure the ones who purchased these art pieces would look back to these times whenever they view and hopefully appreciate the meanings behind these expressions.

Art By Anna Bautista

Her models revolved around our household staff and condominium’s maintenance and security crew. In her 3rd solo exhibit, her recurring theme of consumerism marked her artistic interpretations of the fruits, plants and flowers mostly found in the gardens. Some expressions even found its way on silk scarves. And resin trays.

Anna Bauti’s 3rd Solo Exhibit
Anna Bautista’s 3rd Solo Exhibit at MODEKA Art Gallery
Exhibited at Pintô Art Museum July 12-25, 2021

In between her 2nd and 3rd Solo Exhibits, she painted for charity projects and group exhibitions. Here, she drew inspiration from the “new normal” permeating our daily lives as well as current social issues. It was even interesting to discern that very rare but relevant political concerns in her artworks.

“Sapin-Sapin”, inspired by the ABS-CBN Shutdown

Her 4th solo exhibit dwelled on everyday chores —- seemingly “gray matters” or dull moments which are now punctuated by interpretations of how life can be made more exciting with pockets of colour to cheer us on. Truly, pandemic fatigue and lockdown depression can set in, but one’s attitude (and I say, gratitude) is what it takes to brighten our moods. Just like how many of us found joy in growing plants, herbs and flowers. Or in enhancing our kitchen skills like baking and cooking. The new norm may stick for a few more months, even years. And with such, new skills are deployed to strike a new balance in our lives.

It may be a while before the next solo exhibit next year. After all, she was on a roll since 2020. Now a college graduate and gainfully employed, Nieta has to mindfully manage her time. Good luck, apo.

Art on Scarves by Anna Bautista

The Sweetness of Doing NOTHING. I know. It’s been over a year of NOTHING-ness. That’s why it’s all sweeter to step out of our sanctuary to enjoy the Baguio breeze in perfect harmony with Nature, your travel and foodie buddies and some moments of reflection. Never mind the hassles of antigen tests prior to the trip. Nor the “isolation” since we stayed the whole time in MJV Retreat House except for 2 trips for lunch and snacks. There was simply no need to explore Baguio since MJV alone is enough. The Heritage and Eco Park with its rock gardens, outdoor sculptures, pine trees, bamboo grove, labyrinth and flower gardens are more than adequate to soothe your nerves. Truly a balm for the soul.

Our morning hike a la Camino de Mirador was like a hiking retreat replete with narratives brushing up on local history and recent events. There were many meditation spots, sitting/rest areas, and scenic views. There is also the option of going up and down the nearby Lourdes Grotto. After the hike, MJV’s coffee nooks and many viewing decks and terrazas are ideal relaxation spots whether the sun’s out or it’s all fogged out. Or one can visit the Iñigo Cafe to savor their baked goodies, refreshing fruit juices and aromatic brew while enjoying the views and the cool temps. Shutterbugs will have a heyday snapping photos here and there. To be honest, you don’t even need company to stay happy here 😇

While here, I found it pure luxury to hear live masses and to actually take communion. Those online masses have become the norm and to actually sit on the pew, listen to the homily and line up for communion seemed nearly surreal. The Vigil Room at the corner of the Retreat House provided a view of the Torii Gate on a promontory overlooking the city. Just lovely. A borrowed photo below confirms this. Hard to imagine MJV under the Japanese occupation during World War II, but this iconic gate symbolises that war’s end (75 years since 1945 when it was inaugurated in 2020).

Ctto: Rick C
Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House

My room here overlooks the flower garden and labyrinth. Seated on the bed, one can actually wait for the fog to clear and watch cars offloading the guests and also those circling the labyrinth in prayerful meditation. Every nook and corner here has coffee/tea stations and the flowers not only adorn the meditation spots with their beauty but with their fragrance. In another area, men are busy constructing a barbeque/grill area overlooking the “3 rings” which symbolise the Holy Trinity. In a separate area stands an impressive sculpture of Christ’s Redemption. The Rock Gardens and Bamboo Grove have a hiking trail thoughtfully marked with clear signs and gentle reminders. Over time, the Mirador Heritage and Eco Park has become a major Baguio attraction for tourists and local families to enjoy. It’s a site best coupled with a hike up the Lourdes Grotto.

Just 2 of the 3 rings, symbolising the Blessed Trinity

Another day here wouldn’t hurt. Another visit even hoped for. I heard the persimmon farm has a November harvest schedule. 😋 A retreat may sound like one’s perfect excuse. But truly, you need not have a reason to visit here. Nothing isn’t bad. It may even be sweet. And really, all you need to do is listen. It’s the best prayer. 🙏


The pandemic seriously restricted our social life and daily routines. Online shopping, dining in, Netflix-bingeing and virtual meet-ups have become the norm. But I’m happy to note that the art world is still very much vibrant and many artists — forced to stay home and finding more time to indulge in their art — have drawn inspiration from everyday life otherwise taken for granted.

While we stayed home much of the time, we haven’t given up on the stuff we enjoy doing. Thank God our neighbourhood is lined with deli shops, restos, bar joints, art galleries, furniture shops and not too far away, specialty home decor shops where one can spend entire afternoons. Our white walls are now adorned with newly-framed artworks which made trips to our favorite framer so very pleasurable. The art galleries are such a delight to visit and the adjacent coffee and snack bars provide interesting breaks. The alley we frequent even boast of resident cats who’ve since become attractions of the place. Now, here’s one area where feline and human creatures seem to live in true harmony amidst all the beautiful artworks. Swell.

Eating out is restricted to only a few establishments which we found to be safely observing health protocols. But eating in is no less satisfying. We even sourced some of our dinners from our favourite restos as food deliveries have become our new normal. One lovely discovery is the joy of enjoying good meals without worrying about finding a parking slot nor of having to drive home. The convenience beats worries of prepping for meals and washing the dishes. Over time, we’ve grown accustomed to serving the food in their delivered state” to do away with stuff filling our kitchen sink. No big deal, really.

While we have since started brewing our coffee and creating our cocktails at home, we didn’t miss out on sitting in outdoor cafes and bars if only to immerse ourselves in the ambiance of shooting the breeze, so to speak. Besides, it’s really nice to sit it out for some beverages after being on one’s feet in the many neighbouring art galleries. The pandemic may have reduced the visiting crowd but certainly not the interest and enthusiasm of the few who come. Online shopping for art may be the new norm but a serious collector would still want to view such creations up close and personal. There comes also this newfound respect for young artists as one observes how their art evolved through this rough period.


Life under quarantine. The new normal. Covid times. Social Distancing. These describe our present situation. No one was prepared for it. As the situation unfolded, acceptance of such reality took time. Unless and until lockdowns were put in place, flights may have gone on, dine-outs and parties pursued, get-togethers and meet-ups going non-stop. After 9 months, people have adapted to the more restrictive lifestyle. Zoom meetings replaced physical meet-ups. Online masses rather than actual trips to the church. Even weddings are via zoom. It’s a chore to go to the salon for haircuts and beauty treatments. Online shopping is doing brisk business. Same goes with food deliveries. So, how are we surviving?

We’re saving a lot of money making our own coffee. And it’s an adventure to try different beans and pods. Three coffee machines occupy space in my tiny studio and the first decision for the day is which machine to run. Our “Manang” regularly checks YouTube for baking lessons and her repertoire now includes bread, cakes and pies. More savings! The fragrant aroma wafting from the kitchen may have inspired the resident artist to paint for her 2 solo exhibits last April and October, and a couple more group exhibits she joined. Though few and far between, the light traffic encouraged me to drive again — just short trips to the tiny, boutique art galleries in the neighbourhood before or after meals in some outdoor cafe. At home, we have also grown experimental with our cocktails. And Netflix has become a way of life for us.

We’ve adapted reasonably well, but I do miss meeting my friends for lunch or coffee. More than that, I miss my travels and trips to the beauty and massage parlours. I get by with drive-thru bloodworks and medical consultations via Zoom but I do miss my regular visits to my dentist! And because of the restrictions, day-outs are very infrequent but absolutely treasured. My smiles come really cheap whenever I step out of the house with either family or with friends. We’ve also rediscovered the joy in joyrides! Yet again, a new routine has emerged and my daily life is truly nothing to complain about. Our only anxieties are health-related but our paranoia has dwindled down without being reckless. A few more months, maybe. Or perhaps a year or so. We’d all manage. We can overcome this!