kabilang bahay

A small box of my dad's slides recently turned up, care of my cousin Dijen. The box is labeled in his handwriting, "AT HOME 1972- 1973- 1974-." Inside are family photos, taken in the compound in San Dionisio, Paranaque. There aren't a lot, only 27 slides. I scanned them all.

The following photo is a pretty good representation of the kind of photos in that box, and it's all sorts of awesome. (Or should I say "groovy" "isputing"?)


I can barely get over the outfits (platform shoes, vests, collars, patterns!) and the decor (velvet sofa, pink wallpaper, mural, giant lampshade, crewel work throw pillows with tassels, glass fruits!) and the other details (area rug covered with plastic wrap, bottle of Chianti on side table!).

But more than my retro fascination, I can't help but look at this picture, as well as the others in that box, with a strange need to search for clues.

The people in the photo are my cousins Ate Dijen and her brothers Kuyas Charoy and Mandy. But I didn't meet them like this. On my dad's side of the family, my siblings and I arrived an entire generation too late, a kind of disruption in their timeline. However, we lived for a short time in this house in the early 1980's, after they vacated it (and the pink wallpaper had faded to beige), and before we finally settled in the "front" house (Lolo Pio & Lola Paring's old house). That "front" house would become our childhood home, and this house in the picture would then forever be known to us as "Kabilang Bahay" ("The Other House").

When Ate Dijen told me that she had a box of slides from my dad for me, I thought that our lost childhood slides had been found. (They haven't.) While I am happy and grateful that I have these pictures, I've come to realize that what I have, too, is more evidence of our non-existence in most of my dad's life. So my brain does this weird thing of picking out the details that are familiar, the clues that connect us to him. I thought I was trying to decipher my dad and his life from these pictures, when what I was really trying to find in them were traces of Mom and Joms and Nyan and me. (Yes, I know that that is absurd. But grief does these things to you.)

Anyway, here is a photo from 1981, one of the very few surviving, taken by Daddy when he stopped shooting with slide film. He also literally cropped this print with a pair of scissors, but believe me when I say that it's the same room in the first photo, and the same velvet couch, now slipcovered in glorious late seventies floral fabric, and a glimpse of the same area rug sans plastic. There's Tita Lita, Mom's youngest sister, and Joms and Nyan and Nyan's stinky diaper and toy purse.

joms, nyan, tita lita. 1981.

I still dream of Kabilang Bahay. And in my dreams, it's always haunted.

More stories on that later.


summer 2015: a summary. in september.

It was an unusual summer. There were many quintessentially summer things that we didn't get to do: go camping, hang out at the beach, drive out of town (with the exception of Indian Wells, where Asha competed in the USAIGC World Championships and was awesome in it). We almost didn't get to go to a drive-in movie. We went to the farmers' market once (twice, if you count that Thursday the kids were already back in school). But we did get to fix up our new apartment, and had more barbecues on the patio in two months than we had in the six years we lived in #6. The kids went to a lot of swim parties. Asha turned 10 (!) and we celebrated it three times. I guess we didn't do too shabbily, considering the transitions -- a new home, more hours of gymnastics and soccer, and that one month Imo had to commute every day to Playa Vista for work. Maybe next summer, we'll do better.

Anyway, here is a hodgepodge of photos from the summer break that was:

floor vault gold medalist! cousins in the pool asha sunset imo yumi & purple cauliflower grilling veggies dinner al frescomy dinner tuesday night dinner jump play date at audrey's swimming asha's birthday cake happy birthday no. 2

Also, I will try to be in this space more. I can't believe that August came and went without a single blog post.


after the move

The days have started to get their rhythm back. There aren't any more major projects to take on -- only a few corners need work, and yesterday, the patio (again) after it rained. We've lived here now for a little over a month, and I work very hard to keep it looking clean and new. It's funny how, after we emptied the old apartment, I discovered so much clutter and dirt and wear that had been invisible to me while we were living there! I wonder now at what point I will start losing interest in keeping this new apartment tidy and organized (inside out). We did live in #6 for six years! And, man, the stuff that we collected! Imagine a house where generations have lived and continue to live. All the junk (or treasures) that would've accumulated! It must be both a wondrous thing and a pain in the butt.

dining room

I wonder if such a house will be in our future, a forever house, filled with decades of memories and the objects to which those memories are anchored. I was chatting with Lille a few weeks ago, and theorized that my obsession with making a home, my ridiculous sense of nostalgia, my need for stability and belonging, must be from the fact that I no longer have my childhood home. Maybe if I still had that house to go back to -- intact, the way it always was while I was growing up, with all my family's stuff still in it, maybe if it had actually been ours -- maybe I will feel more grounded, and therefore, more open to adventure and change and risk. I don't know. Maybe I am just confusing the physical home with what it symbolizes, which feels lost to me now. And so I search and I search and re/create what I can.

newly washed sheets on chair

Anyhow, I love that our new apartment is keeping me busy. Once again, I don't mind all the sweeping and the putting-things-back-where-they-belong. I don't mind the pace of my stay-at-home life with my children -- the waking up early (despite it being summer), the chauffeuring, all the meals in a day that need to be prepared. I know that, at some point, as I am inclined to do from time to time, I will tire of it. But right now, the days feel purposeful, productive, full of possibilities.

patio, take 2, after the rain


before the move

We're moving tomorrow and our apartment is still pretty much intact. It's stressing me out, the thought that I probably should be doing some sort of packing right now, even if we are moving right next door. Anyway, no such thing is being done at the moment. I did manage to do some major laundry, and the kids and I purged their closets of the clothes they've outgrown. There were A LOT of clothes outgrown -- and to think that we periodically clean out those closets! (This of course only means that kids grow really fast. Therefore, it really doesn't make sense to buy a lot of kids' clothes, or to get them new. I am all for giving and receiving hand-me-downs, or, if I really must, getting new clothes super cheap -- like at Old Navy whenever they have those 40% off sales every season. I swear by those 40% off sales.)

Also, did I mention that today is the first day of summer break? To be honest, it feels so anticlimactic. What with the move, and just, I don't know, the stuff of our life these days in general. It doesn't feel like we are actually taking a break for the summer. There's still gymnastics and soccer and more gymnastics and more soccer. Oh, and jazz band. And the same old rotation of chores and tasks (for me). These past few weeks, I've been dealing with a strange kind of depression (that felt/feels a lot like grief, which, come to think of it now, might be a symptom of an honest-to-goodness midlife crisis). That song "Sandra" has been playing in my head for the past several days, good god. There's so many things that she wishes, she don't even know what she's missing, and that's how she knows that she missed. But unlike Sandra, I think I know what I'm missing. Imo and I were talking the other night about where we might be now if we hadn't left the Philippines. He would probably be an advertising big shot by now, he'd have published more books, made short films, re-staged Bayani. And I would have finished my master's degree and be teaching full-time in Ateneo. Maybe we would have bought our first house. But then we were like: but all the traffic and the floods and our kids growing up dependent on yayas, and would they have the same access to all the things they're enjoying now? Anyway, it's funny that that song just came to me, and I hadn't heard it in ages. I remember being a kid -- ten maybe? -- and Tito Rey telling me about the song about a housewife who tries to kill herself. Up until recently, a week ago, actually, when I thought to look it up, I didn't even know Barry Manilow sang it (eew). What a relief that there's a Dusty Springfield version of it. But, shit, it made me feel feelings.

Anyway, back to moving. Moving is good, like a fresh start, you know. Although we are moving literally next door, I can't help but feel sentimental about this old apartment. The kids were so little when we first moved here! And despite some periods of scary uncertainty, we were very happy here. I am going to miss #6: its big windows, and the way it's laid out, and how everything has its place. But #7 has an updated kitchen, additional square footage, two big patios! Barbecues, summertime outdoor living! There may still be uncertainty and drudgery and, um, emotional disequilibrium, but there is at least something new to look forward to.

Throwback to August 2009, when we were bagong lipat sa South Pasadena.
(Yecch, Flickr is down, so I had to download this photo from Facebook, all 52KB of it.)


slide film photos from two years ago

n a monkey bars

(Shot on Fujichrome Provia 100 color reversal film, then digitally scanned, January 2013.)


attempting a crewdson

I am currently on a week-long break from school until the summer term starts on Monday. I went ahead and registered for summer school even though I find myself constantly wondering these days what I am doing there, if this will ever amount to anything. I do love film photography and I am happiest in the dark room, even though last semester was so often frustrating. Large format photography is hard, though I realize now that all I really needed was a shift in my photographic mindset. I was truly slow to warm up to large format. Or maybe I was just being stubborn. I shot that 4x5 camera like I was shooting 35mm. I fought it, when I should've accepted it for what it was: a studio camera, a camera that demands slowness, a sharp-as-hell camera for shooting the smallest details (hello, f/64!), a camera that can do awesome things regular 35mm cameras can't do (tilt-shift! the Scheimpflug technique!). I don't know if I will take it up again. My head says I probably should, if only to truly challenge myself, even if my heart says what is the point. Lol. I am full of angst.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for some new photography-related experiences -- such as hauling that big-ass camera all over LA and shooting in places I felt uncomfortable in, and taking part in a class project wherein we attempted to make a photograph a la Gregory Crewdson. None of these I would do on my own, you see, and so I am glad that being in this class forced me to do them.

The Crewdson project was our teacher Eamon's pet project and we probably spent more class time planning it than we did actually working on our individual assignments. It was a black and white class, but we shot this in color because, well, Crewdson shoots in color. It also had to all be staged and cinematically lit so, you know, much effort went into its production. Which was nice, in retrospect. All of us students had roles: directors, camera operators, light operators, light meter readers, etc. I was an assistant camera operator, which was nerve-wracking. We had to make ten exposures with varying settings as the sky grew darker, with the intent of digitally compositing them to make the final photograph.

Setting up in classmate Michelle's backyard: setting up aaron & kino flo examining the scene

The cameras (digital for backup), and the latest in focusing hoods (haha): cameras boz & makeshift hoodcamera operators boz & larry

In between exposures, the light quickly fading: in between exposures

Eamon had the film developed, then he scanned them and made a composite on Photoshop. He made a huge Chromira print of the final image (40x50! so awesome in its minute detail), built a frame for it, showed it to us, and proudly announced it was going up on a wall in the photo department office. (Yay!) He also made smaller sized prints for us to take home. I got a 16x20, which I need to frame and hang on a wall somewhere in our new apartment. (Ha. I daydream. But more on that later. Maybe. Who knows.)

homage to gregory crewdson In the manner of Gregory Crewdson. Photo 22A, Spring 2015.


dalagitang filipina

A month or so ago, Asha had a school report for which she wanted to dress up in Filipiniana costume. I always get a kick out of helping my kids play dress up! So we quickly assembled a costume from what we had around the house (except for the top, which we found at Target). When she got back from school, we had a little photo shoot.

strong!dalagitang filipina hamming it up vintage kuno

(Which reminds me, two years ago, we made this doll! It now has a permanent spot on a shelf in the living room.)



Here are some photos from our trip to Portland over spring break. It's been a week since we got back, but, man, that city, it's still on my mind.

unofficial slogan our box of voodoo donuts browsing at powell's rain preschoolers historic Jackson Tower sw 13th & salmon st. consulting the treasure hunt map new market block, remains of the north wing willamette river, looking east portlandia asha & yumi at stumptown hanging out at the ace hotel lobbyphoto booth in ace hotel lobby random cherry blossom sen yai hawthorne bridge, from the southeast portland'5 centers for the arts more rain portland city lights portland saturday market flowers saturday market, skidmore fountain the haunted old town pizza the line at voodoo doughnuts food carts inside the airstream shop menagerie lodekka double decker dress shop se portland peeps a better cycle ladd ave. skidmore fountain station blagen block building white stag sign