Archive for Merry Car

Banned Books Week 

It's Banned Books Week this last week of September and I just remember back when I was still teaching literature in our conservative provincial town.  In my first year of teaching, right after I just graduated from a university known for activism and left-wing ideologies, there would be senior professors listening in while they unsuccessfully hide behind the walls and windows of my classroom. As I encouraged students to think critically about their gender roles, social equality, freedom of expression & religion, and introduce some age-appropriate concepts from Western philosophical views and pushed books that are on this 'Banned Book' list which have themes too big and far modern back then for our town and probably even now, I was aware of the career risks I was taking but somehow I endured.  Seven years in the academe, more than a decade ago. I wish I can go back in that classroom and do so much more ... And maybe invite those professors who hid behind the wall to my class 😁 Teacher forever 🤓 What is Banned Book Week? Why do we celebrate it. Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books and highlights persecuted individuals. Held during the last week of September since 1982, the United States campaign "stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them"and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions. ( Wikipedia) Here's some list and check what you have read.  American Library Association List Banned Books That Shaped America America's Most Surprising Banned Books And here's an article by Michael Tan in Philippine Daily Inquirer about banned books. Michael Tan article

Naragsak a baro nga tawen yo amen, Apo ken kakabsat!

The  early night before 2016, I was on the subway going uptown when this subway singer came in and started singing a familiar English song in Spanish. I was already  listening for a few seconds when the once elusive New Year spirit combined with my natural and ever present feelings of gratitude and love for my adapted home suddenly hit me! I am thankful to the people of the past year and looking forward to creating more wonderful moments in 2016. From the largest city in America and the most culturally and linguistically diverse city in the world where as many as 800 languages are spoken, I am shouting out "Naragsak a baro nga tawen, kakabsat!" and from this subway singer who proudly and joyfully sings in his own tongue, "Feliz Ano Nuevo!" Watch the video.

Ilocano York joins the rest of the world in condemning terrorism and violence.

In these dark times of terrorism, let us celebrate the lives of those who showed their radiance.  Thank you, Adel Termos!    

Grace Nono Brings Tribal Chants & Music to NYC

Grace Nono with ensemble comprised of Bo Razon, Faisal Monal and Charles Wandag brought Philippine chants and music at the Asian History Museum last  October 29. It was a great month ender for the Filipino Heritage Month of October.
Grace Nono's interpretation of indigenous music from pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times is soul wrenching and captivating. Music then was part of everyday life. It's entrenched in religion, tradition, daily chores, festivities and rituals so experiencing it LIVE and performed by actual artists who hailed from the near-extinct Philippine tribes was an amazing spiritual experience. My male friend, a closet poet and activist, was teary eyed early in the show. He said he cried because the gongs and hegalong reminded him of the lost and beautiful culture we had before the colonizers came. I was weepy too but for a different reason. For a few minutes while listening to a Maguindanao chant and in between goose bumps and an unusual heavy feeling evoked by the ancient music, all that is beautiful and ugly about the Philippines came rushing back to me. I saw our rainforests and mountains, its rivers, animals, the illegal loggers. I sniffed the sampaguita florets of May, touched the shoreline of our warm, sandy beaches. I tasted the tears of children forced into prostitution/labor and I crossed the traffic-ridden and grimy streets of Quiapo again like it is not thousands of miles away. It was surreal! I am so glad to have been there last night. Thanks Grace Nono for musicians like you! This is the type of music we should keep alive and treasure because it is ours.   

Grace Nono, Faisal Monal and Charles Wandag

   On a side note, I'm also thankful to my Alma Mater, UP Diliman. I first saw Grace and another ethnomusician, Joey Ayala way back in college. In fact, all that I like, love, support and do stemmed from that unique UP Diliman culture and experience. If it weren't for that University I will be content watching prime time shows on TV, and youtubing past episodes of the original PSY series starring my fave hunk, Echo and Tin. And I still do quite often. Lol. It's not so bad.  The bottom line is I am grateful and proud to be from UP Diliman like Ms. Grace Nono. Thank you Philippine tax payers for paying our tuition. Forever grateful 😉🇵🇭    Here is the YouTube link for the video I took of the show. Click the link below. Grace Nono in NYC, October 30, 2015 The compiled videos are just tidbits of my shameless unofficial recording of Grace Nono's performance. There will be  two bobbing heads and stretching arms as I sit on the second row. I'm guilty and not guilty at the same time. I felt like I need to keep a piece of it with me. The first 3 chants with the Maguindanao gong ensemble was not captured at all because at that time I was in a trance-like mood I didn't realize I wasn't taking videos at all. I hope they do more shows in the future. This is what an expat soul needs from time to time.

Spoliarium,an opera about Juan Luna debuts October 1 in NYC

Enough said about the patriot Heneral Luna.  Antonio Luna's brother, Juan Luna also has an interesting controversy that rocked the 19th century Europe and the Philippines, a focal story of an opera that will be shown at Tribeca Performing Arts Center on October 1, 2 and 3. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan who was flown in by the production just for this opera.  

A scene taken from the rehearsal of the opera, 'Spoliarium'. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with a libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan. The show promises to be another celebration of Pinoy talent in New York.

  The opera revolves around the expat life and love of Ilocano patriot and painter Juan Luna. Born in Badoc, Ilocos Norte and educated in Manila, Juan was sent to Europe to further pursue art studies. He settled in France and was married to Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera, a beautiful Spanish and Portuguese Philippine-born woman whose status and wealth was of esteem. As a painter Juan won awards and much acclaim. As a reformist, he worked with other foremost Filipino expats such as Jose Rizal, his brother Antonio Luna, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Pedro Paterno, Isabelo depot Reyes, Felix Hidalgo and other notable propagandists. Known in the Philippines as the 'illustrados', they were an elite group of Filipino expatriates in Europe whose aim was to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony, Las Islas Filipinas. Juan was such a popular figure in Europe that even the King of Spain was among his friends. Yet despite his talent and social status, Juan was infamous for his violent temper like his general brother, Antonio. In a very publicized family drama in September 1984, Juan was in front pages of French newspapers for shooting his wife, mother and brother-in-laws in a fit of rage and jealousy. Only the brother-in-law and  a friend, Felix Pardo de Tavera, survived the tragic event. Everything was witnessed by his son, Andres.  

A Juan Luna painting, probably of his wife Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera

  Juan painted in the Renaissance tradition and his favorite subject and model was his slain wife. His most famous painting that won him awards is 'Spoliarium, an allegorical painting about injustices of the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. This opera was named after this painting.   

Spoliarium, Juan Luna's masterpiece, currently hangs at the National Museum, Philippines.

  Notes About Production Director Anton Juan, started out in the University of the Philippines- Diliman and ultimately becoming its foremost theater professor whose mentorship produced numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed artists. Professor Juan has contributed significantly to and made an impact on the evolution of Philippine culture and drama. His influence and fame spans the world. Peter Holland writes: “Anton Juan is one of the most exhilarating directors in the world.” Juan’s moving poetic style has been seen and widely admired in the Philippines, in Asia, the USA, and Europe, not only as innovative and visually exciting, but also as merging inner space, movement, sound-sense, with the urgent cry for insularized, marginalized, and emergent cultures." Ryan Cayabyab is a prolific composer, musician, and conductor whose work include not just popular music of which he is wildly popular, but also spans full-length ballets, opera, theater musicals, choral pieces, and orchestral pieces, to commercial recordings of popular music, film scores and television specials. In the opera's gala night on October 3, production mentioned that Ryan Cayabyab will play as a guest musician. Fides Cuyugan Asencio, Spoliarium's librettist is an accomplished stage actress, opera star and then a long time voice mentor at the University of the Philippines College of Music. She stars as Sisa in the opera's Act 1. The show promises to be another showcase of Pinoy talent in New York. Tickets will be sold at the door or available online at  

photo by Troi Santos

  SOURCES and additional readings  Love That Kills, Ambeth Ocampo, Anton Juan, Full Biography Ryan Cayabyab, Wikipedia Fides Cuyugan Asencio, a Grand Dame of the Philippine Stage,

Zabb Elee, an Authentic Thai with a Michelin Star in Jackson Heights

Michelin stars doesn't always mean breaking the bank and a long wait to get a table in a well managed space in mostly posh locations in Manhattan. The 2014's 1-star Michelin list includes four Queens restaurants with one of them located just blocks away from the 'Little Manila' strip along Roosevelt Avenue. Zabb Elee, features Isan or Northeastern Thai cuisine that doesn't prominently feature the typical Thai menu items that are popular in the West. If one has an aversion to incredibly spicy foods, then this is not the place to eat. I ordered some items that reminded me of street foods I enjoyed back in the Philippines such as grilled chicken gizzard, liver and hearts. It was presented in sticks and came with a combination of spicy, sour, sweet and salty that was a perfect dip for the smoky and full taste of the chicken entrails. The price was a surprise for it was comparably cheaper than the Filipino restaurant's bbq sticks! The grilled pork came out intricately yet at the same time mildly flavored. The sticky rice was served in an unpretentious see-through plastic used in Philippine markets and carinderia that is quite unexpected of a Michelin-starred restaurant. IMG_5236.JPG IMG_5238.JPG IMG_5240.JPG IMG_5242.JPG IMG_5245.JPG IMG_5247.JPG IMG_5251.JPG IMG_5249.JPG

Philippine Independence Day Celebration

Mabuhay ang mamayang Pilipino mapasaang lupalop man sila ng mundo! June 1, 2014

To walk the streets of a city so great while proudly holding your home nation's flag is a social, political & cultural feat that we enjoy now because of people who willingly gave up their lives so we could enjoy ours.

Poetry Contribution: Unspoken

UNSPOKEN by Red S   Was I floating? When I saw you In a dream. Your face, your hair That disarming smile Still the same As years ago. The sands of time Blown away Surfacing feelings Hidden within. Unspoken emotions Of truths we feared And choose to bury in ourselves. Vividly I see On that moonlit night When we held our hands And gazed upon our faces When we walked away Leaving emotions stirring Within our hearts Forever left unspoken. Shared to IlocanoYork and penned by Red S, 2007

Downton Abbey Season 4 Preview with Cast and Creator Julianne Fellowes

20131213-004131.jpg TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK: 20131213-004148.jpg   TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK:     20131213-004158.jpg 20131213-004218.jpg I have always been fond of period drama in literature and film. So naturally, even if I'm not a TV fan I followed the entire 3 seasons of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime. After finding out that there was a Downton Abbey truck going around Manhattan with maids and butlers dressed in period costumes serving tea and biscuits to fans, I made it a point to look for it. Tonight the truck was parked in front of the Times Building on 41st St. between 7th and 8th avenues. The original plan was to be served tea and biscuits by costumed actors only but we got a nicer surprise! Already there ahead of us were Ted and Sheryl Reyes who found out that the entire cast was actually right where we were! We didn't have tickets to the event but in just 5 minutes of waiting we were eventually let in. By pure serendipitous luck, all four of us got in and enjoyed a pre-show cocktail and hors d'oeuvers with waitstaff wearing 1920s fashion. The first part was a showing of the maiden episode of Season 4 that was immediately followed by a Q & A. The characters present were Lord Grantham, Lady Edith, Branson, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs, Patmore, Branson and Thomas (my fave!). The writer and genius behind the show, Julian Fellowes, was also at the event. Great night! 20131213-004343.jpg 20131213-004334.jpg   TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK:     20131213-004309.jpg 20131213-004242.jpg 20131213-004547.jpg TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK:      

Peanut Butter Happy


I just officially turned my back from Lily's and Skippy peanut butter brands. From among the four flavors I tried tonight my favorite is Dark Chocolate Dreams! I have Smooth Operator, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and Bee's Knees. Next time I will try these 2 other flavors from Peanut Butter Company: White Choco Wonderful and The Heat Is On. To me the PLUSses are: creative flavors, pairing suggestions in jar, no excessive oil, consistently smooth texture, just the right sweetness and that they have a small-town feel restaurant near Madison Square Park. Now how cools is that? A peanut butter so good it has to have its own restaurant in the City. Peanut Butter Company has a store and restaurant in West Village, NYC.