Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kalibo Ati-atihan No More

There was a time when I knew a festive week-long event in my native Kalibo. It was the opening salvo of each year. Personally, I just can't wait for the second week of January to come. I never really care if Christmas day and New's Eve have come to pass. I always look forward to the Ati-atihan.

When I was a kid, Ati-atihan is more than three days of craziness - when Kalibonhons throw caution to the wind and smear themselves with soot like what my Lolo Coroy would do. It was not only known as a wild carnival that guzzles all the San Miguel Beer that its breweries can muster. It was one celebration of devotion that brings the clan together. My Lolo Jose and his brood from Iloilo, Tito Bavi and Tita Fe too, Tito Bugay from Manila and of course of relatives from the barrios who join the festivities in Kalibo. I remember Lolo Jose would bring his wooden replicas of the Thompson submachine gun, the Colt "cowboy" revolver and other "firewoods". I remember the time when Tita India came up with towering "higantes" that attracted both the young and old. Of course, Lolo Coroy's au naturelle ensemble of dark black soot from the takori is an all time favorite. He even carried a stick where various fruits are tied and guests would just pick and eat what they like (Bananas were in demand - they just disappear half into the parade).

The extra ordinary fanfare of the Ati-atihan was mostly due to my father's fondness for treating a ton of guests. The week-long celebration usually converts our house into a beer bodega and wine cellar. Our guest rooms are packed to the hilt and our dining area becomes a standing room during meals. The guests are treated to an orgy of sumptuous fresh seafoods and greasy battalion of lechon (this is the reason why I totally abhor crabs but totally addicted to lechon) bottles of free flowing beer and whisky complete with an Ati-atihan band playing in the background. Guests can just dance the "sad-sad" anytime or while food and drinks are being served.

 Just any other big clan, our family sponsored an entire Ati-atihan group called "Birds of Paradise" - most of them our relatives from Tinigaw who uniquely dressed them up as white birds (I pity the hundred of white chickens they butchered to come up with white feathers for their costume). But the bird men of Tinigaw were just a gem to watch. As such relatives and friends who joins us during the ati-atihan gets to dance with the Birdmen - a very cool thing to do.

For me what makes the Ati-atihan very special are the traditions that we used to observe as a family. Foremost is the early morning "Diana" when all of the male members of our family would wake up around 5am and start merrymaking. Even my grandparents would join the soul rousing parade that leads to the Kalibo Cathedral for the early Sunday service. Uncles, cousins and close friends would beat their own drums and cared less about waking the sleeping neighborhood. Along the way we would stop at houses of relatives and friends to egg them to join -well, most of them would even still half awake. But it was really fun. The old timers knew how to play the original drumbeat which is slow paced and very danceable.

I also remember the culminating weekend of the Ati-atihan to be really fun as guests from all over troop to Kalibo. It is but normal to see movie celebrities, politicians and other bigwigs joining the "sad-sad". Richard Gomez (pre-Lucy Torres) and his entourage would usually billet themselves at the popular pension house overlooking the plaza. Other frequent celebrity visitors like Ina Raymundo and Larry "Pipoy" Silva would mingle with the ati-atihan groups but are not easily recognized nor bothered. There are just too many interesting and beautiful people in the crowd. And it was safe and peaceful, foreign tourists who passed out drunk in the streets are left alone to regain their wits. Locals share their beers and whisky to guests as if these were free flowing water.

As the celebration comes to a close, the religious procession takes center stage. Images of the Sto. Nino were paraded around the town amidst frenzy beating of drums and dancing drunks. But again, it was peaceful and fun. Never did I feel tired joining the snail paced procession. My motivation is the "Paeapak" ritual when we reach the Kalibo Cathedral. "Paeapak" means massaging by the feet. Tired ati-atihan devotees are in a way massaged by the sto. nino's image at the cathedral's altar. I don't know but i profess that the Paeapak never fails to soothe my tired bones. 

Well...I miss the good old days of the Ati-atihan. I really hope that my kids will grow up with the same Ati-atihan experience and have love for the Sto. Nino.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Batman of the Future

Yes, my son Milo is Batman. Not Bath-man or Buttman….talagang Batman as in the Dark Knight.

This possible schizo tendency all started when his mom (whom he thinks is Wonder Woman) bought him and his Kuya Kobe super hero costumes. From the time Milo has donned his Batman suit (minus the Bat boots), he has never been the same. There are even times when I call him but he would not answer. Wondering why I was ignored by my usually dutiful son, I trace this communication difficulty to his newly found super hero status. Call him Batman and he will instantly answer you ‘Po….like a speeding bullet a wayward batmobile.

Milo is really serious about his Batman stuff like I was serious trying to emulate Helmut Newton or be the male version of Annie Leibowitz. I think we all get to be schizophrenic sometimes – although in light dosage. We always hope to be in some people’s shoes. We pretend and hope to be somebody famous or powerful even just for a brief period just to live out the fantasy. Sometimes it brings along the characteristics of our idols and these seeps into us unknowingly.

Milo for one is easy to discipline whenever I tell him that Batman is never the naughty boy. I told him that Batman is disciplined and respectful, always helpful towards people in need. As my wonder boy has followed his favorite superhero’s ways, I don’t mind if he lives out his fantasy once in a while. I know sooner he will outgrow it and look back how he has romp around in that ridiculous Batman outfit.
The Starbucks Generation

In the recent decade there has been an unbelievable feat in the “coffee making business” (well, maybe after Lindo Coffee Brand the overpriced coffee sold by Harrison Ford’s nemesis Don Escobedo in the movie Clear Present Danger?). Nobody can deny that Starbucks Coffee has effortlessly conquered the Philippines. I heard from somewhere that the Seattle based coffee company employs a secret mind-controlling formula loaned from the CIA which can persuade patrons to pay a ridiculously priced cup of coffee- ten folds than that of good ol’ Tiyoy Amboy’s Cape.

I remember around ten years ago when my classmate, Rachel Zozobrado has mentioned to us about incorporating a then obscure coffee company (well, unknown to us Tiyoy Amboy loyal coffee drinkers). Never in my wildest dreams that the entrance of this coffee company to Philippine society will spark a revolution of sorts. A whole new lifestyle of people lining to get in the green and white halo shop like cars with empty gas tanks queuing to have their fill. A Starbucks outlet has popped at almost every corner that it can be called the a sari-sari store. The simple coffee with sugar and cream that I used to know has evolved into latte grande, frappucino tall and other fancy sounding concoction. As long as they can come up with new varieties of the bean wonder, the cash register continues to lure in hard earned pesos.

Blame it on western indoctrination innocently packaged in lovable and funny movies like You Got Mail!, Zoolander and the wacky Austin Powers (where Docteerr Evil was unmasked as the owner of highly profitable coffee company), we Pinoys can't just resist a piece of the American lifestyle. Well, who can deny that it is just chic to bring a laptop or pocket book inside a Starbucks. Or chat away with similarly situated friends over conveniently cheap Frappucino tall. Some say it is better than watching a movie - you can get to be part of the scene being watched. You’re in a Starbucks, man…it is the in thing when you are not really into sosy scene. Just imagine being called out by near perfect American twang of the barrista - ….”Mocha Frappucino for Prow-coh-fio!!” Definitely you will stand out of the crowd. Well, I always use intriguing pseudonyms, Inigo, Tonyboy, Lucio or Henri…these never fail to turn heads and the nods from all around the room.

During my recent trip to Starbucks, I tried escaping to the second floor only to be shocked seeing a room full of students. It reminded of me of our old college library which is a favorite joint of those cramming for the midterms. Med students and their bulky books, law students with their pile of photocopied papers and those reviewing for some exam have established their own fiefdom. It is a few pesos difference from the school cafeteria prices and definitely higher in the “you are cool” ratings. Now what is despicable is seeing one tall drip coffee for a group of ..say..5 students. But Starbucks seems not to mind. Having students hang out at their stores adds up to their hip image – free advertisement. At least, the CIA formula (if the conspiracy theory is true) has good side effects –makes dumb students study. Remove the Starbucks and its ambience, its back to a nation of hopeless youth.

Well for us in the mid-30s bracket, most of us usually retreat to a more dimly lighted competitor: Figaro or the Havana Café with their babelicious waitresses. Figaro which has been in the scene at the same time as Starbucks has begun to carve its niche as the favorite joint of the “any other coffee but Iced Frappucino” coffee. Actually those who don’t give a rat-ass about a dozen of choices of Frappucinos and Lattes would rather go there. On the other hand, Havana Café, coffee afficianados obviously do not go there for coffee.

Sad but true, I am also part of the Starbucks generation. I confess to fall helplessly at the lure of a hot Starbucks cappuccino or the Peppermint Mocha Fraf. That is why it me a breeze to finish the 24 plus coffees and win a Starbucks 2007 planner (Well it only took my wife Michelle a single Peppermint Fraf to wrestle away my hard earned Starbucks planner…lucky lucky girl!). Well my coffee life has indeed come a long way from the days of Nescafe instant which I have devised into a variety of delicious coffee concoctions. I am glad Starbucks has freed me from that chore.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Direction for 2007

In my bid to pursue the purest form of legal practice (a trail i have initially pursued as a "puro-abono" or "puro abno" lawyer for Ipaglaban Mo Foundation), I have spent several hours surfing the net in search of viable home business.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The First Niece

Gabrielle Rianna Aviles dela Cruz or simply "Gaby" or "Gabo" (as my siblings would jokingly call her) is our cute and cuddly niece. She's the leader of the upcoming dela cruz power ladies - to borrow our late father's fantastic description of the dela cruz first borns (Papa repeatedly praised my nephew Kibboi as the Leader of the Band when he was still the lone apo). For me, it is really an extraordinary feat for my brother Jun and his wife Joy to come up with a baby girl after Kibboi the little wise boy. Coming from a brood of 5 brothers and a sole jewel of a makes me wonder if i can strike lucky that my next child will be a bouncing baby girl.

Its always a joy to embrace this bubbly wonder. Gaby does not fail to excite me in coming to Iloilo although i haven't really showered her with presents a normal uncle would bring his favorite niece (hehehe..shes currently the only one..). Last New Year's eve, Gaby was just gem to watch. Her cute eyes and childish mettle have made her the instant hit at our traditional family new year's eve dinner. My mom seems not contented posing with her in one picture. They posed and posed and posed. Gaby in all the shots was unmindful of our admiration. But i kept a souvenir of that happy moment. A wayward bag of funny idea got into his uncle Arik who put on the helpless toddler a motorcycle goggle. Poor Gaby, she looked like those alien fighters. But she did not let go of it. She was enjoying the night too.