No, Tian-Tian, Godzilla is not in California

Tomorrow is my little grandnephew Tian-Tian’s birthday.  He’s turning 5 on Feb. 20th, and that’s today in the Philippines, since it’s a day ahead there. I should remember to video chat to greet him tonight; that’ll be around noon there, party time with family. He calls me Auntie, just like his parents, though I hope he’ll learn to call me Lola (Grandma)  I’m the sister of his grandfather.  Though I admit, Auntie sounds young, I want that extra special umph of the name ‘Lola’. A great deal of wisdom and warmth emitted by that name (not to mention the soft and delightful “privilege” of the hierarchy).  But the little boy doesn’t know that, so it’s fine that he calls me Auntie.

   Happy 5th birthday, Tian-Tian! 

Tian-Tian (nickname for Sebastian) is a very smart and lively little boy, inquisitive and curious. Ask him for the capital of every country on the map, and he’ll answer you correctly with no hesitation at all.  Singing is one of his talents.  When he was three during my vacation in the Philippines two years ago, he sang me a sweet little song in Tagalog that lent homage to the  brilliant moon.  I fondly remember his rendition of “Sa ilalim ng liwanag ng buwan”  – meaning, under the light of the moon.  So whenever I see the moon, feeling enchanted, I hum Tian-Tian’s little tune and insert my own poetic lyrics —  in the Filipino language, they sound haunting and spellbinding.  Isn’t the quasi-mysterious aura of moonlit nights supposed to bind a spell?  Well, in a way it does to me, that often, when gazing at the moon traveling the sky, a quirky habit creeps up.  Randomly, I dispel poetry in the tunes I spin around “Sa ilalim ng liwanag ng buwan”.  Moon-struck, you might say.  I have Tian-Tian to thank for that.

But, something else extraordinary and cute.

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Captivating pictures titillate memories – and inspire poetry

Often, writers look for pictures to fit the subject, or underscore the thrust of the article. In this case, I scratch my head for ideas or thoughts that can fittingly relate to spectacular photos that my grandniece Kim recently sent me. Not to use her scenery shots would be a waste.  And beauty is not to be wasted.  So, I share the photos with you here.

But first, I quiz myself — what is significant about these pictures beyond their alluring artistry?  I then engage in a process, and for a moment, I keep still – like listening to my soul.  The calmness is refreshing.  The quiet is purifying.  An overcoming feeling, something of nostalgia, edges in as I remember.  There really is so much to say, as prompted by the lovely pictures.

Kim, the teen-aged daughter of my nephew Chito and his wife Benita, took the pictures from the balcony of her home in La Union, Philippines, a richly charming place I made a point to visit during my vacations. The draw for me was not just the incomparable beauty of a home built on the fringe of a narrow shore, but especially it was the comfortable warmth of a loving family – of my brother Albert and his wife Cecile (both recently deceased). With unwavering tug at my heart, I look at these pictures, reminiscing the happy vacation days spent in that exquisite place.

The sceneries in Kim’s photos show the “backyard” of that beach home.  These pictures summon up flashbacks a few of which I shall share with you.

“Backyard” of a beach home in La Union, Philippines (Photos by Kim Chua Pandes)

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