Youthful musical geniuses on the rise


Kudos to the Music Teachers’ Association of California for presenting another successful convention at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA last Friday to Sunday.  People watching in the lobby while waiting for my son John, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Eliott, I observed the great number and diversity of families that came to support their student virtuosos. It was heartwarming to feel the infectious vibes ranging from excitement to nervousness, relief to delight, shaky uncertainty to victory. I was part of the family of a piano student, my grandson Eliott (14 this July) going into his 9th year of studying piano; so I felt all those emotions snowballed into – exhilarating and pleasurable.

Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, Khachaturian and Wild were on spotlight during the Monday afternoon piano recital I attended at the 2023 music convention. But I’d add that really on spotlight were my grandson Eliott and eleven other piano students who performed. I was mesmerized by their talent, skill and artistic expression.  A magnificent gift to us, the audience.

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Remembering Papa/Lolo John on his birthday

By:  LPJ

My Papa’s birthday is coming up.  He left this world near my 21st birthday. I think of how grateful I am to him – he figured significantly in my childhood, my growing up years, my phasing in to young adulthood.  His teachings, principles, guidance, wisdom, hard work and fine example contributed tremendously to what I am.  Enjoy your blessed birthday with Mama and other loved ones, in God’s heavenly realm, Papa!

Timeless tribute —  a re-post from January 2019 on BBL:

January 27th is Papa’s birthday. He left this earth nearly five decades ago.

Very interesting that my best memory of him is when he was teaching me my first lesson in algebra. Seated deep in a rattan and narra wooden chair, balancing my thick algebra textbook on the armchair, he patiently explained the elements of the algebraic equation. That mathematical language was Greek to me then, but somehow, he injected such clear logic behind understanding the movement of numbers and symbols from left to right or right to left of the equal sign. He put in plain simple English the language of mathematics for this girl barely in her teens.

I haven’t given much thought to my Papa in quite a long time, except when briefly alluding to him in some of my blogs that travelled memory lane. I haven’t thought about the man and traits nor his talents and abilities, much less speak about him in great length to my children who were born many years after he passed. This blog is a tribute to him, and if it doesn’t accomplish anything else, I am gratified that I have been inspired to think more and write more about my children’s Lolo John.

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The Philippines’ 1st Nobel Prize Winner — Maria Ressa, Journalist

A jubilant and resounding congratulations to the first Nobel Prize winner of the Philippines – Maria Ressa, Filipino-American Journalist and Author – 2021 Nobel Peace Laureate — for her outstanding work of courage in her honest, factual and soul-searching journalistic work that upholds and exemplifies the integrity and forthrightness of media reporting, and its vital role in conserving the strength and essence of society’s soul.

Ressa: educated in Princeton and the University of the Philippines, 2018 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, former CNN Reporter and Bureau Chief for Southeast Asia, Co-Founder of Rappler. — lpj

Huge congratulations – Hidilyn Diaz earns the Philippine’s first Olympic gold medal! And a toast to the Olympic spirit

Hidilyn Diaz makes history.  After almost 100 years in contending at the Olympics, the Philippines finally won its first Olympic Gold medal.  Hidilyn Diaz earned Gold in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event at the Japan 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. She lifted a total of 224 kilograms, outperforming the Chinese world record holder of the past several years, Liao Qiuyun who ended up getting the silver medal with her total of 223 kilograms.

In Diaz’s interviews with the media, she attributed her victory first to God, the very cause and reason, she emphasized, for her ending up where she is.  And yes, where this 30-year-old is now is at the top of her sport, the crème of the country’s pride, the toast of celebrations, and a bright, distinguished place in Philippine history.  She remarked that her victory also is due to the tremendous help and encouragement from her family and friends, the support from the nation and several organizations and, not to forget, the very hard work she had to undergo for this competition, in the midst of the pandemic. Testimony to the resourcefulness and determination of her competitive spirit, not having actual weights for her practices, she persevered to prepare for the event by lifting heavy water jugs as substitutes for weights.  A glorious yet humble win.

Diaz, the new world’s record holder in women’s weightlifting, garnered the silver medal in that event in the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. The Philippines now has a total of 11 Olympic medals won since its first Olympic participation in 1924.


A toast to the Olympic spirit

At this juncture, I take the opportunity to mention one other Philippine contender at the Tokyo Olympics, Margielyn Didal, who competed in women’s street skateboarding.

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My recollections of Lolo/Grandfather on Father’s Day

By:  LPJ

Strange and amazing how one picture can stir up remarkable recollections. This one did, one posted by my Auntie Rose Cruz on Facebook as part of her Father’s Day tribute to her father.  Wenceslao Manuel Sr., my Lolo (Grandfather) on my mother’s side. Upon seeing his photo, I was immediately transported to another time, another age, just out of the sixth grade.

It was a sultry summer in the farm called Auayan (or Awayan) in the Bicol Region, Philippines. An expansive agricultural land of gentle rolling hills both sides of a railroad track.  While the west portion was populated with coconut groves, the eastern areas were heavily spotted with rice fields and orchards bordered by a river whose green waters snake between thin strips of sandy shores.  I’m trying to pierce my memory for the reason why that summer stood out for me.  For one, I just graduated from elementary, and was taking a respite before gearing up for high school.  But no, that wasn’t the reason for that remarkable summer.

I stare at Lolo’s picture again, and memories flood back, almost like a movie reel progressing in spectacular panoramic color.  Center of the flashback is Lolo, with Lola at his side, seated at his usual spot in front of the large farmhouse window equipped with panels laden with little squares each framing old, shiny white Capiz shells; the panels, always slid aside to let the breeze flow into the expansive square house of rare, sturdy native wood, some yakal, some molave.

But why, again, was that summer so important to me then, and even now?

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A glorious Father’s Day

First, a most respectful Father’s Day greeting to the Father of us all — Our Father God, the source of true love.

Then, Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere — and our gratitude for their loving and steadfast care.

A wonderful vision — fathers in heaven being celebrated by the One great Father of All — and an endearing thought: they are looking down as they fervently pray for God’s blessings on the fathers on earth and their families.  What a glorious thought.

Really … it’s all about love, Father God’s love, in His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, for all of us, His children.

Again, Happy Father’s Day on this glorious day!  —   lpj

Daisy – over the rainbow to dog heaven

Past eleven last night, I got a difficult call.  My daughter Joy, between sobs, informed me that her German Shepherd pet dog, Daisy, had passed. On her 10th year, Daisy had left a distraught “Mommy and Daddy” who raised and cared for her, loved and appreciated her for her gentle nature, and for the calm, affectionate and observant ways she had endeared herself to the family.

After listening to my daughter’s grief-stricken words, I said a silent prayer and a soft goodnight, hoping that the night’s rest would give pause to grief.  And to my sadness, too.  This morning, I woke up and as I engaged in my usual morning prayers, thought about Daisy, still with a heavy heart.

Sadness peaked when I read my daughter’s Facebook post from last night:

“RIP, Daisy Bear. We will miss your loving affection and quiet solitude. As is your nature, you came inside tonight to kiss me g’bye, plopped down in your bed, and quietly left this world. Oh sweet, sweet girl. My heart is broken.”

And my response in a post:

“Sweet, sedate, loving Daisy — You were Daddy’s and Mommy’s girl — and Grandmama’s girl, too. Pleasant journey on the rainbow to dog heaven.”

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Flowers at my door – reminded me it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow

My daughter Joy called me this morning and asked if I had opened my front door. Strange question, I thought.   I had no clue, but I opened the door anyway.  Surprise!  If inanimate objects could speak, this one would.  A very lovely vase with a stunning mix of flowers was staring me square in the face right in front of the door – like begging to come in, cajoling, “Let me in, let me in!”.  This clueless Mom all of a sudden realized it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow! All along, I thought it was the weekend after.  Of course, I let the flowers in.  Very carefully, I lifted the intricate and heavily laden glass vase and took it to my dining table, while a voice on the phone cheerfully chimed, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”

Funny, I responded, “Thanks! Happy Mother’s Day, Sweetheart.”  Immediately popped the rationale that yes, to me and to her, because I remembered her reminding me a few years back that she’s a mother, too, a Mom to two delightful German Shepherd dogs. And of course, the best greeting of all – “I love you” to each other.

And to all the Moms in my family, my daughter-in-law Natasha, my sisters, aunts, nieces and friends, Happy, Happy Mother’s Day!

Flowers from my daughter Joy and son-in-law Matt happily remind me it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow! (Photo by lpj)

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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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Proud of your educational institution – and grateful for it?

The University of the Philippines (UP) recently gained major international acclaim.  It garnered the highest citation score in the 2021 Times Higher Education University World Ranking for pre-clinical, clinical and health research (91.9%), according to a report of the Business Mirror.  In this regard, UP ranked over the University of Oxford, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, University of California Los Angeles, among other top renowned institutions of higher learning. Outrageously awesome!

Especially during this time of heightened COVID pandemic concerns all over the world, health and medical initiatives are of utmost importance and relevance.  This distinction brings to the forefront attention to the efforts, knowledge, skills and contributions of health professionals who, in various capacities, work for the health and well-being of humanity.  Our hats off to them in extreme gratitude.

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The gentle smile that’s no longer there

Lonely times.  Hard times.  Grief springs fresh anew.  My dear sister-in-law, Cecille Paco Pandes, passed yesterday, in Philippine time, September 12 at 2:49 in the afternoon.  This, a month after she lost her husband, my younger brother Albert, to cardiac arrest.  Cecille battled with pneumonia and succumbed to a collapsed lung.  Thirty minutes prior to a scheduled tracheotomy, she left this world.

She leaves a very devastated family that’s trying to comprehend the demise of two beloved parents (and grandparents) whose departures are just weeks apart.  The pain of grief is searing.  But it also bows our knees to a posture of prayer to the One Almighty God who knows the count of every hair on our head, every line in our palms, every sigh of our heart, and catches every tear that falls.  Only He knows where paths converge and diverge, how every life is lived, and where every purpose on earth peaks.  For these reasons, we trust Him, in His son Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and of love. We trust that our Lord has settled Cecille and Albert in His beautiful castle up in the heavenlies.

Still, grief knocks at the heart. 

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A loving tribute for my ‘kid’ brother Albert

Grieving is painful. That’s exactly what I feel right now. My younger brother, Albert, will be buried at Manila Memorial Park cemetery in a few hours. Back to dust, as Scripture starkly says about death. Tears are rushing down my cheeks unchecked. Surely, am missing him. And here I am in California, not able to travel to the Philippines due to restrictions around the pandemic guidelines. So, I stoically wait for the zoom to start for the funeral service.

Grief is painful. It reminds me of losing my dear husband five years ago. When a loved one goes, we seek comfort in the thought that the spirit lives on and is back home with God. Spiritually soothing. Yet the tears flow, shedding from a hurting heart.

I especially hurt for Albert’s wife, Cecile, his children and grandchildren. Feeling very sad, I sit here trying to write a tribute to a brother five years junior to me, a brother who, up to the time of his recent sick days, never shied from displaying pure delight whenever I vacationed in the Philippines to visit family, or every time I skyped to chat with family there. The last time I saw him alive was a few days ago on skype – with a face that perked up for a greeting, he waved his good right hand (having been half paralyzed from a stroke early this year) — his arm, suspended prolongedly in mid-air, waving, waving, waving.

The wave of goodbye …

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Loving tributes for Father’s Day

This afternoon, I sat enraptured listening to two friends performing Schubert Serenade on the piano and violin in my living room. I’ve heard it many times before, but this time, it especially kindled memories of my father singing in his rich baritone lyrics of his favorite love song evolved from Schubert’s music. Back of our home in the province where I grew up is the Bicol river. Still clear in my mind, he often would stand by the river bank and sing with full gusto the enchanting melody of Schubert Serenade. Being a romantic at heart and even as a little girl, I enjoyed imagining that the leaves of nearby malongay trees and the long blades of cogon grass trembled at the vibrancy of his voice. And of course, Mama swooned. A good time to remember – it’s Father’s Day on Sunday. So, happy Father’s Day, Papa, wherever you are in God’s spiritual realm.

In my living room is my husband’s handsome portrait used during his funeral four and a half years ago. If eyes could smile, his do, especially in that picture. I call them twinkling eyes, and as I relished strains of Schubert Serenade, I imagined that his eyes twinkled even more, and his smile broadened even more. Strange, you might say. But that’s just my playful imagination.
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Fond memories bring smiles and laughter that wipe away tears — remembering Marley

Devastating news yesterday morning. My daughter called to say she and her husband received the veterinary doctor’s diagnosis on Marley, their 10-year-old German Shepherd. The dog’s pancreatitis had worsened and sepsis had set in. Marley was suffering. With dismal prognosis, there was no other option.

A hard blow. Two months ago, Oliver, their 12-year-old German Shepherd succumbed to cancer. Still recovering from a heartbreak over Oliver, this news was just too much to take. Over the phone, I could hardly make out my daughter’s words. Sobs so deep blurred her speech. But when I heard “Marley has to go”, my heart sank. Hearts are being broken all over again. These dogs are my daughter and her husband’s “kids”, and I’m the grandmamma. How much more pain can one take?

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Is there a dog heaven?

Imagining there is gives comfort to my daughter who just lost her beloved Oliver, a handsome and loving German Shepherd who succumbed to cancer. On his 12th year of age, and diagnosed only a few weeks ago, Ollie seemed to be his usual determined self, loving the walks on the Atlanta Beltline a few blocks from where my daughter, her husband and their three German Shepherd dogs reside. As soon as my daughter and her husband (the doggies’ Mommy and Daddy) heard of the shocking news, they decided to give Ollie the best time of his life and took him on his favorite activity, walking every day, allowing him to lead them to places he favored. His best was Ladybird. How did Mommy and Daddy know? Every time they walked by that place, Ollie would pull them to that direction. Ladybird is a dog friendly restaurant that offers delicious grilled meat. Furthermore, the staff, servers and customers are all so very friendly, and Oliver basked in the attention. But who wouldn’t pay notice to Ollie who always looked regal, long ears straight up, and a poise that showed so much aplomb. Best of all, he was quite friendly himself and captivated with generous smiles.

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Mother’s love, special and extraordinary – Happy Mother’s Day

By:  LPJ

A mother’s love is so magical. I cannot say enough about my Mama’s love or that of my Lola. I have written blogs as tributes to them. My words can only try, but they never do justice to the magnanimity and depth of their love. It is Mother’s Day this weekend, and fond memories of Mama and Lola come flooding back. They nestle in a special place in my heart.

This blog is my tribute to some mothers in my family, all of them younger than my baby boomer age, each unique in ordinary and extraordinary ways. The common thread, however, is the deep love and caring they nurture for their children.

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Grandmas/Lolas – uniquely precious

By:  LPJ

Indulging in nostalgia can be a sentimentally sweet activity. That’s what my colleague/friend and I did this afternoon. She started it, shared stories about her “old country” (Portugal) where she lived when she was a little girl. Reminiscing the culture of her youth, she related heartwarming and precious memories of growing up under the watchful eyes of two very different yet loving grandmothers. I love to hear about old times. I encouraged her.

This lady, also a Lola, turned misty eyed as she dreamily recalled her maternal and paternal grandmas. The simple matter of a dress code was one example of a major difference she had to contend with as a young girl. Her maternal grandmother tolerated her miniskirts. The paternal grandma would pull the hem of her skirt down in kind rebuke, duly imparting the message that skirts should always be longer. So one day, that young girl borrowed someone’s long dress, put it on despite the over size, with a skirt that reached the floor and hair combed in tight pigtails, she dramatically presented herself to the very old-fashioned woman – and mischievously quipped, “Now, how do you like this, Avo (Grandma)?”. The old lady totally beamed with approval and delight, never mind the teasing ridiculousness of her granddaughter’s appearance.

Do you have a Grandma/Lola like that?

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Remembering Papa/Lolo John on his birthday

By:  LPJ

January 27th is Papa’s birthday. He left this earth nearly five decades ago.

Very interesting that my best memory of him is when he was teaching me my first lesson in algebra. Seated deep in a rattan and narra wooden chair, balancing my thick algebra textbook on the armchair, he patiently explained the elements of the algebraic equation. That mathematical language was Greek to me then, but somehow, he injected such clear logic behind understanding the movement of numbers and symbols from left to right or right to left of the equal sign. He put in plain simple English the language of mathematics for this girl barely in her teens.

I haven’t given much thought to my Papa in quite a long time, except when briefly alluding to him in some of my blogs that travelled memory lane. I haven’t thought about the man and traits nor his talents and abilities, much less speak about him in great length to my children who were born many years after he passed. This blog is a tribute to him, and if it doesn’t accomplish anything else, I am gratified that I have been inspired to think more and write more about my children’s Lolo John.

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Graduation – a triumphant passage to the next adventure in life’s journey

Transitions convey anticipation and excitement and, often, a triumphant sense of achievement. At the same time, they prompt some wonder of what lies ahead and how one can ride new challenges. Graduation goads transition that specifically highlights passage to the next stage, the next adventure, the next milestone.

I take exception from not mentioning names in my blogs with these congratulatory blurbs for certain individuals.

My niece, May Gordoncillo Payabyab, my web consultant, is graduating next week with a degree in Master of Arts in Communication Research from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Years of careful and thoughtful work in completing her thesis centered on new media have brought her fresh and deeper insights into the influence and confluence of technology on mass communication. Like anyone about to embark on new ventures, May eyeballs various possibilities and opportunities, recognizing that narrowing down to a career direction hinges on how well and how much she knows herself. I wish her the best.

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Harry and Meghan: a triumph of love – for England, for the world

Enamored, fascinated and star-struck. That’s what I was as I witnessed on television Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding at Windsor, England. I do not usually gush over royalty, or become bewitched by pomp and splendor. But I do, for Meghan and Harry. Watching them being wed in real time entranced me. The pageantry was remarkable and spectacular. Yet there was a simplicity about it, a beguiling warmth and genuineness that shaved off the stiffness and topped all solemnity. I just couldn’t take my eyes and myself away from the full coverage on CNN. I was definitely hooked. It would be no surprise if the millions who watched this glorious event felt the same as I have. If you watched, you would understand.
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A loving tribute on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is one of the most love-filled days of the year. The tribute is a celebration of love — love enshrined in the heart that never diminishes, never forgotten, never tainted by circumstance or challenge. It is pure, enduring and honorable. Not unusual that the genuine concept of a mother’s love is discerning of sacrifice. Sacrifice that is selfless and giving. Every mother can relate to that. And every child should understand that.

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Remembering Mama/Lola Nena

Heaven opened up to admit a sweet angel, and that’s my Mama, known to grand- and great grandchildren as Lola Nena.  She passed on November 7, 2017, 29 days shy of her 101st birthday (Dec. 6).  Her masses and funeral services in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines memorialized death as a passage to life eternal with God, but they also celebrated the life God gave her on earth, a life anchored on family, love and faith.

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