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moments mundane and magical

Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

The Eiffel Tower from a distance

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In Spring 2010, I  was a guest of the French Foreign Ministry the week an Icelandic volcano impossibly named Eyjafjallajokull erupted, disrupting air travel for much of continental Europe.  But I did not realize its full impact until much later in the week, when the possibility of being stranded for a long time in one of the world’s most expensive cities seemed all too real. To say I was scared by that prospect would be an understatement. I found old diary entries from that period while cleaning my room the other night. Two entries were about my first view of the Eiffel Tower from up in the air on the night I landed in Paris, and a visit to it the next night, after a long day of meetings with various French functionaries.  Some excerpts, which remind me of a promise I have yet to fulfill:

April 11

eiffel

Schiphol now has full-body x-ray scanners, installed after an incident a few months ago, when a Nigerian man took a flight from here bound for the US, apparently intending to blow the plane up as soon as it reached American soil. He packed chemicals and strapped them to his body. He tried to trigger an explosion in mid-flight but fellow passengers subdued  him before he could harm anyone.  The new scanners were installed to prevent  a similar incident from happening again.

Amsterdam to Paris is just an hour an 20 minutes. I don’t any more need to go through immigration control, which is good. The one at Schiphol is enough.

The Dutch girl beside me is on her way to an internship in Hongkong. I later chat with her as we get ready to land.

…..

…..

From up in the air at 10 pm Paris is indeed a City of Lights. “There’s the Eiffel Tower,” the Dutch girl beside me says, a finger pointing out the plane’s window. Later the chauffeur sent by the Foreign Ministry to pick me up at the Charles De Gaulle drives  me right by the tower. From the banks of the River Seine, it glittered like a tree of brilliant diamonds, but up close, it was a tower of blazing gold.

The chauffeur takes me to the Travellex office. There he presents my passport to the teller, who then hands him 360 euros: my allowance for 7 days.

….Hotel Cayre  — a four storey setup — is strategically located, on the Left Bank, near the chic  and historic St. Germaine- De-Pres  on the 6th arrondissement.   Hemingway’s old haunts are here, and the cafes that the great existentialist philosophers — Sartre etc — frequented in the old days. Sorbonne! My room’s mighty expensive , at 460 euros a night!  What can I say, the  French Foreign Ministry  certainly knows how to entertain its guests.

……..

April 13

What a long day. Took a walk to the Eiffel Tower and back  tonight. It’s strange to say “tonight” here, because it’s spring and the sun set at close to 9 pm. My feet are sore from all the walking. To get my bearings right, I made it a point to follow the length of the River Seine from the Musee d’ Orsay. At the Eiffel — even at night it is swarming with tourists.I just took lots of pictures. I decided not to do what most tourists would want to do, which is take the elevator up the tower. I promise to do that on the next visit to Paris. For now, it is enough for me to be here.

………

But call it traveling in style:  I’m accompanied in my visits by an interpreter,  a Scott named J.R., who worked on a PhD in philosophy and went on many adventures before he found himself  doing an interpreter’s work (he has quite a story to tell of his adventures!). We drive around in a Voiture Citroen C5 with a friendly chauffeur who knows his period American films very well!

xxxxxx

Written by Romel

May 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Posted in beauty, Filipino OFWs, Paris, travels

Tagged with , , ,

An invitation

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agatha

Written by Romel

May 8, 2013 at 3:12 am

Posted in balak, beauty, love, poetry, tula

The thrill of literary romance

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From the Hungarian writer George Konrad’s memoirs, A Guest in my Own Country: A Hungarian Life (2002) a tale of an unlikely but endearing romance with his first wife, Julia:

When I first met Julia Langh, who would be my wife from the autumn of 1960 to the autumn of  1976, she had floated into the Kisposta Cafe trailing blond hair and rustling  black rain-coat and wearing a white blouse with a turned-down collar. She had just come from university — where she had been accepted thanks to her perfect gimnazium record and a captivating articulateness — and entered the cafe, a first-year student in French and Hungarian, suppressing her timidity and wondering, “My God, what happens now? Who is that old man, that twenty-seven year old?” She was not quite eighteen.

I would show up at six a.m. with notebook, pen, and ink, as if punching a time clock. It allowed me to watch the rendezvous, generally hurried, that took place before work.
 
….from that morning on, Juli and I saw each other practically everyday for sixteen years. I could always be assured of stories: she is the kind of person whom elaborate things happen to, or who can make them happen. For her part, she did not appear to find the stories of the aging welfare officer and part-time proof reader tedious and had no qualms about putting the  necktied knight in his place when the stories turned into analyses. She was obviously free of all dishonorable intentions.

#######

And then this poem from Osip Mandelstam, translated from Russian to English  by A.S.  Kline, and which the poet wrote for his wife Nadezhada:

This is what I most want

This is what I most want

un-pursued, alone

to reach beyond the light

that I am furthest from.

And for you to shine there-

no other happiness-

and learn, from starlight,

what its fire might suggest.

A star burns as a star,

light becomes light,

because our murmuring

strengthens us, and warms the night.

And I want to say to you

my little one, whispering,

I can only lift you towards the light

by means of this babbling.

Written by Romel

April 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

One for poetry month

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hands

Haiku ng pagsinta

 

Sa  seda

ng iyong mga kamay,

halik ng mga pangarap.

 

April 5, 2013, 12:33 am

Written by Romel

April 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Posted in balak, beauty, love, poetry, tula

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A Good Friday Poem

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Good Friday is just around the corner, and our campus-based Alliance congregation, the Christ our Life Fellowship, will be holding a Tenebrae (A Service of Shadows);  for that purpose I found this poem in English by Henry J. Baron, entitled In the Courtyard with Peter, and translated it with the help of a friend into Tagalog, for use as one of the readings for the Tenebrae.        

Candles3

Sa Patyo kasama ni Pedro

(Salin mula sa Ingles nina Romel Bagares at Agatha Palencia, 3.25.13)

Ako man any naroon noon sa kailaliman ng gabi sa patyo ng Punong Pari

nang sa takot ang mga anghel sa kaitasan ay nagliparan palibot sa trono ng Ama

nang ang mga nakaismid na mga lehiyon ay nag-unahan at nagtulakan sa maagang selebrasyon

nang walang pakundangang umupo si Pedro kasama ang mga guwardiya palibot sa apoy

upang bantayan si Hesus—

Ako man ay naroon

Narinig at nakita ko ang mga karimari-marim, kasuklam-suklam na masasamang taong

nagkubli bilang mga pari, mga nakatatanda, at mga mangangaral ng batas

habang kanilang inabuso ang Diyos na kailanma’y hindi nila kinilala

sapagkat sila’y hindi mga tagasunod Niya

hindi nila narinig ang kanyang pangangaral sa bundok na nagbasbas

sa payak ang kalooban, sa mapagpakumbaba, sa maawain, sa dalisay ang puso

dahil hindi sila ganoon at hindi sila kailanman nagnais maging ganoon

aaminin kong ako ma’y hindi ganoon ngunit palagiang nagnanais maging tagasunod.

Sila’y hindi mga tagasunod Niya

kaya hindi nila kilala ang Anak ng Diyos na ito

O kung ginusto nila

kung nakita nila ang pilay na sumayaw sa tuwa

kung nakita nila ang  luwalhati sa mga mata ng isang taong ipinanganak na bulag

kung nakita nila ang ganda ng bagong balat na nagdabdab sa braso ng isang dating ketongin

kung nakita nilang lumundag  ang espiritu ng isang balo ng muling magkabuhay ang anak na namatay

kung nakita nga nila, tatawagin din kaya nila si Kristo bilang Anak ng Diyos?

Alam ni Pedro, at ako man ay nakakaalam din.

Ngunit si Pedro’y itinatwa ito nang may panunumpa;

Ako rin kaya’y may ginawang ganitong sala, kung kailan mas ligtas at mas madali ang magpanggap?

Tumatangis ang mga angel, habang ang mga diyablo’y nagsasayaw.

Naririnig natin siyang Kabanal-banalan na sinumpang mamatay

dahil sa kung sino Siya

napagmamasdan natin ang pagbaling ng kanyang mukha

ang maruming dura ng mga mapag-alipustang lalaking naghahalo ng kanyang dugo

Ibabaling niya ang kanya mukha at titingin ng tuwid kay Pedro

at sa akin

sa bawat isa sa aming nagtaksil sa aming sinumpaan

at sa kanyang tingin ay walang paghuhusga, sa halip ito ay pag-ibig

pag-ibig na dumudurog sa puso ng nagkasala.

Si Pedro’y  naglakad tungo sa kadiliman at doon ay mapait na nanangis.

At ako man ay nanangis din.

            

Written by Romel

March 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

poetry recalled

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UNTITLED


And if I look in my heart,
it is always you that I see.
-Graffigny, Lettres d’une Peruvienne

coffee



The coffee
I love
reminds me
of my
beloved’s
lovely
round eyes –

ah,
what sweet
mystery
lies hidden
in its syrupy
blackness?

I look in
my cup
and Nocturnes
I hear
whenever
her gaze
meets
mine
begin
to play
in my heart.
And then
I take
a sip,

Romel Regalado Bagares, coffee study series, no. 1

Written by Romel

March 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in beauty, coffee, love, tula

Tagged with , ,

The Great Crash of 2012

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The view from the top

by Romel Regalado Bagares

Davos, Switzerland — I may have missed the World Economic Forum (WEF) by a few weeks but my Filipino hosts assured me I couldn’t have come here at a better time.

For starters, the unusually cold spell that hit all of Switzerland just a week ago — with the mercury hitting as low as -16 centigrade – dissipated earlier than projected.

Then there’s the happy fact that the sun is up; everywhere you look you see people in their skiing best rushing out of cars and buses in a mad race for the snow-bedecked mountains surrounding this resort city.

You know snow is in happy abundance in the Swiss Alps because during the two-hour drive from Zurich to the city, you pass by houses, buildings and factories with roofs layered over with meters-high powder white blankets and for a moment you imagine them to be giant cakes decorated by an unseen hand with so much icing.

You’ve never seen so much snow in your life.

I’ve lived in Amsterdam for a year for graduate school but the winter I encountered there was rather mild — two days of snow and for but a few inches of it that before I could think about taking pictures, it was all gone. Forever.

In late January, European and American policy makers met again at Davos to try to hammer out a plan of action to prevent a looming eurozone crash in the event that the Greece 100 billion euro ($100 billion ) debt debacle make a turn for the worse — with little success, it seemed.

The Swiss, it seems, are largely unperturbed. Their currency is at its strongest, and wages in Switzerland are at their highest. The good economic situation here has attracted droves of nationals from other EU countries seeking escape from the bleak economic prospects in their home countries. Davos itself shows this — hordes of Germans have found employment here and many are seeking Swiss citizenship. Austrians and Portuguese are following suit.

But I’m here because my hosts think it’s the perfect time to introduce me to a fine Swiss contraption of daredeviltry known as the schlittel.

It’s actually the Swiss version of dear old Santa’s sleigh, only that it’s much smaller and there isn’t any Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer to pull you. Instead, you propel the schlittel down the snow-covered slopes using your own weight.

There’s been a revival in interest among the Swiss in this instrument of Swiss ingenuity in the last few years.

I guess that could mean anywhere between the spike in the sale of the contraption and the high probability that more people could get injured as a result of their newly-rediscovered enthusiasm for it: last year, an eight-year-old boy and a 21-year old woman died in separate schlittel crash incidents in Switzerland.

Reports quote the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention to say that around 10,000 people – both children and adults – get injured from sledging per year in this country of about 8 million. That figure is around 1,000 fewer than the entire population of Davos.

Of course, the grim statistics didn’t at all deter me- after all, I only learned about it after the fact.

The unit given for my use is the Davos, a traditional wooden sledge, named after the Swiss resort where the first official sledge race took place in 1883. I understand it remains the most popular model, consistently outselling plastic ones.

The instructions Hector Chio gave me made the whole exercise rather simple. You sit near the rear end of the sledge and then flex your legs towards the front and slightly away from each other. You bend forward and push on against the ground, using your hands.

Off you hurtle down the meandering path that’s nearly three kilometers long. You tilt your right foot ever so slightly to your right to steer the sledge to that direction, your left foot to your left. To stop your advance you stomp both feet on the snow.

After so much huffing and puffing –all to no avail — I had to be pushed forward to get my schlittel moving. So off I went, whooooweeeee…..very nearly ramming into Hector 10 meters down as he was giving instructions to his son Heckie on his own sledge.

No, no, no, no, I’m fine, I told him when he offered help. To assuage my hurt pride, I decided to let the others in our party of 20 men, women and children hurtle on ahead of me so they won’t see me crashing again.

And crash again I did. Well, it’s more like turn turtle I did.

After three more hard falls half-way through the course, I made a quick calculation of my chances at surviving the next crash with little more than a few scratches. I decided that the odds were stacked against me. There was only a thin and short wall of packed snow on my left to serve as a brake in case I veer off the path towards the abrupt drop down one side of the mountain into sure death.

Just before I crashed for the fifth and last time I thought I was making real progress: I had just cleared a 50-meter stretch of the route and was headed for a tight and narrow bend to the left. I rehearsed Hector’s instructions in my mind — bank ever so slightly to your left with an ever so slight tilt of your left foot.

A pose with members of Praise Christian Church-Zurich

Instead, I made an abrupt and wide jerk of my left foot, causing my sledge to make a sharp lurch, front pointed upward. An unseen force pulled the schlittel from under me and I flew and landed on my belly a few meters away with a loud thud.

I lay there for a minute or so to catch my breath. I felt my body ache all over as a cold blanket of chill gripped me. Then I heard snow that had gathered on the leaves of a nearby pine tree slide down. I picked myself up, took off my visor and threw a glance into the distance below at the foot of the mountain. I could see the roofs of houses, inns and hotels covered with a thick blanket of white powder. Behind them loomed yet another mountain all wrapped in blinding white. I smiled at the secure thought that no one had seen me and my schlittel crash hard into the snow.*

______________________________

This is a slightly edited version of the essay that appeared in my weekly column for The News Today.

Written by Romel

February 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm

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