This morning, I interviewed Filipino-Canadian author, Marie Claire Lim-Moore about her book, Don’t Forget the Soap and Other Reminders from My Fabulous Filipina Mother. We got to compare notes about our childhoods and how we were raised and she mentioned that the hardest lesson that she had to learn from her mom was the idea of gratitude — to be always mindful of and grateful for what we have and what is given to us.
This resonated with me because it’s also a lesson that my mom has always tried to instill in me and my brothers, not just by saying it, but through actions. I wasn’t a rebellious and angsty teenager, but even I would roll my eyes at my mom when she would go on one of her “Pasalamat ka, you have all this. Other kids are not so lucky…” lectures. But as I grew older, I have come to really appreciate and value the lesson. So what Claire said in the interview and in the book about gratitude really struck a chord, especially when I am having a tough day or week or when things just don’t go as I planned them to.
I was reminded of the conversation when later in the day, I had a chat with someone who said that she was a cynic. I laughed and told her she was too young to be a cynic, and “to wait until you reach my age, at least,” I told her. She laughed and said, “Yeah, well something called life got in my way.” Her reply really floored me. I wanted to tell her, you’re living in one of the most advanced cities on earth, you have a good job, you’re young and in the best of health, you’re beautiful, you can afford to buy what you want and eat what and whenever you want… What right do you have to be cynical? It was such ungrateful behavior, I thought. Then again, I realized she’s young. And of course, I don’t know her life. Maybe something happened to her to make her so cynical, I don’t know. I was young too and yes, I can be cynical. But as I grow older, I’ve realized that cynicism just takes too much work and too much heart out of me. It was easier to strive to be happy and be grateful for the little things that come my way each day, than to actually view the world through a world-weary lens.
Anyway, what was the point of all this? Nothing really. It’s just a reflection of what I learned — or re-learned — during my day. Or maybe an after-effect of what happened to many Filipinos during Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan or maybe because it’s December and the mad rush for Christmas is about to begin. Maybe I needed to stop and re-calibrate? Or heck, just call it a grace note for the middle of the week. As good a reason as any, yes? Happy hump day!
PS: For those in Manila, Marie Claire Lim-Moore will have a book signing at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street tomorrow. I am just not sure what time. And no, I am not in charge of publicity for the book. There are just too few Filipino authors making waves out in the international sphere that it makes sense to champion each one. And it’s a really good book, too! Those who know me, know that I usually devour fiction and not enough non-fiction, and I usually don’t read inspirational memoirs. In fact, I admitted to Claire that I only read her book because I needed to interview her. I ended up liking it a lot. So go check it out. It’s also available on amazon.com.
At the crossroads of Mackenzie Road and Selegie. This was a few weeks after Deepavali but the decorations are still up
I haven’t been running lately, so as a compromise, I’ve taken to walking a lot. I live fairly central from town, and most of the places I go to are roughly three kilometers from home, so after a night/day out gallivanting, I would walk home. It’s my compromise for not being so assiduous with the running regimen. These pictures were taken around a week or so ago. I was always on Orchard Road, watching films during the German Film Festival (…incidentally, why are serious films called “films” and Hollywood blockbusters “movies”? Ever think of that? It’s the same bugbear I get when in a library or bookstore, fiction is divided between “bestsellers” and “literature” — aren’t all of them literature? Anyway…) and I was walking home and it occurred to me to just take pictures. So here they are. I don’t know if it’s because I was just in a reflective and pensive mood when I shot them, but there’s a loneliness to the images that particularly resonated. Or maybe that’s just my take on them. So let’s begin…
START: Most of the films shown for the German Film Festival were shown here, at The Cathay, which is the oldest cinema in Singapore…. Well, the facade is part of the oldest cinema. Notice how it’s very Art Deco. It’s now a mall and a cineplex. I like that the authorities kept the facade. I like the sign too. It’s connected to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie, but I can’t feeling that the irony is a bit delicious, in the context of Singapore.
Walk a few meters, and we come to Uncle Ice Cream Sandwich vendor. There was a crowd when I was walking towards him, so I waited for a few minutes for them to disperse. Ice cream sandwich vendors are practically the only ambulant vendors in Singapore these days who sell food, the rest are in hawker centers. The building in the background is the Rendezvous Hotel.
The facade of the imposing Singapore School of the Arts. It’s envisioned to be like the School of Performing Arts in New York from the movie, Fame.
POMO — it’s a mall. I actually haven’t gone in here. If I get curious enough I may go in one day…
Across from POMO is the Selegie Arts Centre, which I also haven’t investigated…yet. There’s a 24-hour cafe on its premises, though. So If my insomnia strikes, I know where to hang out with a book.
Late night sidewalk shopping, anyone?
Or maybe something to eat?
What’s a walk on the “wild side” without a little neon? While I was taking this picture, there was a white woman clutching a bouquet of roses leaning on the wall on the left, but she left when I started snapping. I wanted to take a picture of her, but I didn’t want to intrude; I have not mastered the art of asking complete strangers for a picture. I have a friend who could do it — just go up to a random stranger to request if she could take their photo because she loved what they were wearing or what they looked like. I think it’s a skill.
Colorful saris on display
One of the oldest movie theaters in Singapore, Rex Cinemas opened in 1946, but shut down in 1983. It was acquired by Shaw Theatres and was restored. It shows the latest Tamil and Hindi movies. This is practically in my backyard already.
Cater-corrnered from Rex Cinemas is Sole Pomodoro, an Italian pizza-pasta trattoria in Little India. Makes sense, yes? Mackenzie Road has a few interesting dining and hangout places that I like. This is one of them.
The two photos above are from the newly opened Madame Pattiserie Bistro and Bar. There’s another outlet on Boat Quay so I was pleasantly surprised when I chanced upon the new-ish (it’s been around a few months) outlet on Mackenzie. I haven’t gone to check out the food yet, but I bought a small loaf of banana cake that night. It was the perfect dessert to end the night with!
320 Below Nitro Ice Cream Cafe — Too bad I already bought the banana cake or else I would have definitely tried the ice cream here, which is made using liquid nitrogen.
Owl’s Brew. This interesting little bar is tucked away on Mackenzie Road just before it intersects with Bukit Timah Road. It’s an odd place for a bar because it’s far away from the madness of Little India, which would have drawn in more crowds. But I like that it’s sort of a neighborhood haunt. It’s a beer and ciders place that’s only a few blocks from my place. Perfect!
From Mackenzie, I turn left to go up Bukit Timah Road. Here’s an ubiquitous sign in Singapore. Sometimes I think this is Singapore’s motto — especially when work is especially grueling at the office. Of course, I say this half-seriously. I realize how lucky I am; I don’t have to actually do manual labor to keep body and soul together, like these guys…
Almost home — photos of the neighborhood and the neighborhood playground. I like walking through the playground, even when the lights are off in the later part of the night. It’s a peaceful place… Though sometimes I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if I chance upon a little kid on the merry-go-round at night, like what happens sometimes in horror and ghost stories… FINISH.
My route: 2.46 kilometers. Not bad for a night’s walk.
Feel-good music for the end of the day, whether or not you like Lorde’s music. This is performed by the Acabelles of Florida State University. Good job, ladies!
[Image borrowed from Romeo Ranoco/Reuters]
I don’t have words today. It’s hard to concentrate on words and work when news just keeps coming of thousands of fellow Filipinos displaced by Yolanda (international name Haiyan). I’m left feeling helpless at the devastation as recounted in this heartbreaking story. (Full disclosure: Written by my brother who is on the scene to cover the tragedy.) Not being in the Philippines, I really can’t do much except send money or goods to aid relief efforts. And of course, spread the word for where you can donate or send money and goods to the affected.
There’s been a lot of aid and relief efforts being organised, but here’s a list from the Happy Lab site for those who may need a place to start: How You Can Help Victims of Yolanda.
I guess in times like these, words are unnecessary. Actions always speak louder. Let’s please help in every little way we can.
Natalie was buried in the family plot, next to a gravestone that already bore her parents’ names. I know the wisdom, that no parents should see their child die, that such an event is like nature spun backwards. But it’s the only way to truly keep your child. Kids grow up, they forge more potent allegiances. They find a spouse or a lover. They will not be buried with you. The Keanes, however, will remain the purest form of family. Underground.” — Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
On a gray afternoon on All Saints-All Souls weekend, reading about family secrets, murders, long-buried resentments bubbling to the surface, small town internecine dramas feels just about right. I got into Gillian Flynn because of last year’s best seller Gone Girl. This one, her first novel, shows the same sharp storytelling she put to good use in that book, this time focused on a small community in the grip of serial murders. From the first page onwards, Flynn manages to get a grip on the reader and doesn’t let go until the final and bitter revelation. Potent stuff. Family dramas are really their own kind of horror.
Lou Reed died two days ago. A giant has passed. I grew up in an era when musicians were directly influenced by Lou Reed and Velvet Underground. In fact, it’s been said that those who listened to them during that time went out and formed a band, many of which went on to become successes themselves. But his music — and Velvet Underground’s — is not easy to like. It requires a certain mood and outlook to get into it. They’re not really songs per se, but more like novels. As I grew older though, I finally got his music. I guess it requires a certain maturity and some living to finally get into that place where I “get” him.
Here, two songs that, while not exactly the ones that made him and his band famous, showcase his range as a musician, traveling from the dark melodies he trafficked in to almost sunny ditties that are at once melodic and melancholic. (And somewhere in Long Piddleton, Melrose Plant, Earl of Caverness and Lou Reed aficionado, must be raising a glass of Guinness to toast his fallen hero.)
PS: Neil Gaiman wrote a really touching tribute to the man: Neil Gaiman on Lou Reed. If not for Reed, Sandman would not exist. My universe just shifted.