Monday, December 17, 2007

Of Deaths This Festive Season

I was not ready for the "thief" who suddenly came in the darkness of the night just as we were admonished in the Bible. Not this time of the year when we are about to celebrate the birth of our Lord. Not this merry month of December. And certainly not twice in one week -- the first during a seminar that I attended and the second, although I was not present, I also felt the pain because my family and I spent many happy meals in the beautiful restaurant of the person who died.

Last Thursday 13 December, I attended a seminar sponsored by LLDA (Laguna Lake Development Authority) on bamboo propagation. LLDA's goal is to plant 90,000 hectares of land around the lake and rivers; to prevent soil erosion, increase soil-water retention and fight air pollution. Members of LGU's in Laguna and surrounding provinces, member of NGO's, some farmer leaders and farmers (me included) were invited to attend. It would be a two-and-a-half days of lecture and field work.

Our lecture was held in one of the air-conditioned meeting rooms of the LLDA compound in Calauan, Laguna. Our trainors from the Philippine Bamboo Foundation and PCARRD introduced themselves first, then later we were made to speak a little about ourselves. That morning, we learned about the importance of bamboo, physiology of the bamboo, how it grows and how it can help fight global warming. We were told that we will have a field work on how to clean a bamboo clump after lunch.

After lunch we drove to a demonstration farm in Calauan, Laguna about 3 km from LLDA where we were made to work for the free lunch and seminar. We were asked to clear out the bamboo clumps using the techniques that we learned in the morning. One classmate who was working with me suddenly fell. I thought at first that he just slipped but after waiting for a minute for him to regain his footing, two other trainees and I checked on him and found him unconscious and his mouth, bubbling. We tried to extricate him from the bamboo thorns, but even with six persons working together, we could hardly carry him out of the farm to one of the cars. We rushed him to the Bay Community hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. I could only imagine how heart-rending it was for his family who expected him to return home after a fruitful seminar, only to learn that he died without anyone of them beside him.

I read the second death on the front page of the Philippine Star today. Ernest Santiago -- owner of the Gallery 83, the restaurant that I wrote about in this blog; and more importantly, a leading designer, be it fashion, furniture, house or garden -- was murdered probably last Saturday afternoon, 15 December. Police suspect robbery was the cause because some of Ernest Santiago's worldly possessions are nowhere to be found. Come to think of it, the last time I saw him was about two weeks ago when we were both buying our groceries at the South Supermarket in Los Banos.

My family and I have a great affinity for Ernest Santiago. This artist with the long grey hair was really still on top of his game.Even though we have been to Gallery 83 so many times, each time that we visit is still a novelty because of distinctive additions that make the ambience of the place like no other. The front pocket garden of the restaurant has undergone so many changes, each time as marvelous as the previous one, a testament of the creative genius of the owner. My wife has just wondered two weeks ago when we were starting to decorate our house for the season, how would Ernest decorate his garden and restaurant this year. Last year, she remembered, he used the lowly used straws (for drinking) to make many beautiful parols of attractive colors. My children still remember the quaint bathroom of his house that has no doors, secluded from the public view by plants and interesting artifacts. As part of entertaining our house guests, especially those from the US, we usually invite them to Gallery 83 hoping that after the meal, we would be allowed to view Ernest's house and garden in which we have always found tranquility as we savor the beautiful scenery. We were planning to visit his other restaurant in Lukban, Kilib Resort, this Christmas break. We will miss him if we ever get there but probably Ernest is creating something wonderful in the bosom of our Lord.

The UPLB Faculty Follies

December is such a pleasant month living in Los Banos. We rarely use the air conditioner this month until January because the air becomes much cooler with the gentle wind caressing the abundant plants and foliage more often. Another source of excitement during this month is the UPLB Faculty Follies. As the title suggests, this is the time when teachers and other UPLB staff display their talents other than teaching. My younger son says this is the time for goofing off.

It was particularly special for me this year because my older son who is a new instructor at UPLB was one of the dancers for the College of Arts and Sciences. As a very proud father, I captured this milestone in my old videocam. My wife, who was at that time preparing our younger son for the second screening test of the Philippine Science High School, was thankful that I recorded this proud moment because she was able to watch our son perform and at the same time, taught our other son.

I became bolder and uploaded many of the video clips in the YouTube. I am now a proud contributor of 27 video clips, UPLB Faculty Follies and my wife's office party in the YouTube. Last time I checked, I have more than 1000 hits in the YouTube. Please visit

This is another kind of satisfaction for me!