Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interlude: Love Comes Along With the Rain

That's scribbled in chalk on the trail map at one of my favorite places in Kalibo, marking a rest stop on an 800-meter bamboo trail. I've always wondered what inspired the turn of phrase, the unexpected poetry. I've always wondered how many people have glanced at it and laughed at the cheesiness, how many have idled away at that rest stop and waited for the rain.

The Bakhawan Eco-Park is just a few minutes away from my home so when two of my good friends visited me from Manila, that naturally became our first destination. The place is filled with mangroves, vulnerable and imposing, depending on what time of the day you choose to visit. There's a little stretch of river cutting in between the forest and you have to cross a bamboo bridge to pass through.

Said bamboo bridge. Someday, I'd like to count how many bamboo poles there are to hold this thing up.

At the end of the trail are small cottages that you can rent for the day. By 'cottage,' I mean an open-air gazebo area and not an actual house, but it's roomy enough for five-six friends to just lounge in. I would often pack a few sandwiches for the trip, because the walk (although leisurely) can be a bit tiring, especially if you visit around midday. The last time I visited, the cottages were perched on the water's edge (the mangrove forest was found by the bay), so you could sit on the bamboo floor and dangle above the water if you were feeling adventurous.

Mangrove forest two years ago. The trees weren't so tall then, so the path was a bit shadier.

The bamboo path now.

But that was two years ago, just before a devastating storm brought raging mud and water through our province. The mangrove forest had acted as catch basin of sorts then, letting the mud settle where the water once was. Now, rows of new mangroves have been planted on the reclaimed ground, and there are plans of extending the old trail to cover this area. It's a little heartbreaking to see soil and trees where I had expected water, but it's good to know that the area has been re-purposed in a way, and that the result still makes for a lovely vista. That afternoon, a few teenagers were hanging out at nearby huts (and singing some World Cup song, according to my friends) but the place never lost its idyllic charm. I could really spend hours here just writing or painting or pretending that the 'art' I do can matter to someone else.

Cla's Treeson on vacation, with the newly-planted mangrove trees behind him. Yup, that part used to be water.

Sometimes it feels that I'm living in a place that time forgot, but can you blame me for not wanting to leave? I've grown to love so much about my new home and I was glad that I was able to share a little of that with my friends. And now, you. When you visit, bring the rain.
All photos were taken by my friend Nina, except for the second one, which I took in 2008. Other pictures can be found on Flickr, through Cla's photostream.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman)

Hooray for kilometric blog titles.

Fact: Finding out that Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon didn't exist was more devastating to me than the discovering that Santa Claus was not a real man living in the North Pole. I read my first original Nancy Drew mystery when I was in the first grade (Nancy's Mysterious Letter) after my older bus mates bullied me for reading a kid-friendly Nancy Drew picture book (Mystery of the Lost Dogs). That was my rite of passage; ever since, the girls have included me in their make-believe games while waiting for the bus. I never got to play Nancy, by the way. I never even made it to Bess and George status. I was always one of the guest characters (like Carla in The Clue of the Crossword Cipher). It may not have been nice to be laughed at and made fun of, but because of that experience, I have grown to be a big mystery fan.

That is why I was ecstatic when I came across this title at our local Booksale branch. It gives an in-depth look at the origins of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, which was created by Edward Stratemeyer and his writing syndicate during the late 20's. The book continues to chronicle how both series have changed through the years, and how these well-loved characters have affected and inspired countless readers.

What I like best about Ms Kismaric and Mr Heiferman's work is how they have analyzed Nancy, Frank, and Joe and presented these characters that would make any reader -- both old fans and new to the series -- a clear picture of the world they inhabit. Reading it made me wish I had written a paper about Nancy back when I was still an undergrad. I especially enjoyed seeing how Nancy Drew mysteries measured up to the Hardy Boys' cases (I own about 15 of the Boys' series compared to about 40 of Nancy's but I have read more than that). Nancy's mysteries tend to be more cerebral while the Hardys' are more action-packed. The book also goes on to analyze the roles that their friends play in the mysteries, as well as the characters' relationships to the adults around them.

The book contains sidebars that were interesting for the most part, included to help the readers see the series through the various social milieus that have shaped them. There were lots of accompanying photographs too, but they had little to do with Nancy or the Hardy Boys and I wish there weren't so many of them. I was also looking forward to reading more about the various adaptations made of both series for TV and film, but although this was already included, it wasn't as detailed as I had hoped. The most recent TV reincarnations were only mentioned as photo blurbs.

Still, reading The Mysterious Case... was such an enjoyable experience. I felt transported to my childhood days and it made me wish that I had my collection here with me. I can only wish that these series that have greatly inspired and influenced me would still find a place in the shelves of a new generation of readers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chalice (Robin McKinley)

My life is in reverse now. I live ten minutes away from the sea. I vacation in the city. Ever since I moved, I haven't really been able to finish a new book (and I bought a lot of lovely titles with me). I'd start one but would almost always end up bookmarking it and leaving it somewhere else. Every book I've finished reading in November have all been rereads, and it was only during my short vacation in Manila that I was able to close the cover on a new title: Robin McKinley's Chalice, devoured in one sitting.

Chalice is an engaging fantasy, very quiet and descriptive. Dialogue is sparse, but what little there is shines with expression. It is a tale of Mirasol, plucked from her life as a beekeeper and named Chalice of the Willowlands. Being Chalice means being part of a Circle of honored individuals. As second in power only to the Master, it is her duty to bind their demesne. But their demesne has been broken with the deaths of the former Master and Chalice. With no one to guide her, Mirasol has to rely on her own knowledge and perseverance to meet her heavy task. She must stand by the new Master, an elemental priest called back from the Fire, now more elemental than human and together they struggle to keep their land whole despite dangers and threats from outside and within.

This is not a sweeping fantasy of dragons and magic. Instead, it is a subdued piece, a character study, a tale of strength and duty and healing. What I enjoyed most about it is Ms McKinley's subtlety, the lovely way that she draws on natural elements (in this case, bees and honey) to anchor her writing, the strong and blossoming friendship between Mirasol and her Master. She invites the readers to be part of Mirasol's journey, her fears and insecurities to her inevitable triumph. I felt that it buoyed me along, buoyed me enough to keep me from wanting to put it down. Chalice was truly the perfect fantasy in visit in the middle of my wet and grey December.