Monday, June 27, 2011

The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Rain

Falcon must have been the most annoying storm after Ondoy. It has been raining relentlessly for a week and I was getting sick of hearing the constant sound of rain falling on the roof. Eventually just after writing a post about Habagat I experienced everything I hate about the rainy season in one day. On Friday I had to sleep in a coffee shop and report to work at 4AM because I wasn't able to go home the previous night due to the flood and horrible traffic.

Rain or shine, deluge or not, I was determined to go to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical revue I booked weeks ago. I wouldn't really want to miss it since I got front row seating at the CCP. (Front row in the upper box seats that is, which gives a really awkward view of the stage.) Thankfully the rain subdued just a few hours before the show started.

After-storm Manila Bay area feels like quiet and cozy place. 
I love the smell of thunderstorms and brine in the cool breeze
mixing up with the smell of cooking food in the nearby restaurants.

It was a nice surprise to bump into Nadine, whom I wouldn't have known to be in the theater too if she didn't GM text about her being in the theater just before the show. A few days ago we were talking about how we dig the Cardigans and the Cranberries and other grunge stuff, I wouldn't expect we would see each other in a hoity-toity musical show later.

More than half of the songs that were performed are from Webber musicals I've never heard before, which is nice to know and all but unfortunately I found most of these to be terribly boring. During the boring parts, I would find my mind wandering off to my office cubicle worrying about the shitload of work I would have to finish on Monday, which totally sucked. The sequence of the songs were weird too, with sleepy songs sandwiched between lively performances and vice-versa, resulting to an emotional rollercoaster.

But all in all, I think the ticket price is worth it even if just for the performances of Pie Jesu and the Phantom of the Opera alone, which for me were both stand-up-ovation-worthy. Even without the trappings of costume and set design, the performances manage to bring the audience into suspending disbelief. All of the eight casts have really got some serious pipes, especially Trish Crowe who did the soprano for the above-mentioned songs. Michael Cormick, being at his age, looked awkward and funny swinging his booty around as Rum Tum Tugger, but was quite spectacular as the Phantom. It was also nice to know that one of the casts, Shaun, was  actually last year's Munkustrap in Cats in the Manila run.

In the end I enjoyed the show quite well. It may not be entirely Broadway, but what's great is seeing world-class performances of the great Webber songs in just one seating.

Thank you Sir Andrew for gracing our world with your music.

Basbasan Nawa!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why I Do Not Celebrate Litha

"A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind." 
-- Tao Te Ching

Because first of all, "Litha" is an Old English word meaning "navigable" - pertaining to the calmness of the winds in the European seas during this time of the year. Here in the eastern Pacific however, the seas sure are far from looking very "navigable" with winds occasionally running up to 250 km/h (and more).

Of course it also has that less archaic-sounding name, Midsummer. But it's hardly the middle of summer here with we Pinoys declaring it the "end of summer" just as soon as the first tropical storm hits, which usually happens just around the end of May.

Apolaki's altar

Of all the years of doing the sabbats, the fact that Litha is the longest day of the year just hasn't sink in to my consciousness. I know that the sun will rise tomorrow around 5:30 in the morning and set around 5:30 in the evening giving us almost equal parts of night and day - just like it does throughout the entire frickin' year on every country that's near the equator. It's not like in some parts of Sweden where we could get to experience 20 hours of daylight in June, and then 20 hours of darkness during winter.

Midsummer was originally celebrated by people who live just a few latitudes below the icy north pole where the heat of the sun is a boon - ergo all the glorifying and praising the sun receives in those textbook Wiccan rituals. Down here in the tropics, it just doesn't make sense for me to rejoice in the strength of the Sun seeing that the people are fanning themselves with any flat piece of material they could grab and occasionally blurting out: "ang ineeet!", usually followed by some kind of expletive. That is, in those days when the sun is not hidden behind gray skies. Yeah I know, the sun is the "source of all life on Earth" blah-blah-goddess and all that, but at these times it can also be the cause of  heatstroke, skin cancer and grumpy mood.

Fortunately, the middle of summer does have a significant effect on our lands which is a worthy cause of ritual itself: The warm air of the Pacific ocean stirred by the heat of the sun becomes the seed of tropical cyclones which often find their way onto our shores, while in east continental Asia, the land mass heats up and pulls the monsoon winds from the southern seas, bringing us rain and wetting our shoes as they make their way to Japan. Our ancestors have aptly given these winds a masculine sounding name, Habagat, which has eventually also become the name of our season of rain and storm. As the heat of the summer wanes, the monsoons stop and the colder trade winds from the northeast take over, and to these winds the wise ancestors have given the feminine name, Amihan, completing the Yin and Yang of our annual tropical climate.

Habagat season. The eastern portion of inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) bends towards northern Asia, the southwesterly monsoon winds become prevalent.

Amihan season. The ITCZ finds itself way below the Philippine area, the colder easterly trade winds become prevalent.

I would much rather prepare myself physically and spiritually for the coming of Habagat than pretend to be a Viking welcoming the humid heat of the tropical sun.

As a city Pagan, Habagat is a tough season for me. Crop-growers in the farmlands may welcome the rainy season, but for me it also means having to deal with flood, mind-numbing traffic, ruined travel plans, deadly mosquitoes, pain-in-the-ass commuting, wet shoes (I hate wet shoes) and the possibilty of being stranded in the middle of nowhere during a superstorm (which happened to me on my birthday in 2006).  True to its name, Habagat calls for masculine virtues in order to us get by: strength, endurance, hard-work, patience, and self-control, as this period will surely bring about some test of nerves as well.

I'm planning to do a short personal ritual for this reason. I would not wish for the storms to leave us alone knowing that these are an inevitable and necessary part of Nature, although I would pray that they lay upon us lightly. I just want Habagat to teach me how to be strong but calm, enduring but adapting, tough but able to yield - like a bamboo tree bending in the wind.

Basbasan Nawa!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Mystical Beltane

"I unite the powers of the Sun and Moon within me. With my wand I father the Child, with my chalice I mother it. Within me lives the alchemy of this union of opposites. Let the magical child of my creative nature blossom and thrive in the inner and the outer worlds" -- Rite of Beltane, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

My nemeton wears the festive colors of the occasion.

Normally I would have my solo ceremony within a week after celebrating the Sabbat with friends. But this time typhoons happened and Hong Kong happened and then laziness and procrastination creeped in until I realized it's only a week away from summer solstice. I can't believe it took me five weeks and and a ritual-making seminar to pull my lazy ass into doing Beltane. Thankfully, OBOD rites are so focused on inner transformations that you can never really be late for them.

The season's themes are fertility, creativity and union. I used my Hindu deity images to represent the male and female energies within and without me. The altar ended up having a distinctive Asian look to it with all the trinkets coming from India, Thailand and Bali. I think it's one of the best-looking (and best-smelling) impromptu altars I have ever created so far, and my camera just couldn't do justice to it.

Since I decided to go Asian-style I did my grounding-and-centering listening to a techno version of the Kali mantra at the start of the ritual and had the Gayatri chant playing in the background during the entire ceremony. All these visual, auditory and olfactory inputs had a tremendously powerful effect to me and I went on a ritual-high in no time. I finished the rite having written pages of inspiration in my journal and still had enough energy to photoshop the ritual photos and write this blog entry. Creativity and fertility indeed. Or it must be the Milo I had as after-ritual food.

Asian-flavored Beltane altar.

"Yemaya Regina", my attempt on pointillist painting, portrays the rape of Yemaya by her own son, Oggun (symbolized as a green phallic fish). The parable reminds me of the Wiccan narrative about the Goddess making love with her child and consort, the Horned God, on Beltane. The painting shows the mystical union of the male and female from which is born Light and Wisdom (hidden here are the Greek words "Phos" and "Sophia").

The left side of the altar is dedicated to the female while the right side to the male. The shiva-lingam, the stones and the wand all represent the masculine creative force and the animus.

The central candle represents me passing through the fires of Beltane each representing the masculine and feminine energies. By the end of the ritual, the central candle will have reached the area by the flowers which symbolize the fruit of the union of the god and goddess within me.

The most important tool many magicians tend to forget about: the journal

Basbasan Nawa!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Art of Ritual Making

Lights of inspiration.

Although  it was mostly geared towards beginners, it's nice to hear about ritual from a classroom perspective. As a practicing Pagan I'm used to doing rituals as catalyst for inner change, but it's interesting to learn from the other participants (comprising of a doctor, a mother, a teacher, a businesswoman, among others) on how necessary and helpful ritual is in their everyday lives.

A pleasant surprise of the day is meeting a fellow member from the OBOD whom I have made contact with a few weeks ago. He has been in the Order for quite a number of years since he joined in the Netherlands. He's been asking around the officers for any other member of the Order from the Philippines and got my email address. We've been exchanging mails ever since, but it was only a day before the seminar when I found out that he is actually friends with the seminar instructor. Small world indeed! He dropped by after the seminar for some chit-chat and brought some veggie pancit as well which was perfect grounding food after all those rituals.

Ms. Leah Tolentino opening the seminar in ritual.

Ms. Arlene,  from the Asian Social Institute, talks about indigenous ritual in the Cordillera mountains.

My little artwork from one of the activities.

Participants in the seminar.

Some stuff around the venue, Bahay Ginhawa

Basbasan Nawa!

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