Play that funky music

The infrequent blogger strikes again!

I was looking through some old photos from the digital baul and saw that I hadn’t posted these here yet. These are from an event I helped to promote and shoot a few years ago. Shots are cropped but otherwise pretty much straight out of camera.

Hope you folks like these. I know I have more from this series in one of my old hard drives. If I find them, I’ll be sure to post them. 🙂

Kitchie Nadal. Boto Para Sa Bata Concert. 28 November 2015, Quezon City Circle.
Boto Para Sa Bata Concert. 28 November 2015, Quezon City Circle.
 Jireh Lim at the Boto Para Sa Bata Concert. 28 November 2015, Quezon City Circle.

Random Street Photos and Portraits

I was looking through some old pictures on my laptop today and realized that I still haven’t uploaded the photos that I’d entered into last year’s LensCulture contest. I didn’t want to jinx my chances back then, so I refrained from uploading these, but since the contest is long over and I wasn’t one of the winners, it’s probably safe to put these up now. Having said that, I did get some amazing constructive feedback on these, so I still consider it a win. 🙂

This is a mix of very old work, from when I first started taking pictures in earnest, and some newer stuff from my Hong Kong trip. I’m quite happy with these, and I hope you guys enjoy them. 🙂



Mother of a desaparecido. Manila, Philippines. A mother of a victim of enforced disappearance, or desaparecido, stands in quiet defiance before a line of riot police sent to contain activists on their way to Mendiola St. near Malacanang Palace, Manila. Police prevented the protesters–who were marching for justice for human rights victims in the Philippines–from reaching the Palace surrounds on Human Rights Day 2007.



The illusion of freedom. Quezon City, Philippines. One of the farmers who walked more than 1,700 kilometers from Sumilao, Bukidnon to the Philippine capital of Manila to demand the return of the 144-hectare ancestral land that was forcibly taken from them by rich land grabbers with political ties. 2007.



Ready for anything. Lucban, Philippines. Members of a marching band continue to play at the Pahiyas Festival, an annual harvest celebration in Lucban, Quezon, despite the sudden summer rain. 2008.



Vendor. Goldfish Street, Hong Kong. The Chinese believe that goldfish bring good luck to a home, and vendors on the appropriately named street do a brisk business. 2016.



Sampan pilot. Aberdeen Bay, Hong Kong. Sampans, traditional boats that still ply Aberdeen Bay, are usually piloted by Tanka women who learned their craft as young girls. 2016.



Love/lorn. Victoria Bay, Hong Kong. A young couple embraces as a lone man stares into the darkness of the bay. 2016.



Houseboat. Aberdeen Bay, Hong Kong. A man enjoying a quiet moment on the busy waters of Aberdeen Bay. 2016.



Off to the shops. Temple Street, Hong Kong. One of Hong Kong’s world famous night markets, with shops selling everything from electronics to street food. 2016.



Playing with fire. Hong Kong. A Russian fire dancer and traveler busks on the streets of Hong Kong to earn funds for the next leg of his trip. 2016.

Renewable energy? We’re big fans!




Please don’t kill me for the title. I couldn’t resist. 😀

Did a quick trip to the Alterenergy Wind Farm in Pililla, Rizal this weekend, with stopovers in Tanay along the way. Laguna Lake was visible for most of the drive up the Marikina-Infanta Highway, and the scenery reminded me very much of Tagaytay before it became completely commercialized and kitschy.


There were plenty of roadside stalls selling fresh produce at farm gate prices, and several intriguing eco- and georeserves along the way. The area is also known for its waterfalls and rivers, and is a popular mountain- and motorbiking destination.




My companions and I reached the wind farm after a mostly bumpy ride from the town of Sampaloc. The first two kilometers of the road we were on were paved, but after that it was more potholes and rough trail than road, so I didn’t really expect the crowds that greeted us when we arrived at the farm’s view deck.


We found out after we got there that there was an easier route via Pililla, and that most of the visitors arrived from there.


The place is becoming known as a tourist spot, as evidenced by the small phalanx of vendors selling everything from tatty miniature wind turbine pencil holders to fried chicken skin and fishballs.


I seriously hope that Alterenergy and the LGU can cooperate to make sure that the farm doesn’t become another environmental disaster area.



Seeing life through rose-colored glasses

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. Apologies to the three, maybe four readers who are still around for not updating. I apparently have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to these things. 😛

This isn’t much of an update, but I wanted to share this extremely raw a cappella recording of La Vie En Rose that I did for a friend who’s recovering from an accident as a little feel-better-soon gift. Whenever I hear this song, I can hear Audrey Hepburn in my head explaining that it means seeing life through rose-colored glasses, and I yearn to see Paris.

Be warned, it’s extremely raw, uploaded straight from my phone, so you can hear all the pops and whistles on it. Still, in the interest of keeping things real, here you go.

Hope you like it. 🙂

Time and Again

Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by J.B. Leishman

Luis, wherever you may be, know that you are loved.  

Lost In The Dreaming

Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes

This place is all the places I have ever loved. Skies, libraries, houses, malls, paths, gardens. The air is clear and I am home.

– Luis Katigbak


I’m having a difficult time writing this, just as I’m having a difficult time trying to process how I feel right now. A few days ago, I received some horrible news: a friend of mine who’d been struggling with health issues in the past few years had a massive stroke, and hope of recovery is slim to none.

Luis and I first met back in college during a fiction writing class. He’s a brilliant writer, never afraid to take little pieces of his heart and soul and arrange them into something of heartbreaking beauty on the blank page, always able to reach into the ether to find that perfect word, that perfect turn of phrase, to make a story live and take form. Many of my peers and mentors would say that Luis is the best writer of our generation, and few, if any, would question it.

He also loves music, loves it so much that even during the quiet interludes in a conversation, you could catch him swaying his head to some unheard beat, eyes unfocused, a tiny, secret smile on his lips. I was always half convinced that Luis had the music of the spheres playing continuously in his head, a low-key soundtrack to his life. Music is so much a part of his life that he established two major magazines dedicated to music reviews and writing and short fiction.

But beyond all that, Luis is a genuinely good human being, one of those few lucky souls who brings light and happiness wherever he goes. He radiates a quiet kindness and good cheer, looking for all the world like a young, Asian version of Santa Claus, with his ruddy face lighting up whenever friends are near. I could have been having a really bad day, but just running into him between classes would already boost my spirits. Luis is, as they say, good people.

My favorite memory of Luis was from, oh, about 15 or 16 years ago. A massive meteor shower — the Leonids, I believe — was happening that evening, so a bunch of us decided to go back to our old university to watch it. The school was built on a huge tract of land in the middle of the city, and there were plenty of obliging fields to sprawl on for the show. We’d come armed with food and drinks and blankets and were just settling in when a drunken man wobbled toward us and started harassing us.

We were arguing with the man — the troll, really — when the campus police arrived and asked us to accompany them to the campus headquarters. Luis and JB and a few of the other guys volunteered to give a statement, but it didn’t end there. It turned out that the troll was an off-duty police officer who had a substance abuse problem, and that he was carrying a loaded firearm in the waistband of his shorts. Luis and the others ended up spending the night waiting at Precinto Nueve, one of the outposts of the Philippine National Police, giving more statements and fielding questions. When he and the others finally rejoined us, the sun was already high in the sky and they’d missed the whole thing, but he just laughed and shrugged it off and said that he’d turn it into a story someday.

I last saw him two years ago, when he came to the apartment I shared with two of our common friends. His illness was already pretty advanced by then, and he’d had several major operations to try to regain his eyesight, which had rapidly deteriorated since he’d gotten sick, but the operations just made things worse instead of arresting the decline. I remembered him saying that he’d given up on going out and watching movies because he couldn’t see anything two feet past his nose; going to the movies had become a futile exercise, like listening to the radio while sitting in front of a flickering light. He’d been having trouble seeing well enough to write, and I think it was that more than anything else that took the fight out of him. Luis lived to write and read. But he still put up a brave front, talking about mutual friends and frenemies and the bright, shiny memories of our youth, as the noon sun slanted across the windows and turned into the golden light of late afternoon.

Thinking of him now, lost in The Dreaming that he loves so much, makes my heart hurt. He is loved by so many, and so many of us are praying that he comes back from this, but I am no stranger to loss from a protracted illness, and I fear that wishing him back when I know he’s so tired is selfish of me.

But I will never stop waiting for that story.


20 April 2016: Luis Joaquin M. Katigbak crossed over today, a few minutes past midnight. May his soul rest in peace.


Hong Kong Holiday, part 1


View from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. Hong Kong 2016. Copyright Marnie Dolera.

To be honest, Hong Kong was never really on my list of places to visit before I die, but when a good friend offered me the opportunity to travel here, I was in the mood to become an anonymous face in a crowd in a place I’d never been to before. I wanted to walk around and get lost in a metropolis where I had no obligations and no one knew me. Vietnam and Cambodia were out of the question, mainly because, for all of their virtues, they didn’t have the hustle and bustle of a true megapolis that I was craving. I wanted the strange (in)security of not knowing anything or anyone, the danger and yet the safety it offered.

So Hong Kong it was.

I have to admit, when I first came here, I wasn’t expecting to like Hong Kong as much as I do now. The only image I had of Hong Kong was one of a homogenized culture sacrificing heritage on the twin altars of commercialism and progress, all shiny and chrome-y and neon lights. But what I learned, after almost a week here, is that life thrives in the spaces between.

I did a lot of walking in Hong Kong, and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. Three days of almost non-stop walking for eight to ten hours in running shoes that haven’t quite been broken in have left me with aching hamstrings and sore feet, but it was the price to pay to get some insight into this enigmatic city. Walking is always the best way to make a city your own, and discover the pockets of beauty in the heaving, humid mass of humanity determined to carry you along in its wake. There are always those moments, if you’re patient enough to look for them.

Guitarist on TST Promenade. Hong Kong 2016. Copyright Marnie Dolera.

The other night, around midnight, while I was walking on the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, I came across a long haired, lanky young man in typical rocker’s garb – black leather jacket, jeans, and boots – practicing his skills on an unplugged electric guitar. He was completely lost to the world, a bizarre sight on a boardwalk filled with joggers in tiny pastel and neon outfits puffing along, defying the near freezing wind blowing in from the harbor, even at that late hour. I discretely took photos of him and sat shivering on a nearby bench, listening to him strum away, his metronome inexorably counting the beat, watching the lights of Hong Kong Island in front of us while a red half-moon floated overhead.

I eventually learned that his name is Bob, and that he came to Hong Kong for his Master’s degree, and that he was in IT. He goes to the harbor to practice his guitar almost every day, he said, because it was too noisy in the dorms and he couldn’t hear the music. I wondered aloud how he was able to play in the cold, but he said he’d gotten used to it.

We chatted a little longer until we hit the language barrier, and I went off and left him to play in peace, and a lovely Hong Kong moment was added to my box of travel memories.


Hong Kong marked quite a few firsts for me, which I may or may not write about in future posts. As you may have gathered, this will be the first of several blog posts about Hong Kong, written in no particular order and following no particular date. To paraphrase a pithy quote often attributed to Mark Twain, never let chronology get in the way of a good story.

And now, for something completely different.

I know, I know. I haven’t been a very good blogger this past year. But honestly, there’s been so much going on and I’ve been so overwhelmed that I just wanted to retreat and take stock of things before posting again.

So. To the three, maybe four, readers who still follow this blog, hello again.

I’ve been sorting through the photos I took last year trying to choose what to post, so expect a few new items to appear here soon. But for now, as I said above, here’s something completely different.

A few people in my life know that I love to sing. I love music, all kinds and all genres. As long as it resonates with me or has a good melody, I’m all over it. I’ve been known to listen to the same album — heck, even the same song — over and over for weeks on end, which, needless to say, drove the people around me absolutely batshit crazy. But I regret nothing. Ha ha.

My love affair with music took a backseat when my mom was dying in 2006. Mom was a coloratura soprano who would constantly sing around the house; I have many memories of her singing kundiman and arias  with our piano teacher on Saturday afternoons while we kids played in the shadow of a giant duhat tree on a small hill near our house. We didn’t have very many neighbors at the time, and the sound of her voice would carry from the farm almost all the way to the highway, which was a good 10-minute walk from our street.

Mom was so good that she was offered a full scholarship to the UST Conservatory of Music to study voice and music theory, but she declined because she was already pregnant with my sister at the time. Between working full time and taking care of three bratty kids, there wasn’t much time for formal classes, but she always welcomed an opportunity to sing, even if it was just singing along to the radio while she worked from her home office.

She loved to hear me sing, and always encouraged me to do so, but I always felt so awkward and inadequate next to her powerhouse of a voice that I hardly sang in her presence. Dad also sang very well — and still does, to this day — and that did not help to make a painfully shy kid any more confident in her singing abilities. I ended up singing my heart out with friends at my college tambayan, and even performing in public quite a few times during poetry readings, and later, at friends’ weddings. I sang everywhere and anytime, and I loved it.

But still, I never felt comfortable singing for my mom. Even when she was dying in the hospital and begging me to sing for her, I would always hem and haw and find a way to get out of doing it, something that I would later come to bitterly regret. She used to ask me all the time to sing two songs in particular, which I will not name here, and I would oblige her on the rare occasion. Looking back, it was a horrible thing to do to a dying person. Now, ten years after her death, I still wish I’d granted her request more often than I had then, and I still feel a tiny twinge in my heart whenever I perform for a crowd of strangers.

I lost my voice, almost literally, after she died. Music no longer held any appeal. I remember recording a song at 4am on my tiny mp3 player two weeks after we’d lost her. I stopped singing or even deliberately listening to music for a long, long time after that. I lost my voice to guilt and regret and to the treacherous voice inside me that always told me I would never be good enough.

But that was then.

These past few months I’ve found a community of wonderfully strange people online who have become my friends, and they’ve encouraged me to start singing again. I’ve been taking tentative steps towards putting music back into my life, and they’ve witnessed the struggle and the sometimes horribly pitchy recordings that I sent them while I was getting my confidence and my voice back.

Some of those recordings will never make it past that small circle, but now I’m starting to feel confident enough to let the world at large — or, you know, you three or four lovely, lovely weirdos still following me here –hear my voice again.

All this is really just to say, here’s my latest recording, and I hope you’ll like it, and thank you for still being here.

Photo Post: Blu Jaz Cafe, Singapore.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

A jazz bar near our hotel in Singapore. I’m not sure if it’s still there, though. I did a double take when I read the signage the first time. Give it a minute and you’ll get it. 😛

From The Digital Baul Part 4: Singapore Fling

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

Yep, you guessed it. I’ve dusted off more photos from the digtal baul. 🙂

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

These were taken on a brief visit to Singapore back in 2006. I posted these photos on my old Multiply blog; there were quite a few more of these but I can’t seem to find the others.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

I remember it being very hot in Singapore during our entire stay, even though it was only a few days from Christmas. I also remember wondering where everyone was — the streets were eerily deserted — till my father introduced me and my sister to the air conditioned underground tunnels that Singaporeans use to escape the heat. No wonder the people in the few shops we passed were looking at my sister and me so strangely. They were probably wondering what those two crazy women were doing walking around in the oven-like conditions of a Singapore afternoon. Heh. 😀

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

A mosque in one of the older areas of Singapore. This was almost directly across from our hotel.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

An abundance of buns.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

Satay sticks.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

The view from the Esplanade.

Singapore, 2006.

Singapore, 2006.

Another feature of the Esplanade, if I remember correctly.

More photos to come. Cue moaning, groaning, and grumbling here. 😀