Lola Tia Maria

She came at summer’s end and needed a place to stay for a few days. She stayed  for almost  a year.  And in my heart, forever.

She was quiet, mostly kept to herself, made sure to be helpful
with household chores and when  she took her turn in the kitchen, it was often a memorable meal.

She was my mother’s aunt. She called her Tia Maria. All elder women are grandmothers. So we called her “Lola.” Lola Tia Maria.

summer-endWe were told to be kind to her and to be specially quiet when she was quiet.

Sometimes, in the late afternoon when the sun begins to cast shadows that taller versions of ourselves call us to play from the ground, we could hear her sighing and singing a tune, and sometimes she would be dancing, as though waltzing with someone from the shadows, or somebody we could not see. Then she would start crying.

She was tall, with long hair she drew to a bun at the nape of her neck. She did not wear make up and she did not have any teeth. She was beautiful. Other women in the house thought she would be more beautiful if she had teeth or wore make up.

In one of those times when she cried so quietly, I held on to her and she held on to me also that we cried together until she laughed. Then she wiped her tears, went to the kitchen and taught me how she made popped rice.

About 20 years before she lived with us, she was one of the women who was taken to the “rape camps” during the Japanese occupation when she was just seventeen. As many as ten men a day would rape her. “Comfort women.”

The ‘Peace Monument,’ representing the ‘comfort women’ forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese Forces during the Second World War, sits  at Toronto’s Korean Community Centre, the Korean Canadian Cultural Association (1133 Leslie St.).

A film called “The Apology,”by Tiffany Hsiun that told the story of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II is currently showing at Hot Docs until Thursday December 8.

I need to see this film. I also need to sit at the “Peace Monument” at the Toronto Korean Community Centre. I want to remember the warmth of Lola Tia Maria’s tears. Perhaps, I will also make popped rice.

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Pinch Pots on a Saturday afternoon at Pelham

The security guard had a lot of questions so I invited him to put on an apron and jump in the clay.  As it turned out, he is a professional potter! He was used to doing production, and has used up …

Source: Pinch Pots on a Saturday afternoon at Pelham

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Peace talks should address root causes of forced migration, “bankrupt” labor export – Migrante

Migrante International, global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families,  fully supports the resumption of the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Philipp…

Source: Peace talks should address root causes of forced migration, “bankrupt” labor export – Migrante

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Signs, placards and messages

On my way to work this morning, I saw what I thought was a picket line, a demonstration  with people holding up

 signs with messages on placards.

I approached and asked questions.  As it turned out, it was an appropriation of a legitimate vehicle for protest in order to promote a play.  I felt a little cheated.

As a consolation prize, they gave me this memo pad.

I think I might use this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | The Pearl Button

Day 9 at TIFF and this is the one that brought me to tears. The most beautiful, poignant and powerful documentary.  Hope to see it again and share with others.

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TIFF Day One: Land of Mine


Land of Mine (2015, Denmark) directed and written by Martin Zandvliet  is about a young group of German POWs who were conscripted to dig up land mines with their bare hands.

The film demonstrated how dangerous land mines are.  The film also contrasted the drama of  defusing dangerous bombs with the confrontation of defusing human rage and its need for revenge.

This blog is not to put a spoiler on the film but to talk about memories raised by this film.

Some years ago, I invited members of the Canadian military for a presentation to 1,000 school children on land mines at a World Food Day event held at Metro Hall in Toronto. Land mines are a food security issue as food producers cannot venture to work in the fields. As an example, the presence of unexploded and abandoned artillery from World War Two (WWII) in the Pacific Islands region continues to endanger lives and hinder development 70 years after the conclusion of hostilities. Yet land mines continue to be produced, and used, continue to maim and kill, and some countries continue to refuse to agree to ban land mines.

The biggest land mine that needs to be defused is the human rage that continues to declare war and build fences. “Land of mine” is like a play of words, contrasting that dangerous weapon with that dangerous selfishness that means only to exclude the other.

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“The Ordering of Moses” an extension of “Recovered Voices”

On Friday, 9 May 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Carnegie Hall, James Conlon conducted the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony in the fourth and final instalment of the Spring for Music festival. Keeping with the festival’s concept of presenting uncommon works, the program features two 20th-Century American choral works including John Adams’ Harmonium and Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses, an oratorio that received its world premiere at the 1937 Cincinnati May Festival – then also performed by the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. James Conlon celebrates his 35th year as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival in 2014.

James discussed the Carnegie Hall program in his recent interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS [Season 11, Episode 89] where he highlighted how this piece fits his work of Recovered Voices, The concert brought clips at the beginning from the original 1937 national broadcast, along with the original interruption that abruptly ended the broadcast, now believed due to angry phone calls received at the station that were motivated by racism.

Cincinnati is the home of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in 2004 to “teach, convene and inspire.”

The New York concert can be heard live at!/story/cincinnati-symphony-plays-john-adams-and-dett-oratorio/.

This concert, which played earlier that week at Music Hall in Cincinnati on Wednesday, 7 May, will be broadcast on WGUC-FM,, on 19 October 2014 at 8pm.

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