The launch on 10th June 2013 of the book “Love, Manila” which was authored by media awardee Michelle Baltazar certainly connected people.  The event was attended by people from various parts of Sydney and environs. 

For some, the event provided an opportunity to catch up with those they have not seen for some time. For others, it was making new friends or establishing contacts for future networking.

A month after the launch, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a lovely lady as I was to hand to her a copy of the book courtesy of Michelle.  This is none other than retired Dr Carmen “Uko” Legarda-Nelson.  Aside from the many years that she has served as a medical practitioner, Uko is also the mother of two accomplished sons:  the eldest, Andro, an optometrist based in Perth and MiG Ayesa, a famous singer/composer/stage actor based in New York, but also shuttles to London, Sydney and Manila.

Instead of meeting up somewhere for coffee as I suggested, it was lovely of Uko and husband Carl to instead invite me over for lunch at their beautiful home. Feeling a bit excited and anxious, I relaxed as soon as I got out of the car, with the welcoming sight of a nicely-landscaped front garden and the myriad of pots of orchids, succulents and other plants lining up along the side of the fence. More so, when I spotted the sign bahay kubo (Filipino for ‘hut’) by the front door.

After warm greetings and hugs, a lively chat followed to get updates and talk about life’s surprises.  Then we had a great lunch. Oh, the food was good too – nice, thick vegetable soup and Turkish bread for starters.  These were followed by baked pickled pork served with crunchy garden salad and rice served in individual dishes.  To complete the sumptuous meal, we had freshly baked chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream, and a cup of tea.  Definitely 10/10 in my scorecard!

Feeling replete and content, we thought it was time to check out “Love, Manila”, which has caused reconnecting with Uko again and meeting Carl.  Uko loved Michelle’s lovely gesture to give her a signed copy and had a personal dedication written on it. She was also impressed by the book, especially when she saw that the book contains four pages [pages 58-61] of a Restaurant Review of La Cocina de Tita Moning. 

These were the words on Page 60:  “La Cocina was the ancestral home of the Legarda family before it was turned into a restaurant.  Upstairs, one room was used to display the wedding dress of one of the family members.  Fabulous food, great family history.”  

Uko is part of that Legarda family, and this is what she had to say:

I am delighted to see Michelle include her experience at La Cocina, my ancestral home, and of course to see my wedding dress displayed  in the book is such an honour!

What a pleasant surprise! I am sure my niece Suzette will be proud to display Michelle's book on her coffee table at La Cocina for her other guests to see.” 

Uko also commented that the lovely bride in the photo on that page was her!

Had I not have an appointment at 1.30pm I would have stayed on. As I drove off, I said a silent thanks to Michelle and “Love, Manila” for lovely moments to cherish.

Violi Calvert is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Ang Kalatas Newspaper, The Filipino Australian and other publications. She co-hosts a Filipino program called Sandigan Radio on with Michelle Baltazar, the book's author and publisher of The Australian Filipina.


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