At Large

Watching ‘The Butler’ and ‘The March’



Inspiring and joyful was the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, an event that drew about a hundred thousand Americans in 1963, at the height of the struggle for civil rights. It was also on this day that Martin Luther King Jr., the preacher who taught Americans—and adherents from around the world—that even the most stubborn of obstacles could be overcome with peaceful, purposeful protest, delivered his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. There is no doubt that the event ushered in a fundamental change in American society, even if it would take more struggle, more violence, more deaths (Trayvon Martin’s comes to mind) before Americans could look around and say, yes, it’s a new world.

It was a day to feast eyes—and ears—on American celebrities, from the likes of Oprah to Will Smith to former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. And yes, it was a day to celebrate the reality that the United States now has an African-American president in Barack Obama who chose, in his address, to recognize the “heroism” of countless, faceless and nameless Americans:

“And I believe that spirit is there, that true force inside each of us. I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It’s there when the native born recognizing that striving spirit of a new immigrant, when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands it as their own. That’s where courage comes from, when we turn not from each other or on each other but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from.”

* * *

Days before catching the NBC News coverage of the March on Washington anniversary (with African-American Lester Holt as news anchor), I happened to catch a screening of “The Butler,” the film (no doubt made and released to mark the March) that tells the tale of a black butler in the White House.

I caught the film in the middle of the day, in the middle of the work week, because a friend urged me to watch the movie as soon as I could because “the theater was practically empty when we watched it.”

And indeed, there were only about eight or so of us in the SM Cinema, proving a local booking agent’s observation many years ago that “movies with black people don’t sell well here.”

Well, too bad for us. “The Butler” may speak to minorities in America, and re-tells the story of black Americans as reflected in the life of a White House butler, but it offered lots of inspiration and elation. True, change doesn’t just “happen,” it must be fought for, worked for and championed constantly. We Filipinos have a lot in common with the struggling characters in “The Butler,” and our continuing project to create a better, more honest society and government is just one of them.

* * *

For her latest birthday celebration, Sonya Garcia of “Sonya’s Garden” channeled the ladies of “Downtown Abbey” in a lacy white dress surrounded by women guests clad in similar filmy outfits and men in white.

It was a celebration marked by lots of food, including her famous salad amped up by the addition of ingredients like dates, walnuts, pineapple slices and lychees. She also gifted attendees with souvenir teacups filled with scented candles, demonstrating how, after the paraffin has melted, the warm oil could be massaged onto one’s hands, infusing them with the subtle scent of jasmine or lavender.

Timed to coincide with the celebration was the opening of “Sonya’s Lifestyle Haven,” tiny cottages (that will eventually total 10) in a nearby complex of greenhouses and vegetable plots. While her justifiably famous “B&B” has gained a devoted following for those seeking escape from the hurly-burly of city life, the “Lifestyle Haven” offers sanctuary and quiet to a special clientele: “single women, (happily) separated/divorced women and widows.” While the B&B caters to families and seminar groups, the haven is for women or groups of women who want to kick back in relative peace and privacy, indulging the senses and perfecting Sonya’s vaunted “art of doing nothing.”

Here’s Sonya’s come-on for party guests who might fancy a night or two at her Lifestyle Haven.

* * *

“Have you ever dreamed of spending your days in utter leisure, with all your needs cared for and your days and nights swathed in beauty and delight? Breathing the fresh oxygen-filled sweet air?

“Have you imagined waking up in a charming cottage looking out to a lush garden where you can enjoy the company of kindred spirits? Have you considered spending your days with a coterie of other ladies—a school chum, your sister or best pal—in laughter and in conversation, in the garden where you can harvest sweet purple basil and succulent tomatoes … or under the stars where you can watch old movies while getting a whiff of the heady scents of dama de noche, angels’ trumpets, ylang-ylang and other night-flowering plants?

“Keep your limbs nimble and your mind sharp by welcoming the day with sun salutations and meditation, and spending afternoons dabbling in painting, sewing, crocheting and cross-stitching…

“Or, on days when you prefer the quiet, retreat in your own room for a four hands full body massage or facial with organic egg mask and foot massage, or spend time in the company of a book on a soft bed of hand-embroidered linens, with a sprig of fresh lavender tucked in.

“Sonya Garcia invites you to a final life occasion that will transform your twilight years into your finest years yet…live the purposeful life you have always dreamed of.”

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  • kapitanvic1

    Here are some Martin Luther King quotes that Filipinos can use as a guide to help us during this trying times-
    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)
    “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.” (10 December 1964, Oslo, Norway)
    “It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” (24 December 1967, Atlanta)
    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (25 February 1967, Los Angeles)
    “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” (4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York)
    “We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (5 December 1955, Montgomery, Alabama)
    “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)
    “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” (16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL)

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