Wednesday, February 24, 2021

That most famous engagement ring and a few stories about it

Forty years ago today! On February 24, 1981, Prince Charles presented his future bride to the press. They had just gotten engaged 21 days prior and Diana, all of 19 years old, and hidden away from the world in her aristocratic life, didn't realize what she was getting herself into. 

For their engagement announcement, the future Princess of Wales wore an inexpensive off-the-rack dress from Harrod's and a relatively affordable engagement ring from the Garrard holiday catalog. Yes, not a jewel from the royal collection because Charles couldn't even be bothered to commission a special ring just for her. The sapphire ring was just £47,000, or $60,000 today. Not even the Kardashians will wear that!

With Camilla, his then-mistress and now-wife, he thoughtfully customized a ring to reflect the Art Deco design he and Camilla like. He chose a special family heirloom diamond that belonged to the most special woman in his life, the Queen Mother.

Diana had a ring from a catalog. Oh, Diana. 

To be fair to Charles, he has always liked the huge sapphire brooch that belonged to the ladies in his family. A century and forty-one years before he proposed to Diana, another Prince gave his bride a sapphire. On the eve of their wedding day, Prince Albert presented to Queen Victoria a brooch that was a huge deep blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds. She loved it so much, she wore it on her bridal gown as her "something blue." 

In fact, Victoria loved it sooo much, she declared the brooch as a Crown Heirloom piece. That means only future Queens can wear it. So far, we haven't seen Camilla or Catherine wear it. Diana never got to wear that brooch either. That must mean it's an extra special piece for the Queen!

Anyway, back to Charles. So he liked that extra special brooch his mother loved. It's said Diana's extraordinarily blue eyes reminded him of that particular sapphire brooch so he thought the Garrard ring was perfect for her. So I guess that's romantic, too.

Diana's eyes look exactly like her famous ring.

It's so sad how that marriage went. So sad that sapphires symbolize faithfulness but, as Diana famously said, "There are three of us in this marriage so it's a bit crowded."

Nevertheless, I always wanted her exact ring for my own engagement ring. I told Vince about this but he replied that it was a bad luck ring. "Look at what happened to that marriage," he pointed out. So he gave me a diamond. And I bought myself the ring I wanted.  

I actually like it better, that I bought it myself. It's more meaningful because I bought it as a Diana fan haha There's no romantic love involved at all. Just like Charles and Diana's marriage haha huhu

No, no, that's not true. For a while, they were happy. Look at these photos I found on Diana fan accounts on Instagram:

Holding hands while whispering sweet nothings
Despite all their worries about the wedding, happy to meet at the altar
Honeymoon! Diana's pregnant here.
Touches, looks, and smiles
Charles said he's always loved Diana's humor. She always made him laugh.

I found more actually! Fellow royal fans love tagging me on Diana posts on IG! I'll share more soon. 

Sigh. I loved Diana and Charles together. I really wanted that fairy tale to end in happily ever after. And it could've, in a way, if fate hadn't intervened. After they divorced, they actually got along better. Charles would visit her for tea, for example. How strange. Maybe some people are better off as friends. It's always sad when marriages end. But if a friendship happens after, then that's also a beautiful thing. Too bad Diana died just one year after her divorce. Who knows? Maybe she and Charles could've gotten back together? At the very least, they could've been great at this co-parenting thing. Oh well. We'll never know.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Review (book): "At the School Gate" by Sandra Nicole Roldan

I bought At the School Gate by Sandra Nicole Roldan a couple of months ago. I met Sandra at the 1999 U.P. National Writers Workshop in Baguio, the same workshop where I met my husband, Vince. Sandra also met her husband, Paul de Guzman, there. We were all fellows in possibly the most romantic writers workshop ever. So join workshops if you're looking for your soul mate! Joking aside, Vince and I like supporting local literature, especially the work created by our fellows. At the School Gate is Sandra's first book.

Since my readers are mostly mommies, I figured I'd do a book review because At the School Gate is a children's book. At just 40 pages, all fully illustrated by Nina Martinez, it appears to be a simple little story about a teenaged girl's adventures outside her school. And it is, except that the story is dark and scary because the girl's father is hunted down by real monsters.

This is the story of Ella Cortez, a child of an activist against Martial Law. In the 1970s, activists who criticized Marcos were arrested and jailed without evidence. Many were tortured, many were killed. My parents were Marcos Loyalists and they told me this was a lie. And I was a Marcos fan, too, until I met the survivors - my professor Marra Lanot, my mentor Jo-Ann Maglipon, and my colleague Pete Lacaba. I was so embarrassed to declare one time that Marcos was an amazing President in front of Sir Pete. He looked at me and smiled sadly. That was when another colleague told me about his activism. Then I had to confront the fact that my parents were the ones who lied.   

The book follows Ella's story as she is fetched from school by her auntie at the school gate. Ella is not living in Martial Law times anymore. She is 15 years old so this is 1991. The country is under the Aquino administration, supposedly the golden era of democracy, a safe time. Her father is now an NGO worker, making documentaries. But Ella finds out from her aunt that the government captured and tortured her father again. The whole family must now stay together to keep her safe. It didn't feel safe. There is malevolence and fear haunting every page. Ella realizes quickly that even though it's her father the government is after, the threatening presence of a henchman shadows her every move. Will she be afraid or will she be brave just like her father?

At the School Gate is an important book, especially and frighteningly relevant in these dark times. Many would argue that recent events of red-tagging schools is a good thing. The government is just trying to protect students from communists sweeping through the halls and recruiting gullible young girls and boys to go against the government. But my argument to that is this: What's the overwhelming proof that state universities are churning out communists? You'd think there are thousands upon thousands of students joining the New People's Army every year. But there hardly are any. Not one person can come up with a verified list of even just a hundred students who joined the NPA in the last year. 

I don't even understand why the government is threatening the universities when there are no physical classes. The campuses are ghost towns in the nearly year-long quarantine. There's no one there to recruit, and therefore this issue is illogical. Yet we are haunted and threatened by it. 

Student activism shouldn't be a priority, especially while there is a global pandemic. Yet it seems to be an issue that won't go away. What's the oft-used phrase of this administration and its defenders? Kung walang masamang ginagawa, walang dapat katakutan. Something like that. Why are all our administrations so afraid of students and activists then? 

At the School Gate shows us that activists just want a better life for their children, except that in their fight for a better world, their families suffer. Is it worth it to sacrifice your family, your life, on the altar of democracy and freedom? It's a question I'd have said yes to when I didn't have children. But I'm ashamed to say motherhood has made me a coward. That's what this book made me realize.  

And that's why this book must be included in every Filipino home. It opens our eyes to the truth that democracy is a tenuous thing. We must not take it for granted. Some people risk their safety, happiness, and their lives fighting for it. Will At the School Gate ever be required reading? Sad to say, as long as we have leaders who are corrupt and hungry for power, this book will be dangerous material. 

To be honest, I haven't read this book to my kids yet because it's too raw and scary. It shouldn't be. Martial Law was three decades ago. But it's all still happening, especially today. I thought I'd be able to tell the boys, "And that was a dark time but these brave men and women saved us from a dictator and now we're free! There's nothing to worry about anymore. We are all safe." But I can't say that. Not yet. I hope, in 2022, I will.

At the School Gate by Sandra Nicole Roldan is available on Shopee for just P195.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Women in tuxedos. An ode to Ashley Biden's so-cool-so-hot OOTD

I know everyone's talking about how the fashion choices of Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, Michelle Obama, and poet Amanda Gorman symbolized many important things in the inauguration this week. Yes, it's wonderful fashion is back in a good way. But it's the uber-chic Ralph Lauren tuxedo that First Daughter Ashley Biden wore that has me going, "Oooooh I likey!"

Check out the First Family - stylish like the previous two families before them:

But while the Obamas were high-low American chic and the Trumps were high-end-only fashion design style, the Bidens seem to be "We're cool just as we are." It's relaxed. The two First Families before them didn't have this chill vibe. The Obamas aimed to please. The Trumps wore their fashion like armor. The Bidens wear their clothes like they have nothing to prove. They're cool, naturally. It's almost not American, their je ne sais quoi attitude.

A gold gown with messy hair. A vintage-style dress with on-trend ugly sneakers. Sparkly orange gown grounded by black details. A severe purple pussy-bow, grandma dress with matching killer D'Orsay pumps. And Ashley's undone tie is just the symbol of it all. She's dressed in nice threads with those sleek cigarette pants and black-and-gold stilettos but her undone tie relaxes her look. I am so in love with this look!

Tuxes and suits aren't that odd on a woman. From the 1930s, actresses like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn, have donned the menswear staple to challenge how women are supposed to dress. In the 60s, cool girls Bianca Jagger and Catherine Denevue wore it to show that women can be sexy and powerful in a man's world. It's supposed to be an androgynous look but by wearing something so male, the femininity is emphasized. 

Here are my favorite recent incarnations of the look:

Evan Rachel Wood

Dakota Johnson

Emma Watson

Victoria Beckham


Angelina Jolie

Wearing a tux is on my bucket list actually. I just need an occasion! Universe, let's make that happen!