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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


Saturday, February 06, 2016

entry arrow11:00 AM | Looking for Happy

Mandatory "I'm-finally-here" selfie from my hotel bed. I just ran away from home for the weekend in Cebu. No plans whatsoever, except some haphazard commitment that came on the fly to be interviewed by the University of San Carlos' Cebuano Studies Center for a project they're currently doing. I used to tell myself: "It would be nice to just hop on a random bus or boat, and go somewhere without really thinking about it." I kept telling myself that for years. Never did it. Until now. I should really run away from home more often.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

entry arrow9:02 PM | The Meaning of Kisaw

In the beginning—this was sometime in 2009—we just wanted to know if we could defy the odds and put up a National Arts Month celebration in Dumaguete. It hadn’t been done before, and the logistics of putting together a month’s worth of events dedicated to all of the arts was formidable. Plus we were working from a budget of zero pesos. But when Dessa Quesada-Palm—Dumaguete’s transplanted resident theater maven and tireless cultural worker—gathered a group of local artists and culture advocates that year, she—and Glynda Descuatan pushed what was possible, essentially urging us to go for the equivalent of that great grade school staple of “Let’s put on a show!”

The plan was to gather, as much as possible, all cultural groups mushrooming in their secret corners all over the province, and put them together during one week of intense celebration of the arts—from dance to music, from literature to the visual arts. Thus was Kisaw 2009 born—a “pasundayag sa bulan sa sining.”

We settled on a tagline: “Mag-mugna ta!” Mugna, after all, seemed the right word to describe the endeavor. It is the Cebuano word, after all, for “create,” but the word has also taken this street lingo connotation of friends gathering together to create something, anything in the spirit of fun, and in the light of communal effort. “Mag-mugna ta!” sounded like a spirited battle-cry, with the benefit of a smile and a wink.

People asked us: why exactly put on a show? Because February was National Arts Month—and it was becoming too strange to note that, no matter how much we hype Dumaguete City as the “Cultural Center of the South,” the city—and in a larger context, the province of Negros Oriental—had yet to undertake something as culturally all-encompassing as this particular celebration.

The rest of the country—particularly in stronger cultural centers such as Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Baguio—has been celebrating it for almost every year of the past decade, courtesy of the provisions of Proclamation No. 683, which has declared February of every year as National Arts Month. It is an official recognition of the role of the arts in reflecting, affirming, critiquing, and shaping our society—and, Dessa tells us, “it is a time when artists can take claim on public spaces, to engage with each other and with its communities, to create.”

Because art is truly a human right—something that only the most pedestrian cannot understand. And art truly has a function to fulfill as a beacon for the development in any community, something I have already explored in previous columns.

Alas, after 2010, we took a rest, for some reason or other. It took a while to revive the spirit, but in 2016, we’re back, and we’re still doing an exploration of art in public spaces, using the parks, the tempurahan, the boulevard, the kampanaryo, and the streets as venues for the arts to engage with the people.

It’s a more streamlined set of events, covering two days—February 26 and 27—although satellite events, such as the various Tayadas sa Plaza helmed by various schools around town, dot the rest of the month. For Balak, Balitaw, ug Uban Pa sa Tempurahan, slated on February 26, we pay tribute to Dumaguete as a literary capital of the Philippines with an earnest performance of the best of balak and balitaw, the traditional poetic forms of the region. For Huni ug Himig sa Kampanaryo, slated on February 27, local music takes a boost in a spectacular concert of some of the best musical groups and singers of the city. And for Puting Tabil sa Kampanaryo, also on the 27th, cinema—long considered as the favorite entertainment mode of Filipinos—is taken to the more public realm in a rare showcase of the best of local short films.

It promises to be a veritable celebration of our artistic wealth—a good enough return to Kisaw for what is hopefully a truly annual celebration locally. Good enough, even with its marvelous kinks, given that this has always been a thing conceived on the fly, and with almost no budget or institutional sponsorships—only magnificent scruples and a great love for culture by all those who come to participate.

Your Quick Guide to Arts Month 2016 in Dumaguete

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

entry arrow7:33 PM | An Experiment in Cultural Worth

Many moons ago, the good people over at the Belltower Project—led by Hope Tinambacan, the indefatigable front man of the band HOPIA—held a social experiment of sorts at a gig at El Amigo, Dumaguete’s bohemian center of indie music, the visual arts, and everything else that’s crazy. It was to test what Hope would call “our music’s worth.”

He said of the social experiment: “The concept was simple: we tapped some bands and solo acts from the Belltower Project to play. And then we asked for an entrance fee from those who watched the event—but they could give any amount, depende sa ilang gustong i-suporta.

“Inside the venue, we presented good music of course—mostly originals—and many other things we could think of, para modugang ang mga tawo sa ilang contribution.”All throughout the night, he kept reminding the crowd: “If you like the music and the performance, please feel free to drop additional contribution to our coffers.”

After the event, these are the observations he managed to make—“some funny, and some not, things to ponder on,” he said:

First, there was the matter of amount they managed to collect. “Naay mga mihulog ug mga tig-10 centavos, and 5 centavos, and other coins,” Hope said. “Maybe mao na gyud to iyang kwarta, but we still told ourselves to appreciate whatever we got.”

Second, a Caucasian entered the venue, and upon knowing there was an entrance fee, started counting out change—“his tinag-piso,” Hope remembered with a chuckle.

Third, they noticed that about five girls entered, and only one of them paid off for everyone else in their troupe. “Pilay gihatag? Twenty pesos,” Hope said.

Fourth, the Belltower Project people estimated that there were about 70 to 80 people who entered El Amigo that night and enjoyed the performance along with their beer and pulutan. “Ang naabot nga money sa amo is P3,300. Kung imong kwentahon, that’s an average of P41 per person—excuse my math. Although I’m sure that some gave more, while others gave less,” Hope said. “This means that kung imong i-divide ang P3,300 sa seven ka bands and solo acts that night, we can only go for P471 per band. ‘Di na lang nato kwentahon pila ang nagasto sa BTP, kay kapoy na.”

And his final rejoined: “Now, this social experiment may not be valid or reliable enough—but it sure does show something. Let you be the judge.”

What does this say about cultural worth, and what that means in Dumaguete?

I think it’s a very good social experiment, and it makes me think that part of cultural work is really audience development: meaning to say we need to make prospective audiences see the worth of what we do as artists—singers and musicians, writers, designers, theatre people, dancers, visual artists. There is an unfortunate line of thought that what we do as artists is something you cannot trust to put a value on—hence a culture of discounting prevails. When I publish my books, for example, I have friends and acquaintances who do come up to me and ask for a copy of a book for free. As if I am not supposed to make some sort of living from my writing, and as if I can go to an architect and ask him to design my house for free, or to a doctor and ask him to give me medical treatment for free.

Many artist, too—molded for far too long to think of their own artistry as something to take for granted and not prize—all too often do not give value to their own work. Once I asked a Waray poet, whose book I loved, how much his book was, and he insisted: “No, libre lang yan para sa’yo.” I insisted on paying. Once I asked a graphic designer how much she charged for a particular work I was commissioning her to do. “Ikaw,” she said, “Depende lang nimo.” I told her to set up her rates—if she wanted other people to also value her work.

And I used to be the same. Before, when people would ask me to edit their thesis or dissertations, I operated on the level of ulaw, constantly undervaluing the work I did—even though editing itself is a murderous job. It is not a walk in the park, and often it ranges beyond mere grammatical corrections to something approaching a virtual rewrite, because there is just no making sense of the original. It took fictionist and editor Nikki Alfar, a good friend, to set me on a better path to valuing my work, and gave me the idea of structuring rates according to the challenges demanded by the work. “If my clients want only mere grammatical corrections, I only charge this much. If it’s grammatical work plus some changes in syntax, I charge higher. If the work demands total overhauling that a virtual rewriting is demanded—I charge so much more,” she said.

It’s always a challenging task—asking other people to start valuing the cultural work of artists, and many artists do give up—but I think Belltower Project is at the very start of a local revolution. And that revolution, I know for sure, will take a while to eventually flower. And I hope that guys like Hope won’t give up. Because the dividends will come, in time.

To quote Albert Jerome Fontejon Babaylan, front man of the band Finpot: “It’s okay, my friends. Knowing the issues [in indie music in Dumaguete] is winning half the battle. Now we know [what we are facing], and we can then approach the situation accordingly. BTP has done very well uncovering these things for us. BTP did us musicians a favor. Now let’s just keep at it.”

Photo of HOPIA by Hersley-Ven Casero

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

entry arrow9:42 PM | Wednesday Night in Dumaguete

Walking down Silliman Avenue to the Rizal Boulevard and then seeing the bright misshapen moon hanging above the horizon, a crown above Siquijor in the clear night sky, it occurred to me so suddenly that the evening was beautiful. The night breeze was a magnificent surprise. From somewhere, some band was singing America's "A Horse With No Name." Everything stirred in that Dumagueteño Wednesday night rhythm, and for a brief shining moment, the universe made sense.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

entry arrow11:25 AM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: Fogo de Chon

I am an accidental foodie: I used to write a food column for a local paper and have written extensively about the Dumaguete food scene for national magazines and newspapers -- until I decided to discontinue the enterprise about four years ago. Still, people I know who visit Dumaguete keep asking me about the best places to go to eat, and I've found I no longer quite know the scene. A lot can change in half a decade. So I've decided to try a new approach this year and go about sampling the local food culture once more and document everything online in the course of twelve months. The city has grown and expanded enough in the years since 2011, and a significant part of what's happening food-wise has become unfamiliar to me. Consider this a personal adventure.

And speaking of lechon, everyone's favorite photographer -- Urich Calumpang -- has decided to try his hand on the food business, this time catering to our instant lechon fix with the quaintly named Fogo de Chon -- a qiosk at the western exit off Robinson's Place, right at the very apex of the beautifully designed wedge called Manhattan Suites Building. They have your usual lechon from P450 per kilo to P112 a quarter of that, plus an assortment of the usual pork favorites, from paksiw (P30), dinuguan (P20), and sisig (P60). I've tried the regular lechon, and it has an aromatic tenderness to it that I liked -- although I'm quite aware lechon quality everywhere always varies and is never quite consistent. But there is an earnestness to the service Fogo de Chon offers that is largely absent from many other lechon counters currently dotting the city. Best of luck with your venture, Poc!


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Sunday, January 24, 2016

entry arrow8:41 PM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: Mamita's Diner

I am an accidental foodie: I used to write a food column for a local paper and have written extensively about the Dumaguete food scene for national magazines and newspapers -- until I decided to discontinue the enterprise about four years ago. Still, people I know who visit Dumaguete keep asking me about the best places to go to eat, and I've found I no longer quite know the scene. A lot can change in half a decade. So I've decided to try a new approach this year and go about sampling the local food culture once more and document everything online in the course of twelve months. The city has grown and expanded enough in the years since 2011, and a significant part of what's happening food-wise has become unfamiliar to me. Consider this a personal adventure.

There has been, for some reason, an explosion of meat-loving eating places around Dumaguete in very recent years -- although ironically not a single one of them is a steakhouse of some reckoning. (Don't even mention Don Atilano, please.) For the most part, the explosion has centered on everybody's pork passion, which is not always a healthy thing -- and above all these, a hankering for all manner of lechon. Mamita's Diner, only a stone's throw away from the city police station along Cervantes Street, is perhaps one of the first to cash in on this food trend in Dumaguete, billing itself to be the place to go if one wanted the finest of Cebu's boneless lechon. I know people who swear by the delicacy of Mamita's lechon -- and not too long ago, I've sampled the spicy variety that seems to be the favorite, and found it much to my liking. There was a spicy earthiness to the bite of supple meat I had then -- but none of that, unfortunately, was to be had in my latest visit a few days ago. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the meat we got might have sat on the counter for much too long and had grown exceedingly cold, enough to lose the vibrancy we love in freshly made lechon. Still I consider this an anomaly; the diner has always been a lovely place to go. In itself, the place charms me with its intimacy (there are only four tables) and its curious eye for detail. Consider, for example, the tables and chairs -- just your ordinary carinderia prototype, but designed with an eye for an exquisite finish. That assures me very much of the proprietor's keeness to make this place work: it mixes no frills down-to-earthness with pleasant, well-designed air. The staff, too, is a gregarious and friendly bunch, which is always a plus. It has been a while since Manang Siony's, the city's legendary meat central, disappeared. Others have quickly taken its place, and I'd guess Mamita's is one of the more successful torchbearers for our continued meat madness. A quarter of the lechon priced at around P120. Placed my order at 7:00 PM. Order received at 7:15 PM.


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entry arrow4:43 PM | Lakambini Sitoy, Sweet Haven, and the Intricate Forces of Fiction

CATCH THESE TWO EVENTS TOMORROW! Sillimanian writer Lakambini Sitoy will give a homecoming lecture on the process of fiction writing, titled "Intricate Forces," for the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center Lecture Series on 25 JANUARY 2016, Monday at 10 AM at the American Studies Resource Center of the Robert and Metta Silliman Library.

Also on the same date, we are ​launching ​her first novel, SWEET HAVEN, at 6:30 PM at the University House.

The Philippine edition of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize-longlisted novel, published by Anvil, is the story of Narita Pastor who abandoned her illegitimate daughter for a new life in Manila. When a scandalous video of the girl becomes public, Narita must return to her parents and to Sweethaven, the community of her childhood, to perform an act of rescue. In search of the answers to her daughter's shaming, she follows a trail of evidence to reveal a web of family secrets, corruption, prejudice, and the barriers of social class. Sweet Haven was published in a French translation as Les Filles de Sweethaven by Albin Michel in 2011, and its English edition was put out by the New York Review of Books in 2014.

Ms. Sitoy is a teacher and creative writer. Her published work includes the books Mens Rea (1998)​ and Jungle Planet (2005). She received the David T.K. Wong fellowship from the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom in 2003, was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008, and has received a Manila Critics Circle National Book Award and numerous prizes in the annual Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. She holds an MA from Roskilde University in Denmark, where she resides and teaches English.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

entry arrow10:08 AM | Saturday Morning

Spending another Saturday morning at mother's to write...

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Friday, January 22, 2016

entry arrow6:44 PM | Call for Submission to the 2nd Silliman Film Open

Rules and Regulations



1. The Silliman Short Film Open (SFO) is open to all graduate, tertiary, and secondary school students (grades 8 to 12) currently enrolled in Silliman University.

2. The Director and/or Scriptwriter of an entry must be a student officially enrolled in the university during the time of the production.

3. The SFO will have three categories for 2016:

     a. Live-Action Fiction Short Film
     b. Documentary Short Subject
     c. Original Music Video

4. The categories are described as follows:

     a. Entries in the Live-Action Fiction Short Film category must be works of film fiction of any subject or theme. Adaptations of other works are accepted as long as permission from the proper copyright holder has been extended to the filmmaker. They should be no more than 10 minutes in length, including both opening and closing credits.

     b. Entries in the Documentary Short Subject category must be works of film nonfiction, and may be of any subject. They should be no more than 15 minutes in length, including both opening and closing credits.

     c. Entries in the Original Music Video category must be works depicting any original song by a local artist or band, with proper permission from the copyright holder. They should be no more than 5 minutes in length, including both opening and closing credits.

5. The filmmakers are relatively free to choose any subject for their films. Restraint with regards depictions of overt sexuality or violence is encouraged however. Storylines that denigrate religion or sexual orientations are frowned upon. No film is allowed to advocate murder and torture, racism, pedophilia, misogyny, or homophobia—unless done in an ironic mode, or done to render these issues in serious and provocative light meant to provide a better understanding of such issues but without the intention of glorifying them.

6. Each film must be shot in an aspect ratio of 16:9 (unless there is an aesthetic reason to shot in another aspect ratio). The signal format must at least be in 720p (HD).

7. The entries may use English, Cebuano, Filipino, or any of the other regional languages of the Philippines. All entries are required to be subtitled in English, and in .srt format. (No hard coding.) They should be grammatical, and must be rendered in bright yellow with dark borders to ensure readability.

8. All films must be set/shot in Silliman University, and/or Dumaguete City, and/or its environs.

9. A participant may join one or more categories and may submit any number of entries for each category.

10. An entry can only be submitted to one category.

11. Cash prizes will be given, and only one winner is declared per category. A runner-up per category is given a certificate with a special citation.

12. Special prizes will also be given to the following categories:

     a. For Live-Action Fiction Short Films: Eligible for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Make-up, Best Sound Editing, Best Musical Scoring, Best Song, and Best Poster.

     b. For Documentary Short Subjects: Eligible for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Musical Scoring, and Best Poster.

     c. A Special Audience Award is given to a crowd favorite from among all the categories.

The winners of the special prizes will be given certificates of recognition. Special prizes will only be given to winners who happen to be bonafide students of Silliman University. No special prizes will be given in categories where the filmmakers have sought outside help.

13. The competition opens on 1 January 2016. There are two deadlines, one for Registration and one for Final Submission of Film Entries.

14. The deadline for Registration is 12 February 2016, Friday at 5:00 PM at the Cultural Affairs Committee Office. (Please look for Nadine Padao.) The film entries may or may not be submitted on this date, but the following are required for submission:

     a. Accomplished application form
     b. List of participants/creative collaborators form
     c. A .psd file of the poster
     d. A 2- to 3-minute trailer in .avi or .mp4
     e. An application fee of P150.00

The Registration Forms may be obtained from the following address:

     Cultural Affairs Committee
     College of Performing and Visual Arts Building II
     Silliman University
     6200 Dumaguete City

Forms may also be downloaded at the CAC website and Facebook page.

All of the Registration requirements should be placed inside a short brown envelope, properly labeled with the name of the director and the title of the entry.

One registration form should be accomplished per entry. The application fee of P150 should be paid for every entry.

15. The form for the list of participants/creative collaborators must contain the following:

     a. Complete title of film
     b. Running time
     c. Synopsis
     d. Name and contact number and email address of the film representative
     e. Name of director
     f. Name of screenplay writer(s)
     g. Complete cast list (name of actor and name of character)
     h. Name of cinematographer
     i. Name of editor
     j. Name of production designer
     k. Name of costume designer
     l. Name of make-up artist
     m. Name of sound mixer/editor
     n. Name of music scorer
     o. Title(s) of original song(s) used and name(s) of artist
     p. Name of poster designer

16. The deadline for the Final Submission of Entries is on 26 February 2016 at 12:00 NN at the Cultural Affairs Committee Office. (Please look for Nadine Padao.)

17. The final copy of the film entry must be submitted in a virus-free a flash disk, properly labeled with the title of the entry, in either of the two formats: AVI and MP4. The file size should not be more than 1.5 GB.

18. Entrants must indicate in their Registration Form if they have incurred help from professional production houses outside the university in the making of their video. Only help in the technical aspects of filmmaking—cinematography, editing, and sound editing—are permitted. Entrants must indicate the name of the production house and what specific work was done for the video.

The student filmmaker may seek outside help in Cinematography, Editing, Acting, Sound Design, and Musical Score. Hired professional help is discouraged in Cinematography, Acting, Sound Design, and Musical Score—although they may secure this in Editing. Student effort in all areas of filmmaking is encouraged.

19. All music—including the songs and score—must be original. You may secure collaboration with other students in the university, particularly from the College of Performing and Visual Arts. The use of prerecorded and copyrighted materials is prohibited.

20. The student filmmaker must shoulder the finances of the entire production of the film. All film rights belong to the filmmaker, although he/she is required to acknowledge the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee as main presenter of the finished film. The CAC also retains the right to screen the film at any time to market future editions of the SFO.

21. Entries submitted by the second deadline [February 26] cannot be withdrawn from the competition.

22. The participating filmmakers must assign a single representative to act on their behalf. (The director is the suggested representative.) All official communications shall be addressed to the representative.

23. A jury of five to seven members is appointed to screen the entries on February 26, Friday at 6—9 PM. They are tasked (a) to select five nominees per special awards category, (b) to choose the winners of the special awards, (c) to choose the winning best films per category, and (d) and to select the 8 or 10 top films to be screened during the Final Night and Awards Ceremony.

24. The festival is slated on February 27, Saturday. The screening for the films not selected among the 8 or 10 top films is slated at 1—4 PM at the Audio Visual Theatre 1. The screening for the finalists is slated at 6—9 PM at the Luce Auditorium.

25. The films will be screened alphabetically according to the surnames of the student filmmakers.

26. The 8 or 10 finalists vie for the top awards of Best Live-Action Film, Best Documentary Short Subject, and/or Best Musical Video. All entries however are eligible for the special awards.

27. The Awarding Ceremony will be held at the end of the program at the Luce. The actors and production crew of all films are required to attend.

28. The decision of the jury is final. The board reserves the right not to give any awards in a category should no entry merit it.

29. The SFO organizing committee will not be liable for any controversy regarding the sharing of awards among the members of the group.

30. Any entry not following the rules, regulations and mechanics are disqualified. 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

entry arrow12:40 AM | Call for Manuscripts to the 16th IYAS National Writers’ Workshop

The University of St. La Salle-Bacolod (USLS) is inviting young writers to submit their application for the 16th IYAS National Writers’ Workshop which will be held on 24 – 30 April 2016 at Balay Kalinungan, USLS-Bacolod.

Applicants should submit original work: either 6 poems, 2 short stories, or 2 one-act plays using a pseudonym, in two (2) computer-encoded hard copies of entry, font size 12 pts., double-spaced, and soft copies in a CD (MSWord). Short stories must be numbered, by paragraph, on the left margin.

These are to be accompanied by a sealed size 10 business envelope, inside of which should be the author’s real name and chosen pseudonym, a 2x2 ID photo, and short resume. Everything must be mailed on or before 19 February 2016.

Entries in English, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Tagalog or Filipino may be submitted. Fellowships are awarded by genre and by language.

Fifteen applicants will be chosen for the workshop fellowships, which will include partial transportation subsidy and free board and lodging.

This year’s panelists include Grace Monte de Ramos, RayBoy Pandan, D.M. Reyes, Dinah Roma, John Iremil Teodoro, and Marjorie Evasco as Workshop Director.

Please submit your application to: Dr. Marissa Quezon, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of St. La Salle, La Salle Avenue, Bacolod City. For inquiries, please email iyasliterary@yahoo.com.

IYAS is held in collaboration with the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University-Manila and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

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