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


Saturday, January 24, 2015

entry arrow4:25 PM | The Man Who Faced a Mountain But Came Through a Pathway

Because his wife died unable to get medical care from the nearest hospital 50 km away from his village in India, Dashrath Manjhi proceeded to singlehandedly cut down a path through a small mountain that blocked the way and made travel long and difficult. In 1959, he sold his goats to purchase a chisel, a rope, and a hammer. No one helped him, but every day he moved pieces of that mountain for what must have seemed like an impossible and foolish dream. In 1981, he finally stepped into the other side of that mountain. It took 22 years. But now only 10 km separate his town and the hospital.

I don't have an excuse not to demolish my own metaphorical mountains.

What's your excuse?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

entry arrow2:49 AM | Ricardo de Ungria is new Silliman Workshop Director

Award-winning poet Ricardo de Ungria has been appointed Director-in-Residence for the 54th Silliman University National Writers Workshop by Silliman President Dr. Ben S. Malayang III upon the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center through its Coordinator, Ian Rosales Casocot.

De Ungria has published eight books of poetry and edited a number of anthologies, for which he has won five National Book Awards. Through a Fulbright Grant, he received his MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis in 1989. He has received writing grants from the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers and Bellagio Study and Conference Center.

He is a founding member of the Philippine Literary Arts Council, which published Caracoa, the first and only poetry journal in the Philippines in the eighties, and initiated a series of poetry readings that stirred interest in the performative aspect of the literary arts.

In 1999 when he moved to Davao, he founded the Davao Writers Guild that, since then, has held annual readings in the schools and malls in the city and published books by its members and a literary journal called Dagmay that features literary works in various languages by mostly young writers in the Davao region.

He has served as Chancellor of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao for two terms (2001-2007) and as Commissioner for the Arts at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Dr. De Ungria will oversee the selection of fellows and panelists for the 2015 Silliman Creative Writing Workshop, the oldest of its kind in Asia, which was founded by the late Edilberto K. Tiempo and National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo in 1962. He will also help in the continuing evaluation of the thrusts and programs of the Workshop, which this year is scheduled for 11-29 May 2015 at the Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village and the campus of Silliman University in Dumaguete City. (CWC)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

entry arrow1:39 AM | Call for Manuscripts to the 54th Silliman National Writers Workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 54th National Writers Workshop to be held 11—29 May 2015 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village. This Writers Workshop is offering twelve fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have achance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts in English on or before 9 February 2015. All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do sowill automatically eliminate their entries).

Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries. Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowships should submit at least one (1) One-Act Play. Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 20 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 20 pages.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. Please indicate the category (FICTION, CREATIVE NONFICTION, POETRY, or ONE-ACT DRAMA) immediately under the title. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 12.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts.

Manuscripts should be accompanied by the official application form, a notarised certification of originality of works, and at least one letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer. All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to Department of English and Literature, attention Prof. Ian Rosales Casocot, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at silliman.cwc@su.edu.ph or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.


Application Form
Certification of Originality of Works
Call for Manuscripts

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

entry arrow12:59 AM | What Makes You Stay

We measure our lives in years. There is no getting away from that cultural given—even when we do earnestly sing the refrain from the musical Rent that it is best to measure our lives in love.

I wish we genuinely could. How great would it be to live through life with such seasons, all defined by passion and affection? But human nature has such infinite capacity for both light and darkness, and for every kindness we come to know, there seems to be an equal unkindness to encounter. Any visit to Facebook with its steady display of humanity played out in our timelines shows an equal measure of fathomless love and blinding hate—of late: news of the Charlie Ebco massacre lying side by side with a linkbait story about a homeless woman meeting kindness in a fastfood joint. Plus a picture or two of cats being playful.

So we measure our lives in years, because love is often in short supply. There is great convenience, too, in cataloguing the unfolding of ourselves by the years we’ve managed to live through. Some of us do that by believing in the fitting ending of Decembers, with the New Year’s promise of being given a clean slate—and we mark these with resolutions to becoming better. Some of us believe in annual readings of horoscopes, in the mysterious pull on our fates by the stars or by Chinese animals. And some of us believe in taking stock of our days as they pass through patterns we seem to think our lives follow—the ebbs and lows, cycles of turbulences and triumphs: a map of sorts that takes into count both luck and the consistency of our personalities.

I do all of the above, because I figure there’s nothing to lose in subscribing to one or the other: all of these are just expressions of the human need for pattern-seeking in chaos anyway. And life is chaos. So we turn to calendars and zodiacs and psychology to wrest a semblance of control over the uncertainty of what’s to become of us. But mostly I measure my life by the years I still stay in Dumaguete, my nest, my comfort zone, my familiar shore.

A few weeks ago, I was having Christmas lunch with a bunch of colleagues, all of them good friends, in the early days of the holiday season. We feasted on buttered corncobs, pot roast, and magical roasted chicken floating gloriously in some sweet gelatinous thickness. Despite the specter of the rush the holidays engendered, it was a good day in Dumaguete, enough to put us all in good spirits. At one point, as the afternoon turned deeper, someone ultimately pulled out a bottle of white wine and a box of chocolate-flavored silvanas, which proved necessary indulgence for the seriousness of the talk that followed. One of us invariably turned the conversation towards the question of why we have stayed so far in this city. Because we have always been told that, given who we are, the world is our supposed oyster—and so why stay?

There was a flurry of responses to the question. “The world outside isn’t much better. There’s only new wallpaper somewhere else,” one of us said. “ “I like being my kind of fish in this perfect little pond,” another one of us said. True enough, when I make my own reflection, I could be honest enough to admit I find it utterly puzzling that I have not found it necessary to move on, to uproot the anchor, sail the rough seas, become a better sailor, and find a new beach to relax in. Isn’t that the narrative we all teach ourselves to follow? All our literature tells the hero of the story to go out to the world to make his mark. So, if you choose to stay, does that unmake you as the hero of your story? And yet I still remember what National Artist for Literature Edith Tiempo once said in reply to the very same question: “Why do I stay in Dumaguete? I look at its shoreline and I know I’m home.” In many ways, I have come to adopt that line as my own answer. There are days when the questions are particularly heavy—but when I step into the Rizal Boulevard and I see the balance of life played out by the mix of blue sky, green seas, and the quaint promenade lined by Dumaguete’s so-called sugar houses, I always feel that I am living in an unexpressed answer to the question of why I stay.

When I stare into Tañon Strait, with the faint outlines of Cebu, Siquijor, and Bohol in the horizon, I realize that I could either see that blue faint line as either a prison or a gate. It is perspective that can become our ultimate salvation from the worries we throw ourselves into. Sometimes, when I am at a painful standstill or at crucial point in my life, when the cares of the world threaten to overwhelm, I do all that I can to remind myself of that single, most helpful word: “perspective.” “Perspective, Ian,” I tell myself. “Perspective.”

When the last year drew to a close, near the cusp of December 31st, I thought that perhaps this was the ultimate lesson I could wring from 2014’s troubled unfolding. “’Troubled,’ Ian?” I asked myself. “Call it a ‘corrective’ instead.”

But this was not a new insight. Not for me, nor for anyone else. It was something I had come to understand more last year as I went on from one “corrective” day to another. The great Carl Sagan, writing in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space in 1994, penned the best argument for this—and I was reminded of his immortal lines when it served as a fitting epilogue to last year’s run of the new Cosmos. In that book, Mr. Sagan considered the now-iconic photograph of our planet taken by Voyager 1 in 1990. From a distance of about 3.7 billion miles, the space probe captured our world as being barely the size of a pixel—just a tiny dot floating in the vast emptiness of space, caught in bands of scattered sunlight: “Look again at that dot,” he wrote. “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

The past year crystallized my realization of several things. First, that just because one can doesn’t mean that one should. Second, that life is better lived the way good chefs run their kitchens: to clean up as one goes along. And third, taking my cue from Mr. Sagan, that the world does not revolve around me nor you, and like everything else, you and I are not indisposable.


Dumaguete is what it is: it can be home, or a destination. It can be a nurturing community, especially for artists, but it can also be cruel: it can choose to either love you back, or it can keep you out like the langyaw of legend. I guess it’s the spirit one brings into the place that finally decides one’s fate in it. And I realized that no place on earth, not even Dumaguete, owes anyone their happiness. It’s like asking the world to revolve around you. I have come to consider the rhythm of that world instead, and to learn to dance to its music.

Sometimes I still get unhappy about this place. But I always remember Edith Tiempo’s words, and I also remember that perhaps the only way to become happy, whether you stay or you go, is to measure everything, however you can, no matter how difficult it can be, in love.

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Monday, January 05, 2015

entry arrow2:05 AM | The Missives of Our Lives, Recollected

Pusheen the Cat on my shoulders watching me as I write tonight.

This should have been done a couple of years back, but I'm now seriously cataloguing all the essays I have written for a planned book manuscript. (Truth to tell, manuscripts for two or three books, actually -- each collection grouped together by a common subject matter. Part of the current challenge is trying to see how I can rewrite many of these essays so that they fit each other to simulate a flow in their book's narrative. I'm always greatly disappointed in books that are mere compilations of columns culled from newspapers and magazines, without the author attempting to create a tome with a common narrative vision.) So I'm basically going through eleven years worth of creative nonfiction and columns -- and some, I find, are quite promising, but a great many are groan-inducing. ("Why did I write about that?" is a constant refrain I hear myself emitting. One column from years back, for example, had me soliciting for Friendster votes for a beauty pageant -- and I cringed, knowing how I stand now regarding pageants of this kind.) But it's enlightening to know what specific subjects I keep writing about, and it's heartening to identify the trajectory of our growing up as reflected by these weekly missives. This is an exhausting project and will probably take a few days to compile. I should have done this regularly.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

entry arrow8:46 PM | Film #5: Matthew Warchus' Pride (2014)

Near the end of Matthew Warchus' Pride (2014), a grandmother from a down-and-out mining town in Wales goes to London to join a gay pride march, and upon disembarking from her car at the parade's starting point, she calls out with more than a touch of affection and sweetness: "Where are my lesbians? Where are my lesbians?" Whereupon, said lesbians -- dear friends she has made in this story about the unlikely alliance between gay and lesbian activists and striking miners in Thatcherite England -- come upon her, and we get the group hug we knew was coming. Our hearts swell, and knowing that this is based on a true story can only get us having high hopes for the future of humanity again. This, in a nutshell, is the overall design and heart that we get from the film, a feel-good "we-can-do-this-together-as-a-community" narrative that is so well-made and so well-embodied by its huge ensemble of actors that we long surrender to its sentimentality even before we've realised it. And we find that we don't mind actually. This is very much the LGBT sibling of Peter Cattaneo's The Full Monty (1997), where comedy meets English social commentary, and makes laughing cry-babies out of all of us while learning a thing or two about social struggles in contemporary history. This is something totally earned by the film, however, and we can only wish that such a crowd-pleaser can attract the crowd it has not so far engaged in the box office.

#NotAReview #Cinema2015Project

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