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


Friday, February 13, 2015

entry arrow11:56 AM | Men and Women Rising

Every year, around this time of the year, this column turns to one constant that has been there for so long, I might as well call this annual space the “vagina’s turn.”

Looking back to all my old columns, it struck me that I have written about VDay every single year since 2001, after having been inspired by the example set by writer/activist Eve Ensler and her groundbreaking play, The Vagina Monologues, which was first staged at the Luce to much controversy in 2001. This also means that, together with Bing Valbuena and Margie Udarbe-Alvarez, I have been part of the movement for thirteen years now, skipping that one year—2002—when things were just coming together, and which led to that big jump in 2003 when Bing started the campaign in Dumaguete.

Reflecting back, I can very much say, with the power of that eternal cliché, many things have since changed, and many things have remained the same. There is change, because we don’t have to fight too much anymore a small-mindedness that prevailed in 2001 and 2003, when the very mention of the word “vagina” proved too much for many in Dumaguete. We couldn’t even put streamers up, and someone threatened to record the whole play in order to serve as evidence of our “depravity.” In 2006, when we unveiled Usaping Puki, the Filipino version of The Vagina Monologues, we received virulent negative feedback—for one, it was considered so inappropriate for us to put up our banner with the word “puki,” in a place that fronted the elementary school.

Now, of course, The Vagina Monologues—and sometimes the alternate play, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer—comes with such annual regularity to our February slate, and no one even questions its staging anymore. In fact, every year, we have no shortage of volunteers to be part of the cast. And we have many more volunteers asking to be part of the whole VDay campaign, and now, since 2013, with the One Billion Rising campaign.

“When I looked through my file of VDay pictures for my VDay Pechakucha presentation [last February 12],” Bing told me, “I realized how I’ve grown with the movement. With its many challenges came many beautiful memories. The challenges were not simple. Many were heartbreaking. A few times I felt like I wanted to quit but every time, there was always one person who would come up to me and ask me about VDay. I would realize that we have come very far on the world we want to create through VDay. Even when unsupportive people continue to come, our VDay volunteers come in multiple numbers. I used to approach friends to ask them to help me in our V-events. Today, both friends and strangers come to me and ask if they can help. More and more men and women come out as vagina warriors!”

And yes, much has yet to be done. Last year, after staging Usaping Puki, an up-and-coming baker in town joined our celebration by giving the cast vagina-shaped cupcakes. When pictures of these cupcakes hit social media—instigated by the Hulagway ug Kasikas sa Dumaguete Facebook page—the comments that came from the locals were vehement in their hatred of the whole day. Which made us think that, twelve years onwards, the battle has yet to be won. There are still many others in the community we have to reach out to.

This year, in honor of the many men who have been part of the VDay campaign in Dumaguete, we are unveiling a new play, The V Manologues. This one, directed by Hope Tinambacan, gathers together monologues by Eve Ensler, as well as a slew of other pieces where men talk about being men in a patriarchal society, where men talk about their lives with women, and where men confront issues that talk about violence against women and children.

Because, in the light of many continuing atrocities, they need to be talked about. And not just by women. Men, too, are part of the solution. That has always been the magic of VDay.

Mr. Tinambacan, who has directed The Vagina Monologues before, and is now directing the new play, reflects: “With the old play, I had to keep reminding myself that I have no vagina, therefore I couldn’t judge the characters of their feelings and emotions based on my experience as a man because the violence they experienced were basically gender-based. To be able to direct Usaping Puki I had to allow myself to feel vulnerable and to empathize with the brokenness of each of the characters, and I knew that in the end it has made me a real person who would continue to stand firmly beside all women and girls who are rising and demanding an end to violence. This year, directing The V Manologues started off as a confirmation that I am not the lone guy who is true to this fight against gender-based violence. This production allowed me to immerse myself in the many emotions and experiences of other men and made me reflect on my own stories and experiences with women. The V Manologues is an affirmation that we men and women, together as one, can win this battle. This show will bring you stories of men and their experiences with women, and how we recognize the fact that indeed men are capable of inflicting harm towards women and that we are also instrumental in ending violence and achieving gender equality.”

And all these now for the One Billion Rising challenge, which is currently in its third year. J Marie Maxino writes: “Another difference is our One Billion Rising campaign. We still visited different academic and government institutions, and taught their members to dance for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. With nearly 30 schools and organizations participating in OBR Negros Oriental, we will still join 207 countries rise for those one billion women who have been or will be abused in their lifetimes. We will still aim to increase the number of V-Warriors and OBR supporters. We will still dance and rise to stop the violence. This year, however, we made the decision to highlight the involvement of men in the advocacy of VDay and OBR. Using the tagline: #MenRising, we hope to encourage men of all ages and from all backgrounds to be more aware and supportive, to step up and speak up to stop violence against women and girls.

“VDay may have come a long way, with so many changes, but something remains the same: violence still exists. Violence still happens to people regardless of their race, age, religion, sexual orientation, and social and economic status. Violence, in all its forms, still poisons the humanity of both the abuser and the abused. Violence, in its many disguises, still threatens to destroy hope…

“But, that is what we have and hold on to: hope. We hope and believe that things will be better and that equality is possible. We hope and believe that there are always people who will keep fighting for those who have yet to find the courage to fight. We hope and believe that our cause will empower more people to become advocates for a better community and a better world.

“VDay embraces its 17th year with the theme ‘Rise for Revolution,’ and, with these changes to the campaign, we aim to inspire current and future Vagina Warriors and VMen to begin the revolution within—in how they see themselves, each other, and the world. This is a revolution to stop neglecting the responsibility to speak out against violence. This is a revolution to strip ourselves of labels and inhibitions, and see ourselves for who we really are—not as men, not as women, but as humans—humans who are capable of incredible change and exceptional love.”

Indeed, the VDay movement has grown bigger.

It is now in its 17th year, with Dumaguete celebrating it for the 13th year in a row. Last year, we rose for justice. This year, we rise for revolution. Every day, we should finally rise for love.

The V Manologues is directed by Earnest Hope Tinambacan, with monologues adapted from the writings of Eve Ensler, Ian Rosales Casocot, Howard Zinn, L.T. Goto, Mark Matousek, Kris Dave Austero, Nicholas D. Kristof, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, Robert Thurman, Kelvin Wu, and Rocky Magaña. The cast include Ian Rosales Casocot, Rey Dote, Warlito S. Caturay Jr., Andrew Marc Alvarez, Nikki Cimafranca, Ron Jacob Calumpang, Kris Dave Austero, Tyler Hoisington, Lee Verdoguillo, Hanz Denzil Villahermosa, Shadid Rodriguez Sidri, Lydio Mangao Jr., Ra’zcel Jan Salvarita, Kelvin Wu, Manolito Saldivar, Rocky Magaña, and J Marie Maxino. Ramon del Prado provides a video monologue. The play opens 14 FEBRUARY 2015, Saturday at 8 PM at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium. Tickets available at the Silliman University Psychology Department at P175.

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

entry arrow11:46 AM | Your Quick Guide to Arts Month in Dumaguete | February 2015

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entry arrow10:27 AM | Jukebox Forever

I like that Glee is just going loco in its last season, relentlessly commenting on itself and all its silliness, but most of all -- by revealing to us Sue Sylvester's "emotionally vulnerable songs" in this episode -- it reminds us about why we grudgingly return to this flawed -- and valiantly liberal -- television series: jukebox musicals get to us because the songs remind us about those days when music was the one true thing that understands us completely. #StayingForTheLastSeason

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

entry arrow10:31 AM | Races to Finish, Mountains to Demolish, Days to Persevere

One time, not so long ago, Saturday morning felt fallow and unremarkable. This happens. Everyone’s lives have days that feel like lead. It had been raining the entire evening before this unremarkable Saturday, and when the daylight finally broke, there was still no let up in the miserable cold and wetness, which soon extended to what would eventually become a whole day affair.

Normally, this would not have been a problem for me: I am built for wet days. For some reason, my personality perks up on stormy days and my body tends to rebel against the return of the sun. When it feels the promise of sunshine in the air, my body breaks down into a variety of malaise that sometimes I am convinced I am allergic to solar brightness and must therefore be a vampire.

So I woke up feeling very tired, and found that I couldn’t move a muscle. This is a dramatic exaggeration, of course. What I felt was not physical paralysis; it felt very much like a spiritual, even an existential, immobility. I was not sure whether it was the familiar black dog of my constant bouts with depression—but there was no dark fog hugging my brain, and it didn’t feel like despair. It just felt like a numbness that consumed and the only recourse was to succumb to the hug of the bed and sleep it off.

I had just survived a most trying year in 2014, I told myself, and one day of numbness like the Saturday I was experiencing was nothing. I had entered 2015 with a resolve I had not seen myself undertake in years—consumed with the belief that one’s happiness can actually become a matter of shrewd negotiations with willpower and undertaking a routine of good things that becomes habit. Good begets good. I learned this well in the murky bottom that was 2014.

So I’ve learned to do certain things guaranteed to make the going feel worthwhile. Striving to stay fit, for example, became a matter-of-course. Staying positive became a must, even with the direst of days. I’ve learned to do a daily extraction of good things written down on slips of paper and deposited in a glass vase—to remind me at the end of the year that while the bad are most remembered for the emotional dent they deliver, the good—softer in their impact—must not be so easily forgotten.

And what of the previous year? Have I easily forgotten the best moments of it? In popular culture alone, there was Julianne Moore moving me with her depiction of despair against early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. There was the surprising ending of The Legend of Korra, where the couple that rides off into the brilliant radiance of a spiritual portal are of the variety that rarely gets depicted in children’s television. (All right, Korra ended up with Asami—much to the delighted squeal of many who have shipped them for eternity.) There was the strange melee of How to Get Away with Murder.

In a more local context, there was the unbelievable beauty of the photographs in exhibition for the South Pacific Photowalk. There was the raw power of J Marie Maxino’s Pechakucha talk on being queer. And speaking of queer, there was iSpec’s approval as an official organization in the university I work for—the first LGBT and straight alliance ever allowed in this part of the world. That’s progress. There’s Hersley-Ven Casero’s new collection of firefly paintings. There’s Romeo Ariniego’s collection of art—many of them by Filipino masters—that he has donated to his alma mater.

There was the explosive climate change march in Dumaguete. And there was the initial offerings in Razceljan Salvarita’s upcycling products. There was Jack Wigley’s revealing talk in the summer of writers. And there was the release of Belltower Project Dos album—which brought Dumaguete music to a higher rung, creating a community and consolidating a sound. There was Dok Timbancaya’s big Founders Day EDM party—a series of parties, in fact—that was a celebration of how youthful and dynamic this city can be, if it really wanted to. And then there was that enormous feeling of vindication that I felt when I sold the last ticket for Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, which had a special screening—spectacularly sold-out—at Robinson’s Movieworld, proving once and for a while there was an engaged audience for these kinds of films in this city.

I’d forgotten these, and many other good things, from 2014, convinced only of the consuming darkness of that year. In proper and more inclusive retrospective, it wasn’t that bad.

And so it was that, near the tail-end of that miserable Saturday, I knew I had to salvage it somehow. Because shit does happen—and the ultimate measure of our humanity is our response to it. Like with this guy I’ve read about named Micke Ekvall. For him, shit did happen, literally. He was running a marathon when he suddenly developed a case of the stomach cramps in the middle of it. Post-race, Micke Ekvall, who finished that 2008 race in 21st place, was asked if he ever considered stopping to clean off. “No, I’d lose time,” he said. “If you quit once, it’s easy to do it again and again and again. It becomes a habit.”

There’s no quitting.

Let shit happen.

Finish anyway.

Here’s the story of another man like Ekvall. His name was Dashrath Manjhi, whose wife died because they were unable to get medical care from the nearest hospital, which was 50 km away from their village in India. In the aftermath of this tragedy, 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 didn’t have an excuse not to demolish my own metaphorical mountains, including murky Saturdays in the doldrums. And so, with some finality, I got up. And felt so much better.

What’s your excuse?

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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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