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


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Saturday, November 29, 2003

I just won a Special Award for The Hero of the Snore Tango from the NVM Gonzalez Awards! That's P25,000 and a plaque! Woohooo! Janet Villa's Undercurrents (which got rejected by a prestigious magazine -- and we had to console Janet for that weird decision) won the grand prize of P50,000! Double wohooo!



Who said there's no money in literature?

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Thursday, November 27, 2003

Cast of Colors, Light, Verve



I can’t mince words when there’s so much great art going on in two of my favorite spots along the Boulevard. There’s Verve in CocoAmigos—in that tucked-away, well-lit room that has become the preferred hangout for many Dumaguete diners and art lovers—and then there’s also Cast of Characters in the lower room of The Spanish Heritage, a small exhibition place that has, of late, seen a resurgence of astounding artwork by some of our best young artists living in the city today.



I want to let the pictures do the talking for themselves—but I’m afraid even these are not enough. How can small jpeg photos do justice to the plays of light, shadows, strokes, colors, textures, themes? One might as well go to CocoAmigos, or The Spanish Heritage, and see the works for themselves. The exhibits run until the end of November—probably even the early part of December, but there’s no guaranteeing the artworks will still be there, since many of them have already been snapped up by patrons of Negrense art.



Artantula, the art and literature group headed by the indefatigable Sillimanian transplanted from Ateneo, the poet Niccolo Rocamora Vitug, was the first one to open with Cast of Characters—a selection of works by seven young artists: Razceljan Salvarita—that prolific artboy (long, curly hair and all) whose new works still manage to astound me year after year, Rianne Salvarita, Donnie Luis Calseña, Trinna Montenegro, Hersley Casero, Mark Valenzuela, and Jana Jumalon-Alano.



Razcel’s recent works this time around seem to focus on Buddhist tenets and imageries, his pen and ink works—“Interplanetary Yin Yang” and “Jai Guru Dev Om”—are reworkings of the mandala, but full of the surreal eccentricities I have come to expect of his works. His sister Rianne’s works, however, are a revelation, something that tells me that artistry does run in the family blood. In Cast…, Rianne offers her own versions of the Madonna and Child in a series of crayon-and-ink works on yellow paper which are somehow a re-imagining of the iconic figure in Matisse mode.



The dreamlike quality of the works continues in many of the other artists’ works as well. In Calseña’s “Unclad Purity,” we get feathery subjects in yellow-green, all of them somehow reminding me of a Rorsharch inkblot-test the answer to which is “a lot of vaginas.” The individual’s psychology does play a core in all the works here. In Casero’s mixed media paintings (“Motorsiklo” and “Experimento”), there is a strange juxtaposition of bright colors verging on the dark, and dreamlike silhouettes of people (ghosts?) seemingly haunted by berserk, flying motorized contraptions. Serious, heavy stuff, indeed—but which also finds an opposite twin in Montenegro’s ink works, this time (although still surreal) more playful: they are a playground of colors. I like “Psychedelic Dream”—it’s an intimate portrait of a woman with magic hair, with colors bursting into so many elements, she must be Medusa’s playful Mexican cousin.



Jumalon-Alano’s works bridge the two concurrent exhibits in her depictions of nude pregnant women in oil on canvas, clearly influenced by the stylistics of Manansala, but here given an urgency and feminine sensuality that is purely native and her own. (Given that she was also pregnant by the time these works came to light somehow gives them a kind of autobiographical feel.) In Cast…, she simply calls these works “Bedlam 1” and “Bedlam 2,” but in Verve, she finally gives these women identities: there’s Koko, there’s Fala, there’s Jada and Isabela. And one can’t help but somehow fall in love with these pregnant women, all of them a glow of yellow, all of them somehow somber but also strong.



Rianne’s works for Verve takes her far away from Matisse, and here she inserts her own vocabulary of fiery reds. In “Rain Dance,” she gives us an almost faceless woman in the nude—her effacement becoming her own personality. In “Gloria Adios,” she gives us three figures in a grid—a man? a woman crossing her legs? a baby? It doesn’t really matter, I think. But these works may also be the mark of an artist reaching for new heights in her expression. Here, her strokes and textures are fine and broad and assured, her theme possessed of a spirit.



Possession may be the word as well for Valenzuela’s ink works which utilize a redness so fiery they are bloody, and an imagery so startling they are, well, startling. In “Watching All Sunny Days,” “Red Moonlight,” “Red Boats,” and in the other works, the shadows are murders, the moons blood-red, the women—mostly twin figures with their hair tied together (or sharing the same hair?) tortured and serene all at the same time. He tells me: “The tied hair is a representation of a struggle to be a different person, an ideal one. The red moon is a symbol of protest—a revolt against the system of government, against the attitude of people.” Rightly said.



But Verve, an exhibit which is supposed to bridge the gap between Dumaguete- and Bacolod-based artists, would not be the sensation it is now if not for the entry of painters from the other side of the island. Rodney Martinez, Orville Visitacion, and Roger Salvarita (Razcel and Rianne’s father) bring their brand of veteran artistry to Dumaguete in works so varied in their approach it was like viewing a banquet of images, all of them disquieting.



I am reminded of the Colombian painter Fernando Botero in the portraits of “ample” women in Martinez’s works. But again, the local supersedes the reference by being, in so many ways, original in depiction and sensuality. Martinez does all that in “Fruit Vendor,” in “Mother and Child,” and in “Violin Player,” all pastel women in pastel lives. In Visitacion’s paintings, on the other hand, we get landscape and still-life that may be soft and misty in their uses of color, but something in the composition hints of genius. “Sangkap Labada,” for example, is a simple still-life composed of a blue pail and two basins on a wooden table for laundry-wash, but there is a haunting in their stillness, in their being subjects… There is also something arresting in his “Kipot Falls”: the falls are mere backdrops of a panoramic landscape picture, and what are emphasized are the wet boulders in the foreground.



I am in love, however, with Rodney Salvarita’s works. Razcel’s father’s paintings seem to belie their own realism, their own genre of being landscape pictures. One sees that in “Legacy of San Sebastian Cathedral”—a picture of two bells drowned by red bricks. Three Spanish-style doors flank an old Spanish house, likes plaintive eyes overlooking a narrow street in “Lizares Old House.” In “Ancestral House,” a portico to another old house wraps itself gently round the structure, like a sad, slowly fading memory. The same feeling emanates in “Ventana,” his painting of a Miag-ao Church capiz-window. There is a certainly a sadness to the works, a kind of beautiful dread. And this is even more pronounced in “Entrada,” which may be the best painting in the series: Picture an old church stone doorway, which leads to shadows in angles like a heartrending tunnel, which in turn leads to a courtyard bathed by sun. And all these on a canvas of jalousies.



Beautiful.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Kaija emails me after so many years! This brings back so many memories of Japan. Here's my Tokyo barkada having fun without me in the Netherlands. From left, that's my best buddy Martin Slot, then Anu Kuusistu (whom I used to call my "favorite vampire" because of her curly hair), and then sweet, sweet Kaija. I think the lady to the right is Martin's girlfriend Marieke.





It's been such a long time! Wow.


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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Finally! My dearest friend/baby Kit Kwe (who may be one of Philippine literature's beautiful young faces) has summoned the courage to publish something! She's barely past her adolescence but already she writes such searing -- and very adult -- fiction. So searing and awesome she won with me in this year's Palanca Awards. But she has never, ever published. Refuses to, actually. She said she didn't think her fiction was worth any of that. (As if!)



A few months ago, she sent me the draft of a new story with a very troubling surprise ending (with the kind of dreadful epiphany I had when I first read Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"). That story appears in today's edition of Sunday Times Magazine.



Read it.

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I'm writing Marvin Agustin's script for a beauty pageant. (Hey, the pay is quite good!) We talked for a stretch a while ago in Forest Camp. He's very okay, I guess, although a tad insecure. Which is amusing....





Oh, God. I'm so showbiz these days.

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

The city is full of people we can't reach. We pass them on sidewalks, sit across from them in the subway and in restaurants; we glimpse their lighted windows from our own lighted windows late at night. That's in New York. In most of America, people float alongside one another on freeways as they drive between the city and the places where they live. To lock eyes with a stranger is to feel the gulf between proximity and familiarity and to wish -- at least sometimes, briefly, most of us -- that we could jump the hedges of our own narrow lives and find those people again when they drift out of sight....



[From Love in the Time of No Time by Jennifer Egan in the New York Times Magazine]

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Friday, November 21, 2003

Everything's black, like a foregone conclusion for dread. The lights have gone out all over the city, and for the first time in days I can see stars. Orion's Belt dips somewhere near the sea, and everything else is like a blanket of pin-pricks of shy light. The stars shine, like a madness. Is this also how it is when you die, you see the light at the end of a tunnel? I can smell burning from somewhere, but nothing stirs. And for the nth time since the day began I tell myself, like lullaby to a troubled child, Everything's all right. Everything's all right.

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A new poem by Joel Toledo



Para Los Muertos



One wonders where mercy goes

after electricity. Or after the dead return

to the antechambers of memory.

Like tonight. I'm busy watching candles.

Mother says they must burn true,

guarded from wind. Respect for the departed

is a beautiful, grateful light.

Or a lot of it.

We've placed twelve candles around the house

for the day of souls.



There's been no power for the last few hours.

Nobody’s sure what time it will be restored.

For the meantime, I stare and marvel

at the contours of flickering candlelight.

There's nothing much else to do;

amazement is a good distraction while



one considers the gathered sweat,

permits a curse,

and pushes back a prayer.

The dead have gone and the night

is getting darker, deepening

to its natural blackness.

One eventually gives in to supplication.

Lord Almighty,

we want our MTV.



Anything but this. One by one,

the candles burn down to stubborn wicks

that go out when one's not looking,

a sudden breeze betraying a lifetime

of vigilance, the night harsh,

old and we stumble,

invisible and powerless.


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Thursday, November 20, 2003

I hope everyone likes the new design. This is so much better than the last one. (And yes, I do like sunflowers. So don't tease.)

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Writing is a conversation with self. But I can’t hear myself “talk” when music fills my head—which is the reason why, when I must write, there must be a total silence. The silence of late nights, for example, when everything else grinds to a halt, and there is only the lull of the occasional passing cars and pedicabs to simulate noise, but nevertheless adds only to the rhythm of midnight quiet. Songs assault my senses, even the softest ones—Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel,” for instance, or Karen Carpenter harping on lost loves. So when I feel the urge to do my finger dancing on my computer’s keyboards, all else must bow to an imposition of quiet.



It is quiet now, and almost midnight, too. I am waiting to finally begin my writing, caressing the beginnings of sentences like prospective lovers, aching—somehow—for the coming of the flow. I haven’t written anything for the longest time now. I have been so busy being in love. Poems were easier to produce—all of them sappy and dripping with sophomoric moaning for the flutter in my chest. But there are stories in my head begging to get out. Essays, too. And deadlines beckoning. But what was it that Mom Edith Tiempo once said? “Even when the writer just sits, he is writing.” I wish to believe that, but I know I cannot let it be the rationalization for this laziness. I must write.



My room is a dark glow now: somewhere around here, a lamp casts everything else in yellow softness. Everything’s in perfect order, in their places. The few magazines I have are stacked on the green sofa, categorized by name. My files are in their immaculately labeled purple envelopes, also stacked in order of importance on the low shelves near my apartment door. My books are arranged alphabetically on their shelves. The floor has been swept, and every corner wiped or brushed clean over the last weekend. The only hint of disorder is my desk a few feet away, but I let it be that way—the way the Japanese values the slight imperfection, Zen-like, in any piece of art: the perfection of a teacup, for example, marred intentionally by a “chip,” or a dent in the base.



On my bed, M. drapes his body as he falls deeper into sleep. I am so used to his presence now; it has become what is normal. I cannot sleep well when there is an absence beside me. Yesterday, M. took me to the fiesta karnabal in the vacant lot beside GSIS. We were two fools oblivious to the grime of the rigged games, and the bored looks of the browned hawkers. The “circus” was ho-hum. The “horror chamber” ridiculous. The “ferris wheel” nauseating. I would not take the “Octopus” ride because the metals were creaking and I was convinced that any minute now, the screws would come loose, crushing all passengers to their deaths. Or that if I sat on one of those contraptions, I’d get gangrene from the rust. But we were happy, like jaybirds in spring. Later, he took me to the new bakery near his house, and made me eat pastries. Has it been more than two months? It might as well be years.



I am getting so bored with life in this ridiculous little city.



The mind, after delirium, takes time to settle from its drugged sleep: everything else is a nauseating brightness, or incandescent colors this shade of puke green.



* * *



The meaning of life is MTV’s “Bangkok Jam.” I’ve been wondering for quite some time now just what is it that has been missing from my life. Mornings, when I wake up, seem empty, bled of color (a bit more melodramatic than I intend it to sound, but you get the point); and today I find out the reason for all these mild melancholy. I haven’t seen “Bangkok Jam” for quite a while. (I’m not even sure it’s still present in today’s MTV programming.) Oh, sure. As if I understood a word of Thai. I don’t. But veejay Utt is such a cute bundle of relentless energy (sort of like me when I was younger—ha!), and I do love Thai pop. Thai is a musical language, full of subtle inflections—something that, when whispered to the ear, seem quite sexual, even if, for all you know, what was being whispered meant “The cat on the hot tin roof is an ice cream freak.” I know the feeling. The last time I was in Bangkok, the experience was virtually an orgy of the senses. Bangkok has a certain animalistic (but cute) character that Manila does not have, and something distinctly Asian, too. Donna, my Tokyo friend, once went to Bangkok and wrote: “Let me put it this way, Japanese [Buddhist] temples are streamlined, minimalist Calvin Klein, and Thai temples are shiny, burst-of-color Gianni Versace.” How true.



* * *



What does priapic mean? And should I even care about it?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Wohoo! I'm taking the credit for Wanggo finally having a blog.

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Monday, November 17, 2003

Get out, get out while you can. The days emit vapors as dangerous as the vipers you meet on the road, all smiles, hinting only of how ‘accidental’ road-kill can be. There are no pure accidents. And one only hopes for the resurrection of the dead.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Click here for a gorgeous headache...



[via goluboy]



I'm sorry if I haven't really been posting for real these past few days. My energies are focused on other things kasi. I'm really starting to enjoy life, vipers considered.

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Monday, November 10, 2003

Just so nobody forgets what I really look like, after seeing me in drag...





This is me.

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It has been thus judged. The Secret Tango Dancer is...



This site is certified 43% EVIL by the GematriculatorThis site is certified 57% GOOD by the Gematriculator



Oh, well.



[via goluboy]

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Sunday, November 09, 2003

Your Friendster picture, analyzed.



Example:





Photo Type:

Close-up of breasts, usually in bustier.



What They Want You to Think:

Sexy and naughty.



The Truth:

Fat.



There's more, of course.



[via Indira Endaya]

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Wednesday, November 05, 2003

What's Your Porn Star Name?



To get your porn name, you need to combine your very first pet's name (first name) and the street you grew up in (last name). For example, this is mine:



Wiggle Rovira. (Ay, bastos!)



Post it on my comments board for some good, clean, unadulterated fun! (Be honest!)



[courtesy of Aldus's Friendster bulletin board]


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In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,

where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do, and that

sight becomes this art.



- Rumi, from Birdsong: Fifty-three Short Poems



[via nada o. nil]

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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

It's a strange kind of a string of days, the kind when you think everything is under control, yet you have a vague suspicion that not quite everything's all right -- there is a tremor underneath, and any second now your life may be in for another roller coaster ride.



Or maybe it's just coffee withdrawal symptoms. I've resolved to take care of myself better -- a new start for a new school semester. And this time, I'm serious.



Ehem.



But I had a great, great Halloween. For the most part. It's fascinating how in hindsight things become colored by totally different emotions than the ones you really had going into the situation: what I choose to forget now is the palpitation going into my five o'clock rendezvous last Friday -- that was my appointed time to go to M.'s place, where I was supposed to undergo a metamorphosis from Mr. Ian Rosales Casocot, butch literature teacher, to somebody this side of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.



Did I say palpitation? How crude and totally inappropriate that word is! Let's say earthquakes of doubts instead -- with all sense of patriarchy and machismo bearing down on me, giving me a headache and a bellyache not even Tylenol could cure. What was I thinking, agreeing to go to Laurie's party as a drag queen? Oh. My. God. But the instructions were quite clear, as precise as the LCD display on my cellphone's interface: "Guard or Drag Halloween Party, Friday, my place, 7 p.m. Bring a date!" Other instructions entailed a reversal of sex roles, at least sartorially.



"M---," I told M. while we were on bed watching Oprah, "Laurie says we must go to the party in drag."



"Oh, goodie. I've always wanted to see you as a woman," M. smiled wickedly.



"Are you crazy?"



"Hehehe. I can see you now as Marilyn Monroe. Remember The Seven Year Itch? When she steps into that pavement above the subway, and then her white dress floats up as the train passes by?"



"Are you crazy?"



"Oh, goodie."



Arrrgggh.



M. says he was going to the party as Aquaman, in tight Speedos.



No, as Rumpestiltskin.



No, as Frankenstein's monster.



No, as a dead guy in barong.



The last one was the last minute choice, precipitated by my brother Dennis's calling me on the mobile that he was soon on the way, to pick us up and deposit us at the party in Silliman Village. I needed my brother to traffic me all the way -- I couldn't very well be seen by the whole world in fuschia eye shadow!



Fuschia eye shadow courtesy of L., M.'s sister -- who hovered over me like a butterfly armed with color palettes and soft swabbing sticks and what-not, wanting to create make-up perfection with me. Ma'am G., M.'s mother, meanwhile, fussed to find me the perfect outfit. She finally chose a black ensemble for me. "It brings out your figure," she said. Arrrgggh. But I nodded, anyway. Besides, it was the only one that fit.



L. refused to lend me the mirror -- but all of them declared I was beautiful.



(I have great in-laws!)



Later, finally spotting a mirror, I learned the horrible truth: as a woman, I'm a young Bella Flores. All that arched eyebrows! All those glitters around my eyes! All that foundation and blush! All that lipstick, overdone to make my upper lip seem full and rosy! I am mortified -- but also secretly titillated. What the hey, I told myself, let's try everything at least once.



Ma'am G. still fussed, and finally said: "You still walk like a man. Maybe you could relax a little bit. Swish."



But I thought: that's the point of drag, isn't it? To subvert the feminine by underlining the masculine?



Later though, I became the hit of the party. Laurie told me to ditch my sneakers, and gave me some high heels. And slowly, I got into the game, becoming more swishy, and frightening most of my lady friends who could not separate this spectacle from the butch persona they know and love. Ack. I kept telling myself: be Tony "My Name's Daphne" Curtis in Some Like It Hot. Always end each sentence with a pucker. That worked like a Rupaul sexy leer!



My friend Wednesday came in late for the party, saw me, could not recognize me. "Ian, is THAT you?" For a few minutes, she refused to come near me, like I had the plague or something.



"My name's not Ian," I said dramatically, "I'm Dianne. Goddess of the Night."



Later, I thought: Oh, but how do women endure this torture everyday? I had to keep reminding myself to keep my thighs closed, like a proper lady. That meant clenching my thigh and crotch areas all through the night. "I could see your package, Dianne," Ric said, laughing. "Don't mind me," I replied. "That's a huge French tickler." My high heels kept on slipping out, so I had to clench my feet as well. Then somebody told me to suck in my belly, so I clenched that, too. The thick make-up also was doing the same thing to my face: it clenched in everything -- like Botox. I soon got tired of puckering my lips and walking slowly so as not to slip.



"So, tell me, what's it like to be a woman?" Bing asked me.



"Two words," I said, breathlessly. "Mental corset." It's hard, dammit!



The next day, I got rashes from the gown's fabric. Turns out I'm allergic to drag. Thus ends the short, beleaguered life of Dianne, Halloween Drag Queen. This will never happen again.

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Guess, what, Tedo?



Dodong Chris is in my Philippine literature class.



Wohoo! Imagine the torture I shall set out for him for breaking your heart....

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Sunday, November 02, 2003

Posted early this morning: Don't mind the mess. I'm reformatting the blog. Will repair this later....



Posted tonight: I'm done with the reformatting! And I've discovered new html tags that have done wonders for me. God, I'm so html-illiterate I should be stoned to death.



Future post: How becoming Dianne the Drag Queen for Halloween Night and getting rashes from the gown fabric has made me appreciate women in general... (Think: mental corset.)



Ta-ta for now.

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