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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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Sunday, September 30, 2007

entry arrow6:23 PM | Snooky, Snooky

"Ang Friendster name ko, Incandescent Angel," says Snooky Serna. This is such a sad life, and in a brave, humbling interview with PDI, she bares for all to see the warts and the flood of problems (colon growths, being fired from Captain Barbell, annulment from Ricardo Cepeda...) of the past few years. Without knowing it, Snooky -- that angel of 80's pop stardom -- has became a cautionary tale, perhaps even the most perfect illustration of the ravaging nature of show business, a miserable club whose members would include Sandara Park, Hero Angeles, Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, Jolina Magdangal, Angelu de Leon, and most of the cast members of local celebrity reality shows. (Here's Snooky on grasping for a career: "I also tried call centers, pero when they learned I was not a college graduate ... very strict sila." Yay.) What went wrong? A comparison with erstwhile rival Maricel Soriano may prove telling. Unsound choices and a habit of unprofessionalism would do the trick, I guess.

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entry arrow5:53 PM | Early Christmas

Before you ask, "What's that silly Christmas countdown code doing in this blog?" Here's my answer: I'm a Christmas freak.* To be more precise: I'm a Christmas freak many, many weeks before the fact, and then -- around the end of November, somewhere near the season itself -- I lose interest with the so-called Christmas spirit when everybody's just starting to get their Christmas cheer. I used to be worse: I would celebrate Christmas in mid-July, singing carols along with my CD player with the volume turned high. Last Thursday, I was spending the day at home (doing work) while listening to Carly Simon, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Perry Como, The Carpenters, Nat King Cole, Michael Buble, Barbra Streisand, and Mariah Carey do their cover versions of old favorites. The weather was nippy, and it was perfect. The two most popular seem to be "The Christmas Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," two songs that are actually more nostalgic and sad than joyful -- which, of course, begs the question: do we actually love Christmas for its subtle suggestions of sadness, of longing, of having fallen short for its cheerful demands for family-togetherness and giving? It's a celebration for our fondest wishes that seem remote. Maybe that's why the best Christmases in our lives always seem to be in our childhood. We were much too innocent then, easily taken in by the holiday tinsels and the flash of noche buena and fireworks. And then we become adults, and suddenly, Santa's dead.

Merry early Christmas, everybody.

*It's also to remind me I have some serious early shopping to do before it becomes too crazy

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Friday, September 28, 2007

entry arrow12:43 AM | Tummy Talk

"Omentum" was the word I learned—or at the very least relearned—today, from Oprah. Truth be told, when I heard the term mentioned on television this morning, the word immediately sounded familiar, a possible relic from my forgotten days as a hapless physical therapy student exploring the nether regions of human anatomy and physiology. Some random things from our past always seem to cling to a kind of lasting memory. From that time, I remember most the Circle of Willis (because of Bruce), and now omentum.

Then again, it also sounded like a synonym for kinesis—something fast, perhaps, but not so much: in other words, “momentum” without an “m.” But I’m making a joke, of course, and the omentum, if you must know, is really that strange web-like tissue that blankets the digestive tract, and is basically the home of all those fat cells that soon make their presence felt as a tummy gone haywire. I’m talking beer belly here. Love handles, if you will. The blubber. Your own natural rubber tube. The stigma of anybody’s dream of a fit existence. My life story, really.

In Oprah, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who happens to be the talk show queen’s surgeon of choice (he has the medical brilliance and the telegenic air that make him wildly perfect for daytime’s sludge of domestic profundity), was showing off the difference between the omentum of a fit person—something resembling a large handkerchief which has gone through too many rinse cycles in the washing machine—and that of an abundantly bellied person, which was horrifyingly constituted of a mass tissue resembling a small yellow parachute crinkly with age, and blobbing like a threat. Dr. Oz says: “The omentum is the fat organ connected to your stomach that’s only purpose is to catch and store fat. When the fat is stored in your stomach, your body has easy access to it. The fat then creates an inflammatory process that irritates your arteries and puts you at risk for blocked arteries.” The show-and-tell in Oprah garnered the requisite gasps of horror and fascination from the studio audience, and we were all quickly entertained and taught.

On my bed watching the show, I quickly felt around my own belly, and acknowledged the painful truth: what do you do when you feel around yourself, and encounter not a six-pack, but a beer keg? Everybody’s answer usually hover around three choices: (1) we live with it as a kind of secret shame, fondling like a horrible pet, and hiding it in ingenious use of wardrobe, (2) we live with it with a complete sense of denial, or (3) we live to defeat it and sweat it for days (months even) in some God-forsaken gym, hoping very much to recapture that elusive past when we were young, and our stomachs were flat, and we had no idea that the one eternal battle we might have to contend with the rest of our lives was the Battle of the Bulge. Sometimes I tell myself, if I had known at 18 years what I knew now at my age, I would probably have stayed away from the temptation of cake and soda, like they were the plague. But, like the saying goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Our adult life is basically penance for all the lost opportunities and the encountered headaches of youth. Once upon a time, I began drinking too much Coke—and now I am reaping what I had sowed. My Mark cheerfully reminds me with this, whenever he can: “A minute of heaven in your mouth is a lifetime of hell around your waist.” He is 24, wise beyond his years, and is twig-thin. I envy him.

I am 32 years old, like the agonizingly fluctuating average of my waistline. (Sometimes it is 34, and sometimes it is 31. Sometimes when I reach 30 inches without cheating with the tape measure, I go out to celebrate—and the next day, I’m back to being 34. My wardrobe is increasingly littered with shirts and pants I can never really be sure I could fit in, day in and day out. The arbiter of this is the possibility of no buttons popping out.)

It’s not shallow to contemplate all this. The belly can be our own profiler or biographer, and it acts as a barometer for the state of our health. How many articles have we read about the link of heart disease and diabetes with increasing girth? How many magazines have we pored over to tell ourselves firmly that the idea of beauty is punctuated by a washboard stomach? It is the locus of our personal demons, and is the visible battleground measuring how much we kowtow to temptation, and how much self-regard we possess to be able to get off our butts and finally do some physical exercise. To think the otherwise would be to wallow in self-deception: you know you want that lovely, elusive flatness.

Which is why I completely enjoyed Eve Ensler’s The Good Body—her take-off from the wildly successful The Vagina Monologues, this time giving voice to the cultural battles we wage over the rest of our anatomy.

The play, presented by the New Voice Company and Silliman University’s indefatigable Cultural Affairs Committee (headed by the brilliant Susan Vista-Suarez) last September 21 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, was the last offering for the first cultural season of the academic year—and proved that Dumaguete City remains the Philippines’ distinctive cultural center of the South, having the cojones, really, to bring in a fearless dramatic work that is not a shadow of clichéd theater but rather something that has a powerful message embedded in its unconventional staging. After the success of the Manila Symphony Orchestra’s well-attended concerts (two galas and a matinee) earlier this month, the boast is not really empty. (The MSO enjoyed their Dumaguete stay so much that renowned conductor Helen Quach chose to come back to Dumaguete several days later to bask in the memory, as well as in the pleasure of our beaches.)

In The Good Body, Eve (played to comic perfection by Monique Wilson) encounters several situations (and people, among them Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, actress Isabella Rossellini, a generously-bodied Afro-American woman named Bernice, two Indian women at the gym, and three Afghan women contemplating the eating of ice cream) that will shed some light on her preoccupation with her belly. The result is a dramatic work that is powerful, although uneven—starting with a comedic high that is so promising, it is almost sad to note the diffused and didactic finish. Then again, who can ever top the tone and power of TVM? Our memories of that play and our expectations of Ensler’s oeuvre only serve as a major hindrance to our appreciation of a play that dares to tackle such varied subjects a dieting and Botox, fashion magazines and skinny women, and the way we torture ourselves to bring forth out of our own physical selves society’s idea of a ”good body.” We learn that the process can border on the murderous.

While the play slaps us into realization on how we deal with the subconscious politics of our bodies, it does not force us to take sides, only to be careful and to be aware.

So now I have a choice: I look at myself and ask—do I accept who I am and just let go, or should I wage a bigger battle for the body I long for myself, mindful that this so-called longing may often be a result of a societal conditioning? The choices are hard, and dwell in the grays. For now, I choose only to pat my errant body part, and sigh….

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Monday, September 24, 2007

entry arrow1:53 PM | Marcel Marceau, 84

How do you say goodbye in mime, in silence? From CNN: "Wearing white face paint, soft shoes and a battered hat topped with a red flower, Marceau, notably through his famed personnage Bip, played the entire range of human emotions onstage for more than 50 years, never uttering a word. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. 'Never get a mime talking. He won't stop,' he once said."

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

entry arrow12:53 AM | How's Your Film Education? Part Two

Perhaps spurred by the earlier American Film Institute's list of the 100 Best American Films poll, critic Edward Copeland earlier sent out a poll to filmmakers and other critics to compile a list of the 100 best films of all time, and a few days ago, he unveiled the results in his blog.* As with the nature of all "best" lists, this one is bound to provoke heated arguments by cinephiles -- and of course, already I'm savagely thinking: What? No The White Balloon by Jafar Panahi? No The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse? No Manila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag by Lino Brocka? No Himala by Ishmael Bernal? No Kisapmata by Mike de Leon? No The Scent of Green Papaya by Tranh Anh Hung? No Farewell, My Concubine by Chen Kaige? No Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata? No Antonia's Line by Marleen Gorris? No The Killers by John Woo? No The Battleship Potemkin or Strike by Sergei Eisenstein? Not a single Korean film? Satyajit Ray is not even there! Of course, Copeland notes of the arbitrary nature of such endeavor by calling the list The Ray Memorial 100.



So, here's the list (in reverse order), with the 'x' to mark the ones I have seen...

[_] 100. The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov)
[_] 99. Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
[_] 98. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
[_] 97. Satantango (Bela Tarr)
[x] 96. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel)
[_] 95. Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer)
[_] 94. Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
[_] 93. The Blue Angel (Josef Von Sternberg)
[x] 92. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
[_] 91. Forbidden Games (Rene Clement)
[x] 90. The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
[_] 89. Cleo From 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda)
[x] 88. Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut)
[_] 87. Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard)
[x] 86. Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
[_] 85. Viridiana (Luis Bunuel)
[_] 84. Masculin/Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
[x] 83. Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara)
[_] 82. Z (Costa-Gavras)
[_] 81. Come and See (Elem Klimov)
[_] 80. Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 79. Suspiria (Dario Argento)
[_] 78. Open City (Roberto Rossellini)
[_] 77. Scenes From a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 76. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar)
[x] 75. My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer)
[_] 74. Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju)
[x] 73. Day For Night (François Truffaut)
[_] 72. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
[x] 71. Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais)
[x] 70. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais)
[_] 69. Amarcord (Federico Fellini)
[_] 68. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville)
[_] 67. Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson)
[_] 66. Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette)
[x] 65. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy)
[_] 64. Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 63. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai)
[x] 62. Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
[x] 61. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
[_] 60. Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard)
[_] 59. Rififi (Jules Dassin)
[x] 58. Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar)
[x] 57. L’eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni)
[x] 56. Yi Yi: A One and a Two... (Edward Yang)
[x] 55. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore)
[_] 54. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
[x] 53. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron)
[_] 52. Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica)
[_] 51. High and Low (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 50. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou)
[x] 49. Madame De... (Max Ophuls)
[x] 48. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)
[_] 47. La Strada (Federico Fellini)
[_] 46. Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
[_] 45. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
[x] 44. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 43. The Decalogue (Krysztof Kieslowski)
[x] 42. Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 41. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders)
[_] 40. The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
[x] 39. Red (Krysztof Kieslowski)
[x] 38. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
[_] 37. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
[x] 36. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel)
[_] 35. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau)
[_] 34. Children of Paradise (Marcel Carne)
[x] 33. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
[x] 32. Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel)
[x] 31. Le Samourai (Jean-Pierre Melville)
[_] 30. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 29. L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
[x] 28. The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
[x] 27. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
[x] 26. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund)
[x] 25. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky)
[_] 24. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)
[_] 23. Playtime (Jacques Tati)
[_] 22. Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi)
[x] 21. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
[_] 20. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)
[x] 19. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
[_] 18. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci)
[_] 17. Jules et Jim (François Truffaut)
[x] 16. Ran (Akira Kurosawa)
[_] 15. The Seventh Seal (Bergman)
[_] 14. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 13. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 12. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
[x] 11. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 10. The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut)
[x] 9. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo)
[x] 8. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)
[x] 7. Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir)
[x] 6. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
[x] 5. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica)
[x] 4. 8½ (Federico Fellini)
[_] 3. M (Fritz Lang)
[x] 2. The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
[x] 1. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir)

I scored a terrible score of 54 out of a hundred. I guess it's time to amp up that DVD player (and download more from BitTorrent). How's your film education?

*Curiously, both lists technically erases the existence of British films. The poor Brits.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

entry arrow11:59 PM | A Toast to Friends

Tell me who your friends are..., so the saying starts. If that rest of that saying is true, I'm in good over-achieving company. Gibbs Cadiz celebrates his 37th birthday, and continues to be the most effective promoter of Philippine theater today. Mark Xander Fabillar has launched a new line of really cool shirts called The Vegan Prince (Shirts With a Twist) -- and he's now accepting orders. (Email him.) My best friend Kristyn Maslog-Levis is unveiled as a photographer of note by CNet Australia. Gelo Suarez has a new book of poetry titled Dissonant Umbrellas: Notes Toward a Gesamtkunstwerk, which he did in collaboration with some of the best young visual artists today. Andrew Drilon is now part of The Chemistry Set, with his Kare-Kare Comics. Jun Lana is premiering his new film Roxxxane. Clee Andro Villasor unveils his latest independent film, Igsoon, which he shot in Cebuano. Enrico Lagasca and the Philippine Madrigal Singers won the distinction of being the best choir in the world by winning the European Grand Prix. Dean Francis Alfar pushes Philippine speculative fiction further with the publication of his short story collection The Kite of Stars, the first title off the new Anvil Fantasy imprint of the Philippine publishing giant. Congratulations, guys!

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entry arrow9:45 PM | On Writing Challenges

My short story "The Flicker" -- which was something I wrote for LitCritters Dumaguete's most recent writing challenge (this time an exercise in horror writing) -- is in this week's issue of the Philippines Free Press, the one with Erap on the cover. This follows the publication last week of Nikki Alfar's wonderful "Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia." (Come to think of it, LitCritters seem to have a habit of following each other's stories in PFP. Last year, Andrew Drilon's story followed the publication of a children's story I wrote, which literary editor Sarge Lacuesta earnestly considered, despite the genre.) My story is coupled with Conchitina Cruz's poetry, and I found that a little strange since Chingbee's name and nickname is the inspiration for one character in my story (which would also feature several characters with distinctly familiar surnames ... Alfar, Kwe, Drilon, Simbulan, Yu, Evangelista, Osias, anyone?) "The Flicker" came about after I read Stephen King's unsettling "1408" a few months ago (a week before the film adaptation came out), and I wanted to know if I could venture into that kind of creepy, atmospheric writing. The truth is, most of my recent stories spring from challenges I give myself. Can I write science fiction? Then I wrote "The Pepe Report." Can I write slipstream? Then I wrote "A Strange Map of Time." Can I write absurd fantasy? Then I wrote "A Tragedy of Chickens." Can I do minimalist fiction? Then I wrote "Old Movies." (Right now, I'm asking myself: can I write crime fiction? The story I'm working on in that vein I've already promised to Kenneth Yu of Philippine Genre Stories.) The results to these challenges are sometimes successful, mostly not, but I like the feeling of having tried. It's a pain in the butt every time I read another writer/critic complain about the "lack of (or the death of) this and that" in our literature (e.g., "Filipinos don't write crime fiction...," "Where is the humor in our literature?..."), and I always end up arguing back: "If you're so concerned about it, why don't you just fuck off and write something?" Anyway... "The Flicker" may prove to be the only horror story I will ever write in this lifetime: the experience spooked me so much I couldn't sleep the night following the finish of that story.

On another note, the comics genius that is Andrew is joining the line-up of The Chemistry Set with his series, Kare-Kare Komiks. Check it out, and read Dean's post about it.

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entry arrow9:00 PM | Good-bye, Goodbye

Reuters reports on the death of...



... the hyphen.

The story goes: "About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.... The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books." Read more here.

[via philippine genre stories]

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entry arrow8:58 PM | Remy and Houdini on a Wonderful Saturday Afternoon

Saturday seems so gentle. The sky is downcast, but not in a forbidding way: there's a little drizzle now and then to banish away the memory of the punishing heat of recent months, and there's a nippiness to the air that reminds me of old Decembers. The -ber months have finally come upon us and I am grateful. Maybe that is why I've been playing and humming along to The Carpenters singing their famous Christmas medleys all afternoon. (The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is next.) The neighbors must think I'm crazy. Still, this is an improvement: I used to celebrate Christmas in mid-June, with such enthusiasm (and perhaps overly so, because by December, I'd be spent, and there would no longer be any Christmas spirit left to celebrate with everyone else). Last night, we were having a late dinner with Monique Wilson and her fellow cast members in Eve Ensler's The Good Body. The show was successful, and later on we went to Hayahay to celebrate some more with New Voice Company Assistant Artistic Director Rito Asilo and actress Lily Chu. I drank one bottle of Strong Ice beer -- enough to make me tipsy, and sleepy. And so I slept until noon today, a luxury I haven't had in ages, and when I woke up, there was no other way to celebrate this surprising peace of mind but by simply becoming laid-back. It was wonderful. I haven't had this kind of Saturday in such a long time. I tidied up the pad a little bit, watched a bit of TV, monitored the movies I'd been downloading via BitTorrent, shopped for a light bulb and garbage bags at Lee Plaza, and ate a lovely dinner in Howyang. I also cleaned up the babies' cages, and played with the hammies...

The one on the left is Remy -- so called because he looks just like the cute rat chef in Ratatouille. He's the cutest thing, with gray fur and pink paws and ears. The one on the right is Houdini, so called because he used to make a habit of escaping his cage, and the next thing we would know, we'd be spying from the corner of our eyes this ball of orange and white fur scurrying around. I tell you, hamsters are the best stress busters out there (and the worst photo subjects -- they move around too much!).

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entry arrow3:55 PM | Two Families in Our Own Voices

My essay, "Two Families, One House, 1986" is in this month's issue (on Martial Law) of Our Own Voices Literary Ezine, edited by Remé-Antonia Grefalda, who introduces the issue here. Other contributors include Ed Maranan, Alfredo P. Hernandez, Karl M. Gaspar, Doris Nuval Baffrey, Lily Ann B. Villaraza, Allen Gaborro, Denis Murphy, Eileen R. Tabios, Patria Rivera, Doris N. Bafrey, Isagani R. Serrano, Luis Cabalquinto, Loreta M. Medina, Benjamin Pimentel, and E. San Juan Jr. Here's an excerpt from the essay.

The landlord's family, however, was pro-Marcos—by virtue, I think, of the father having been once a barangay captain. I remember Mr. Mongcopa as a stern but very respectable old man with gray hair. He was slightly-built, at least in my memories, and wore plain buttoned shirts and slacks every single day. And every single day, he was out in his porch, drinking coffee and reading the newspapers. When the snap elections of February 1986 came, he brought out the red and blue posters with Marcos' and Arturo Tolentino's faces on them, and tacked them to his porch walls.

One afternoon, I decided to skip classes in West City Elementary School, and walked all the way to the Boulevard, to an old wooden building—painted yellow—in what is now Sol y Mar, where Globelines is. It used to be known by various names then, including both Rainbow Lodge and The Office—unassuming names for establishments that were rumored to be hang-outs of the city's prostitutes and drunkards. The Boulevard in the old days was not the gentrified version you have now; it was an ugly strip of asphalt and concrete that everybody nicknamed "the boulevard of broken dreams" and perhaps for very good reasons. I still remember the fluorescent lights that lined the Boulevard, their eerie whiteness as scabs of light that sucked at your soul, all of them curiously dim in the swallowing darkness of sea and night sky. The street was littered by countless tocino and beer stands, making the whole stretch of the Boulevard a haven for the drunks and the prostitutes. Nobody decent went to the Boulevard those days; it was the very underbelly of the city's lowlife.

It was in that very place, however, where Cory Aquino's Laban Headquarters were located, in a small dark office that jutted out from one side of the old Rainbow Lodge. I was only ten years old, and I wanted Cory to win because I had seen my mother's and my brother's faces flushed with excitement knowing that they were living through a special moment in history. At my young age, I had no idea what they were excited about; I knew Marcos only as a distant figure who did not affect my day-to-day play-making, and the specter of Martial Law was completely lost to me. What I knew for sure was the concrete conviction in my family's passion for change. It was an embracing conviction, and I succumbed to it.

Read the rest here.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

entry arrow12:14 PM | Where I Am

Every waking moment these days is consumed by so many things, so many things... Sometimes the only way to be is to laugh it all off. But even after that, you go back to being consumed one more time. It's a life.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

entry arrow8:25 PM | LitCritters Dumaguete No. 20



Next Tuesday

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
Dead. Nude. Girls. by Lori Selke

Last Tuesday

A lecture on Formalism and New Criticism

Last, last Tuesday

The Injury Zone by Lakambini Sitoy
Burn Your Maps by Robyn Joy Leff
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdich
The Two Hundred Fifty-Seventh Page by Nicolas Lacson

Last, last, last Tuesday

The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges
Stories by Cesar Ruiz Aquino
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami


The LitCritters is a reading and writing group based in Manila (moderated by Dean Francis Alfar) and Dumaguete. Every week, we read and discuss several pieces of short fiction from various genres from different writers with the goal of expanding our reading horizons, improving our ability to critique, and learning how to write from the good texts. In addition to speculative fiction, we read Philippine literature in English, as well as world literature.

The Dumaguete Group meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Cafe Antonio in The Spanish Heritage along Avenida Sta. Catalina.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

entry arrow2:30 PM | Personal Dogberry



Rene O. Villanueva and Exie Abola now blog. [Thanks to Robert Kwan Laurel and Gibbs Cadiz for the heads up.]

And oh, before I forget, the hissy sisters of Review My Blog has called it quits as of August 29. Good riddance.

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entry arrow10:38 AM | The Good Body in the Luce

And speaking of cultural events in the Luce (Dumaguete is buzzing these days with the parade of shows), the last show for the first half of the cultural season is New Voice Company's production of Eve Ensler's The Good Body. Here's the official description of the play: "Since her one-woman show The Vagina Monologues shot down societal notions of acceptable topics in theaters—and in spired legions of independent productions and community events around the world—playwright, performer, and activist Eve Ensler has turned her unique eye on the rest of the female form. Whether undergoing Botox or living under burkhas, women of all cultures and backgrounds feel compelled to change the way they look in order to fit in with their particular culture, in order to be accepted, in order to be good. In The Good Body, Ensler explores their experiences with monologues representing women from Bombay to Beverly Hills. Delivering narratives collected in locker rooms, cell blocks, boardrooms, and bedrooms, Ensler frames their stories with her own personal journey from a self-loathing teenager to a (sometimes) self-accepting adult. Interspersed throughout are riotous excerpts from Ensler's lifelong dialogue with her belly—a sassy and conniving antagonist in its own right. Through her honest, insightful, and sometimes naughty portrayal of genuine experiences and real-life obsessions, Ensler strips the complicated issue of body politics down to its intimate essence, once again destroying pre-conceived notions about what women really think. This is new theater at its finest: The Good Body will move, inspire, entertain—and just might make you blush a bit in the process."



The Dumaguete production, slated this Friday, September 21, will feature Monique Wilson herself, together with Juno Henares and Lily Chu.

There are only about 65 tickets left. So, if you're in Dumaguete this Friday night, tickets are available at the Silliman University College of Performing Arts Office and the Luce Auditorium Office, and at the theater lobby before the show. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please call (035) 422-6002 loc. 520 and look for Glynis.

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entry arrow10:07 AM | Quaching the Luce

[Note: I didn't want to blog this until today's issue of the Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Read the article online, but the one below is the longer version.]



There were three “beginnings” you could derive from the Manila Symphony Orchestra in Concert which had a gala premiere at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium last September 7.

First, there was the resounding start as the orchestra opened its repertoire with a tempestuous rendition of the “Lupang Hinirang,” which alone was worth any price of the ticket. Surely, one had never heard the Philippine National Anthem rendered in quite the same way, with such oblique passion, stirring and sweetly troubling at the same time. It made you sit up and think there’s bite to this night yet. In the end, such expectation was justified by the relish one felt when the last notes had rung off, and yet the audience still lingered and hesitated to leave, hoping for an encore that never, unfortunately, came. Nevertheless, it was an evening of classical music that proved a resonating fulfillment for both head and heart—and, yes, ears. For once, the typically testy Dumaguete crowd was moved.

The national anthem, of course, was grand introduction enough to what was to come: under the baton of the world-renowned Helen Quach, the Manila Symphony Orchestra—one of the oldest orchestras in Asia, and which has played host to such luminaries of the classical scene as Montserrat Caballé, Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Oistrach, Eugene Istomin, Fou Ts’ong, Barry Tuckwell, Paul Badura-Skoda and Rony Rogoff, as well as conductors like Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler, Mendi Rodan, Robert Feist, and Gareth Nair—has created music that was tantalizing in its control and beauty.

The second beginning comes with the first composition in the programme that the orchestra dove into. In choosing the “Leonore Overture No. 3” by Ludwig van Beethoven, the venerable Ms. Quach set the tone for a night with the masters in their sweeping romantic best. The overture—taken from Beethoven’s sole opera titled “Fidelio” (which is the story of a woman named Leonore coming to the rescue of her imprisoned husband Florestan while dressed as a prison guard named Fidelio)—is known in music circles as the very apotheosis of Beethoven’s dramatic music. The orchestra beautifully managed to clinch the demands of the beginning with strings and woodwind slowly descending for an octave, and in that musical instant I could picture Florestan in his subterranean prison, despairing. It is a highly dramatic piece that ranges from the deep sighing of strings and bassoon to a feisty main section with the violins and cello—and through it all, Ms. Quach, who conducted without any scores, showed herself the full master of her art with exquisite sense of “timpla” for each instrument, massaging each section into one another which made the overture truly the drama that it promised to be. That sweeping drama is equaled in intensity with the orchestra’s third and last piece for the night, with Pyotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, where Ms. Quach effortlessly strove to render the dramatic arc demanded of the piece, from the funereal first movement to the triumphant march of the last.

With Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor” as their middle piece, the orchestra is joined by concert pianist Cristine Coyiuto, who has been dubbed by critics as the “poetess of the piano.” That distinction is a right perfectly earned by Ms. Coyiuto for her intense virtuoso take on the piano, and last Friday night, she seamlessly took on the haunting first movement of Grieg’s masterpiece, but retained a surprising nimbleness verging on savage grace that somehow came to me as a grand gesture towards the Norwegian folk sound of the composer’s birthplace whose centenary we celebrate this year.



That Ms. Coyiuto is a brilliant pianist is a matter of wide recognition. She has attended the Juilliard School in New York City under Jacob Lateiner. In Europe, she furthered her development as an artist of the first rank with renowned pianists Nikita Magaloff, Gaby Casadesus, Philippe Entremont, and Fou Ts’ong—and she ultimately became a lauréate of the Académie Internationale de Musique “Maurice Ravel” in St Jean-de-Luz, France and in the Genève Conservatoire in Switzerland.

Grieg’s composition—one of my favorite pieces—has been described once by Geoff Kuenning as having an “unforgettable dramatic opening cadenza to the sweepingly grand final chords…,” and the concerto itself “filled with invention, originality, and sparkle that cannot help but please the ear.” In Coyiuto’s explorations of the music’s sweep, under the intense guidance of Quach’s directions, Grieg sounded almost like the best of guilty secrets.

I mentioned a third beginning in the beginning of this article. Perhaps a better word is “reemergence.” That rightfully belongs to that exact moment when Ms. Quach took to the Luce Auditorium stage, ready to pounce—for that was how her energy seemed to be like last Friday night—on the music, and to wrest from the score an orchestral equivalent of heaven.



For Dumaguete to see a living legend in action is astounding enough to consider. Ms. Quach, who was born in Saigon to Chinese parents and who had made her conducting debut in 1960 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (the first woman ever appointed to the post), had retired from active conducting a few years back after she had an electrocution accident, after which she also discovered she had breast cancer. She chose to bow out from a career that had her leading some of the best orchestras in the world, including the Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, the American Symphony at Carnegie Hall, Germany’s Gottinger Symphony, and a host of others in Japan, Korea, Italy, Denmark, Hong Kong, France, among others. She opted to convalesce in her home in Sydney, Australia where she would do battle with the disease, resolving to heal herself without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, aiding herself only in the Eck spiritual exercises of chanting “hu,” which involved a higher sense of consciousness beyond the physical realm.

The experience had left her a gentler soul—that was the conductor we saw on the Luce stage Friday night—a perfect contrast to a temperamental reputation that had earned her the title “the lady tyrant of the podium.” That was not without merit, however. Her mentor, the famous Leonard Bernstein, called her a maestra with “[sharp] rhythmic sense… [quick] reflexes, her address to the orchestra captivating.” Grace Shangkuan Koo writes of her reputation in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “A music treasure of Asia, Helen was known for her fashion sense, whether wearing a miniskirt or a cheongsam. She is also distinguished by a set of huge commanding brilliant eyes framed by her signature thick black bob bouncing in rhythm.”

The bob and the commanding brilliant eyes remain, although the cheongsam is gone, replaced Friday night with a tailored dress in severe black, punctuated at the back with a triangular patch of gold. The sartorial consideration must pale of course to the music she wrought from the Manila Symphony Orchestra: she made sumptuous a night’s excursion through classical music, commanding the Luce stage like the baton queen she was, and continually is.

[photo of the orchestra by john lacson]

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entry arrow3:38 AM | Secret Poetry and Fantastic Tales

I laughed my head off (out of glee, of course) when I read online Sir Krip Yuson's take on the poetry winners of this year's Palanca. We all know that Mikael Co, Jodie Reyes, and Dinah Roma won -- and for the past two weeks, Sir Krip discussed their winning entries in glorious detail. My glee came from the last part of this week's column (a continuation from last week's), where Sir Krip wrote: "A final note: Other entries which ranked high in our final shortlists included On Whose Heart as a Worm You Trap, How What Was, The Smallness of the Everyday, The Dictionary of Armed Conflict, Antiquities, Beadwoman, A Theory of Light, Threshold, Guernica & Other Poems, Ten Frames of Poetry, the Poet, and Some Angels, 12 Poems, Write of & Other Poems, The Pateros River Procession, and Pepe, Pilita, Nora — in no particular order. The poets behind these collection titles know who they are. Whoever they may be, we also congratulate them for their fine work." One title made me pause. The Smallness of the Everyday. That was my entry. Whoa. Hehehe. For a fictionist dabbling secretly in poetry, and being very insecure about it, it's commendation enough, considering that Sir Krip's fellow judges were Gemino H. Abad and Marne Kilates. Maybe I should write more poetry? Let's see... In the meantime, there are stories to finish... In the meantime, here's the title poem...

The condom will not fit—but nobody
Implies “smallness,” as in a pummeling “size,” nooooh—
Not her, especially. Only that it keeps
Sliding off, like some truant
Rubber, mocking your little brown man sticking
Like a stub, the way your laughter goes
And dangles in a laugh that fades into
Her sighs-and-wants for something more. There’s the word.
Bigger, she dreams: what she, too, must have meant
When she pushed you away for green bucks,
57 of your small ones to the Big One, legal tender over the
Pacific, that great ocean, swallowing the dots
You call a country. After which, leaning back
On your 5’6” frame, you learn
Too easily that pleasure is what
Any hearts seek first—the logic of necessities
As true as your knowledge of how giants
Gorge, the way they also walk tall, big steps
To your piddling two-at-a-time, the way they also swarm
Wholesale for shopping, boxes of tissue
Paper, pounds of ham and bacon, the whole
Enchilada like a feast for gluttons. This is the dream.
“America,” she said, and the way the Word curled around her lips
Like a Big Mac sets you off to a shrinking, your only reply
The nervous smoke from solitary cigarette bought per stick,
the menudo, the pinch of salt,
and e-load for P30, or even less: Pasaload as
light as the two pesos we carry around like sin. I’m cheap. I tell the
Fucking mirror, and I’m small. And I
Go crazy because the condom will not fit.

That one was inspired by Cos, who should win a Palanca soon. (He's already married to a multiple winner.) I have no idea why, but I read a poem by his once, and this one came out of my head just like that.

In the meantime, Ma'am Jing (Pantoja-Hidalgo) just emailed and texted me about the inclusion of my fantasy story, "The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak," in her new anthology of tales. She helped a lot in the editing of that piece, for which I am eternally grateful. The prospective TOC is quite a list of mostly young writers, including F.H. Batacan, Marivi Soliven Blanco, Vicente Garcia Groyon, Gizela M. Gonzalez, Dean Francis Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Karl R. De Mesa, Andrea L. Peterson, Cyan Abad-Jugo, Ma. Romina M. Gonzalez, Jose Claudio B. Guerrero, Emil M. Flores, Natasha B. Gamalinda, Carljoe Javier, Bj A. Patino, and Daryll Delgado (who has posted her story online). The book, which will be published by Milflores, has no title yet but will come out before the end of the year. Here's to speculative fiction in the Philippines!

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

entry arrow12:33 AM | For My September Boys


For Mark and my dearest brother Rey Gio, who are both celebrating their birthdays today. Thank you for the wonderful life I'm living simply because you're both a great part of who I am. Here's to the fulfillment of your dreams...

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

entry arrow11:30 PM | Quitting Cold Turkey



In thirty minutes, Bubu will be celebrating his birthday. It is a quiet Saturday evening, and he is in deep sleep right now, which is strange, considering that he's been an insomniac the last two years, and haven't gone to bed to sleep until the first light of dawn has shimmered through the bedroom windows. The last time I remember him sleeping this early was more than two years ago, before he had gone to seek a life in Cebu to work in a call center. When he decided that that life was not for him, he had come back to Dumaguete, with a body attuned to a different circadian rhythm. For a long time, it seemed like we inhabited two different worlds: he was awake when I slept, and he was asleep when I went about my own waking moments. The gray areas where our worlds overlapped were few and precious, which could prove unsettling sometimes.

He had also acquired a new habit, something he said he picked up from all those other late night call center zombies: smoking. This was something unexpected because I never could picture him before with a cigarette dangling from his fingers. Once, he justified it as the utmost in glamour, evoking Naomi Campbell and the like, which I countered with the usual anti-smoking rhetoric -- but if truth must be told, it is that there is no arguing with a man and his addiction.

It is an addiction I almost fell into. When I was a young editor of a local newspaper, I had grown a journalist's typical liking for cigarettes. To ease the nerves of deadlines, so to speak. (A complete hogwash easily solved by coffee.) One particularly busy Friday night, just as I was about ready to wrestle trying to put an issue of the paper to bed, I found myself outside the office, frantically looking for the nearest cigarette vendor to buy a whole pack. And right then and there, I froze with this epiphany: "This can't be good," I told myself -- and so I hurried back to the office, nipping a possible addiction before it had time to take root.

That was fortunate, because smoking -- from the tales of war some of my friends tell me about -- is one addiction that is hard to put a stop to. Thus, for his bravery on undertaking this endeavor, I toast Mark's trying to cut off the one thing that has always bothered him ever since he became a vegan.

As he sleeps now, I look at him and do not see anything remotely approximating "celebratory" for a birthday boy: there's an unease in his slumber, a sadness almost. Like a man struggling with a loss. Before he had dozed off around nine o'clock, I had whispered to him: "I know what you're going through, I'll be here for you..." Because it is not easy quitting smoking cold turkey, like he did. He had made this promise to bid the habit good riddance a few weeks before, "on my birthday," he said, and now here he was suddenly face to face with a date with destiny.

He was trying to look calm and cheerful all evening as we drove around the city looking for a place to have dinner, but you could see the hidden itch bothering him, even as he tried to offset it by singing casually to the tune from the radio in his head. I blabbered about mundane things, the way people do when there's an elephant in the room. It was all very sad, and all I could do was to cheer him on silently. Because this too shall pass, I know, and habits can die if we really want them to.

Happy birthday, bubu. And here's to a new life.

[in photo: mark in canlaon last june]

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entry arrow1:32 AM | The Web is Meta

The world of viral video is so ... infectiously fascinating. Things loop into each other in a ravenous need to consume, to comment, and to make fun. So lately we had Britney Spears phoning in her performance in the VMA, then we had the whole world slamming her to blogging hell, then we had Chris Crocker tearfully defending his idol and landing a spot in Ryan Seacrest's radio show in the process (that, and gaining the infamy of garnering more than three million hits in YouTube ... UPDATE: make that five million) ... but all that is so last Thursday. Today, we have comedian Seth Green (of Austin Powers fame)...



... doing a Crocker in MySpaceTV. How perfectly meta. And the world goes pop.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

entry arrow11:59 AM | From August


Photo update! This is me after my 32nd birthday (I'm owning my age, I'm owning my age...), before Palanca night, and during the despedida dinner for my brother Edwin. (All dinners I've been to of late have ultimately turned out to be cam-whoring episodes. New technology have turned us into accidental narcissists, harharhar.)

[photo by gerard adiong]

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entry arrow11:11 AM | Four Years



It's strange for me to see that in considering every thing in the four years since we've met, how much all of you with me still seems new. That quickening of breath every time I see you, that smile I feel stretching on my face, that instinctive sense of gratefulness and comfort -- all of these are reflexes of something deep. Four years today, bubu, and I'm happy.

[in photo: mark as a kid with sister love]

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entry arrow2:04 AM | What the ----?

First, there was Miss Teen South Carolina ironically illustrating how bad education has become. And then there was a zombie-ish Britney Spears whose VMA antics topped even all news about 9/11 commemoration. And then here comes this, YouTube's most current viral video, with more than two million hits so far. America boggles me.



"Leave Britney alone! You're lucky she even performed for you, bastards! Leave Britney alone! Please..."

-- Chris Crocker, distraught fan

(Watch Chris talk about his greatest dream: "If I were Miss Universe...)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

entry arrow11:51 PM | Cut from 'When Harry Met Sally...'

Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally..., with a screenplay by the ever witty Nora Ephron, is for me probably the best romantic comedy ever made, or at least one of the best -- up there with Lady and the Tramp, Annie Hall, Sleepless in Seattle, and Bringing Up Baby. I watched this film in the summer when I was about to enter college, and I was still in that innocent haze where the future was promising with so much possibilities. They were showing it in Ever Theater in Dumaguete, and the biggest typhoon to ever hit the city was raging outside. But still I went downtown, hitched a pedicab and passed by this strange sight of trees being uprooted and roofs flying off. (Still, most Dumagueteños walked around as if nothing was happening: we never have storms, and so were not prepared to act the appropriate way. We went to the movies.) And in the dark, I discovered what intelligent romantic comedy was all about. It was perfection. The screenplay had no false note, and it was funny and intelligent all at the same time. The music by Harry Connick Jr. cradled you in a great mood all throughout. And Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were at the apex of their careers, bringing to the characters that warm chemistry often absent in so many so-called romantic comedies. This is my favorite scene from the whole movie, and this is probably one of the funniest ever in American cinema...



Carnegie Deli in the daytime. Harry Burns and Sally Albright, best friends (and soon-to-be reluctant lovers), are each about to eat large pastrami sandwiches. Sally is questioning him about his ghastly dating habits.

Sally: So what do you do with these women? You just get out of bed and leave?

Harry: Sure.

Sally: Explain to me how you do it. What do you say?

A waiter brings their order.

Harry: I say, I have an early meeting, an early haircut, an early squash game.

Sally: You don't play squash.

Harry: They don't know that. They just met me.

Sally: (Rearranging the meat on her sandwich.) That's disgusting.

Harry: I know. I feel terrible. (Takes a bite of sandwich.)

Sally: You know, I am so glad I never got involved with you. I just would have ended up being some woman you had to get out of bed and leave at 3 o'clock in the morning and go clean your andirons. And you don't even have a fireplace. (Quite irritated now, slapping the meat over more quickly.) Not that I would know this.

Harry: Why are you so upset? This is not about you.

Sally: Yes, it is. You're a human affront to all women. And I'm a woman. (Bites into sandwich.)

Harry: Hey, I don't feel great about this but I don't hear anyone complaining.

Sally: Of course not. You're out the door too fast.

Harry: I think they have an okay time.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: What do you mean, how do I know? I know.

Sally: Because they...? (She makes a gesture with her hands.)

Harry: Yes, because they... (He makes the same gesture back.)

Sally: How do you know they're really... (She makes the same gesture.)

Harry: What are you saying, they fake orgasm?

Sally: It's possible.

Harry: Get outta here.

Sally: Why? Most women, at one time or another, have faked it.

Harry: Well, they haven't faked it with me.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because I know.

Sally: Oh right. (Sets her sandwich down.) That's right. I forgot. You're a man.

Harry: What's that supposed to mean?

Sally: Nothing. It's just that all men are sure it never happens to them, and most women at one time or another have done it, so you do the math.

Harry: You don't think I can tell the difference?

Sally: No.

Harry: Get outta here.

Harry bites into his sandwich. Sally just stares at him. A seductive look comes over her face.

Sally: Oooohh!

Harry, sandwich in hand, chewing his food, looks up at Sally.

Sally: Oh! Ooooh!

Harry: Are you okay?

Sally, her eyes closed, ruffles her hair seductively.

Sally: Oh, God!

Harry is beginning to figure out what Sally is doing.

Sally: Ooooh! Oh, God! (Sally tilts her head back.) Ohh! (Her eyes closed, she runs her hand over her face, down her neck.) Oh, my God! Oh, yeah, right there.

Harry looks around, noticing that others in the deli are noticing Sally. She's really making a show now.

Sally: Oh!

A man in the background turns to look at her.

Sally: Oh! Oh! (Gasps.) Oh God! Oh yes!

Harry, embarrassed, stares at her in disbelief. Sally is now pounding the table...

Sally: Yes! Yes!

The man in the background is now watching intently. Sally is now pounding the table with both hands.

Sally: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Harry looks around, very embarrassed, smiles at the other customers. An older woman seated nearby stares.

Sally: Yes! Yes!

By now, the place is totally silent and everyone is watching.

Sally: Yes! Oh! (Still thumping table.) Yes, yes, yes!

Sally leans her head back, as though experiencing the final ecstatic convulsions of an orgasm.

Sally: Yes! Yes! Yes! (She finally tosses her head forward.)

Sally: Oh. Oh. Oh.

Sally sinks down into her chair, tousling her hair, rubbing her hand down her beck to her chest.

Sally: Oh, God.

Then, suddenly, the act is over. Sally calmly picks up her fork, digs into her coleslaw, and smiles innocently at Harry.

A waiter approaches the older woman to take her food order. The woman looks at him.


Older Woman: I'll have what she's having.


What the hey, watch the clip and enjoy.


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entry arrow11:48 AM | "I Personally Believe..."

This was the talk of the town a few days back, but I never blogged about Miss Teen South Carolina's rambling, incoherent answer in Miss Teen USA 2007 because it was just so funny and so sad at the same time that I felt no amount of snarky comments and blogging frenzy would ever top what actually happened. I actually felt for the girl, because really, not all of us are gifted with grace under pressure. The thing was, she knew the entire world was watching her, and perhaps expecting a "world peace" question, she never saw geography coming -- and melted right before our eyes. (Kinda like Britney Spears' burnt-out so-called comeback in the recent VMAs.) Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the enlightening clip...



And now, here are two parody videos from Quiet Library that made this blog post possible...





They're precious. What's worse, one user in YouTube actually commented, with such earnestness, on the second video: "It is fake look the people in the back ground arent even moving..." [sic]. My answer: Parody, my dear Watson. Can you spell p-a-r-o-d-y?

[via las tres estrellas]

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

entry arrow9:45 AM | Ten Years of Nerve



I can't believe Nerve Magazine has turned ten years old. Have I really been around that long, and was college really a decade away? It makes for some urgent introspection. (It doesn't help that the newest online venture from the Nerve team is Babble, a "magazine and community for a new generation of parents," and it has lots of baby pictures all over. How we've all grown up, it seems.)

Because Nerve was a cornerstone of my college existence, up there with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, the books of Douglas Coupland and David Leavitt, the Scream movies, Friends, Madonna's Ray of Light, Ben Stiller's Reality Bites, and Armani Exchange. (This was in the glory days of the 1990s, pre-Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, pre-George W. Bush and 9/11, pre-Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, pre-Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls -- when everything was rich and rosy, and we were all so naive and brave and innocent.)

Because I remember reading a hype piece by Joel Stein in Time during those heady early days about this online magazine, centering on this incredibly hot couple Rufus Griscom and Genevieve Field who were starting a blushing online magazine that wanted to talk intelligently about sex. I remember saying: "What great names they have, Rufus and Genevieve, perfection for literate smut." The website, originally designed by Joey Cavella (see left), looked outstanding and was considered revolutionary at the time. I was hooked since that day, even went through the Nerve Personals phase where I used to have this really sexy, intelligent chat with somebody from California. There was no day I wasn't online and reading about kinkiness in the pages of Nerve. And then, when they established Nerve Premium and you had to pay for the good stuff -- for the wonderful stories, the eye-popping photography by David Morgan, Andres Serrano, David Sprigle, Ellen Stagg, Jack Louth, Terry Richardson, and Greg Gorman, the searing personal essays by Em and Lo and Lisa Carver-- I just kinda drifted away and got on with the grayness of "real life."

Today, I stumble on the old site, and found it's already ten years later. And then I wonder, where did all that time go...

The magazine has an oral history of Nerve's wildest years up and running in the site.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

entry arrow10:10 AM | Here Comes Fully Booked Once More

Fully Booked has announced the long-awaited book compilation of the winning entries from the 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. The anthology, titled Expeditions, will be launched by the end of November at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street, together with the awarding ceremony of the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction competition, with Neil Gaiman as co-presentor.



The full details of the 2007 Alex Niño Prize for Comics and the Gregorio Brillantes Prize for Prose can be found here. Download the rules and the entry form. The deadline for all entries is October 31.

The book will compose of two parts: Prose Fiction and Comics. Expeditions Fiction features the winning stories "The God Equation" by Michael Co, "A Strange Map of Time" by yours truly, "The Great Philippine Space Mission" by Philbert Dy, "The Omega Project" by Kim Marquez, and "Atha" by Michael Atienza, as well as selected short listed works. Expeditions Comics will showcase the winning "The Sad, Mad, Incredible But True Adventures of Hika Girl" by Clara Lala Gallardo and Maria Gallardo, "Splat" by Manuel Abrera, "Dusk" by Rommel Joson, and "Defiant: The Battle of Mactan" by Juan Paolo Ferrer and Chester Ocampo, along with selected short-listed entries.

The foreword is written by Neil Gaiman, with cover art by Leinil Francis Yu. Details on the book launch will be announced soon.

In the meantimes, let's enjoy once again the video they made from last year's awarding ceremonies at Rockwell...



It's four stitches and a half. Guaranteed.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

entry arrow12:10 AM | LitCritters Dumaguete No. 18



Next Tuesday

The Injury Zone by Lakambini Sitoy
Burn Your Maps by Robyn Joy Leff
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdich
The Two Hundred Fifty-Seventh Page by Nicolas Lacson

Last Tuesday

The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges
Stories by Cesar Ruiz Aquino
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami

Last, last Tuesday

Character Encoding by Baryon Tensor Posadas
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Door 59 by F.H. Batacan

Last, last, last Tuesday

The Whore of Mensa by Woody Allen
My Brother's Peculiar Chicken by Alejandro Roces
The Royals of Hegn by Ursula K. Le Guin
Rude Kate by July Lewis


The LitCritters is a reading and writing group based in Manila (moderated by Dean Francis Alfar) and Dumaguete. Every week, we read and discuss several pieces of short fiction from various genres from different writers with the goal of expanding our reading horizons, improving our ability to critique, and learning how to write from the good texts. In addition to speculative fiction, we read Philippine literature in English, as well as world literature.

The Dumaguete Group meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Cafe Antonio in The Spanish Heritage along Avenida Sta. Catalina.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

entry arrow6:05 PM | A Sneak Peak Into Literatura No. 13


Take a look at the winning works. From Dean Francis Alfar. Douglas James Candano. Mikael De Lara Co. Michael Coroza. Sheila Dela Cuesta. Allan Alberto Derain. Jerome Gomez. Crystal Koo. Rosalinda Lejano-Massebieau. Allan Lopez. Glenn Sevilla Mas. Marlon Miguel. Peter Solis Nery. Wilfredo O. Pascual Jr. Allan Pastrana. Dinah Roma-Sianturi. Rodolfo Vera. And many more from the winners of the 2007 Don Carlos Palanca Awards. Coming September 7 in Literatura No. 13.

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entry arrow12:48 PM | Palanca Night

The truth was, I almost never got to Manila to attend the Palanca Awards. My sundo was late, and we were soon caught in traffic on the way to the airport. They were almost closing the plane door when I arrived breathless and deep in prayer that some miracle would happen -- and miracle of miracles, the check-in counter girl kindly issued me a boarding pass. (That I knew her was, of course, a blessing in disguise.) And so off to Manila we went, my brother Edwin and I. I never thought it would turn out to be the strangest Palanca I have ever been to. (I can't really complain, though. I proved to be a surprise beneficiary for the strangeness.)


Manila was calm and slightly drizzling when we arrived -- a perfect thing since I hate walking under Manila's occasional blazing sun. This was our view of the cityscape of Makati from Room 908 of the Manila Peninsula where we stayed. The Palanca was being held in the Pen's Rigodon Ballroom -- and Edwin wanted to be as near as possible to the venue. "I've always wanted to stay in Manila Pen," he told me, and so that was that. Later that September 1 night, we went down from our room to the lobby, and the first people I saw inside were...

... great friends and speculative fiction advocates Dean Francis Alfar and wife Nikki. (Dean won second prize for the children's story "Poor, Poor Luisa".) The table he choose for us, while far from the stage, was perfect: it was very near the buffet table, strategic location for a huge ballroom brimming with writers who were already quite excited and hungry. Strangely, for me, the Rigodon Ballroom looked smaller. Then again, this was already my third Palanca, and perhaps my memory of the cavernous ballroom from my first win in 2002 has already been compromised by old age.

This is another one of my good friends, Glenn Sevilla Mas, second prize winner for the naughty full-length play "Games People Play." I haven't seen Glenn since our Iligan days in 2002, and so this was quite the reunion. But like old friends, the years that passed didn't seem to matter too much: we were back to our kalog ways, amusing ourselves in naughty conversation.

Our table has got to be the loudest one. It would even get louder before the night was over. After a sumptuous dinner of what constituted a feast of fish dishes (delighting the pescetarian in me), the program began. Below, on stage, are some of the judges in the English Division -- Butch Dalisay, Carla Pacis, and Isagani R. Cruz...


Below are pictures of me receiving my award from the judges and from Ms. Nemie Bermejo. I realized right then that it was still a thrill -- even after all these years -- to be on that stage in front of friends and many of the movers and shakers of Philippine literature.

After the awarding, the program continued. The poet Ricardo de Ungria read the winning poems by Mikael Co and Jodi Reyes, and then the actress Irma Adlawan essayed the role of a Muslim DVD seller in Chris Martinez's winning play "Our Lady of Arlegui," and then Mar Roxas spoke -- and people drank more wine and Bailey's, helped themselves to the dessert, and basically milled about reconnecting with friends and other writers...

These are Marjorie Evasco, Mookie Katigbak, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, and Antonio Hidalgo. Mookie is the "proxy eros" (Dean's term) for Sarge Lacuesta who was in Iowa for the International Workshop. Sarge won first prize for the short story "Flames."


These are my co-winners in my category. Dean Francis Alfar with Lakambini Sitoy (who won first prize for "The Elusive Banana Dog"), together with Bing's father, the great T. Valentino Sitoy, and niece.

Douglas Candano, second prize winner for his short story "Dreaming Valhalla," with Michael Coroza and son. Like me, Michael won third prize his maikling kuwentong pambata "Imbisibol Man ang Tatay."


As the night wore on, my brother Edwin must be thinking: "Filipino writers are crazy..."


These are two of my mentors, Merlie Alunan and Susan Lara. Ma'am Merlie won first prize for the Cebuano short story "Pamato." The lovely Ma'am Susan was one for the judges for the short story in English.


This is Dinah Roma, third prize winner for her poetry collection "Geographies of Light."


Dean and Nikki with Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. When the speeches began, we gelled into a discussion of Philippine publishing -- the secrets, the do's and don'ts, etc. It was an enlightening conversation, given the fact that Ma'am Jing is married to Milflores Publishing's Sir Tony, and Dean is a young publisher for Kestrel.

I look unfairly dwarfish beside Dean and Crystal Koo, third prize winner for the short story, "Benito Salazar's Last Creation" ...


... and I look terrifyingly starstruck beside Korina Sanchez and Senator Mar Roxas. Others have already noted my resemblance to the poet Larry Ypil.

With Jerome Gomez, second prize winner for the maikling kuwento "Desperately, Susan."

With Palanca Hall of Famer Rene O. Villanueva. Mr. Villanueva, I think, holds the record for having won the most number of Palancas. I had directed his play "Asawa" back in college, and now, here I was beside him looking positively stalkerish...

With famed Ladlad series editor Danton Remoto, who proceeded to re-introduce me to...

... Anvil Publishing's Karina Africa Bolasco (third from left), and Marra PL. Lanot. Let's just say something fruitful came off this meeting. (Right, Kit?) Later on, the LitCritters took Edwin and me to Red Box in Greenbelt where we sang the rest of the night away...

This is Kate Osias and Vin Simbulan searching for songs, and preparing to belt...


... while Dean and Alex Osias look on. (Alex, it would soon turn out, is a surprise rocker.)

Kate, Andrew Drilon, and Nikki giving their all! Vin chose a Gary Valenciano song for me, which sealed effectively my corny romantic side. Fortunately, there are no photographic evidences for the effort.


Dean giving a slam-dunk performance, devouring the microphone with such musical energy. A great way to end a strange night. How strange? Read Dean's blog post about Palanca night.

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