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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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Monday, April 30, 2007

entry arrow7:50 AM | The Deadest Deadline.

... and just like that, April 30 comes like a thief in the night. Everywhere in the Philippines, there are computer keyboards being pounded in a mad dash to reach midnight's finish line. The email lines are buzzing. And Ma'am Babes is somewhere sighing, getting ready for the annual rush, the flood of paper from everywhere suddenly a thankless task she must wade through.



What are you still doing reading this blog? Go finish your entry.



... to finish and email everything.

Break a leg, everybody.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

entry arrow12:58 PM | Timothy Montes Lectures in Silliman

The LitCritters Dumaguete and my Philippine Literature Summer Classes present...



Award-winning fictionist Timothy Montes (my mentor) will talk about the writing life and his work. The lecture is part of the month-long Literatura Festival to coincide with the holding of the National Writers Workshop. Upcoming lectures include Marjorie Evasco on Cebuano Poetry and Susan Lara on Creative Non-Fiction. See you in the Multimedia Center in Silliman University tommorrow.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

entry arrow9:43 PM | The Weight of the Short Days

I haven't blogged because I'm too stressed. I don't know what sleep means, and the days seem to short. I need a 30-hour day to finish what I need to finish. Thus, I'm stressed. From summer school teaching Philippine literature to a hundred students, from mediocrity-loving troglodytes who troll my blog and putting in inane comments, from coordinating the myriad details of next month's National Writers Workshop, from preparing my first trip out of the country in a decade, from shaping so many committee tasks being dumped on my lap. I had no idea I was so stressed out until this afternoon when -- after my endless barrage of text messaging to remind various people of this (and that) finally drained out my cellphone load -- I went to a local cellphone shop to buy load ... and still got "Check Operator Services" despite receiving notice of my new credits. The minutes went by, and still no load. Nobody in the store wanted to help, opting instead to offer half-hearted advise, or just looking away or looking down their lap hoping I'd disappear. Someone finally came to my aid when I complained, in a loud voice, "Is there no one here who can help me? At all?" I know, I know. So minor an incident, but it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Shaken so hard by this small hitch, I ran to M.'s place. I haven't seen him in almost a week, and I needed the only comfort I know.

Thanks, bubu.

On another note...



Nancy Drew is now a movie? Holy childhood reading fare!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

entry arrow11:40 PM | The SGH Foster-a-Poem Homepage



Sid Gomez Hildawa now blogs.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

entry arrow8:25 AM | Call for Submissions to Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 3

Dean Francis Alfar is now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 3.

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first two volumes, there was a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 2,500 words and no more than 5,000 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: dean@kestrelimc.com. Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: PSF3 Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example - PSF 3 Submission: How My Uncle Brought Home A Diwata 4500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous publications (if any).

12. Deadline for submissions is 15 September 2007. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13. Target publishing date is December 2007/January 2008.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be two (2) contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

entry arrow7:17 PM | Sunday Readings

In today's Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Ruel S. De Vera has a great feature on Dean Alfar and speculative fiction in the Philippines.

In the New York Times, reporter Jason DeParle has a well-written reportage on the OFW phenomenon, and does a fine job of fleshening out the complex issues of the Philippines being increasingly a migrant nation.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

entry arrow9:22 AM | In Defense of Going Against the Popular

As a sometime critic, I get bashed all the time for dissing on popular works, and for championing the strange and the largely unseen or unread. I've been called a dinosaur, a tadpole, and a never-been who has resorted to criticism for lack of the real thing. Time's Richard Corliss, heaven bless him, has a sharp reply to this silly notion that critics [in this case, for film] are a useless bunch of people who are not in-tune with the popular culture:

Instead of parroting the company line, we are the informed, independent voice amid the cacophony... In a fragmented cultural landscape, we're the last generalists, fascinated with all kinds of movies, seeing everything, so you don't have to.

In print, and increasingly online, we help guide readers who might want to see a movie for a reason other than that a barrage of 30-sec. commercials told them to. Critical praise for Little Miss Sunshine and Pan's Labyrinth launched those films into the public conversation. Indeed, the reader feedback I get is less "Shame on you for dumping on that megahit" and more "Thanks for championing that 'little film' I might have missed."

Hollywood's marketers have become tremendously efficient at getting their core audience to see their big movies. They don't need critics for that. But critics have a larger utility: to put films in context, to offer an informed perspective, to educate, outrage, entertain. We're just trying to do what every other writer is doing: making sense of one part of your world.

And I must add: critics are certainly the last arbiter in determining who or which in the cultural landscape gets immortality. Popular taste does not make something necessarily good. Lord Alfred Tennyson was a popular poet during his lifetime, but he was easily outsold by a religious hack named Martin Tupper. The best-selling poet during Robert Frost's lifetime was another hack named Edgar A. Guest. And dare I even mention Dan Brown for today's readers?

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entry arrow8:15 AM | The Last Eye Contact

After the horror, the stories come. But this one by Clay Violand published in Time touched me the most because it chronicled what happened in Virginia Tech in what could only be described as Hemingway-esque simplicity and nuance, with a narrative restraint that makes what is happening even more horrific:

About halfway through class we heard the noises. Someone said something like, "It's probably just construction." The noises didn't stop. The teacher stiffened up and said "That's not what I think it is, is it?" That's when I remember going into panic. I pointed at the teacher and said, "put that desk in front of the door, now." She did it, and then said "someone call 911." Colin to my right stood up and called 911.

At that point, the door was nudged open aggressively, and I saw a gun emerge into view. It was surreal. Following the gun was a man. He was Asian and had a lot of ammunition and gun gear on — like a big utility belt or something for ammo. That was the only glimpse I got. I quickly dove under a desk — that was the desk I chose to die under. He then began methodically and calmly shooting people down. It sounded rhythmic — like he took his time in between each shot and kept up the pace, moving from person to person. After every shot I thought, "OK, the next one is me." Shot after shot went off and I never felt anything. I played dead and tried to look as lifeless as possible. Sometimes after a shot, I would hear a quick moan, or a slow one, or a grunt, or a quiet, reserved yell from one of the girls.

After some time (I couldn't tell you if it was 5 minutes or an hour), he left. The room was silent except for the haunting sound of moans, some quiet crying, and someone muttering "it's OK, it's going to be OK. They will be here soon." I [propped] my head up just enough to mutter in a harsh whisper, "play dead. If he thinks you're dead then he won't kill you."

Shortly after, the gunman returned. My head was down the whole time. I continued to play dead. He began unloading what it seemed like a second round into everyone again — it had to be the same people. There were way more gunshots than there were people in that room. I think I heard him reload maybe three times. I think it was the sound of reloading — they were long pauses. He continued to shoot everyone over and over. After every shot I braced myself for the next, thinking, "This one is for me." I remember having stray thoughts,like "I wonder what a gun wound feels like. I hope it doesn't hurt. I wonder if I'll die slow or fast." I had come to accept my death, but the fear was still there. I was terrified that my parents weren't going to be able to go on after I was gone. I kept thinking about my parents. There was a girl in front of me — I didn't know her well. I didn't know her name. We kept eye contact from time to time. She was brave. I don't think she cried. We just stared at each other under the desks.

When the gunman finally left, I heard the police barge in the hallway doors and yell "get down! Get down!" The cops pounded on the door and asked someone to open it. I think eventually they just came in and told us to walk out if we could. I got up and put my hands up. Just me and that one girl next to me got up. She had a gunshot wound — I hope she is OK. I think she is — she was walking. I am so proud of her for staying calm. She would have been the last person I had made eye contact with on this earth if I had died.

Violand is a 20-year-old international studies major with a music minor. He was in a French class on Monday morning in Norris Hall when the killer gunned every single person in his classroom, save for him and another girl.

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entry arrow5:29 AM | Some Thoughts

On calling a spade a spade

"If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything...that smacks of discrimination or slander."

--Mary McLeod Bethune

"Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that's what they'll become for us."

--Richard Cowper


On minding mindless comments as harmless

"That is the problem. Its very innocence is the crux of its guilt. It’s the sort of thing that can easily be waved off by saying one is sorry, one didn’t mean any harm by it. Which will probably be well meant. But that is how the indigenous people are trampled upon in the worst of all—innocently. By remarks that people are compelled to ignore or accept or laugh at, at the risk of being called humorless, or fault-finder, or makulit. That’s how sexist remarks work too half the time. They are so seemingly harmless, so wickedly droll taking offense at them makes you look like your features are set in a perpetual scowl. But, well, the women have shown that’s not so at all. The remarks are neither funny nor harmless. They are cruel and baneful. Indeed, the people who make them have been known to bristle over equally 'innocent' jokes that concern their manhood. Then they are no longer jokes. Then they are things to pull out a knife for while drinking gin with the neighbors."

--Conrado de Quiros, "Brown Skin, White Masks"


On the roots of discrimination

"The first thing you do if you want to destroy somebody is to rob him of his humanity. If you can persuade yourself that someone is a gook and therefore not a real person, you can kill him rather more easily, burn down his home, separate him from his family... you can more easily hate and hurt him... [Mindless comments] are the seeds of discrimination and of murders, big and little."

--Charles Osgood, "Real Men and Women"

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

entry arrow10:26 AM | The Bamboo Child

An excerpt from a longer work.

Her first memory is of being told, by a spinster aunt who had become a surrogate caregiver, that she never had a mother: that she and her sister had come from the liki sa kawayan—the cracks of a bamboo—like the legend of our collective origins. Her Mama Mediong must have meant it as a joke, or as a quick tale to shoo away a much-too inquisitive niece, the child of her dead sister Genoveva. Except that my mother took it seriously, her childhood naïveté pulsing through the fabrication, enough to believe that she was, indeed, a bamboo child. Such must have been her need to know where she had come from, and to reason why she was different from her playmates who had family they called by parental affection. She had no chances, even for somebody that young, to listen to and get to know the oft-told tales and legends. “We were a poor family,” Mother would recall, “much too superstitious, and everybody too busy trying to make sure there was food on the table when every meal time came around. We had no time for stories.” Nor time, it would seem, for the vagaries of childhood.

Mother cannot recall how old she was exactly when she was told this particular story of bamboo origins, only that it was the middle of the Second World War, and everything was in a protracted state of chaos, fear, and utter boredom. It was around that time when the family—which consisted of their maternal grandparents, Lola Valentina (or Intin) and Lolo Benito, and their aunts and uncles—felt it was necessary to evacuate their old house in the middle of the poblacion of what was then New Tolong town (now Bayawan City) somewhere down south of Negros Oriental. The guerillas had just killed Yoshi, the Japanese resident of the town who had acted as go-between for the invading Japanese army, and the town folk were quite sure the Japanese would come back to retaliate, and even resort to annihilating the entire town for the assassination. Lolo Benito decided the family must pack up and go. It was nighttime when they made the move, and the air was thick with much suspense and fear, but Mother remembered taking care to observe the many thickets of bamboo she came across, examining each hollowed out sprout closely as they passed and while everybody else crouched in the dark hoping no Japanese soldier could see them as they made their way to what they had supposed to be the safety of a faraway place.

Years later, she would realize they had barely gone a few kilometers from where they started in the poblacion. “We never really evacuated Bayawan,” she said, laughing. “We merely moved a few trees away, to Punong, which was beside the sea, and thought the nearby woods were the jungles of the distant mountains.”

Years later, she would also remember the bamboo story and felt the old yearning coming back: that of a child who had known no mother, or father. My mother is already 74-years-old, but when she tells me these stories from her childhood, when she has to dive into the well of what she always thought to be forgotten memories, she becomes that child again, looking at the bamboo, trying to ascertain her own origins, and trying to find her own place in the confusing world.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

entry arrow10:42 AM | Your Country is Weird

It's just coming to me now, how I should have been outraged by a small incident when I was in Siquijor. Sometimes though, I'm just a little too nice -- which means it takes me a long time to get the idea that I should get mad over something. So what happened? There was this German girl with us who was doing a study on the mananambals. She was getting frustrated by the idea that there were some books in the Silliman University Library which she needed but which she couldn't take out because they are part of the "restricted collection" -- which basically consists of rare books the Library can't afford to trust anybody with, or else they'll be lost forever. Anyway, I was trying to explain to her all these things when she said something like:

"Your country is weird."

I knew I should have been aghast by that flippant comment, but I just shrugged off the discomfort I suddenly felt, and went on with my day. But that line has been nagging me forever, even until now. And now, I'm angry.

"Your country is weird."

And this coming from a person whose country made the Holocaust the frighteningly effective murderous machine it was. Grrr.

That said, I'm going back to work...

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

entry arrow12:15 PM | The 2007 Dumaguete Workshop Fellows

And I'm back. I've been having been Internet problems at home so I couldn't blog for the longest time. The Globelines technicians seem to take their sweet time coming around to my place to fix the problem -- even when they boast of their "24-hour immediate service." Bastards. They certainly put a kink to my work schedule.

But anyway... These are the new fellows for the 46th National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete. For the first time since 2000, Sillimanians -- five of them -- made the cut. And I'm quite happy that two of them are part of LitCritters Dumaguete. Talk about resurgence after a long drought.

FELLOWS FOR POETRY

Krisette Sia-Valderia (De la Salle)
Kristian Abe Dalao (De la Salle)
Pancho Villanueva (UP Diliman)
Jennelyn Tabora (De la Salle)
Sharleen Banzon (UP Diliman)
Cecille La Verne de la Cruz (UP Diliman)

FELLOWS FOR FICTION

Sasha Martinez (Ateneo de Manila)
Catherine Alpay (Ateneo de Manila)
Robert Jed Malayang (Silliman)
Michelle Eve de Guzman (Silliman)
Janina Marie Rivera (De la Salle)

FELLOWS FOR CREATIVE NON-FICTION

Primy Joy Cane (Silliman)
Justine Megan Yu (Silliman)
Martin Villanueva (Ateneo de Manila)
Jan Paulo Bastareche (Silliman)
Mia Tijam (UP Diliman)

See you in Dumaguete, guys.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

entry arrow2:37 PM | Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 84



Kurt Vonnegut Jr., "whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan," reports the New York Times.

In honor of the great writer, here's one of his more famous short stories: "Harrison Bergeron" makes us (and especially the liberal in all of us) confront the uncomfortable, and lets us question the idea of human equality, stripping it down to what he perceives to be a very dangerous naivete. This was the first Vonnegut story I read. (My favorite has got to be Player Piano.)

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entry arrow12:06 AM | Phil Stacey Gives Me the Creeps

I have to say this because it's been bothering me the day American Idol Season 6 went into its serious round. I've been keeping it to myself for so long because it sounds rude, even shallow. But I can't keep mum anymore because this week's Latin episode only reinforced what I've always thought about Phil Stacey. Listen to this. He may even be a relatively good singer, but Phil Stacey gives me the creeps. Every single week, everytime I see him sing on American Idol, it's like watching a cadaver sprung out of his coffin. He just looks like a dead guy. Or a ghost. Or the Grim Reaper. Or an emaciated refugee from Eastern Europe. Or a cancer survivor. Dear Crissy thinks he looks like Nosferatu even. Somebody else says he looks like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. I know, I know... All these sound rude. But Phil Stacey really just gives me the creeps.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

entry arrow8:31 PM | This Heartbreak Book

I have got to plug Cel Flores-Coscolluela's new book, because that's what friends do. (Or at least friends of husbands, and wives. Cel's Cos is a good friend from Dumaguete summer days.) Cel is a great writer, and a multiple Palanca winner at that. Her new book, published by an outfit called Cozy Reads, is an anthology of broken-heart stories aptly titled Heartbreak. I like the subtitle even more: Stories That Will Stay With You Longer Than Your Ex Did, which is four guffaws and a half. The anthology features stories from other friends (Faye Ilogon and Carljoe Javier), and some new voices in the literary scene. What kind of stories? The book's website gives us a few choice synopses: There's one about "a jaded model [who] lands a gig at a fantasy convention where she dons an Arwen costume and promptly falls for a man who calls himself Aragorn." There's another about "a woman [who] files for annulment and on the very same day loses an arm when the train she is riding is bombed." And then there's another about "a perennially single twenty-something [who] contemplates wedding invitations until her romantic prospect comes knocking on her hotel room, arm in arm with another man." Ouch. A book with "ten stories that show the tragedy and comedy that is heartbreak... a demonstration of the human propensity for getting high on an emotion that, unfortunately, also has the power to bring anyone crashing down." That should speak for all of us who has loved and who has often lost. Buy na.

Which reminds me... Whatever happened to Milflores' Sawi anthology? I have a short piece titled "How Sarah Broke Up With Me" there. Paging BJ and Rica...

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

entry arrow8:06 PM | Philippines Free Press Literary Awards 2007



[blogging as the results come in...]

POETRY

Mookie Katigbak, "As Far as Cho-Fu-Sa"
First Prize.

Victor Penaranda, "Josefine Sleeping"
Ana Escalante Neri, "Lightscape"
Second Prize (tie).

Eric Gamalinda, "Qana"
Third Prize.

J. Neil C. Garcia, "Torso"
Alfred Yuson, "Concealment"
Joel Toledo, "New Century With Dragon" and "Ascension"
Honorable Mention.


SHORT STORY

No first prize.

Anna Felicia Sanchez, "Inventories"
Rhea Buela Politado, "Southbound"
Second Prize (tie).

Timothy Montes, "In the Slaughterhouse"
Dean Francis Alfar, "Six From Downtown"
Douglas Candano, "A Visit to the Exhibition of the International Committee on Children's
      Rights"
Third Prize (tie).


ESSAY

No first and second prizes.

Rosario Cruz Lucero, "Singer on the Mango Tree"
Sandra Nicole Roldan, "How to Deal With Dying"
Third Prize (tie).

It's very, very gratifying to get news of friends (and mentors!) winning. Dean has some pictures in his blog (and an excerpt from his prize-winning story). But looking at the winners list, Dean and I have noticed something else: except for Ms. Politado whom I don't know, all the winners have a Dumaguete connection -- they've been through the workshop, or in the case of Ma'am Chari, taught here in the old days. Maybe that's why I can't wait for May to start, and see the magic begin once more. Joel, congratuations... uuwi ka ba dito this summer?



[thanks to glenn mas for texting me the results as they were announced. glenn, make a new blog na]

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entry arrow4:00 PM | This Made My Day

Say that again, kid...



"Ass." Hehehe.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

entry arrow12:54 PM | Favorite Songs No. 6 : Kailangan Kita



In "Kailangan Kita," Ogie Alcasid has reached a startling maturity as composer of love songs. In this theme from the glorious movie of the same name, Mr. Alcasid reaches into the deepest reaches of drama, and gives us a song that more than touches us: we become the song. Consider its story:

Sa piling mo lang,
Nadarama ang tunay na pagsinta.
'Pag yakap kita ng mahigpit,
Parang ako'y nasa langit.

Ngunit ito ay panaginip lamang
Pagkat ang puso mo'y labis kong nasaktan
Pakiusap ko ako ay pakinggan

Kailangan kita, ngayon at kailanman
Kailangang mong malaman na ikaw lamang
Ang tunay kong minamahal
At tangi kong hiling ay makapiling ka muli

Ngunit ito ay panaginip lamang
Pagkat ang puso mo'y labis kong nasaktan
Pakiusap ko ako ay pakinggan

Kailangan kita, ngayon at kailanman
Kailangan mong malaman na ikaw lamang
Ang tunay kong minamahal
Ang lagi kong dinarasal

Kailangan kita, ngayon at kailanman
Kailangan mong malaman na ikaw lamang
Ang tunay kong minamahal
Ang tangi kong hiling ay makapiling ka muli

It's a love song of exquisite regret. Here, the singer imagines a lover in his embrace, taunted by the knowledge that this is a dream, a hopeful one if one must qualify it. We hear a snippet of history: he has hurt the lover, and implores her (or him!) to listen to this one last plea, to this one last song. How do you not melt under the heartfelt pronouncements of "Kailangan kita, ngayon at kailanman"? That line is way up there among immortal lines from mushy love scenes, like Tom Cruise's "You complete me" speech from Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire.

And yet, miraculously, the sentimentality doesn't seem gratuitous. Or diabetic. Perhaps it is because the plea is rendered in an almost plaintive manner. The whole song approaches restraint, but barely: I love that kind of emotive struggle, as all martyrs probably do.

There are many versions of this song, which was first rendered by Piolo Pascual in a passable, if uninspired, version that is easily trumped by the wounded but hopeful vocals of Gary Valenciano (whose version is embedded above), or Regine Velasquez who gives it a light, if diva-ish, quality. (The YouTube video of her singing the song in a concert can be found here.)

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entry arrow10:25 AM | No Le Mi Tanjeri

This will become a longer post, but for now, this will do. I'm finishing off the last batches of papers and exams to grade, and as usual, I am both horrified and amused by the grammatical errors of Filipino college students and their head-spinning lack of historical grounding. For one question, I asked them to imagine themselves as a shipmate of Legazpi tasked to write the King of Spain a report of progress from Las Islas Filipinas. The contemporary vein of their train of thought was jarring, and I half-suspect most of them are plagiarizing from history books and what-not. But that's not the biggest disappointment. For a question assessing Fr. Miguel Bernad's original diagnosis of Philippine literature as being "perpetually inchoate," one student identified Jose Rizal's second novel as "El Felibus Terismo."

And I'm thinking: if an iconic literary (and historical) title has become a common mistake, what kind of college students do we have now?

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entry arrow12:01 AM | Call for Submission to Growing Up Filipino II

This is a call for submissions of short stories for an anthology tentatively titled, Growing Up Filipino II: Stories for Young Adults. The book will be edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and will be published by both Anvil and Philippine American Literary House (PALH). Contributors will receive copies of the book as compensation for the use of their work.

The manuscript should be approximately 8-10 pages long, typed, double-spaced (approximately 1,800-2,300 words). This should be emailed to CBrainard(at)aol(dot)com. You may also send it by air mail to:

Cecilia Brainard
c/o PALH
PO Box 5099
Santa Monica, CA 90409
USA

This book project is a follow-up of an earlier short story collection entitled Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, published in 2002.

Deadline for submission is 1 August 2007. Early submissions are welcome. Please send your bio (approximately 150 words) in people-friendly narrative form.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

entry arrow12:36 AM | A Glimpse of Holy Week and the Mananambals of Siquijor

The three-day trek across the hills and dust roads of Siquijor -- on foot and on motorcycles under the heat of the April sun -- chasing after shamans can be both heady and exhausting. Coming back from it all, I spent the entire morning in Dumaguete sleeping off the bottled up tiredness and the excess of adrenaline and excitement. Later in tbe afternoon, it was off to Sans Rival for a little bit of civilized cake, and to Lee Cimbali for coffee, and to the new Jo's By the Sea in Sibulan for dinner of chicken. It was as if I wanted to immerse myself so quickly into my city ways.

But I can't quite forget Siquijor, and its magic, and its even more magical people so easily. This is a glimpse of the story in my head...



This is the mananambal from Barangay San Antonio, in Sitio Buac-Bato, Juan Ponce Dako, preparing the lana for the inadlip he will be preparing from the pangalap of seven Fridays...



This is apprentice mananambal Manong Noel chopping the forbidden ingredients for the inagdaut, or the hex potion, which includes chipped human bones which he has gathered from the old cemetery back in Siquijor town...



This is the small black pot of ingredients for the hex potion burnt to charcoal in the middle of the San Antonio jungle, ready for the masa.

But what I really want to write about is the brightness of these people, how beautiful and funny they are, how hospitable, colorful, and engaging. There's Manang Juling, for example, who engages us in banter while talking about how she once healed a young man of impotence on the eve of his wedding. There's Lola Lauriana who can divine the future and the spot of lost things, but plafully insists that people come to see her because she is the most beautiful mananambal around. (She's 88 years old.) There's Lolo Indoy whose quiet ways and unassuming manner almost makes him the poster boy for Siquijor shamanism -- and indeed he is. (GQ Cover Boy for the mananambal set? You bet.)

The thing is, so many negative things have been written (or blown up into bad horror movies starring Assunta de Rossi) about this beautiful island -- all of which have created the crudest perspectives and the weirdest superstitions which are largely untrue. That seems to be my challenge now as I begin the stories I will be submitting to Men's Health and Marie Clare and Inquirer: to dig deeper than the awful tabloid stories, and show the humanity of it all.

To be continued...

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

entry arrow1:14 AM | Favorite Songs No. 5 : Boy



Timmy Cruz's "Boy" is one of those songs from the recent past (I'm not sure whether it is an 80s or an early 90s song) that you quickly dismiss for being maudlin the first time around, but whose haunting plea for love and attention sticks to and at you that you cannot help but still remember it years later, for better or for worse. Like Sheryl Cruz's "Mr. Dreamboy" or Donna Cruz's "Habang May Buhay" or Sharon Cuneta's "Mr. D.J." They are songs most especially memorable for coming from the variety of music one can easily call The Last Song Syndrome Album.

I remember the song as a radio favorite, and liked it enough to just let it go as one of those common hits that wear their hearts on their sleeves. The song came to my notice again last year when, out of the blue, Mark urged me to Limewire it to my hard disc. We were looking for "I Love You Boy" for months, and didn't find anything -- and gave up eventually. "Nobody cares about Timmy Cruz anymore," I reasoned. "Not enough to file share, anyway." A month or so ago, it again pricked my memories when the prestigious Philippine Madrigal Singers, courtesy of soloist Enrico Lagasca, picked it up as one of its novelty renditions for their Dumaguete concert, giving it a sly, and surprising, gay twist. Mark took to researching it again, and found that the title was merely one word: "Boy." One Limewire search later, and we quickly downloaded it.

Now, we listen to the song 24 hours a day, positively bothering the neighbors with Timmy Cruz's lament about a "manhid" boy who does not seem to notice somebody loving him from afar. It's the ultimate martyr song, which is the secret to its success. How does the song go? This way:

Oh what a night
'Di ako makatulog
Parang tukso tanging laman ng isip
Wala kundi ikaw

Bakit ganito?
I can't get over you
Kahit sarili ko'y ayaw maniwala
Sa nangyaring ito... Oooh!

Chorus

I love you, boy
If you only knew
Naiinis na ako sa iyo
Sobrang manhid ka
At 'di mo napapansin

I love you, boy
Kung alam mo lang
Ang puso ko ay nagdaramdam
Hanggang kailan ba ako ay maghihintay

My foolish heart
Ikaw ang may kasalanan
Kung ikaw ba'y tumahimik na lamang
Ako'y 'di naguguluhan

Oh sayang lang
If I were not a woman
Sana'y noon pa ma'y aking nasabing
Ika'y aking mahal

Bridge

I'm head over heels, babe
I love you so much
I'm going crazy

Chorus

My foolish heart
Ikaw ang may kasalanan
Kung ikaw ba'y tumahimik na lamang
Ako'y 'di naguguluhan
If you only knew..

Sometimes, though, when Timmy warbles the first two lines about not being able to sleep, I'd just shout into the air: "Take a sleeping pill!" But that does not stop me from loving the song, for real. It's a veritable classic. And testament to its pop longevity seems to be Toni Gonzaga's recent cover of the song, which is embedded below:



Is Toni Gonzaga the new Queen of Old Brilliantly Baduy Favorites? She has a cover version of "Mr. Dreamboy," too.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

entry arrow8:01 AM | Vista This

People seem to hate Vista with a passion -- and these are Microsoft devotees, if you have to know.



Daming bugs daw, daming hassle... I think I'm sticking to XP for a while. Better yet, go Apple! Yay.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

entry arrow12:08 AM | In Search of Shamans

The best-kept secret to spending the Holy Week is staying in Siquijor. Boracay's old news. In Isla del Fuego -- literally, the Island of Fire -- you get both beaches and spirituality, of the light and dark kind.



So I'm off to the isla (how we locals call it) in search of surf and shamans, on assignment from Men's Health Magazine. I leave Wednesday, and will probably be getting back to Dumaguete on Easter Sunday. I really wanted somebody, anybody to go with me to Siquijor as a companion. (I must have asked five people.) But nobody wants to go, and now I feel really, totally alone. Doesn't matter anymore. I made my peace. I've realized life's really like that.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

entry arrow10:57 PM | Downloading Is a Packrat's Dream

If this is a new neurosis, I exhibit a few of the symptoms.

[via mlq3]

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entry arrow3:08 PM | This Old Thing Does Not Interest Me Anymore

On receiving a note...

There are so many ways to say I'm not interested.
I prefer my newfound silence instead. Look,
The boat has sailed, the train has gone.
But you are in your pity corner saying
The martyr's prayer. I pray to no old gods,
And not in the least in your old sham
You call hurt. Take this advise and move on:
I am not interested.

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entry arrow11:16 AM | I Want to Be a History Boy

I finally got to watch the film which some of my friends are raving mad about, the way other people do when they see a Sam Milby movie.



I don't blame them for raving. There are many things to delight about The History Boys (the official website is here, and the Amazon page here), the brilliant film by Nicholas Hytner adapted from the brilliant play by Alan Bennett. There is, first of all, the almost typical British intellectual sheen in this story of schoolboys preparing for Oxford that manages to engage us emotionally, without the sentimental trifle of Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society, which -- even if it had been my favorite film for the longest time, in high school and college -- seems to grow more dated by the coming of years. (Consider also Mike Nichols' adaptation of Margaret Edson's Wit, where Emma Thompson gives a terrifyingly magnificent performance as a cancer-stricken professor and her passion over the 17th century English poet John Donne. How do the British do it?)

Then there are the undercurrents of a love story, an unrequited one that will melt the martyr in all of us.

Then there are the hints of a scandal -- but which is so cleverly drawn that it does not stoop low to the tabloid variety.

Then there is the magnificent instances of the boys singing ("Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" never sounded this haunting in its longing, and "Bye, Bye Blackbird" -- traditionally a country tune -- becomes, in this film, a heart-rending paean to the memory of a beloved, underappreciated mentor). Ned, in his blog, has posted a clip from YouTube that has Posner singing a love song to Dakin, and I'm reposting it:



Then there is the intelligent perspective of how teaching is, or must be. The Baltimore Sun's Michael Srago, reviewing the play when it arrived in New York, takes note of this: "For Hector, 'knowledge is not general. It is specific -- and -- it has nothing to do with getting on.' Interlopers may be startled when Hector's French lesson takes the shape of a comic improv about bordellos, or when the tearjerking climax of Brief Encounter gets interspersed with fragments of great poetry. But Hector doesn't 'want to turn out boys who in later life had a deep love of literature, or who would talk in middle age of the lure of language and their love of words.' He wants them to savor writing as a living thing. That's why he integrates 'tosh'-like music-hall songs into his freewheeling curriculum: the 'sheer calculated silliness' of pop culture deflates reverence."

Then there are the history lessons -- and the erotic charge that comes in academic shoptalk: in this film, the moviegoer becomes a vicarious student or enraptured spectator of scintillating debates, of the relentless volley between argument and counter-argument. The professor nicknamed by the boys as Hector (played with such subtle intensity by Richard Griffiths, who is the snarky uncle in the Harry Potter movies) has it right when he proclaimed the "transer of knowledge" as basically an erotic act. I've always felt that way when I am in a class with a great professor, and surrounded with classmates who are willing to tussle, endlessly and with passion, with a cornucopeia of ideas. (Suddenly, I miss those graduate school days in Silliman when I had Ceres, Nino, and Timothy for teachers, and Jean Claire, Bombee, Douglas, and Jesselle for classmates...)

For me, the best moment in the film (and there are several very good ones) comes when Hector and Posner (played by Samuel Barnett, who has become the intelligent gay man's idea of a dreamboat -- right, Ned?) discuss a poem by Thomas Hardy ("Drummer Hodge"), in a scene that by itself is already worth the price of the admission.

Hector pauses near the end of their discussion, and says: "The best moments in readings are when you come across something -- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things -- that you'd thought special, particular to you, and here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met. Maybe even someone long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours."

I felt that way seeing this movie. The History Boys is more than just a hand; it is an embrace willing to take me in.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

entry arrow5:14 AM | Google April Fool

It's been a long time since I April-Fooled somebody, since -- having all grown up now -- it strikes me as suddenly so Donita. (Yes, that's my new word for "stupid.") Google, however, deems it still appropriate to pull a prank on all of us.



Free broadband! Via your toilet! It's the new TiSP (Toilet Internet Service Provider) Beta.

But this is what I've always loved about Google. It's your search engine with the powerful bots, and a sense of humor. (Do you remember the George W. Bush + "stupid" + "I'm feeling lucky" thing?) And a sense of celebration as well. (Explore its holiday logos.) For other Google April Fool hoaxes, click here.

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entry arrow12:05 AM | Food Books for the Hot Days

Hey, look. Sunday Inquirer Magazine has given out its annual hot list of recommended readings for the summer, and Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Ysip Orosa's A la Carte is one of them. Here's the capsule review from staff writer Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz:

You'll need two vital ingredients before you start devouring this book: a full stomach and a comfortable seat some distance away from a working kitchen and a food court. Because definitely, a hungry reader will be torn between finishing the sumptuous stories and rushing off to try out the recipes offered as appetizer at the start of each chapter. The tasty morsels leave you convinced that food is more than just repast; it is also the stuff of national pride, childhood memory, romance, regret, rivalry, and even bloody murder. This book is one thick bubbling stew that satisfies one's hunger and imagination while whetting the appetite for more. Best cuts: "Wok Man" by Jose Dalisay, Jr.; "Closopen" by Janet Villa, "No Salt" by Nadine Sarreal, "Pedro and the Chickens" by Ian Rosales Casocot, "Kitchen Secrets" by Shirlie Mae Choe, and "Does It Matter What the Dead Think?" by Erwin Cabucos.

I say, yay.

While I was doing the rest of my Sunday reading of newspapers, this interview in the Lifestyle section of Philippine Daily Inquirer with Cendrillon owner Amy Besa (who co-owns the famous New York restaurant with chef Romy Dorotan) caught my eye. I've read about Cendrillon before, when New York Times food critic Frank Bruni gave it a terrific review ("... it's daring, different and a sure remedy for the malady, too widespread these days, of dining déjà vu. That has to matter, and that gives food lovers a real investment in the survival of this unconventional place") in 2005.



It trumpets, first of all, their new cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens, which may be the first significant book on Philippine cuisine published by a major American publisher. (The book -- which features food photography by Neal Oshima -- has been picked by Barnes & Noble as its book of the month.) Over all, however, it's a wonderful interview with the Playtime staff, which basically covers the growing popularity and critical acceptance of Filipino cuisine in mainstream America, and a lot of hunger-causing discussion of local food. An excerpt:

Is pig's blood readily available in the US? Even in the East Coast?
Yes.

How about entrails?
When we do dinuguan we don't use entrails. We use pork meat. It's very difficult to clean entrails; you need to remove the smell.

How do you serve it in your restaurant to make it a bit more palatable?
It's in a bowl. People love it.

With puto?
We can't make puto. (Laughter) It is the most difficult thing in the whole world to do, believe me. Try it! You know when you get a good puto, appreciate it.

There are different kinds! There are so many kinds. There's the white, there's the ube, the pandan, the putong pulo, then there's Biñan, the big one. But then, you know, they put cheese. (Looks queasy then laughs)

What makes puto difficult?
Puto is really a mixture of ground rice and cooked rice that you ferment, right? The secret is in the fermentation. You have like a lavadura and you mix it and you let it rise. Some people put a little yeast and some put baking powder.

Steaming is just the most difficult thing in the world. You have to steam it for the right [length of] time. If you lift that cover before [it is cooked] forget it!

I'm already hungry.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

entry arrow10:17 AM | Favorite Songs No. 4 : It Might Be You



It's a cliche now to even note that the 1980s was a grand repository of bad hair and great songs. But it's a beloved cliche (and something quite truthful, too). The thing is, nobody makes songs like they did in the 1980s anymore: there was just something about that decade that was magical, and raunchy, and innocent -- and sometimes all at the same time. Perhaps it was the optimism of the Reagan years, the resurgence of affluence everywhere, the hopefulness of the first EDSA... That bright hopefulness, charged with a subterfuge of greed, bled into the popular culture, and became our favorite songs and movies.

Indeed, like the songs of the era, the movies, too, had a tint to them (like vaseline on the camera lens) that I can't quite explain. Consider the color, the lights, and the almost childlike delight of E.T. The ExtraTerrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Consider the cosmopolitan sweet vengeance of Working Girl and The Secret of My Succe$s. Consider the unalloyed joy of adventure of the Indiana Jones and Back to the Future series. Consider the panoramic vistas of Out of Africa, Gandhi, and Chariots of Fire. Consider the sweet angst-ridden explorations of Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Consider the stylish madness of Carrie, Fatal Attraction, and Dressed to Kill. Consider the unapologetic romps and comedic chops of Porky's, National Lampoon's Animal House, Coming to America, and Trading Places. Irony and pastiche in films were still a decade away, and so they were earnest and truthful. Sometimes, watching these films again, I am amazed by the depth of their intelligence. E.T., for example, was a runaway hit when it was released early in the decade: watching it now, I actually found it surprisingly contemplative. Steven Spielberg had faith that young people would grow to the story: he believed in the intelligence of the mass audience. Look at it again, it takes its time to bring us around to the grand (grand!) finish. I'm not sure audiences today -- on a steady diet of instant things -- will have the patience to enjoy such a film.

I mention these movies because one of the landmark films to come out during this time was Sidney Pollack's Tootsie (also here), which starred Dustin Hoffman as a difficult, out-of-work New York actor who finds salvation (and love) when he tries out successfully for a TV soap -- as a female actor. I love that film. It went on to gain many Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), and won a supporting trophy for Jessica Lange.

One of its nominations was for its theme song "It Might Be You" composed and written by Dave Grusin, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman, and sung by the incomparable Stephen Bishop. It was a perfect fit for the movie, and I love this song because it is in turns reflective, hopeful, and sad.

Here's the song for you to sing along...

Time, I've been passing time
Watching trains go by
All of my life
Lying on the sand
Watching seabirds fly
Wishing there could be someone
Waiting home for me

Something's telling me it might be you
It's telling me it might be you
All of my life...

Looking back as lovers go walking past
All of my life
Wondering how they met and what makes it last
If I found the place would I recognize the face

Something's telling me it might be you
It's telling me it might be you
So many quiet walks to take
So many dreams to wake
And there's so much love to make

I think we’re gonna need some time
Maybe all we need is time
And it's telling me it might be you
All of my life

I've been saving love songs and lullabies
And there's so much more
No one's ever heard before
Something's telling me it might be you
Yeah, it's telling me it must be you and
I'm feeling it'll just be you
All of my life
It's you, it's you
I've been waiting for all of my life
Maybe it's you
Maybe it's you
I've been waiting for all of my life.

Listen to that earnest melody, that tone of hopefulness, that sweeping statement about waiting for love. What contemporary song comes close? Today, everybody's too busy singing, "To the left... to the left..."

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entry arrow9:04 AM | Yay.

Good heavens. Why? I'm thinking: there goes credibility. Or maybe it's an April Fool's Day joke. It is, isn't it?

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