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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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Thursday, November 29, 2007

entry arrow6:08 PM | Gago.

What a crazy country. I like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as much as I like hemorrhoids, but Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and his crew -- what a stupid, stupid bunch. You just don't do it this way. Still, if some miracle happens, and there will a kind of Edsa Kuwatro (ahahaha, that sounds like a big joke), and it becomes a successful one, let the new leader be wise. Let it not be one of the buffoons from the Opposition, nor the kapalmuks from the Administration. And let us all become wiser as well. What a crazy country.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

entry arrow6:53 PM | Seeking the Exit

Mark thought it was a horror movie, and I thought it was at least a decent adaptation of Susan Cooper's Newberry Award-winning fantasy series The Dark is Rising. So we went in, hoping for respite from Dumaguete's rain and the boredom from a Tuesday night. God, I should have googled first. It would have given me warning that this cinematic crap (full title: The Seeker: The Dark is Rising) has garnered an astonishing 13% in Rotten Tomatoes. The movie made us (1) sleep from sheer boredom, (2) cringe from such ostentatious display of bad acting, and (3) faint from the vomituous handling of cinematography. David L. Cunningham proves to be a ham of a director, and Alexander Ludwig is such a bad actor that I was hoping Christopher Eccleston's The Rider would succeed in smiting him. When you root for the movie's villain, things can't be good.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

entry arrow7:12 PM | The Post-Gaiman Post

First, The Grimness

All I could remember from the flight home to Dumaguete from Manila was how suddenly annoyed I felt about the concentration of small irritations. The fact, for example, that I got a seat in the emergency exit row in the plane, and I had to make a show for the flight attendant of reading the emergency guidelines in case of any unfortunate event I had trouble imagining could happen. (I thought: I don't want to feel responsible for all these people.) The talkative passenger in seat 9D was another matter: she was shrieking upon the instance of rough landing because she didn't have her seatbelt on. (I thought: How stupid is that.) But the boarding area of the domestic airport may have triggered the whole attitude I had for the day: it was quite crowded when I got in, and when I finally commandeered a seat for me, it was unfortunate that I should be sitting in front of a woman who was yacking her head off about anything and everything. You know the type. I don't expect airports to be temples of silence (the humming noise that collects from everywhere is actually quite appealing to me), but it's quite another matter to be listening to someone talk and talk about how friendly she was, about how surprised she was about the distance of this town from that, about... It went on forever. Soon, the unfortunate stranger she was talking to stood up and left, and that was how I finally got my respite. On hindsight, it could be the effect of the indecisiveness of the weather: super-typhoon Mina was shying away at the last minute (showing her supposed menace only in terms of half-hearted showers that came in spurts), and Lando making a sabog comeback, and all around me there was a rise in the humidity that was getting to my head. You could smell the vexation in the air, and when I finally landed in Dumaguete, I could feel the day clinging to my skin. It was a heavy burden.

Then, The Sunshine

But then there was Mark waiting for me at the arrival area's exit: he was a sight of utter perfection. It was the first time today that I felt quite all right. Sigh. Which is not to say I am not happy today. I am actually. I have good reasons to be.

Yesterday, Fully Booked finally launched Expeditions, the two-volume compilation of the winning entries in last year's Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards, which contains my story "A Strange Map of Time," which won First Prize together with Michael Co's angelic take in "The God Equation." Neil Gaiman himself was there to cheer everyone on, and to give a giant boost to Philippine speculative fiction -- which I think is starting to get the respect and the critical notice it deserves from the rest of the Philippine literary "firmament." I must take note that the only reason that I decided to I fly in to Manila was to meet The Man and to have dinner with him (a rare opportunity if ever there was one), even when I was not sure at all of having any winning edge in the shortlist for this year's contest. (I took a peek at the shortlist the moment I arrived in Serendra, and I felt a kick in the guts: it was a list that qualified for the meaning of the word "intimidating"). Thing is, it's never easy for anyone in the Visayas or Mindanao to travel to the Capital -- the expenses can be staggering, even for an overnight stay. Sometimes one must have the assurance that the trip is well worth the P8,000 or so one must spend to get to Manila. I also intimated in last Friday's post that the odds may be stacked against me: how can anyone win twice in a row?

Still.


With a heart bursting with disbelieving gratitude, I won Second Prize for the Prose category in the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. This for my short fantasy story "The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak," which Neil described as, well, heartbreaking, "a lovely little fable, and [I] felt it should have been illustrated." Coolness. I tied with the marvelous Yvette Natalie Tan who won for her story "The Bridge." Erin Chupeco won Third Prize for "Juan Perez's Corpse," and blogging buddy Joseph Nacino won the Grand Prize for his tantalizing "Logovore." (Definitely a must-read.) Neil called this year's roster of prose entries -- which included works from such luminaries as Michael Co (my co-winner last year), Luis Joaquin Katigbak, and Sharmaine Galve -- to "have better writers, better writing than we did in year one." There are eleven finalists this year, a considerable jump from last year.

Fellow LitCritter and great friend Andrew Drilon won Second Prize for the Comics category with "Lines and Spaces," and Heubert Khan Michael and Gerald Doraldo tied for Third Place.

(The unbelievably energetic Charles Tan has transcripts of all the speeches -- by Gaiman and Fully Booked's Jaime Daez -- in his blog. Dean Francis Alfar has pictures and a thorough recounting of what Neil said when he joined our table during dinner. Neil's schedule for the day didn't include any signing of his books and what-not, but after dinner Heubert and I successfully pounced on him for an instant autograph session, Heubert with his Sandman collection, and I with my bagfull of books from assorted Dumaguete folks -- you know who you are, be glad nga gapabaga ko ug nawong.)

It was great to meet up with old friends (and literary acquaintances) again, like Dean, Andrew, Luis, Yvette, Michael, Joseph, Mia Tijam, Vin Simbulan, Nikki Alfar, and Tals Diaz. And friends I knew only through blogs and emails, like Elbert Or, Wanggo Gallaga, Arnold and Cynthia Arre, Quark Henares, Erwin Romulo, Sharmaine, and Charles.

And I have no photos to show for any of these. The worst thing you can do when attending events such as this is to go with a digital camera with no batteries. (That said, above photo is courtesy of Dean, whose camera had batteries.)

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

entry arrow5:52 AM | Off to Manila for a Day

I leave in a few hours for Manila, for the Neil Gaiman event this afternoon and this evening. As usual, I have the pre-flight jitters, but I'm all packed and ready to go. It's a beautiful Sunday, without the forbidding stormy cast I feared would color this weekend. I've already scrapped my earlier Saturday flight idea because of Mina, and now I feel all so foolish. I've packed only a few clothes for an overnight stay, but the bag's full of Neil Gaiman books some Dumaguete folks have dumped on my lap, hoping for the The Man's autograph. Oh well. I wonder how the afternoon will go. Here's crossing my fingers...

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Friday, November 23, 2007

entry arrow8:25 PM | On Shortlists

I guess it's safe to say now -- given that some have already publicly declared the same announcement in their blogs -- that I've been shortlisted for the prose category of the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards, presented by Neil Gaiman and Fully Booked. (I didn't want to announce it before because I had done that last year, and somebody pounced on me in a series of surprising online flames.) We get to know the results this Sunday. Of course, the odds may be against me, given that I co-won last year's search -- but oh well, like what they say, being considered is honor enough. And indeed it is an honor, given the sheer number of entries to the contest. And getting to meet Neil Gaiman is something I'd take any day.

On the subject of shortlists, two of my dearest writer-friends have been nominated for the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Awards. Hurrah to Dean Francis Alfar for Salamanca and Rica Bolipata-Santos for Love, Desire, Children, etc. Congratulations, guys! These were two of my favorite books from last year -- equally devastating in their sheer genius. Other shortlisted works include Barefoot in Fire by Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis, From Inside the Berlin Wall by Helen Yap, and Kapwa: The Self in the Other by Katrin de Guia.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

entry arrow8:16 AM | Expeditions Review in PDI

I had no idea Ruel de Vera had a review of Expeditions in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday until Tals Diaz of Fully Booked texted me about it. Read it here. He writes of the book: "Whether the words and images bow to your particular taste or not, whether they are miracle drug or mere placebo to you, whether it is the Escape key or the Enter key, there is no denying how both volumes of Expeditions are a testament to the remarkable promise and power of Filipino creativity in fiction and comics, the hurricane of words and images birthed from the fierce flapping of an unleashed butterfly’s wings." Ruey also happens to quote my story in it, so yehey to that. Thanks, Ruey!

The launch of the books will be this Sunday, 25 November 2007, 3PM, at the Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street courtyard.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

entry arrow7:13 AM | Dinner With Neil

Flying to Manila this weekend for the FullyBooked thing. The launch of Expeditions is reason enough, but it seems that I've been blessed with the strange fact of... Ah, never mind. Won't talk about it. I've learned my lesson well from last year when flamers seemed to sprout from everywhere and basically rained on my parade. It also seems that I'll be having dinner with Neil Gaiman Sunday night as well. Whoa. What will I say to The Man? "Can you sign all these books for me?" Yay.

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entry arrow6:30 AM | River Stone Hearts and Spacious Lines

I have some wonderful LitCrit news! Andrew Drilon's Lines and Spaces has been shortlisted in the comics category of the FullyBooked contest, and the wonderful Kate Osias has a story, "The River Stone Heart of Maria Dela Rosa", out in Serendipity magazine. Do check it out.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

entry arrow10:11 AM | The Third Volume Cometh



Isn't it pretty and macabre all at the same time? (That's a heart with a top hat -- it's so wickedly Poe and Wilde.) I love the cover of Dean and Nikki Alfar's upcoming Philippine Speculative Fiction 3, to be launched at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street on December 8. (My first attempt at the horror story, "The Flicker," is included.) Dean, here's crossing my fingers I'll be able to go.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

entry arrow8:33 PM | Gaiman in Manila!



But of course, everybody already knows that. Mr. Gaiman will be here to present, with Fully Booked, Book of Dreams: The 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards on 25 November 2007, 3PM, at the Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street courtyard. He will also be launching the compilation Expeditions (which contains my story "A Strange Map of Time," together with the other winning stories -- both prose and comics -- from last year's awards), and will award the winners of the 2nd Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards. This event is free of charge. And here's crossing my fingers for everybody.

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entry arrow3:50 PM | I Want This Book



Tim (Montes) has been praising this book to high heavens since we last saw each other. He recently emailed me about Trevor again, and he wrote:

Two literary saints for short story enthusiasts -- Alice Munro and William Trevor (one Canadian, the other Irish). Both have achieved magnificent bodies of work. Of the two, I find Trevor more awe-inspiring because his imagination is more supple. Reading his Collected Stories a few years ago revived my love for the traditional short story.

Anyway, while waiting for Richy two weeks ago for that post-birthday dinner at Sentro, I found myself in Powerbooks Makati turning over in my hands Trevor's newest collections of stories Cheating at Canasta. So tempting to buy it, even at P890 -- as a form of reverence to a master. Didn't buy it though, and chose to surf the net for reviews. Here's one I particularly liked, because I also happen to like the novels of the reviewer.

I am actually addicted to Trevor's prose style, I don't know why. I even read his bad novels. His best, as far as his novels are concerned ("a hit-and-miss thing", according to Chari Lucero) are the following: The Story of Lucy Gault, The Silence in the Garden, and Fools of Fortune.

He never won the Booker, and yet writers like Stanley Elkin and Julian Barnes have always admired him.

Of his late stories, I have noticed a falling off from the classical structure of his best stories from the 70s. The sympathy can be overwhelming that at times I ask for more irony. He's already 80, and still going at it, and gets preferential publishing treatment from the New Yorker which considers him "the greatest living practitioner of the short story form." Many young contemporary prize-winning writers owe their precocious wisdom from reading his stories: Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li, etc.

I want this book. Yun lang.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

entry arrow12:01 AM | Hell

A bomb just went off one of the wings of Congress. Two are dead, and nine are wounded. One of my province's congressmen, Rep. Henry Teves, a good man, is badly burned and has fractures everywhere. I just saw his face on TV over the late night news. It was horrible. Bastards. Whoever did this, bastards.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

entry arrow8:24 PM | Chick This!

Ahhhh, the Jack T. Chick Comics. I grew up with these, collected them all with such passion (including the tracts), and considered all of them gospel truth (pardon the pun) when I was a kid in the most Christian fundamentalist of environments.



I had a strange childhood.

And oh, according to Bookslut, they have a new comic, this time aimed at Mormonism. Exciting.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

entry arrow2:22 AM | How I Get Reminded That Being in Dumaguete is Not So Bad

There is a school of thought that tells you that in order for anyone to get the best out of life, one must leave the village for the big city. Sometimes, over drink or dinner, my friend, the photographer John Stevenson, tells me that I should become a New Yorker. "It has the best of all worlds," he told me just last Wednesday, "the best theater, the best orchestras, the best dance companies, the best restaurants... Everything." Well, I suppose he is right. Unfortunately, I'm not a New Yorker, nor do I see my fortunes changing soon that I should cross the big pond and leave Pinas behind. There is, of course, the local equivalent of such philosophy: that to be in Manila is to enjoy the best of the Philippines, particularly "high" culture, and even more splendidly, the "low" variety. I suppose that this is right and true -- and there are some days and nights when I question the fact that I chose to stay in Dumaguete, a small town, if you really think about it.

But then there are also the many days of wonder that make me pause: for a small city, Dumaguete sure can be a lighting rod for the best of Philippine culture. The past few days alone are testament to this. Maria Ressa, among many other journalism luminaries, came and went, to deliver a lecture on Philippine television journalism in Silliman. I didn't catch that lecture (because I had no idea she was around), nor did I catch the dinner invitation hosting filmmaker Nick Deocampo, director of such documentary classics like Oliver. I was busy cleaning my pad, and I couldn't just leave the house is such disarray. (Imagine that.) Today, after school, I bumped into filmmaker Emman de la Cruz, who was in town to screen Endo, courtesy of Star Cinema. (This is the first time that Endo has been screened outside of Manila.) Michiko Yamamoto was with him, and we hatched the idea of bringing Cinemalaya to Dumaguete this coming February. Then Tanghalang Pilipino's Dennis Marasigan dropped by. We're all preparing for Saturday's staging of Welcome to IntelStar and Geegee at Waterina at the Luce Auditorium. That show will conflict with the Kundirana concert somewhere else in the city. The next day, David Pomeranz comes to town to serenade the old foggies, and then later Sarah Geronimo and Mark Bautista will serenade the rest of the masa. On November 20, John lectures on black and white photography, and on November 27, artist Kitty Taniguchi will give a slide show and lecture on her works. Violinist Jay Cayuca drops in on December 1 to give a concert, to be followed by lectures from artists Jutze Pamate, Razceljan Salvarita, and Sharon Dadang-Rafols. Tenor Ramon Acoymo comes in January, and Douglas Nierras will bring Powerdance later that month. Actor's Actor brings in Pinky Amador and Bart Guingona to star in A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, in time for the Valentine season, and poet Myrna Peña-Reyes gives a lecture on February. In March, the U.P. Guitar Orchestra will give a concert. Hopefully, things push through for Ricky Davao and Michael de Mesa to reprise their roles in Art in the next cultural season, and for Cherie Gil to do Master Class as well. A full slate in Dumaguete? You betcha. And that's barely touching the surface.

And because the city is so small, all of these become intimate happenings, where the artists become part of the fabric of things. That's when I think: it's good to be in Dumaguete.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

entry arrow7:50 AM | Tanghalang Pilipino's Gee-Gee at Waterina and Welcome to Intelstar in Dumaguete


Tanghalang Pilipino comes to Dumaguete with the twin-bill presentation of Chris Martinez's Welcome to IntelStar (with Mailes Kanapi as Ma'am Chelsea) and J. Dennis Teodosio's Gee-gee at Waterina (with Paulo Cabañero and Lou Veloso in the title roles) on November 10, this Saturday. There is a matinee at 3 p.m., and a gala at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Silliman University College of Performing Arts Office and the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium Office, and at the theater lobby before every show. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please call/contact Gang-gang at (035) 422-6002 loc. 520. This is the first show of the new season of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

entry arrow5:54 AM | Writers on a Monday

1.

Headline: Buddha makes good. LitCritter Andrew Drilon gets the Sunday Inquirer Magazine treatment. Congratulations, Andrew!

2.

Shirley Lua writes about the place of poetry in a universe beset by violence and terror, and highlights Marjorie Evasco and Mookie Katigbak.

3.

Butch Dalisay gives an excerpt from his Man Asian Literary Prize-nominated Soledad's Sister.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

entry arrow6:43 PM | Two Student Magazines



Dark Blue Southern Seas, the controversial literary folio of The Weekly Sillimanian, which I art-directed and laid out and helped moderate (it was controversial because some holier-than-thou morons in campus created so much noise over the supposed pornographic contents of one short story), won first runner-up in the 1st Lubas Awards held at Candahug Palo, Leyte last October 24 -- part of this year's College Editors Guild of the Philippines 4th Visayas Formation. (There was no second runner-up or grand prize winner, and only DBSS was cited among the many folios vying for the citation.) To Rodrigo and the rest of the LitCritters who midwifed this issue to being, congratulations! I'm proud to have been part of this literary folio.



Palanca-winning essayist Martin Villanueva emailed me the details of the new issue of the award-winning Katipunan Magazine, now available online. The issue features Mina Reyes' investigation of fraternities, their practices, and their relevance in light of controversies about questionable initiation rites which allegedly led to Cris Mendez' death; Zoe Dulay and April Sescon on how art is expanding itself and the language used to express the experience of man; Martin Villanueva and April Sescon on award-winning writer Alvin Yapan, his venture into filmmaking as well as the process and thinking behind the making of his award-winning short film, Rolyo; and Isel Garcia and Glee de Guzman visit the Leng Sian Kiong Temple and look into Buddhism and why even Christians are burning incense before the altar of Buddha. Do check it out.

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entry arrow6:17 PM | Jinggoy for President

The Philippine Star's top story had this as breaking news: "The United Opposition may field the tandem of Sen. Jose 'Jinggoy' Estrada and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in the 2010 presidential elections, dispelling speculations that the opposition is in disarray following former President Joseph Estrada’s acceptance of executive clemency for plunder." I decided a long time ago, when I graduated from college, that I would not be like one of those people who abandoned the homeland for greener pastures abroad. My country needs me, I told myself then. And so I faithfully made a career as a teacher based in the Philippines, faithfully paid my taxes, faithfully voted in every friggin' election, hoping -- like a naive person full of relentless optimism -- that one act of faithful devotion to the country could be a force of good. (I seriously believed all those feel-good television commercials about patriotism, where a single candle shone bright in the surrounding darkness.) But for the first time in my life, I thought to myself: if Jinggoy happens, this damn country and its people has not learned any of the harsh lessons of the past, and I'm getting out of here.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

entry arrow1:39 PM | Blast From the Past

Working, working, working on this computer... And then this song, Celine Dion's saccharine theme to Beauty and the Beast, came on in my random playlist, and I just had to blog about it... How it brought me back. Brought a smile to my face in this grayest of days. Beauty and the Beast. It was 1991, and I was just discovering a strange love for the movies. I was in second year high school. That was the year of my first Oscar telecast -- how rapped I was in the innocence and passion of everything. The future looked distant and promising. Sometimes I want to be that young man again. Sometimes I want it so much I want to cry.

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