Friday, May 22, 2009
11:17 AM |
The Literature of All Our Dumaguete Memories
It is a Thursday when I write these lines. And it is almost the end of the world.
Well, maybe not exactly; but I am sure that for fifteen young writers right now—Ynna Abuan, Jonathan Gonzales, Arkaye Keirulf, Petra Magno, Niño Manaog, Keith Bryan Cortez, Ana Margarita Stuart del Rosario, Monique Francisco, Stan Geronimo, Aleck Maramag, Gabriel Millado Bea Nakpil, Joy Rodriguez, Philip Kimpo Jr., and Marck Ronald Rimorin—it might as well be.
In Gabby's Bistro, with the panelists for the first week stretch.
From left: Ian Rosales Casocot, J. Neil Garcia, Gemino Abad, Sarge Lacuesta, and Mookie Katigbak
The fabulous J. Neil Garcia
Philippines Free Press literary editor Sarge Lacuesta
Gemino Abad, Myrna Peña-Reyes, and Krip Yuson
Carla Pacis, Tara FT Sering, and J. Neil Garcia
I speak in hyperbole, of course—but I can imagine all of them feeling something like this: that there is one more day left, and, almost without warning, a summer of stories and essays and poems, and literary duels (with panelists Myrna Peña-Reyes, Gémino Abad, César Ruìz Aquino, Susan Lara, J. Neil Garcia, Sarge Lacuesta, Rosario Cruz Lucero, Ernesto Superal Yee, Juaniyo Arcellana, and guest-writers Krip Yuson, Padmapani Perez, Tara FT Sering, Mookie Katigbak, and Carla Pacis), and forging new literary friendships will be over.
Rosario Cruz-Lucero and the late Ernesto Superal Yee
Susan Lara and Ernesto Superal Yee
Padma Perez in Hayahay
Ian Rosales Casocot, Padma Perez, and Susan Lara in Lab-as
Mookie Katigbak and Tara Sering in El Dorado in Dauin
It’s familiar territory. All of us have felt this gnawing acknowledgment of summer’s end—all of us
who have been writing fellows in Asia’s longest-running creative writing workshop, founded by Edilberto Tiempo and National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo in 1961. And there are hundreds of us, most comprising shining names in contemporary Philippine literature.
Off Antulang Beach Resort
On board the Annabelle Lee
Maoui Stuart del Rosario
Coming to Dumaguete has long been considered a veritable rite of passage for young writers in the country. And yet those of us who have been through the Tiempo tutelage know that it is also more than just that. Because what seems to separate it from other workshops of its kind in the Philippines is the way it commands such fierce loyalty to the memories of one summer. (That feeling, and that memory, will last a lifetime.) So many stories, so many poems, so many essays have tried to explain, over the years, exactly why this is so—and I can very well call this a veritable literature of memory. A memory of a place. A memory of a summer where things started one off with one as a writer with a deeper sense of the literary.
Arkaye Kierulf and Petra Magno
As I write this, I am on my third cup of coffee in Café Noriter—which is Korean for “playground”--and right outside the glass windows of the small café, things do come into a kind of play in a city sweltering in gentility and the humid sun: the traffic of Dumaguete’s tricycles grows by the minute; people of all color come and go in a babble of Korean, English, French, German, Cebuano, and Farsi; and daytime inevitably passes by like a dream.
Soon it will be night. And somewhere near Escaño Beach, the beginning strains of folk music will issue out of Hayahay—it is a Thursday night, after all; on Wednesdays, it will be the sound of bisaya reggae—and here, the poet Mickey Ybañez holds court like a loquacious jester with long hair. In Gabby’s Bistro or in Boston Café or in Jo’s, the diners are gearing up for a meal of chicken adobo or Tuscan pork chop or chicken inato
. In the seaside Boulevard, the night joggers are marking out their territory as one by one, the harsh orange light of the streetlamps and the neon signs of the cafes and restaurants that dot the acacia-shaded stretch flicker into being. Daytime passes.
May-time passes, all too quickly.
And one easily realizes that summer days are incredibly short in Dumaguete—especially if you are a fellow in the National Writers Workshop: what once seemed like a promise of excruciating eternity in the very beginning is soon dispelled by the very real promise of a surprisingly quick end. It used to be a three-week creative writing workshop; but for 2009, in a two-week edition that may not make sense for many alumni, the end becomes even all the more quick.
In Lalimar, La Libertad
Reggae Wednesday in Hayahay
Culmination Night in Lab-as
Anthony Tan and Susan Lara in a scene from a new teleserye
I write of the things above because all these will have become part of the fellows’ collective memory of Dumaguete. It will be the only tangible thing they will share together. (Perhaps they will also share fervent promises: to come back soon, very soon
, to relive it all.) These will be fodder for their conversations to come: what one did in the dark hallways of Harold’s Mansion; what the other did in the bright witchcraft of a sunshine in Siquijor; what one did in the swimming pool of LaLiMar after a deadly bus ride through “Mexico”; what the other did in the cramped dancing space in Hayahay; what one did aboard Annabelle Lee as it cruised the blue waters of Tambobo Bay; and what the other did at the end of a katay
session in Katipunan Hall. And how they all drank, and laughed, and camwhored each other’s precious minutes! Of course, they will also certainly remember how two short weeks taught them how to be better writers, and even more so, as good readers.
As a Dumaguete native, I am privileged to be, through sheer accident of geography, an eternal balik-fellow. And I will always find it interesting to read what others take away from my hometown and its famed workshop. I have been in many editions of the workshop in this decade, and each batch is always different from the others: some are more interesting in peculiar ways; some are wilder; some are surprisingly sedate; and some are simply astounding for the sheer collective power of their talent. The Class of 2009 is one I will certainly be watching out for in the coming months and years
Labels: dumaguete, dumaguete writers workshop, philippine literature, silliman, workshops, writing
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