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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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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

entry arrow4:02 PM | It's Your Fault

It has got to be said: if you're lining up to buy a ticket to watch Si Enteng, Si Agimat, at Ako, then you're part of the problem, and you don't even know it. Stop whining about the state our country is in -- the execrable pop pieces that masquerade as culture, the bloated egos of actors ruining our politics, the continued dumbing down of a people in the name of escapist entertainment. All of these, it's your fault.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

entry arrow3:39 PM | Boorstin, Check.



I'm finally done reading all of Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers. It took almost seventeen years -- seriously! -- but I'm finished with its finely printed 716 pages. (When I realized I had one more page to go, I screamed like a schoolgirl.) I stumbled onto this book in Krevo's old bookshelf back in college, read a few of its tantalizing pages, and swore to have my own copy. Three years later, I received mine from Amazon. And it has been a pleasurable, albeit long, read since then. I couldn't finish it for a long time simply because it was dense and was filled with so much information, it demanded to be devoured slowly. (And, of course, life happened.) But now I'm done with one major unfinished business in my life, and it feels good.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

entry arrow4:41 PM | Afternoon of Christmas Eve

I waited until the early afternoon to do my noche buena shopping. I couldn't resist the idea of becoming lost in the surge of people, and I was not disappointed. The day was crowded. That didn't faze me. On the contrary. I waited patiently in line with my basket of groceries, reading a few paragraphs of Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers while listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile for Cello Solo and String Orchestra. The music did it for me: set to it, the crowd looked almost cinematic, the hubbub reduced to a kind of slow motion that was amusing. I love how I manage to entertain myself.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

entry arrow7:56 PM | It Has Been Swell Knowing You

“’Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, very gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’” ~ LEWIS CARROLL, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you are reading this on a Sunday morning, hot coffee on hand, the birds chirping outside your window on what is hopefully a gloriously chilly December day, that will mean only one thing: the world never ended, the days go on in an unapocalyptic torpor, and we were wrong about what the Mayans were trying to say with their calendar.

If this is the case, consider me happy: we get to live, and life must always be celebrated. Which does not deny also the tiny fact of disappointment. The hype of 2012 has been with us for much too long, and if only for morbid reasons, a lot of us were quite eager to get a first-row view of universal cataclysm. We thought: it would be extremely painful—we die!—but what a show that would be. (Some of us have Hollywood disaster movies in our brains.)



For personal reasons only I understand, I’ve been more than excited all throughout the year to see December 21st come to light. Perhaps it is the sense of a fictionist imagining a fantasy playing out: the world ending in a bang and a blaze of light, grander and more terrible than any novel can ever describe. It is also the sense of a man coming to selfish terms with the increasing ravages of the middle years: I believe I have lived a fantastic life—I have lived and I have loved fabulously—and for this, I am more than ready to accept an end that has been, in a way, “foreseen.” I like the romance of the inevitable. And lastly, it is the sense of a record-keeper with a bucket list, pegging a certain finish to all things undone, and keeping score as a way to measure life.

In a final note, I must say I remain unsuccessful in that last consideration. More than a year ago, I had sat down one night with a good friend, in Qyosko, and both of us started contemplating the mortal predictions of the Mayans. We were drinking coffee, eating arroz balao, listening to the music of Adele, and trying to determine in uncertain terms the vagaries of life and love, given the business of heartbreaks and all sorts of foolish things.

“Do you really think the world will end in December 21 next year?” Anna Espino asked me—she of the rational debater’s mind.

“It is not that I believe that it will happen,” I slowly replied, balancing out rationality and my romantic need to believe in magic and foolish things. “Nobody can know for sure, and for all we know the world will end any time, any day now, and not necessarily on 21 December 2012. Or perhaps the world will last forever until our sun burns out. But I do like that the tail end of 2012 beckons to me like a deadline. So I will believe in December 21 only in that consideration: as a finish line of sorts by which I can measure out the efforts of my days, my life. The thing is, not all of us know how to live. We dole out a semblance of living and comfort ourselves with the illusion that someday our dreams will come true without exactly doing anything about it. We are tied down by the comforts of our uneventful, unrealized existences. So I might as well use this ‘end of the world’ nonsense to start living the life I want before it’s too late.”

Or something of that sort.

I believe my rhetoric on paper sounds so much grander than the speech I must have stammered out that night in Qyosko. But the spirit of the conversation remains the same. And from what I remember, Anna had nodded her agreement, and off we went to our corners of the table in Qyosko—if round tables had corners—trying to come up with a list of ten “doable” things we must promise to accomplish before 21 December 2012. By “doable” we meant something that could, with some certainty, be accomplished given the context of our lives and our fervent wishes. No items listing down “flying to the moon,” for example, or “marrying Joseph Gordon-Levitt.” The list was meant for fulfillment, an end to the common nightmares of pipe dreams.

I’ve since lost my bucket list—I’m not sure if that itself is a sign—but I remember most of the things I wrote down that night the way our hearts keep the etchings of things it refuses to forget: to learn to drive a car, to publish a book of stories and finish my novel, to spend vacation time in Bukidnon and Batanes, to finally finish my MA, to travel to Europe or Argentina, to go back to Sagada to give thanksgiving to the spirits who carried me at the most crucial time in my life, to build a house, to spend more time with Mother. And this, I remember most: to tell the person that I love that I love him without regrets, hopes, or recrimination.

I have not been entirely successful with many of the things on that list. Travel has eluded me because of responsibilities suddenly thrust on me. Life, as the cliché goes, happened. And I don’t have my own house yet, nor a car—forever deluding myself in the belief that I was born a pedestrian. But I have two books of stories out, and I have an MA diploma. For these, I am indeed grateful. Life has a way of making us thankful for things we have somehow accomplished, barring the noisy reminders of those we have yet to claim. But in the final analysis, I can’t consider the list as a definition for my life: fulfillment has its own language undictated by stupid lists. And I believe I have lived truly, even if I have missed out on some markers of accomplishments.

It will be Christmas soon—and I do hope there will be Christmas. But the last thing on that list winks at me with the perversion of a thing wanting fulfillment.

And so, to you whom I love, by the grace of a world ending, I’ll take this chance to tell you what you must have always known anyway: “I love you.” And that’s it. Just three words, and nothing more—those words contain universes anyway.

That, and merry Christmas and a happy new year, if there will be a new year, to one and all.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

entry arrow2:04 PM | Call for Manuscripts to the 52nd Silliman University National Writers Workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 52nd National Writers Workshop to be held 6—24 May 2013 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village. This Writers Workshop is offering twelve fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.



To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts in English on or before 15 January 2013. All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries).

Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries. Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowship should submit at least a One-Act Play. For plays beyond the one-act length, a scene accompanied by a synopsis of the entire work should be included.

Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 50 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 50 pages, since a submission half that length is more than sufficient as a critical gauge.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 12.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts.

Manuscripts should be accompanied by the official application form, a notarized certification of originality of works, and at least one letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer. All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to Department of English and Literature, attention Prof. Ian Rosales Casocot, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at silliman.cwc@gmail.com or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

DOWNLOAD FILES:

Official Application Form (in PDF)
Certificate of Originality of Works (in PDF)
Call for Submission (in PDF)

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Friday, December 07, 2012

entry arrow12:14 PM | Missives From Pablo

It was late Monday and Signal No. 2 had just been declared over most of southern Negros Oriental, and elsewhere. But what made it scarier than usual was the perfect ordinariness of the day. There was no rain, there was no wind. The sun was up, though—at the time the knowledge of Pablo first came to me like the inevitability of a flying fist—it was about to set, and dreaded Tuesday was suddenly looming around the corner.

And yet we were deep in “disaster prep” mode in Dumaguete, Monday night. I was earnestly thinking of the supplies (candles, batteries...) and the groceries I needed to buy before the storm hit. I was thinking of the relief efforts we needed to coordinate with Rock Ed Dumaguete—if the worst occurred and Sendong happened again. Pablo was supposedly three times more furious than the last storm that ravaged my part of the world.

Monday felt like the dread of knowing there is a bogeyman lurking right behind a dark corner, and yet you nevertheless feel yourself moving forward, knowing full well you are about to face a monster. It all seemed inescapable, inevitable.

By Monday night, the dogs stopped barking. It was so quiet outside, it was almost creepy. But the night air felt unbearably muggy, which was enough to make you doubt whether a storm was indeed coming. Monday night, I found myself in Qyosko, a 24-hour diner, which became a respite of house music and air-conditioning. My skin was feeling the storm coming.

Tuesday afternoon, the storm crept up on Dumaguete—a sudden fury that seemed surprising, even with all our preparations considered. For some reason, this storm was making me think of the typhoon that ravages Palawan in the beginning of Dean Francis Alfar’s novel Salamanca—when not even the fictional storm’s fury could sway the novel’s hero Gaudencio from writing with such obsession for the beautiful Jacinta. And yet, novelistic comparisons aside, I knew there was no romanticizing the rain that preceded the eye of Pablo’s storm.

Ensconced in the relative comfort of The Bean, I waited out the rain. I was in the café to do my social media updates for the typhoon, releasing relevant information in behalf of Rock Ed Dumaguete. For some reason, I also couldn’t bring myself to go my wifi-less home, to the safety of the familiar. (As Warlito quipped to me that Monday: “Home is where the wifi is.”) I felt drawn to downtown, even when one by one the establishments in the stretch along Perdices Street were closing down for the afternoon’s expected onslaught—save for the fastfood chains. Soon, the café where I was in was about to close, too. “We’re closing at 4 PM,” a busgirl intoned. And so those of us inside slowly picked up our things, and made preparations to transfer to nearby McDonald’s Café. In the knowledge of the impending blackout, I hoped there was electricity somewhere else so I could keep up with the updates for Pablo. I wished then that I could just curl up in bed and read a book or watch a movie and romanticize the rain—but not while there were families out there devastated over their houses being pulled apart by the floods. In Twitter, I chastised a good friend for a tasteless Pablo joke. He apologized, and deleted the tweet. The impending storm was doing something to our heads.

“Whoa. The wind is strong. This is crazy. And I’m stuck inside a McDonald’s Café,” I tweeted when the worst finally hit around 5 PM, Tuesday. Outside, the wind howled like madness itself, and you could hear the bangs and scrapings of flying debris. I posted again: “Whoa. The frontage of Ever Mall is coming down like peeled onion skin...” And it was. It looked scary, this building right across the street from McDonald’s looking like it was being shredded by invisible hands.

It seemed like an eternity, being inside McDonald’s while the storm raged. But soon, a few hours later, I was safely back in my apartment. I had texted the family driver in a kind of panic to pick me up from McDonald’s—there were no more tricycles to be had, and I thought myself foolish for not having gone home when I could have.

On the way home, Dumaguete was all of darkness itself. The lights were out. They had closed down Hibbard Avenue because of the fallen trees. Rizal Boulevard was also closed because of the surging waves. The road had become a part of the sea. The glass windows of Bo’s Café had reportedly fallen in, and the trees along that stretch were falling one by one. The streets of the city were littered with flying debris and broken things.

And the wind. I’d never heard the wind howl with such high frequency before. I thought this sound only existed in movies. I thought the sight I’d see on the road only existed in movies: families from the shanties along the shoreline staggering together in the rain towards the Capitol Area, where relief workers were on standby. While we drove, I saw a crying child being carried by his father on his shoulders as sirens of emergency vehicles blazed by. It felt like a scene from War of the Worlds. I thought: “This storm is serious. There is no romanticizing this rain.”

At home, finally, I waited out the rain. There is something strange in the unfolding of a disaster: interspersed in those scary moments are episodes of utter boredom. But the juice of my laptop and my iPod was out, and my phone was running low as well. So this is what I did while waiting out the storm in the middle of a blackout: Fruit Ninja in the iPad, which was also running low. Then, also bored with that, I cleaned the apartment. While the storm raged outside, I thought: “Amazing what one can do fast without the distraction of Facebook and Twitter.”

And then, around 10 PM, a pervasive quiet. I slept. Kuya Moe’s text came around 3 AM, announcing he was walking around Silliman Farm, beholding the devastation. I, too, decided to get up. Outside, after the storm, the stars were out. They shone with such fierce brilliance. And the dark streets were bathed in an eerie moonshine. The outlines of the city at 4:30 AM looked ravaged.



And just like that, soon it was a sun-kissed Wednesday. It was golden. From my sleepless corner of my office in Silliman University, where I began the painful process of charging all my dead gadgets, I thought I liked the way the soft morning light glistened off the fallen green leaves that blanketed everything else. Even in devastation, a terrible kind of beauty.

Later, in the rolling blackouts that followed, I thought I’d check in some hotel for the night as power was still out in Dumaguete. But the rest of the city apparently had the same idea. All hotels in the city were booked. Except the new Essentia, which couldn’t check in anybody because they lacked generators. I thought: “They missed out on a rare goldmine. And all those wasted rooms!” I sighed.

Soon the city was a mob of electricity-hungry population. The endless search for juice for our gadgets felt exceedingly strange. I was back in another cafe, together with everybody else in the city, looking for space among the busy demands for an outlet. In the blackout that Wednesday night, Dumaguete was a dark ocean with scattered bright islands of generator havens of cafes and restaurants. They were all packed, like the hotels everywhere else.
And I thought: What kind of society have we become where our lives simply can’t unfold anymore without our fully-charged gizmos?

Elsewhere, people were dead and dying.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

entry arrow3:43 PM | Thoughts on Worldling

Fantasy stories almost always involve young protagonists being transported from the familiar world and being dropped into an uncanny one, where they ultimately come to terms with their reasons for being. Note the lottery-winning children in the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter in Hogwarts, Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz, the Pevensie children in Narnia, September in Fairyland. With them, the familiar is something to escape from, the wonderland beckoning like a prize -- even when they do get tested eventually by strange circumstances and evil creatures. I find Chihiro Ogino's adventures in the fantastical bath house of the gods in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away a little different, and I like it. Chihiro finds herself literally being dragged into Yubaba's world by her hapless parents who soon turn into pigs. Because a fantasy world is not always some place we dream of entering into. Because dropping into it can be the outcome of a whole set of accidents we wished we never made. Because fantasy worlds should not be an excuse for shallow escapism from the ordinary. If I were to write a fantasy novel, I'd write it in this vein.

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