This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.
Cupful of Anger,
Bottle Full of Smoke:
The Stories of
Jose V. Montebon Jr.
Silliman Writers Series, 2017
First Sight of Snow
and Other Stories
Encounters Chapbook Series
Et Al Books, 2014
Celebration: An Anthology to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop
Sands and Coral, 2011-2013
Silliman University, 2013
Handulantaw: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture and the Arts in Silliman
Tao Foundation and Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, 2013
Inday Goes About Her Day
Locsin Books, 2012
Beautiful Accidents: Stories
University of the Philippines Press, 2011
Old Movies and Other Stories
National Commission for Culture
and the Arts, 2006
FutureShock Prose: An Anthology of Young Writers and New Literatures
Sands and Coral, 2003
Nominated for Best Anthology
2004 National Book Awards
Where am I ?
Elan Frenkel began his first letter to him. Mateo looked at the handwriting, small and hurried and imprecise in its scrawl, which threatened to go over the edges of the blue stationery like a defiance of boundaries.
This is the simplest, most difficult question possible. Easily, I’m in Hong Kong. That’s geography. I haven’t written for a while—I felt incompetent to do so. I’m studying Judaism here, not nearly as often as I should have—but it is a must, if I want to stay here, for free, in this Jewish man’s far-flung hostel. I cannot believe any wandering Jew can get free food and shelter here, for just a bit of spirituality. I can do spirituality if I have to; a backpacker on a shoestring sometimes cannot have a choice. It was either prayers, or cleaning dishes in some Chinaman’s kitchen. And what will that get me? A fleabag tourist trap in the middle of nowhere, with rotten food. Better prayers and meditation instead of soap suds. It has been a long time since I prayed, not since I was a kid in Tel Aviv. During the Gulf War, Saddam’s bomb blew my friend’s face wide open, and for a while, I didn’t know if there really was a God. Judaism is a way of life, I suppose, and I’m so distracted by this world which perpetually feels to be on the fringe of my fingers, never actually touching, writing strokes in the air with a falling feather.
The Philippines seems like the best I’ve had so far. I should return, yet I’m still on my way to China, stalled. I could just go, by myself, across the border, but being a vagabond no longer appeals to me. I haven’t managed to settle the inner turmoil yet. Perhaps I can make you understand now that I was more than rambling when we had those nights in Dumaguete, drinking in the stars with cheap beer. Which reminds me, I left my Lonely Planet guidebook in your place; it is brown with use, but I thought you might want it. I could no longer carry it around; I began to see the world much too simply as neat categorizations of ‘places to go, places to stay.’ It was too easy; sometimes, the point of traveling is in getting lost. Maybe things are changing, possibly I can recognize that in hindsight. And I appreciate you writing, though it seems to me behind those sometimes extravagant vocabulary, something altogether simpler lies.
I’m ridiculously lonely at times, much more with this state of separation from the world. I am tempted to say that life does no good. Which is just so common: nebbish talk. I talk, eat, shit, wake up in the morning, and as part of the course, pray to God, thanking him for the miracle of my resurrection daily from the dead. Yet I feel no miracle, no God; my words disperse in a space of four walls. Nevertheless the quest goes on, I’m planning to buy a handicam and shoot the upcoming seminary here in a couple weeks, also a salad of Israeli backpackers, orthodox and cabalistic Jews swarming the earth. It was Passover a few days ago—3,300 years since the exodus from Egypt. I have only a lifetime, and by mistake I want it now. The quest is life.
This came two weeks after Elan had left Dumaguete. Had left him, and Mateo had not really expected to hear from Elan all too soon after leaving, and so the letter—which looked like it had gone on a long and difficult journey, its edges tattered and crumpled—came as a complete surprise. Or at least he pretended it was: there was comfort in the denial of anticipation. Two weeks, he thought, and there was still enough of April yet to reconsider and be appropriately nostalgic of the madness of those very short three days near the end of last March.
He never wrote back. Not yet. Mateo didn’t know what to write Elan about. Certainly nothing about quests or unused guidebooks or the difficulties of being on the road to somewhere else and not here. But he kept reading it, and reading it—the letter itself folded snugly in the pages of his journal, where he kept it to remind him of certain beautiful things.