During his lecture yesterday on the songs of Joni Mitchell for the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center at Silliman University, New York Writers Workshop co-founder Tim Tomlinson played two versions of one of her most iconic compositions, "Both Sides, Now": the precocious original from 1969 and a tonally different cover she made with an orchestra in 2000.
That last version broke my heart: it was a totally different song, with a deeper kind of gravitas -- and I guess it's because the pain in the lyrics has been leavened so thoroughly with the sound of experience. When the last line comes -- "I really don't know life at all" -- it finally becomes devastating because truer. Our art becomes different when we grow older, I guess, and the best of us learn to turn our adult mistakes and misadventures into a kind of poignant confession: we're just winging at life. I don't think she was romanticising her pain. I think she was just being true.
"This is my simple religion," the Dalai Lama once said. "There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." I've had bruises the past few days, so this is going to be difficult. But fine, let's try this tack. The philosophy is kindness.
"There are people who think you're less human because you deviate from the norm. The harshness with which they express their hatred at you is directly proportional to the intensity of their own self-hatred. They see your freedom, your individuality, your creativity, your courage -- and it makes them angry because they lack those qualities in themselves. They feel trapped in a cage of crazy rules that they never bothered to question -- and they're furious that you dared to be free. Be Free. Be Individual. Be Creative. Be Brave. Show them how it's done."
Yesterday was a watershed, but it won't wash away in one go decades and decades of entrenched homophobia. Take a look at the above image, for example, which I got from a religious website. [I don't want to give them the name with which they are linked to the Saviour, because they don't deserve the name. I've cleaned the image up and taken away the meme to reflect this.] The past two days, I have seen some fundamentalist zealots calling me and my kind a tree, a duck, a dog, a horse, a cat, whatever. It only serves to reflect what we are to them: certainly not human beings deserving of dignity or love. That is the very definition of bigotry.
Hitler once began his campaign against the Jews by calling them vermin and cockroaches. The metaphorical link to animals is an old method of dehumanising people, so that you can go on to treat them the way you want to treat them. Be careful of your metaphors, even if you're saying you're just "exaggerating" to make a point.
Okay, this video that YouTube made just made me cry.
This reminds me so much of my own coming out when I was in my 20s. The thing is, straight people don't have to come out and declare they are straight: it's a privilege they have for living in a heteronormative society. They don't know the anxiety, the fear, and ultimately the courage that come bundled with the act of "coming out," which is centred around one question: "When I tell the people I love that I am gay, will they still love me?" Because in the end, it's really all about love.
When I came out to my mother, it was a mini-disaster of sorts -- she was quoting Bible verses again and again over the dinner we were having in Don Atilano. She was hoping I'd "change my mind."
I would know of her acceptance of me only very surreptitiously and only much later, when a visiting relative commented in a disparaging manner on very gay artwork she found hanging in my old bedroom in the family house. I was just outside the door, listening in to their conversation without them knowing I was eavesdropping -- and then I heard my mother, virtually a deaconess of her church, start to defend the art work, and then defend my life, and then defend the way I love. I teared up.
My mother still has no idea I know what she did.
People have no idea how wonderful that feels, to be affirmed by people you love for being who you are.
This is St. Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of Carcar. And Dumaguete. I like the idea that two cities known for writers would have as a patron saint someone who is entirely fictional. She doesn't exist except in the ecstasy of our mugna, literary and otherwise.
A street in Dumagete is named after her. In her essay "The Streets of Dumaguete," the sociologist Lorna Makil writes: "Calle Santa Catalina was named after Dumaguete’s patron saint, St. Catherine of Alexandria, known as the 'Warrior Saint.' We read that she was chosen to be the town’s patron saint due to the great need for protection against the southern slave raiders. Legends about her courage and physical prowess were narrated by the townsfolk who had observed that her image on certain mornings would carry amor seco (a grass weed) clinging to the hem of her dress, and making them believe that the saint had gone out at night to drive away the pirates."
I was gone for four days and in that interim, I would later find that I had developed a termite problem. It wasn’t without precedent. My apartment has seen countless pestilences in the decade that I have been living in it — which attests to either my obstinacy or my laziness to find new digs — but this particular attack, centered on the one thing that remains precious in my life (my books) seemed to take on the specter and the tragedy of the personal. Each ruined volume feels like a shot to the heart, and the arrow tip is poisoned. Like most devastations, what appears outside belied the horror that lurked on the inside. I had taken a quick look at my books in that one particular shelf, the sight of the devastation, and everything had looked good. Nothing seemed out of order. But then I noticed two rounded trails of dirt, perfectly lined and constructed, leading from some small orifice in the tiled floor and going towards where the books were located. And I knew right then and there that something was wrong: I had seen this kind of structure before, and it wasn’t a bearer of good news. When I pulled the books out of that shelf, I discovered the squirming mass of white slivery devils, hundreds of them, bathing in caked mud, spreading all across the bottom parts of the books in that shelf. I pulled the volumes out onto the floor with the fierceness of heartbreak. Most of the books proved salvgaeable — I had intervened in time, so it seemed — but some of them were destined to go the way of the trash can. And that hurt. I am an eternal keeper of books, and the thought of throwing one away the horrors of which was something that seemed beyond my ken. The termites went most radically for the hard-bound books, which suddenly felt flimsy in my hand, their spines wet from the small accumulation of mud, and their insides a tantalising maze of tunnels, all of them signaling devastation. They had good taste, these termites. They avoided the one Robert James Waller I had, but munched with diabolical delight on Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover, Paul Theroux’s Hotel Honolulu, Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes, and Irving Stone's Jack London: Sailor on Horseback. They were about to much on my Rabbit books by John Updike. But the one book that suffered the most was Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, which I bought in a small Indian airport in 2007 when I went to Chennai for a literary conference. It is only the cellulose of these paper materials they were chomping off to oblivion. It was also my memories of where each book had been bought, or taken from, or given in. Some of us count and tell our lives by our bibliophilic tendencies to hoard. Termites are a bibliophile’s Alzheimer’s disease.
1:19 PM |
Old Cat, Pimp With Swag, Brother Among Puppets
Junix Inocian, with Audie Gemora in the bottom photo, during his Repertory Philippines days.
(Photos courtesy of Luna Griño-Inocian)
To be able to be different characters of vastly different lives is the lure for many thespians. Junix Inocian has proven to be in the first rank of those who have heeded and succumbed to this temptation—and the world has the better for it. With his untimely passing this week, the world has also lost a great light in theatre, in film, in television. For many of us, we have also lost a great friend.
I don’t know how I came to know Junix Inocian, only that one day we just did. Perhaps being both Silliman University alumni helped. But I have always been an avid fan of the theatre, and one of my best remembered pleasures in following this particular scene was actually knowing that one of the stalwarts of Miss Saigon, the original cast that dominated London when it opened at Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in 1989, was a Sillimanian. For a child enamored by musicals, that seemed like a beacon: someone from Dumaguete made it all the way to London’s West End. Perhaps one’s wildest dreams are reachable, after all, even with the chasms of geography one has to overcome. Junix was dream personified. He deserved the loftiness of that ideal. Primarily because, he wasn’t just a talented person, he was also an extremely good human being.
Rufino Duran Inocian Jr. starred in various plays such as Miss Saigon, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, and the movie version of the Swedish crime novel Tatuerad Torso. On television, he starred in the series Sinbad which aired over at Sky in the United Kingdom.
But he started his acting career in Silliman where he appeared in a number of plays during the so-called Golden Years of Dumaguete Theatre in the 1970s. His beginnings in theatre was sparked by a curiosity that came over him one day when he happened to pass by the Theatre Department on his way to the Silliman library. The drama group was rehearsing, and mesmerized by what he saw, he stopped to watch as the actors took charge of the mock stage. At the center was the entrancing figure of writer Rowena Tiempo (now Torrevillas), one of the leads of the play being rehearsed that day. He joined the theatre group quickly the very next day, and soon shifted to a major in Theatre Arts.
That soon led to a lead role in a production of Fiddler on the Roof, the first and only musical directed by Prof. Amiel Leonardia, with musical direction by Miriam Palmore. The production was for the Luce Auditorium in 1974, the year it was inaugurated. It was a big production that took 18 weeks of rehearsals and preparation, with a cast that brimmed with talent—Mr. Inocian as Teyve, Evelyn Aldecoa (who would direct the 1995 production of the same play) as Golde, and Ephraim Bejar as the Constable, among others.
Upon obtaining his degree in Theatre Arts, he proceeded to take further studies at the University of Michigan where he obtained a degree in Acting in 1978. He trained with Mary Hutchinson, an acting coach from Syracuse University, New York, and with Paul Palmore, an acting coach from the University of Michigan—both prominent figures in Dumaguete theatre scene.
Subsequent to his studies in the U.S., Junix joined Repertory Philippines where he starred in at least sixty productions. His stage appearances include leading roles in Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey 2, Mass Appeal as Father Tim Farley, Man of La Mancha as Sancho, The Government Inspector as the Mayor, The Pirates of Penzance as Major-General Stanley, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Pseudolus, Fiddler on the Roof (again) as Tevye, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street as Sweeney Todd, and Children of a Lesser God as James Leeds.
On television, Junix also appeared in various shows such as in Batibot, the Filipino version of Sesame Street, where he was the much-beloved Kuya Mario, friend to all kids and to puppets Pong Pagong and Kiko Matsing; Sitak ni Jack, a top-rated sitcom; and the show A Dangerous Life, a six-hour docu-drama series based on the EDSA People Power Revolution. He also starred in movies such as in Silk and Greed.
Junix joined the original cast of the play Miss Saigon where, from 1992 to 1994, he played the lead role of The Engineer, the half-Vietnamese half-French pimp with swaggr and big dreams. Some time after playing the role of Old Deuteronomy in the play Cats, the one who dreams of going to the Heavenly Layer, at the New London Theatre, Junix returned to Miss Saigon.
His son Jon Michael Inocian once wrote of his father in Handulantaw: “Now I am not saying this just because he is my father, but he is the best actor in the world! I know this for a fact because I have shared the stage with him twice: once as a little baby in Fiddler on the Roof, and most recently in Jekyll and Hyde. Growing up I would always hear stories of how much fun it is to work with him and how he would be one of the kings of ‘playtime’ during shows. I have come to realize that my Titos and Titas were not exaggerating! But laughter and fun aside, Dad is definitely a pro. Even with all the years of experiences he’s had onstage, you can see that he loves his craft—rehearsing despite jet lag, running lines with me while waiting for food and giving me little notes for improvement.”
His passing is a shock to many of his friends in theatre, from Lea Salonga to his ex-wofe and manager Luna Griño-Inocian. Legendary Miss Saigon, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserable producer Cameron Macintosh issued this statement on his passing: “The sudden shock of Junix's premature departure from us is not just because we have lost a wonderfully talented actor but also because of his great spirit. He was truly a leading man in being both the leading actor and the father of the company for several of my productions. Ever since I first met Junix in 1988 in Manila there was no doubt that he was special. It is a great credit to his country that he became the first Asian actor to play the role of the Engineer in Miss Saigon and through his considerable talent he carved himself a significant career in the British Theatre as well as in the Philippines. We will all miss him hugely and I consider it a great privilege to have known him . Junix leaves us all with many happy memories it is just so sad that he has gone to the heavy side layer far too soon. God bless you, Junix. With much love, Cameron.”
In behalf of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, its Artistic Director Chris Millado also noted Philippine theatre’s significant loss: “The CCP joins the theater community in mourning the passing of an exceptional stage actor Junix Inocian. Junix’s musical theater prowess brought brilliance and bravado to several productions at the Silliman University, Repertory Philippines, the Cultural Centre of the Philippines and the international stages in West End and Europe. Friends and family fondly remember his easy demeanour on and offstage. We join everyone in celebrating your life and art, Mr. Inocian, and yes, in ‘goodnighting’ to you.”
And goodnighting to you, too, Junix.
Junix Inocian with fellow cast members of The Fantasticks in Silliman University in the 1970s.
(Photo courtesy of Laurie Raymundo)
Junix Inocian as Kuya Mario (upper left) with fellow cast members of Batibot.
I was reading this breathy, baity piece by Melissa Maerz over at Entertainment Weekly, and I got annoyed.
When I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones years ago, I haven't read the books and like Jon Snow, knew nothing. And then I witnessed Jaime push Bran out of that tower window. I stopped watching, swore never to continue. I couldn't let any television show play me like that, and with such deliberate violence. But friends told me, "Noooo, you have to continue watching! He doesn't die! The story's just like that!"
The story's just like that.
Reluctantly, I returned and have not stopped watching since. I endured the Ned Stark beheading and the Red Wedding and all manner of gruesome deaths, many to beloved characters. And I'm not complaining. Because we signed up for this story. And we decided to watch knowing full well this was the nature of the show. We complain when the show departs too much from the books, and we also complain when it stays too faithful. It's a bewildering popular reaction.
I am going to accept Game of Thrones is a bloody ride, and it will break my heart again and again. I signed up for this shit.
8:37 PM |
Dumaguete Fashion Photography, Circa 2010
Fashion photography in Dumaguete, circa 2010. You'd think that five years later, things would evolve to become even better things. But it is, after all, for a place that's next to a bay, a water city: things come and go with the flow of time, nothing really takes root, nothing really evolves beyond the initial gasp of creativity. I wish it weren't so, but it is. Photos courtesy of local fashion designer Josip Tumapa.
“I always write a draft version of the novel in which I try to develop, not the story, not the plot, but the possibilities of the plot. I write without thinking much, trying to overcome all kinds of self-criticism, without stopping, without giving any consideration to the style or structure of the novel, only putting down on paper everything that can be used as raw material, very crude material for later development in the story.”
I was just talking to a friend about this over coffee. I'm of the idea that many of the "arguments" we see in social media reflect less about the real issues purportedly at hand, and more about the fast-changing culture of online butthurt. It is much too easy to blow up something that would have traditionally been relegated to the wayside of discourse, and the means is the Internet. Today, for example, somebody is trying to crucify a Bench ad for being anti-nationalistic, and is trying desperately to make it happen, to make it go viral. (Let's NOT make it happen.)
In this link, the Guardian writes: "[Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt's] treatment also demonstrates the innate cruelty of social media, and in particular the savage power of Twitter, which first revealed the scientist’s transgression."
The thing is, in a time that's drowning in smartphones, easy wifi, and easier social media uploads, we are virtually living in a kind of digital 1984. George Orwell's Big Brother is no longer a warning, it's a reality -- although in a totally surprising form we didn't think or imagine could happen.
The truth is, you have to be really more careful these days. You must think before you quip, think before you make a joke, think before you wear that T-shirt with a print of half-naked women all over it -- especially when you know someone out there has his camera phone trained on you, and is recording everything you say.
What Tim Hunt and others like him said is wrong, of course. But they never really got a chance to defend themselves. The Splash Brothers, for example, are forever immortalised in various memes recording their indelicate bellyflops during the recent SEA Games in Singapore. Did videos of their good dives gain traction as well? Nope.
Twenty years ago, my generation got baptised by this album. Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill (1995) jolted us. Coming in halfway in the 1990s, it may have been our last gasp of jagged musical authenticity before we got consumed by the sugary confections of boy bands, Spice Girls, and Britney Spears. Here's some online coverage of the 20th anniversary, and then some...
The Atlanticgathers three staff writers to discuss the seminal.
Hazlitt Magazine covers Alanis' pressured pop history in Canada that led to Jagged.
In every iteration of the Jurassic Park franchise, they bring in a cast member from the first movie to get the drama going, and to provide a kind of emotional continuity. Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough came back for the first sequel, and Sam Neill came back for the second sequel. For Jurassic World (2015), where Colin Trevorrow takes over helming duties from Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante, nobody came back, except B.D. Wong, playing a pale and underwritten copycat of Wayne Knight's traitorous character in the first movie. That should have been ample warning.
What can I say? I was looking forward to becoming the awed kid I was in 1993, but this new film flat out bored me. The audience I was with seemed bored, too. What was unmistakable was the missing sense of spectacle, and the little thrill that happened -- the raptors racing with Chris Pratt's wrangler -- proved unsatisfyingly short-lived. In 1993, we marvelled at the newness of the CGI that made the rampaging dinosaurs photorealistic. (Jurassic Park, in fact, very much provided the benchmark with which computerised special effects came to dominate box office tentpoles.) Twenty-two years later, with too many movies employing CGI, the old magic has become supersaturated and numbing, we no longer have to pinch ourselves to remember these critters aren't real. Perhaps it is our own familiarity, and perhaps it is also our jadedness, that spell a kind of doom for this franchise. I'm not sure it will disappear, but the new film gives the signal that we can only expect diminishing returns from here on. I remember Mr. Speilberg once declaring that he will never let what happened to Jaws happen to Jurassic Park. Jaws, which redefined the Hollywood blockbuster, had given birth to numerous sequels, all without Spielberg's imprimatur, and each succeeding film became more ludicrous than the last, each one essentially a nail to the franchise's coffin. Alas, the same thing seems to be happening to Jurassic Park, albeit now under Mr. Spielberg's watch.
Maybe that's the very nature of sequels: lighting never strikes twice -- but they still make money, anyway. (Just take a look at Pitch Perfect 2.)
Why did Jurassic World prove boring? I am actually a little bit surprised because I know it didn't have to be. Jurassic Park III, directed by Mr. Dante, worked well enough -- and has com to be a much-underrated continuation of the story. Yet, there was genuine thrill in that film, and I think it failed only because it seemed to have suffered from the public acknowledgment that this was the first movie in the franchise Mr. Spielberg finally agreed to have someone else do the job. (The Lost World, which he had directed, had been an unqualified disaster, and perhaps this accounted for his decision to let go.) But that last sequel worked, anyhow.
So, what failed? Did Jurassic World crib too hard from other Spielberg films (Jaws, in particular) that things felt recycled? It did that with the abandon of a trigger-happy photocopier with the first Jurassic movie. You realise, as the story unfolds, that it is essentially the first movie, but wrought bigger. And like the bigger, hybrid dinosaur at the centre of the new story, it just didn't work. The acting didn't work either: everyone (from Chris Pratt to Bryce Dallas Howard to Vincent D'Onofrio to those two wooden child actors) just telephoned in their performance -- so when they started dying, you just didn't care.
And oh my god, the film even had a villain monologue at the end. Ugh.
How did Ben Stiller become the primary voice of my generation? Because it seems that every time I chance to see a film of his, especially the more cerebral and serious ones, it is as if the film could read through me -- essentially a great, surprising plagiariser of my life, and I suppose the lives of others from my generation.
The reality of that somewhat perplexes me, not that I am not complaining -- but I never saw it coming: Ben Stiller as the quintessential Generation X'er. He is -- or at least the films he makes -- the best embodiment of Douglas Coupland's iteration of a generational idea.
As a film director, he was instrumental in giving that generation the definitive pop expression in Reality Bites in 1994, although better films could arguably be had in Cameron Crowe's Singles (1992), Kevin Smith's Clerks (1992), and Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (1993) and Before Sunrise (1995). Only Linklater seems to rival Stiller in exploring the further unravelling of this generation as it grows older, as we see in Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013).
How so? Years after Reality Bites, Stiller revisits a representative of this generation and discovers its original sense of ennui has been extended -- now middle-aged but still despairing -- in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013).
And now Stiller stars as a stalled documentary filmmaker confronting the reality of passing youth in Noah Baumbach's very funny, and very sad, While We're Young (2014). It is a film about Generation X's dashed dreams, and provides the stark contrast we make with the cool smugness and often charming mercilessness of a much younger generation. (The Millenials?) Employing a structure much like Joseph L. Mankiewicz's seminal All About Eve (1950), where an interloper charms her way into devious success, the film finally becomes very much a depiction of a generational battle. Everyone in it survives with war wounds, except for the young, who have the earnestness of their youth as a kind of armour coated with Teflon.
In the end, Mr. Stiller's character, grown much wiser from the war, can only muse with resigned acceptance the ascendancy of the young antagonist in the movie: "He's not evil, he's just young."
1:06 PM |
Negros Oriental at the Outbreak of the Revolution and Why Fiesta is a Strategy
The Presidential Museum and Library has a good read on the unfurling of the Philippine Revolution in the Visayas, just in time for the 117th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day. (Let's just not settle on the controversial nature of this date for now...) But I find the article's mention of what exactly was happening in Negros Oriental a little too scarce, so here's an excerpt from "Negros Oriental in the Context of the Philippine Revolution"
by Earl Jude Cleope, current Dean of the College of Education here at Silliman University to provide better details...
The banner used by southern Negros revolutionaries in their three-day uprising against the Spanish authorities, which resulted in the establishment of the Cantonal Government of Negros (with the red field up to show solidarity with the other revolutionaries). Image courtesy of Malacanang website.
It must be established that when the Revolution against Spain began in August 1896, Negros Oriental, by then a relatively new province (established 1 January 1890), did not immediately feel the impact of the revolution. The same situation had been observed in other areas of the Visayas and Mindanao which, like this province, did not play a very significant economic or political role in the Spanish government. This situation seems to suggest that the revolution against the Spaniards, notably in its early stage, was late, if not absent, in many parts of the country.
It is possible to speculate a number of reasons why the participation of the province in the revolution came rather late. First, the peculiar geographic condition of the country separated the province from the national capital. Physical distance and the poor state of transportation and communication facilities which connected the disparate islands of the archipelago at that time combined to isolate the province from the events unfolding in other parts of the country.
Second, the leadership profile of the province at that time was composed mostly, if not all, by political leaders who were generally mestizo—a mix breed of Filipino and Spanish or Filipino-Spanish and Chinese. The elite, as they have been called, had vested interests that somehow influenced their actions. As T. Valentino Sitoy contends “…the rest of the Negros elites (sic) were disinterested, if not in fact, hostile to the revolution.”
Third, the inhabitants were widely perceived to be peace-loving people who preferred to stay out of trouble. The common expression “walay tay labot” has been pointed out as the verbal manifestation of such behavior. This view is supported by the comments Negros Oriental Governor Ferrer included in a letter to the Governor General in which he described the inhabitants of this province as “... peaceful in character, that no association whether authorized or secret existed, and that no person who because of their (sic) past conduct deserved to be watched.”
Fourth, there was no revolutionary army in the province. The absence of this army in Negros Oriental is supported by the fact that Pantaleon Villegas, popularly known as “Leon Kilat,” led the revolutionary forces in Cebu, although he himself was a native of Bacong (Sitoy 1990:12). Nevertheless, Caridad Rodriguez in her book Negros Oriental and the Philippine Revolution pointed out that about this time Pedro Baguio of Guihulngan and Diego de la Viña of Vallehermoso were already organizing some revolutionary activities. However, considering the distance of these two towns from Dumaguete and other towns, their activities were indeed an exception.
It is interesting to note that when Manila fell to the Americans in that “infamous” mock battle of Manila on 13 August 1898 the province was peaceful and remained quite even two months after this event took place. It is apparent at this time that both the leaders of this province and the people were closely watching the developments in the national front and carefully calculating their next moves.
Surprisingly, when the revolutionary leaders of this province did decide to join the revolution, they took the cue from Negros Occidental. After the liberation of Bacolod by the forces of General Juan Araneta on the first week of November 1898, Don Diego de la Viña immediately dispatched his son, Jose, to see the General “for instructions on what actions to take in Negros Oriental.” As a result, Diego de la Viña’s was commissioned as General de Brigada, Commandante del Ejercito Filipino, Provincia de Negros Oriental by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who instructed him to “immediately rid Negros Oriental of Spanish forces garrisoned in said province, and hereafter, to organize a Provisional Revolutionary Government.” (Rodriguez1989: 84)
The March for Liberation
A close examination of the events surrounding the march for the liberation of the province could shed light on the fundamental question whether driving the Spaniards away was indeed the core of the revolutionary events in the province. As recorded by historians, the march for the liberation of the province started on 17 November 1898 after Gen. Diego de la Viña informed all the capitanes municipales in the towns of the strategy to converge all forces from the northern and southern towns and join forces to attack the capital town Dumaguete. Contrary to expectations, however, the march to Dumaguete turned out to be no more than a parade. Although imbued with the spirit to fight and the will to defend the province, the revolutionary forces which began their march from Vallehermoso in the north and from Siaton in the south found no opportunities for fighting on the way. As reported by Fr. Juan Lorenzo of Hiligaon and Fr. Lorenzo Cordon of Siaton “there was no fighting nor any losses of lives and property. Neither were there any outages nor retributions.” This is in reference to the southern towns liberated by forces headed by Major Felipe Tayko.
Apparently, at the time of the scheduled march, most of the Spanish civil guards, friars, and officials had already left the towns earlier for fear of their lives. With the declaration of independence by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on 12 June 1898, the Spaniards also saw their situation worsening. When the American reinforcements arrived after the defeat of the Spanish fleet by Commodore George Dewey’s fleet on 1 May 1898, Spanish authorities realized that the Americans were now in control. On 23 November 1898, most of the Spaniards in the province left for Cebu. Gen. Diego de la Viña entered Dumaguete on 24 November 1898, the day after the departure of the Spaniards. As a result, the revolutionary forces entered the capital without the slightest resistance. November 24 was the bisperas of the town fiesta and many people from the neighboring towns and places were in the capital to celebrate the feast of the patron saint of Dumaguete. Indeed the fiesta celebration on 25 November 1898 was a very joyous occasion since, except for a few like Fray Pedro Bengoa who decided to join the rebels and who officiated the mass of the liberated Dumaguete, the Spaniards were no longer around.
As far as the timing for the siege of Dumaguete was concerned, the choice of the date, 24 November 1898 (Rodrigues 1989:93), to enter the capital remains historically controversial. On the one hand, the deliberate avoidance of a military confrontation by the revolutionary forces pointed to a lack of guts or might and tended to becloud the revolutionary spirit. On the other hand, the manipulation was considered a brilliant idea for it averted the needless loss of lives and property. Moreover, from the perspective of Foucault’s concept of negotiations for power, this deliberate avoidance of conflict assured the leaders of the revolution a certain number of advantages, foremost of which was keeping intact the structures of power over which they had vested interests. From the events that took place then, it would be difficult to insist that driving the Spaniards away was the core of the revolutionary events in the province.
After the liberation of the province, the officials were faced with the task of organizing the local government, the most urgent of which was deciding the kind and form of government to establish. This was a tall order for a young province still trying to put its acts together. On the one hand, while Negros Oriental leaders still considered themselves under the Malolos government of President Emilio Aguinaldo, the leaders of the neighboring province of Negros Occidental, who all belonged to the “landed aristocracy” (Rodriguez 1989: 107) created on 27 November 1898 a Cantonal government for the entire island of Negros similar with that of Switzerland. Among others, this system proposed the independence of Negros from the rest of the islands (Rodriguez 1989: 107). As well, this proposal was aimed at winning the support of the United States in the event of a Spanish invasion. Interestingly, although Negros Oriental leaders were not represented when then system was introduced, they followed orders from their counterparts in the Occidental. As Prof. Rodriguez puts it, “there was no question about the loyalty of the Negros Oriental leaders to President Aguinaldo’s government, but at the same time they found themselves following directives from Negros Occidental” (Rodriguez 1989: 107). From the outset, it was readily apparent that some conflicts of interest were bound to arise. This apprehension became a reality when the United States and Spain finally agreed to sign the Treaty of Paris on 10 December 1898 in which the Philippines, without the knowledge of the Filipinos, was ceded to the U.S. in the amount of $20,000,000.
8:00 AM |
You Are Invited to Watch Ampalaya the Musical at the Cultural Center Of The Philippines on July 15!
You are invited to watch a special presentation by the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee at the Cultural Center of the Philippines! The Dumaguete-based cultural institution is bringing to Manila Ampalaya the Musical, based on the popular children's book by Augie Rivera Jr. The musical, with music by legendary guitarist and composer Michael Dadap and with lyrics by Mr. Dadap and Patty Yusah, is directed by Dessa Quesada-Palm, with musical direction by Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez.
This rare Manila engagement by a team of Dumaguete theatrical talents also features choreography by Angelo Sayson, with production design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Carlo Villafuerte-Pagunaling, and technical direction by Loren Rivera.
15 JULY 2015
Matinee at 3:00 PM
Gala at 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo
Cultural Center of the Philippines
Roxas Boulevard, Manila
Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental has long been known as the Cultural Center of Southern Philippines, and for the first time ever, the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, the city’s unofficial cultural arm, brings to Manila audiences an original new musical that will delight and educate, with a performance on 15 July 2015 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which is part of Silliman University’s commitment as the official regional cultural hub of the CCP.
The musical began as a short play, which debuted in 2000 in Boston. The full-length version debuted on 19 September 2014 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. It is presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Dumaguete City Tourism Office, CocoGrande Hotel, Philippine Airlines, Lorenzo Shipping Corporation, Bayview Park Hotel Manila, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact us at (035) 422-4365 or 0917 323 5953. Or email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inuman -- the informal social gathering of men (mostly men, anyway) outside of the house, in the open air, and usually near a very convenient sari-sari store, which is dedicated to occasional camaraderie, spirited conversation, and the imbibing of alcohol (traditionally the tubâ or palm wine) -- is a curious cultural thing. I passed by one last night on the way to dinner, and found myself shaking my head in disapproval, perhaps because it is such a macho tradition among Filipinos, and I admit to having an instinctive disapproval of anything that reeked of machismo.
But then again I can't really be sure about my attitude towards it because the inuman itself is a very rich cultural institution, one that has poetic roots. One of its components, the tagay or the measured drinking offered to each member of the inuman, has been argued by Merlie Alunan to be one of the roots of the Cebuano balak, or poetry. And now, going through the six volumes of Visayan folk songs collected by Priscilla Magdamo in the early 1950s, I've also found that the tagay was a favorite musical muse. So far, I've found four folk songs dedicated to the tagay -- and understandably so. (Because drunken singing is generally a by-product of such things.)
One folk song is titled "Uhaw Tagay," collected and transcribed by Ms. Magdamo from a recording made with folk singers Francisco and Severina Macahis, and it goes like this:
Ay Liding, Liding, Liding Ay Liding, Liding, Liding Uhaw tagay Uhaw tagay.
Kon walay sumsuman, Ihawon ang hinuktan. Uhaw tagay Uhaw tagay.
I'm not sure what the hinuktan (or the something that is tied up) here refers to. (A pig? A chicken?) But whatever it is, it will be delicious. Research is fun!
I'm doing a bit of research right now for a musical revue I'm writing, based on some of these songs, particularly the lullabies. What are in these books is a treasure trove of Visayan folk songs collected by the legendary musicologist and pioneer Priscilla Magdamo, who really should be proclaimed National Artist for Music. (Even Lucresia Kasilag believes so.)
For a long time I was afraid to be who I am because I was taught by my parents there’s something wrong with someone like me. Something offensive. Something you would avoid, maybe even pity. Something that you would never love. My mom -- she’s a fan of St. Thomas Aquinas. She calls pride a sin [and] St. Thomas saw pride as the queen of the seven deadlies. He saw it as the ultimate gateway sin that would turn you quickly into a sinaholic. But hating isn’t a sin on that list. Neither is shame. I was afraid of this [Pride] Parade because I wanted so badly to be a part of it. So today, I’m marching for that part of me that was much too afraid to march. And for all the people who can’t march. The people living lives like I did. Today, I march to remember that I’m not just a me. I’m also a we. We march with pride. So go [expletive] yourself, Aquinas.
~ Trans actor Jamie Clayton as Nomi Marks in Sense8
What a relief to read something like Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma's "The Audacity of Prose" in The Millions, where he states his thesis about a predominant non-minimalist style of non-Western writings in English this way: "Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the part of audacious prose, which occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story -- no matter how affecting -- in inadequate prose."
Because I can be quite the maximalist -- although I admit that when I do write in a minimalist mode, the restraint feels rewarding. (Perhaps because we have been taught so well to strive for it?) And yet when I do, I also get the sense that it is a mode of writing that's not really me, especially when the subject of my writing -- the ornate, oriental gothic lives of people in Sugarlandia -- demands purple prose, albeit one that's carefully constructed.
But as Hallberg pointed out, context, not tradition, is what should decide or generate the style of any work of fiction. Paul West noted in his essay, "In Praise of Purple Prose," written around the heyday of minimalism in 1985, that the "minimalist vogue depends on the premise that only an almost invisible style can be sincere, honest, moving, sensitive and so forth, whereas prose that draws attention to itself by being revved up, ample, intense, incandescent or flamboyant turns its back on something almost holy — the human bond with ordinariness." This rationale, I dare say, misunderstands what art is and what art is meant to do. The essential work of art is to magnify the ordinary, to make that which is banal glorious through artistic exploration. Thus, fiction must be different from reportage; painting from photography. And this difference should be reflected in the language of the work — in its deliberate constructiveness, its measured adornment of thought, and in the arrangement of representative images, so that the fiction about a known world becomes an elevated vision of that world. That is, the language acts to give the "ordinary" the kind of artistic clarity that is the equivalence of special effects in film. While the special effect can be achieved by manipulating various aspects of the novel such as the structure, voice, setting, and others, the language is the most malleable of all of them. All these can hardly be achieved with sparse, strewn-down prose that mimics silence.
To work with Myrna Peña-Reyes is to invite an eye for sharpness and perfection. That was only to be expected.
And so when the esteemed Dumaguete poet approached us at the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center at Silliman University (for which she has served faithfully as Writing Associate) and asked us if we could help her throw together a small launch for newest poetry collection, her third, we had to say yes.
Why? Because she was a legendary poet. Because she embodied, more than most, the formal beauty of Sillimanian poetry. And because she had always been a good friend, not just to us in the Center, but also to countless people in Dumaguete, who considered her sharp opinions and withering regard for incompetence something of a standard to live up to.
We said yes, even when we knew that to work with her was to subject ourselves to careful scrutiny, with every last inch of our efforts more or less subjected to countless queries for updating, and massive detailing that had to resonate with her grand obsessive compulsion.
We said, “Challenge accepted.”
But we also thought: how else to subvert her carefully laid plans, just enough to give her a nice surprise?
She gave us a ready-made program to work with. Very typical of Ma’am Myrna. It already listed down a series of poems from her new book, Memory’s Mercy (University of the Philippines Press, 2015), which were to be read by her poet friends who just happened to be in town as panelists for the third week of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop. This consisted of the formidable bunch of Krip Yuson, Gemino Abad, Susan Lara, Marjorie Evasco, and Ricky de Ungria (who happened to be this year’s Director-in-Residence for the workshop).
She had the musical interludes already chosen—The Beatles’ “When I’m 64” and “There Are Places I Remember,” and John Denver’s “Today,” all three her personal favorites—and she had already made arrangements for these to be sung by the campus top baritone Rigel Suarez, accompanied on the piano by the indomitable Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez.
She had already provided the dots, so to speak. We were there to connect them. To all her directives, we said, “Yes, Ma’am Myrn. Yes, Ma’am Myrn.”
She didn’t account for our secrecy and our deviousness.
All along, we were conspiring how exactly to make the event more than just a book launch. We wanted something to be also a fitting tribute to her. She deserved it. She deserved to know how much she was loved, how much she was admired. And so we set out to make one program which was to her liking, and which she had already given her absolute approval—and this became the program we printed out for all the guests. But we also had another program we kept secret, complete with inserted tributes, all calculated to surprise her—but also to amuse her. That, if we were incapable of making her cry.
“Let’s make her cry,” I told everyone.
But she must have already sensed something was afoot when the day came, and I told her Ron Calumpang was hosting.
“Aren’t you hosting?” she told me, her eyebrows raised.
I merely took her hands, led her to the special chair we reserved for her at the event venue, the U University House in Silliman Campus, and said: “Ma’am Myrn, don’t worry about anything. Just relax and enjoy yourself.”
“Did you get the map I asked you to project for the poem Susan is reading?”
Ooops, I thought. How do I tell her Susan wasn’t reading that poem anymore?
“Just enjoy, Ma’am Myrn,” I merely repeated myself.
She raised her eyebrows once more when Ron began with this welcome: “We have reserved this to honor to one of the most beloved figures in Philippine poetry in English. This year, the University of the Philippines Press has come out with her third collection of poetry—and we are here not just to launch this much-awaited book, but also to give tribute to the writer behind it. It has to be said that Ma’am Myrna has toiled very hard—like the O.C. that she is—to make sure that our program this afternoon would be to her liking, making sure that the flow should be done in a certain way, making sure that some of her favorite songs will be sung. And since this is her afternoon, we have made sure that all her wishes will come true. And then some: because we have little surprises for her along the way, essentially tributes to this writer, and how she is as a mentor, as a writer, and as a friend.”
Creative Writing Center Secretariat Lady Flor Partosa gave the first surprise tribute, and began it with an apology: “I have to apologize, Ma’am Myrnz, if my speaking here appears out of order,” she said, “but rest assured it is all part of the whole grand scheme of things.” And she continued: “At best, I will offer a few words as tribute, and let me start by saying that if there is one word to describe Ma’am Myrna: I will say that she is a giver. She generously gives her words, thoughts, and time to the workshop, the Creative Writing Center, and even to me, when I have something to share to her. Ma’am Myrnz can be very candid and frank but you know that she always does so out of concern and care for your or for the work that you do—be it a workshop activity, a program, another poem or essay. And I would like to add, if only by way of connection to this magnanimous woman, that Ma’am Myrnz and I have been connected decades before when as young college students they would go to my grandparent’s place in Valencia. I remember Ma’am Myrna and I laughing and smiling at her stories of their time in my grandparents’ house, recalling, for instance how my grandmother made the best chicken gravy in town. Ma’am Myrnz, all I can say is thank you for sharing this moment with us, launching your new book of poems in the workshop. Thank you so much for your generosity!”
The poet Marjorie Evasco followed that with a reading of “Off Course,” and word wizard Cesar Ruiz Aquino followed with a reading of “The Making of Tales.”
Virginia Stack, the administrator of the Korean Gandhi School in Valencia town, and a fellow member of the Wednesday Group, gave the second tribute. “The first time I met Ma’am Myrna was when she came to our Wednesday Reading Group,” Tata said. “She was invited by Annabelle Lee-Adriano, and I liked her right away—because of her humility being a prolific poetess. She owns it with a lot of thoughtfulness.” She continued: “I got the privilege of receiving her first two books as a gift for my birthday two years ago. And I love her poems. Many of her poems speak volumes about the human condition, and quietly touch the soul, very deeply. One of the dearest connection that we shared as kindred spirits was our love for our pets. When Simon and I first came here in Dumaguete, we brought our cat, Sebastian, all the way from New York. At that time, the cat was already 19 years old. After a year and a half living here in Dumaguete, Sebastian died of old age. He was very old, very, very old... Ma’am Myrna, among one of our few dear friends, came to the memorial ceremony. After the ceremony for Sebastian, Ma’am Myrna shared her own grief over the death of her beloved dog, where she made a promise to herself that would never again take another pet because of the pain she had to endure. I knew exactly what Ma’am Myrna had gone through.” And then Tata quietly finished by reading “Dog Gone,” Ma’am Myrna’s old poem about the loss of her pet, a puppy dog named Bantay.
The poet and anthologist Gémino H. Abad followed that with a fiery recitation of “Thunderstorm Over Diliman,” and fictionist Susan S. Lara with a reading of “Commuters,” a poem dedicated to the late Ernesto Superal Yee.
The last tribute was given by businesswoman and literary aficionado Annabelle Lee-Adriano who gave a spontaneous speech about her admiration for the poet and friend: “I credit my husband Edo for having introduced me to this ‘institution’ and her equally formidable twin, Lorna Makil,” Annabelle remembered. “She has been my little stress ball, and I hers... She’s been a source of strength, and also so much laughter... To Madam Myrna la Douce, life has been so much sweeter since you’ve been in my life.”
This was followed by the last of the readings, with Alfred A. Yuson reciting “Who Mourns the Death of Ants?” and Ricardo M. de Ungria reading “A Momentry.” And to cap it, J Marie Maxino stood up to introduce a video she had been editing the past three days prior to the event: a compendium of talking heads—friends and colleagues of the poet—giving their testimony about how she had been to them as writer and as friend. The video ended with a raunchy, very spirited reading of “The Blue Girl in Geography Class” by the poet’s niece, the actress Frances Makil Ignacio.
“That’s the missing poem Susan was supposed to read!” Ma’am Myrna exclaimed.
“Now you know why I had to choose something else!” Susan laughed.
After the poet’s response, Department of English and Literature Chairperson Warlito Caturay Jr. gave the surprise closing remarks:
“Annie Dillard once wrote that ‘we need to rescue the beauty of experience from the destructiveness of change,’” Warlito began. “Of course, because of technology, it has become so easy to capture the moment. Do you want to immortalize your love affair with a slice of red velvet cake from your favorite bakeshop? Take a selfie and Instagram it. Do you need to capture the performance of your favorite boy band? Take a video of it and upload it on YouTube. These are instantaneous ways of ‘rescuing the beauty of experience.’”
He continued: “But if there’s one thing Ma’am Myrna has shown us through her body of work, it is that creativity and controlled language could as well preserve the beauty of experience. Perhaps, even more poignantly. Today’s launch of Ma’am Myrna’s book is a joyous occasion. We not only celebrate her work, but also Ma’am Myrna for being Ma’am Myrna, who has always been a staunch supporter of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop and who has always been a loyal Sillimanian—generous of her time, talent, and resources, especially when the Department of English and Literature needs her. In behalf of the Department and the Creative Writing Center, thank you very much for coming and showing your support to one woman we genuinely admire and respect.“
And the poet was happy. “You are all schemers!” she smiled to us in the end. We gave a sigh of huge relief.
I will be in Cebu City on June 20 to take part in the second Cebu LitFest, perhaps the most important literary festival of its kind in the region. The event is a joint venture of Little Boy Productions and the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, and -- according to its press release -- "it’s a full day of all things literary starting from 10 AM, with talks, moderated conversations, workshops, presentations, book launchings, readings and musical performances -- all for free." We need more literary events like this. Read more about it in the Philippine Daily Inquirerhere.
The full-day schedule is as follows:
Lit Matters: A discussion on teaching literature in Philippine schools with Christine Godinez Ortega, Joseph Tan, and Nancy Toledo. Hope Sabanpan-Yu, moderator.
Situation and Setting: A workshop for poetry and prose with Tim Tomlinson, president of New York Writers Workshop.
Writing in Tongue: A panel on Bisaya literature with Merle Alunan, Insoy Ninal, and Bambi Beltran. Kristee Ann Delfin, moderator. Book launch.
Home and Away: A panel discussion with Cebuano poets Larry Ypil, Nikay Paredes, and Jun Dumdum. Tim Tomlinson, moderator. Book launch.
Coming Out: A panel on Philippine LGBT writing with Ian Rosales Casocot, Kristian Cordero, and John Iremil Teodoro. Niel Kintanar, moderator. Book launch.
Anywhere But Here, Any Time But Now: A reading from a work in progress travel book by Jessica Zafra, followed by interview with Jude Bacalso. Book launch.
The City as A Story: Carlos Celdran talks about his Intramuros and Imelda narratives, followed by interview with Isolde Amante.
Mojaresil: Resil Mojares in conversation with Jessica Zafra. Book launch.
Pechakucha x #cebuLitFest with Francis Sollano of Movement for a Livable Cebu, Grace Lopez of USC Film Department, Darwin Dexter Sy of Bomba Press, Boboi Costas of Aloguinsan River Eco-Cultural Tourism, Nancy Cudis of Cebu Book Club, and Mark Deutsch and the Happy Garaje team. Hosted by Maria Gigante.
Folk Fiction x #cebuLitFest featuring Carissa Garcia Codilla, Jude Bacalso, Nikay Paredes, Lawrence Ypil, Ian Rosales Casocot, Michelle Varron, Carlo Villarica, Don Frasco, Darliza C. Dar Juan, Patrick Abing, Marc Abuan, Iris Jakosalem, David Cua, Johnn Mendoza, Mich Padayhag, Noel Villaflor, Ahmed Cuizon, Shane Carreon, Jona Bering, Manu Rodrigo, Myke Obenieta, Jeremiah Bondoc, Edwin Joseph Castaneda and Adonis Durado. Musical performances by Therese Villarante and Nar Cabico.
See you at the Cebu Literary Festival 2015 on Saturday, June 20, Ayala Center Cebu. Use the hashtag #cebuLitFest to join the fun! A full day of everything literary! Talks, moderated conversations, book fair, readings and musical performances all day! Best of all, its free! For more information call (0915) 445-3049.
An excerpt from the story commissioned by the Cebu LitFest 2015...
Manong Rocky was 28 years old when he found himself bound for Cebu City to seek his fortune. He was told this was the reason, and Mother had decided on this for him, and very quickly—Marcos had just fled to Hawaii a few days prior, there was remarkable jubilation in the air, and there were many yellow ribbons being hung from trees and everywhere else along Dumaguete’s streets.
“Do I have to go?” he asked Mother.
“You must,” she said. “This can’t happen again.”
He was quiet.
“There’s nothing here in Dumaguete for a man with an Agriculture degree, ‘noy,” she said.
Manong Rocky nodded.
He lived, for a while, in Visitacion Street, near Jones Avenue, in a compound a certain Mrs. Esperas ruled with the relentless solicitation of a dowager empress: her house, a white clapboard contraption with two floors, was embraced on all sides by smaller apartments she rented out to young professionals—doctors, teachers, lawyers, salesmen—all young men, all without families of their own. Mrs. Esperas saw my brother coming in with a For Rent flyer in his hand, just newly arrived in Cebu with one bulging suitcase, and she quickly sized him up. “There’s a room in the second floor of my house. It’s big enough for you. And lots of sunshine,” she said to my brother. “Is that okay for you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” my brother said.
“Good,” Mrs. Esperas replied, flashing him a quick smile, and went back to her mahjong, her daster with flower prints cascading around her generous body. “Jobie!” she called on the household help, “Show your Kuya Rocky the room upstairs, the one where your Kuya Manuel used to stay.”
“Kuya Manuel is not coming back, ma’am?” Jobie asked.
“Kung mubalik pa ‘to sya, patyon ‘to nako,” Mrs. Esperas said under her breath.
Manong Rocky soon found work as a sales rep for Zuellig Pharma, for which he was given a secondhand blue Ford Laser to drive around, which had the habit of breaking down on the road at the unlikeliest times. His job was booking products assigned to him by his company—mainly Nivea skincare products and Tang TruOrange—and taking orders and receiving collection in a regular routine that became the sum of his life as a young man in the big city. He knew he was not completely happy. The intriga at work got to him, and there were personal grudges from the other sales reps he couldn’t brush away with inattention.
Every day his route was a constant stream of pharmacies and little shops dotting the commercial enclaves of Gaisano Metro, Gaisano South, and Gaisano Main, all of them along Colon Street, in downtown Cebu, where business thrived in an electric pulse. It was near the end of 1986, and much of that pulse was the rugged optimism of a country suddenly freed from a dictator. My brother trudged along, making do with a job he scarcely cared for. For him, this was life in the big city: scores of deadening department stores in crowded downtown, as well as assorted boticas along Gullas, Magallanes, and Manalili Streets. Among them, Majestic Pharmacy was easily his favorite, because they bought a lot of Nivea—and because he liked how the salesgirls there flirted with him.
We would visit often, Mother and I—and when we first came in to visit Manong Rocky, in 1987, we regaled at the fact that my brother had a car, although he was careful not to mention its tendencies of breaking down once too often. The traffic startled my mother.
“This is Cebu, Ma,” he would say, explaining the crawl of cars, tight along city streets.
“Yes, it is,” Mother would reply, slowly, understanding that this was a strange new world, and it was best that she learned to embrace its progress.
I would sit at the backseat of the Ford Laser, all of the twelve-year-old in me in perfect awe of everything about Cebu City that loomed large, bigger than the biggest thing in Dumaguete, everything quite intricate and embracing in their big city intimidations.
“You want to listen to the radio?” my brother asked, swerving with such daring in and out of Colon traffic.
“As long as it’s not all talk shows,” Mother said. “I’ve had enough of radio mouths blabbing all day long.”
Manong Rocky made a ceremony of turning on his car radio—a car radio!—and then flicking through the dial to get to some FM station, and soon I’d hear the static easing out into melody. An unfamiliar song washed over me.
I … I was a game he would play He brought the clouds to my day… Then like a ray of light, You came my way one night. Just one look and I knew…
The song somehow reminded me of Stephanie, but I don’t tell Manong Rocky that. Invariably, it proved a serenade of lasting recall for me—and years later, all grown up to the worldly ways of adult life, I’d realize it is with this song I’d attach a perfect soundtrack to the sheer awe of being a little boy, recessed deep in the comfortable darkness of the interiors of my brother’s car, humming along to a catchy melody with a full view of passing neon signs and bright lights and city streets teeming with a sophistication I found alluring and frightening. It would become a song I’d always associate Cebu City with—and haunting me still, because in the many years to come, I’d find myself in the metropolis in some taxi bound for Ayala Center or elsewhere, and the taxi driver would turn on the car radio, and out would always come “You Got It All” by The Jets.
You would make everything clear, Make all the clouds disappear. Put all your fears to rest, Who do I love the best? Don’t you know, don’t you know… You got it all over him, You got me over him. Honey it’s true, There’s just you. You must have been heaven sent, Hearing me call you went Out on a limb. And you’re all that he’s not, Just look what I got. ‘Cause you got it all Over him…
When would I get over him? I thought, the movies flickering in my mind.
I’d soon find that Manong Rocky’s haunt after each work day was Ding Hao along Colon St., at the back of Manalili, where he bought pork steamed rice, siomai, and lumpia for our dinner. Ding Hao would become the place I’d ask to go to in future visits—its dim sum an immediate bridge to memory.
Sometimes, when he was feeling adventurous, Manong Rocky would take us to Sunburst Chicken near Mango Avenue, in an area people were beginning to call “uptown,” and here we would have our fill of fried chicken—which was quite a delicacy then, in the late 1980s, when fried chicken was perfectly only for those with upper middle class pretensions.
In other visits, I’d insist on spending a day in the air-conditioned comforts of Robinson’s near Jones, right across the park where people went roller-blading. And he’d insist on taking me to the highest point of the city, at night, where we could see the sprawl of the metropolis twinkling like a million promises.
“This is it,” he’d say.
“It’s not like Dumaguete at all,” I’d reply.
“Not at all.”
“’Nong, do you think you’d ever want to come back home again?”
He looked out into the beckoning meshes of light down below, and never answered my question.
I’d find out in later years that Manong Rocky had a very simple idea for a nightlife in Cebu, what a young man could find in 1987: Boulevard Resto was where he would go, again uptown, because it had a regular band playing. And sometimes, for variety, he would go to Food Street right across Boulevard Resto. The bars in these two places were the placed you’d go to be seen, he said. Of course, there was also Robinson’s and Rosita’s around the same area—but that was where you went for upscale shopping and for groceries, away from the grimy masses of Colon.
On each payday, he sent home to Mother half of what he made, promising more when he could.
And on weekends, he said, he would go to Lapu-Lapu for some beach time—where he’d remember Dumaguete like a slowly vanishing thought, and sometimes he wished he was back home again, with Efeb, with Mother, with Father and his crazy politics, in that strange little apartment in Tubod.
And sometimes, he didn’t know what else to wish for.