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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

Interested in What I Create?


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

entry arrow12:06 PM | I Can't Quit You*

I'm watching Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain on DVD.

I'm still at a loss for words... I, umm, I.... I'll post something later.

*The original goes, "I wish I knew how to quit you." I just wanted to make it sound more emphatic.

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[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

entry arrow12:01 AM | How We Grow

Most writers -- including me -- have a peculiar disdain for their early works. The common reaction by any writer upon reading an old story or poem can include a fair amount of retching (real or acted out), coupled with smile or two of embarrassed amusement.

Last summer, for example, while cleaning out an old closet, I came across several stories I wrote for The Junior Sillimanian, my high school paper. When I was a sophomore, I had written a short story titled "My Short(age of a) Story," about a male high school feature-writer (ngek) who, to survive the fast approaching deadline of his school paper, desperately embarks on collaborating on a short story with a female classmate, which soon proves to be a recipe for disaster and high jinks. (Upon publication, however, the story proved so popular, I wrote a sequel -- "My Second Short(age of a) Story".) Reading it fourteen years later, I thought the story was cute -- but an embarrassment, nonetheless.

Which is as well. Who was it who said that the true mark of maturity in one's work is when we move on from falling in love too much with our old work?

Which brings me to my UBOD collection, Old Movies and Other Stories (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2005). Palanca-winning dramatist Alfonso Dacanay has given it a very good review in Philippine Graphic a few weeks ago -- I think the first review done on an UBOD book -- and I thought that many of his critical points were right on the mark.

It brought me to an interesting place in this so-called writing career: how do you deal with a book you know you've already moved on from? I remember poet-fictionist Gabby Lee texting me worrying about the same thing on the eve of the UBOD publication, three years after we (and 38 others) won the publication grant after a nationwide search for new authors. She said she had, "old, cringe-inducing poems" in her volume.

"In mine, too!" I said.

I've always thought that given the chance to layout that first collection of stories, "Pete Sampras's Neck" should go first, "Private Journeys" next, and "Old Movies" last. That should show the evolution of my so-called writing maturity.

I wrote the first two stories when I was in college, when I was still sentimental fool and busy with smarting over losing my first love. (In that sense, anyone can read "Pete Sampras" as shameless autobiography.) The "Pete Sampras" in the book retains the juvenile nature of whatever writing capabilities I had then. (Its predecessor -- something called "My Name's Not Oscar Wilde" but retitled "Secrets" by editor Paolo Manalo -- was the first story I sold to the Philippines Free Press, but you can also imagine how embarrassed I am now of that one as well.)

Both "Pete Sampras" and "Oscar Wilde," together with two short shorts "Prom Date" (now titled "How Sarah Broke Up With Me") and "Road Trip" (an explicit gay romp between brothers going at each other on a family road trip), were my entries to the Dumaguete workshop in 2000. You can imagine how Mom Edith Tiempo took to those very gay stories.

Going to Japan in 1997 provided a new twist in that journey to maturity. In a sense, it made me break out of the Dumaguete box that was stifling me. During that Japanese sojourn, I wrote two juvenile pieces on the vagaries of love -- "The Painted Lady" (set to be published this February by Story Philippines) and "The Players" (published only last year by the Philippines Free Press, and was a finalist for the FP 2005 Literary Prize). I remember frequenting an abandoned Japanese taizanso (an old tea house and Zen garden) in the early morning, and just writing and writing on a blue notebook. They took my thoughts away from homesickness, and I considered them to be the final exorcism of an intense love affair that consumed most of my early twenties.

I considered these two pieces as hardier fiction than the trifle I produced in "Pete Sampras" and "Oscar Wilde." But I never published them because they were too raw, I thought. It took me a long time to gain the courage to submit the two for publication... Perhaps I found them too dramatic, but then I also knew their narrative style fitted what was me then and what was my style at that time. Of course, I have unleashed them to the world now -- after a lot of drastic editing. (I must mention that Vannie de Sequera does a fantastic job of stripping "The Painted Lady" to its essentials. I can't wait to see its final form later this month.)

"Private Journeys" for me is the culminating story of that Japanese period, but this was written much, much later, in 2001, right before I started work on "Old Movies," and directly after the Dumaguete workshop (I suffered a yearlong writer's block right after the workshop -- to be broken by Lakambini Sitoy who told me to "just snap out of it". I did. Come to think of it, Bing always figures as my savior whenever I find myself in a writing bind....). I still like this story because it somehow compresses everything that concerned me after I returned to the Philippines. I like the story very much, although I also know I can do better. The truncated ending of that story is so because "Private Journeys" was supposed to be the start of (a now abandoned) novel. But I still like it.

In 2002, I grew up, finally. "Old Movies" -- as I like to think of it -- is the start of the next period of my writing, a phase that is certainly more mature. This phase includes "The Hero of the Snore Tango," and a story I have not yet shown anybody, but am thinking of submitting it to Paolo soon. In "Old Movies," I wanted to get away from the verbose narrative style I found to be extremely clunky in most of my early fiction. I channeled both the minimalism of Migs Villanueva ("We Won't Cry Over This") and Isolde Amante ("Dance") for that one, and came out with a drama about a mother and her son, and the only way means with which they could communicate: old movies. Even then, it still has traces of an old, old story I have long ago burned -- "The Halved Oedipus" -- which was my first rejection from Sands and Coral. (It was about incest. Ngek.) So, yes, for all those who keep asking me this question since, well, forever: Travis is Lolong's son. Corny, no?

For "The Hero of the Snore Tango," I channeled Charlson Ong's wonderful "The Execution" but I also found myself returning, not surprisingly, to my earlier verbose tendency. (Ngek.) Still, this is my favorite story so far, because I wrote it as a paean to my father. He died long before I decided I wanted to get to know him better; I thought this was the only way to do just that. It started as an essay for All Soul's Day (titled "Dancing on My Father's Grave"), and ended up a story. Who knows how things like these go....

But the fact that I won the Palanca for these two stories should tell me that perhaps I did reach that certain level of maturity I wanted.

Or did I?

I have a love-hate stance with my early stories. I am embarassed by them, but I know they were necessary stepping-stones. Confronted some time ago with this ambiguity, I decided to confide the same to Timothy Montes and Lito Zulueta. They each told me that "juvenile" stories have a place in everybody's fiction, and that they do deserve to see the light of day. The UBOD book -- three years late -- is very much a collection of those early stories. They, for lack of a better word, "suck" to me now, but I love them still, just because.

(The same reason goes for why I keep putting off my second -- and longer -- collection despite its acceptance by UST Press. The editing is done, I have my blurbs, and layout na lang ang kulang. But I am seriously rethinking the collection now. I just cannot see myself, at least now, releasing all these these stories to the world.)

Since then, the stories that came after "Old Movies" and "Snore Tango" -- including "Yeah, Baby, Take It All In, Bitch" (retitled and revised as "Commodity" for the more sensitive reader), "The Pepe Report," "Cruising," "Rosario and the Stories," "The Different Rabbit," "A Tragedy of Chickens" -- are experiments with various fictional forms (science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, children's literature, postmodernism, etc.). I don't know why I am doing this. Perhaps I am trying to find another voice, because I certainly don't want to be known anymore as another queer writer. (Another box to get away from!)

Now, I'm writing in a historical vein -- in stories I am still editing and have yet to publish, including "A Strange Map of the World", "The Death and Life of Tigulang", "Isla del Fuego", "Lola Beatrice", and "Pedazo de Verguenza," plus the usual Ian Rosales Casocot fiction (Paolo's term) in "The Beauty of Men", "Substance", "The Ghost in the Garden", and "The Palace of Memory." And while historical fiction is very difficult to write, I find myself totally enjoying the process.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Monday, January 30, 2006

entry arrow9:56 AM | The Rabbit in the Year of the Dog

How do you say it? Kung Hei Fat Choy!

From Starweek's JVM Francisco:

To the Chinese, the Rabbit symbolizes graciousness, good manners, sound counsel, kindness, and sensitivity to beauty. [But of course. - me] The Rabbit is a witty and intelligent speaker and loves being involved in a good discussion. [Ehem.] He is an efficient worker and has an extremely good memory.

Rejoice! Your year has come, a year for significant progress at home, at work and in your social life. This is a year when you will see your old problems being straightened out. On career matters, it is a year for growth. Although your progress could be hampered by some superiors and associates, you will prevail in the end and promotion will be likely. This is not the year, however, for timid bunnies. Grab opportunities as they come. Financially, you will experience good fortune with well-managed finances. A bonus, gift or unexpected income will surprise and delight you.

Your social life will be busy and you'll often find yourself the center of attention. At home, you will delight in many family celebrations. There will be travel opportunities that you should not pass up. For single Rabbits, this is a good year for marriage.

Bring it on.


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Saturday, January 28, 2006

entry arrow4:29 AM | Beyond Tutus

That all ballets are silly is a common pedestrian perception, cultivated perhaps because we are increasingly a nation that would rather thrive on a mass culture of asinine telenovelas ... and largely nothing else. Oh, wait, maybe Pinoy Big Brother as well. These very well define the shallow bottoms of our cultural preferences.

Case in point: the reported legions that descended on a recent local film shoot (here in Dumaguete) involving Pinoy Big Brother housemate Sam Milby would easily dwarf the audiences that lined up to watch prima ballerina Lisa Macuja dance on the Luce Auditorium stage over the weekend. The lowbrow, of course, always wins.

Not that I am complaining. I have swayed and rocked without shame to the highly danceable "Pinoy Ako" theme, courtesy of Oranges and Lemons. I have declared Tina Paner's "Tamis ng Unang Halik" as my current favorite old song, and have downloaded -- through Limewire -- those classic Sharon Cuneta favorites, "Mr. DJ" and "High School Life." I once asked one of my graduate students to do a paper utilizing a Marxist criticism of Meteor Garden in its heyday. I read komiks like there's no tomorrow, and I regularly pronounce in my Philippine literature classes that the savior of Philippine publishing may very well be the Tagalog romance novels that are heaped on our newsstands everywhere. I can proudly lowbrow anybody without raising as much as an eyebrow -- but I also draw the line when an ignorant buffoon makes fun of highbrow tastes as well.

Call me a cultural schizophrenic then -- but in my mind, Jessa Zaragoza easily goes hand in hand with Montserrat Caballe, and The Simpsons take equal space with my devotion to Edward Hopper. I can defend to death the playful doublespeak of Lito Camo the way I can pompously claim Barber's Adagio for Strings as a masterpiece compared to the sentimental trifle of Pachelbel's Canon. The late Susan Sontag after all first showed us the way when she proclaimed she could better appreciate the music of Patti Smith because she had read Nietzsche. Pretentious? I'd rather say "culturally all-encompassing."

The week that came before last Friday -- the day Ballet Manila was scheduled to unveil its Carmen to Dumaguete audiences -- was spent defending my choice about going to see the ballet for this first weekend night. Some understandably could not watch it due to financial restrictions, given the poverty-stricken air we call the Philippines. The ballet, for most, was simply not a practical part of the budget -- an excuse I never myself give. But at P2,500 for the prime seats, this was one cultural show for those with deep pockets only (and although mine was shallow as usual, I am most fortunate to have the charity of older brothers). Some, however, chose not to watch, categorically giving the reason that all of ballet was, well, "sissy." What is up with all that jumping? the uninitiated always asks, those froufrou tutus, and those tight tights that barely conceal the endowments of masculine bulges?

Wrong focus. Some ballets are downright silly, of course, especially those dreamed up by that local dance studio whose recitals are dressed up as full-fledged dance shows with excruciating repertoire comparable to the screeching sound of nails being scratched on blackboards. If this is how Dumaguete has learned to see ballet over the years, we fervently need a passionate reawakening.

This is what exactly happens in Carmen and Other Ballets. Here, Ballet Manila -- brought to Dumaguete by the untiring efforts of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee -- offers some of its prize repertoire: dances that have helped set the mark for the company that is now being touted internationally as "the ballet company of the new millennium."

Forget the minimalist set, or the horrifying threadbare dirtiness of the Luce's stage curtains (unwashed since the 1970s) that virtually mar the otherwise fine show. The dance is what should matter.

The two-part program is a virtual Ballet 101 for those who only know ballet as a dance composed basically of tutus, tights, and turns. George Bizet's Carmen, done up in the choreography of Eric V. Cruz, closes the program, and this is where we see Lisa Macuja taking the role of the famous seductress. We have seen her before on the Luce stage, much younger of course. Now, she embodies what may be called the premium of classic wine -- full of body, full of spirit; there is a worldliness, a graceful weariness to her that I have not seen before, but that may be due to the role. Carmen, after all, is the story of a girl who takes one man -- the bullfighter Escamillo -- to her heart, right after seducing another, the hapless Don Jose, whose broken heart and killing passions bring the ballet to its tragic end. I loved that death scene in the end. Even the spotlight gives ample drama: it singularly focuses on Don Jose's anguish, then extinguishes its light at the sight of his suddenly outstretched hand. This is theater we all know classical ballets are made of. It did not disappoint.

But while the second part of the program affirms our longtime perception of ballet as the classical dance form, the first part gives us a contemporary rhythm that subverts the commonplace opinion of what ballet can give us. True, the steps are what they have always been, since ballet is really a narrative dependent on certain choice movements that serve as a grammar for the grand emotional gestures and twists of plots: one always gets, of course, the arabesque, chasse, emboite, jete, passe, pas de chat, pirouette, plie, port de bras, releve, saute, tendu... but all transformed to give us something new.

In Arnis, for example, Ric Culalic's energetic, testosterone-amped choreography pays tribute the movements of the ancient Filipino martial art of wielding bamboo sticks. Set to the haunting percussion and earthy primal rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors, the dance -- of eleven men kerchiefed in red and prancing in both grace and threatening fight stances armed with bamboo sticks -- sets the tone for the evening, and readily tells us, "This is not the ballet of your grandmother." There is a muscular rawness to the dance that is both hypnotic, even sexy -- even when some of the young male dancers failed to come through with that element of danger that should have informed their very movements. Still, it was a wonderful shock to the system.

The masculine burst of the opening dance segues easily to Tony Fabella's Dalagang Pilipina, with music and arrangement by Jose G. Santos and Louie Ocampo. Here, as opposed to the previous number, the tone is decidedly female: it is after all based on a fashion show -- complete with the gowns of fashion guru Auggie Cordero -- with lithe ramp models traipsing in glamour and sophistication, essaying a tribute to the contemporary Filipina. It is a romp through beauty pageant territory, which gives the ballet a campy twist.

That fashionista vein is the direct antithesis of the next ballet in the program -- Arachnida, Agnes Locsin's difficult ballet that aims to recreate what the company describes as "the strength, mystery, and sensuality of two mating spiders." As danced by Sandra Lynn Huang and Jerome Espejo, this is ballet at perhaps its most inventive, with the music of Les Holcomb and Matthew Fargher giving it a creepy resonance that nevertheless remains alluringly sexual. Is there grace, after all, in the creature of eight legs? The answer is surprisingly in the positive -- although we do get a dance that is steeped in a kind of darkness, in a kind of gracefulness that is nuanced by arachnid jerkiness.

I was much less impressed with Agnes Locsin's Filipiniana take in Sayaw sa Pamlang, which puts together different rituals and dances from our ethnic heritage: the pangalay (a dance of hands), the sagayan (a dance to drive away evil spirits), the kzudaratan (a dance to show a manner of walking), and the kuntao (a dance of martial arts). Perhaps because it looked like an abortive singkil; perhaps because it seemed to intrude too much into Bayanihan territory, although this time essayed through the prism of ballet. But it was competent enough, that much I can say.

The four dances -- contemporized and Filipinized -- show us the rich possibilities of ballet that sadly escape the simpleminded prejudice of many. Which is sad because, given this ballet or the sight of Sam Milby any day, I'd rather look up straight into anyone's eyes and say: "Sam Milby? Sam Milby who?" But that's just me. Now let me get back to singing "Mr. DJ."


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Friday, January 27, 2006

entry arrow1:26 AM | Tonight, It's Tights and Tutus

Can't wait to catch Lisa Macuja and Ballet Manila later tonight at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, performing Carmen and a host of other ballets. (The repertoire includes Amis, Dalagang Pilipina, Arachnida, and Sayaw de Pamlang.) I have my ticket, and my date (Mark, of course).

Haven't done this culture thing in a while. Need a shot straight into my arm, ehehehe. Okay, so I'm burgis. (So are you.) Deal with it.


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entry arrow12:31 AM | Waiting for Coffee in Cafe Antonio

[with reworkings of old posts]

I don't know what it is exactly about perfectly brewed coffee that excites me even more than sex (or chocolate) can. Honestly. It would take another caffeine freak like me to understand, for example, the sheer sense of emergency when, early this week, I had run out of coffee beans and only remembered to go grocery shopping late Tuesday afternoon. Somebody who meant well earnestly suggested the quick fix of instant coffee. It would also take another caffeine freak -- but somebody decidedly more sophisticated -- to understand the double-take, the shock registering on my face upon the light of the suggestion. Instant coffee? Uh. Is the sky green? Do I like to eat mud?

In Lee Cimbali that Tuesday afternoon, I took time to make my purchase. Coffee, after all, is serious business. The wrong kind can alter my sanity -- the way the wrong beer can probably tick off the late Nick Joaquin. Eventually, like a man choosing a lover, I chose to buy 250 grams each of French Roast and Arabica -- and I am sure now that I've made the right choice: the evidence lies in the coffee aroma, that wafting seductress, that embraces me right now as I write this essay. Arabica, I am convinced, comes closest to the scent of heaven. It has a grounded sense to it, a wildness that hints of adventure, of heat, of caffeinated tangos in your head.

Yet I must confess that I have forgotten, for some time now, how real coffee smelled, or tasted like. For the past few months, I had subsisted on Folger's Classic Roast, American-made of course, which should have told me something. My brother, you see, had given me a huge 1.47 kilogram-pack of Folger's coffee, which took me forever to consume, and which basically altered my coffee habit and sense of taste for quite a while. Folgers was decidedly bland, but I didn't know that until now, now that I am smelling Arabica, and it comes as a shock to me that brewed coffee's aroma basically can still punch me to higher degrees of excitement.

To brew coffee is to make magic in a mug. Forget the tiresome general perception of coffee's side effects -- that it makes hysterics of us all, that it contributes nothing less to unfortunate tachycardia and worse, nerves. Recent news from medical science, however, has shown us the health benefits of coffee. For me, it goes beyond the mere medical. I know for sure that there is no other elixir easily purchasable that guarantees a good day and a mind alert to every beautiful possibilities. If this addiction, it will be my only sweet vice.

I remember this news from CNN a few weeks ago that contended that coffee makes people smarter. But of course. Civilization, without any doubt, has been refined through the long years of history with a cup of coffee at hand. I can very well imagine the members of the creative class -- artists, writers, editors, inventors, scientists, engineers, visionaries -- pushing the limits of human possibilities and imagination while clustered around a cafe table, with an espresso machine not too far away to sate the demands of hungry intellects. One specific set of influential people in arts and culture that has made history is the so-called Algonquin Group who chatted, debated, and worked out strange and new ideas with each other -- ideas that still matter to us today. I can easily imagine Albert Einstein sitting in a cafe dreaming ways bending the physics of time, space, and E=mc2. I can easily imagine James Joyce sipping espresso, and dreaming literary perversions into Ulysses. All technological hubs in the world -- be it Dublin or Seattle or Silicon Valley -- simply cannot do without its cafes, the way all university towns -- be it Boston or Princeton or San Francisco -- cannot be complete without their local cappuccino dispensers. All cradles of knowledge have coffee shops in every corner.

Which is why it is strange to consider that for the longest time, Dumaguete -- the so-called premier University Town in the Philippines -- had no real cafe to call its own. True, there is Lee Cimbali -- but its location in the belly of grocery haven does not easily lend itself to an air of sophistication, or intelligent conversion. You simply cannot discuss Barthes or Derrida when, in the next table, a snotty little boy cries out to his yaya for his ice cream, or a mother becomes increasingly harried with the mountains of shopping bags gathering around her. There was, of course, and for the briefest of days, the wonderful Silliman Avenue Cafe whose demise we all mourn, and whose crepes and coffee we all remember with relish. There are days when, getting together with Arlene Delloso-Uypitching (who co-owned SACs -- as we fondly called it -- together with Stella Solon-Du and the wonderful former Dumaguete first lady Tintin Remollo), I'd prod her to rethink opening another version of SACs. Wasn't it there, after all, where we spent away so many beautiful afternoons (and mornings) drinking coffee after coffee, and eating more crepes and barbecues after previous orders of crepes and barbecues? SACs was such a haven, it even had a celebrity clientele. (Martin Nievera and a bunch of other singers and actors and television celebrities...)

Without SACs, the alternatives that remain are mostly so-so establishments with a mishmash of positive and negative points. I've always loved the barako and the Bohemian feel of Babu Wenceslao's Cafe Memento (Palanca-winning Naya Valdellon has a poem about it) -- and its Mexicana short orders, if I remember correctly, are among the best in the city. But I haven't been there for a while. When I was a college student, it was my hangout; I was in fact among its first loyal customers. Now, I'm more of teacher than (graduate) student (if that counts at all), and it is increasingly hard to inhabit spaces populated mostly by undergraduates with everybody seeing you as the bearer of grades and lesson plans.

The best brewed coffee in town is still undeniably Dunkin' Donuts'. Its negative side? It's Dunkin' Donuts. Then there are the eating places that also serve coffee: there is CocoAmigos, whose coffee is expensive sewer water, and Don Atilano, whose coffee is quite good, if you can stand the chilly service. Most days, I settle for the unassuming coffee grade of Chantilly; sometimes I take hot tea.

No Starbucks yet around town. Nor Bo's, or Seattle's Best. Cafe culture, really, has yet to take deep roots in Dumaguete City. A few years ago, a prominent businessman once confided to me, "Why buy coffee in cafes when you can get inexpensive and instant Nescafe?" I cringed secretly at the barriotic attitude. Shows how far most Dumaguetenos still have to go to appreciate the sophistication of coffee drinking.

Which is why a slowly growing number of caffeine worshippers all over town rejoiced upon receiving news that a new coffee shop -- a swanky place that promises good things -- has opened in town.

Cafe Antonio is a cul-de-sac, not the prototypical sidewalk affair most people are used to having for coffee places. Settled in the very warm womb of The Spanish Heritage along Avenida de Sta. Catalina, the cafe is accessible only through a short winding brick staircase that greets you from the pavement. It leads to a corridor that also leads you to a courtyard done up in what I could describe as polished Spanish bric-a-brac, a nice effect really. Homey, in fact, but also elegant. There is also a small veranda that affords anyone a glimpse of the Boulevard.

The opening last Monday was a low-key event attended, I think, by mostly churchmates of the owners (the Peraltas), some medical doctors, and a lot of people I did not know. It was a swarm, which almost overwhelmed the relatively small space. The people I did know were Moses Atega, Margie Udarbe, Don and Arlene Uypitching, Manolet Teves, and Rico Absin. Those of us in our table thought the owners as visionaries, and basically very nice people. Nixon Peralta sat with us for a while and chatted, the image of a graceful, nice man.

Scanning the menu after the opening prayer, I saw the common suspects in a typical café: the usual espresso, cappuccino, Cafe American, cafe mocha, cafe latte, caramel latte, caramel macchiato, and white cafe mocha; iced mocha, iced white mocha, and iced caramel mocha; frappes and smoothies of all kinds -- caramel, white mocha, mocha frappe classic, cookies and cream, black forest frappe, ice cream mango whip, mango and coconut delight; and cafe delicacies like ice cream mango whip, ice cream banana, ice cream cocktail, nutty fudge crepe, ham and cheese crepe, ham and mushroom crepe, chicken and broccoli crepe, tuna filling crepe, and angel food crepe.

I had the last one, and it was delicious.

Of the coffee? Well, how should I know? My order never came to me after more than two hours' wait. In fact, my whole table's orders never came to us -- and as the other guests soon departed one by one, the three of us who were left behind decided to give up, embarrassed.

But wise-woman Margie texted me later, "They were overwhelmed. Maybe we can drop by on a slow day. Something tells me they'll have lots of those. Give them a fighting chance, okay?"

Okay. So here goes: Cafe Antonio is a beautiful place. They must have beautiful coffee, too. It opens every day from three o'clock in the afternoon onwards. Try it. Something tells me you'll like the place and its quiet. As all cafes with heart should be.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

entry arrow8:46 PM | Some Things


Annie Proulx discusses the writing of "Brokeback Mountain", and her reaction to seeing the Ang Lee adaptation.


Cheerful Slovenian grandma, who survived both the Holocaust and communism, gets killed by a falling banana. Her dying words, comical to the end: "I can't believe after all this time it was a bloody banana that killed me."


Americans and texting. Makalingaw ang ulahi sa uso.


"Funny how science gets it all RIGHT when you want a computer, medical science to eliminate smallpox or treat your 'erectile disfunction,' anti-lock brakes to save your life -- but all evolutionists -- using the scientific method you take advantage of all day long -- are wrong."
--Rob Mickus



[irreverence courtesy of losing my religion]

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entry arrow11:11 AM | Kiss Kiss Bam Bam

Brokeback Boxing, daw. (But enough Brokeback Mountain jokes already. Nakakasawa na.)

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

entry arrow2:09 AM | In the Black of Things, Almost

The truism is right: setting your mind to do something accomplishes half the job. In just one night, I've demolished more than three-fourths the backlog accumulated from months and months of unsweet procrastination. Must cease being too complacent, must cease being too complacent... Eh right, Gabs?

It's 2:14 in the early morning. Two more things in my list, and then it's off to bed...


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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

entry arrow11:25 PM | Coffee Day

These are bits of happiness: I am listening to Madonna's underappreciated Music album while slowly making progress dismantling the mountain of backlogged work, and I am smelling the brew from the coffee maker just a few sweet feet away.

I don't know what it is about perfectly brewed coffee that excites me even more than sex or chocolate, but I have a feeling The Coffee Goddess would have some answers. I had ran out of beans yesterday, and only remembered to go grocery shopping late this afternoon. In Lee Cimbali, I chose to buy 250 grams each of French Roast and Arabica -- and I am sure now that I've made the right choice: the evidence lies in the coffee aroma that embraces me right now. Arabica, I think, comes closest to the aroma of heaven. But I must confess that I have forgotten how real coffee smelled like. For the past few months, I had subsisted on Folger's Classic Roast, American-made of course, which should have told me something. My brother, you see, had given me a 1.47 kilogram pack, which took me forever to consume, and which altered my coffee habit for quite a while. Folgers was bland, but I didn't know that until now, now that I am smelling Arabica, and it comes as a shock to me that its smell basically punches me to excitement.


This is such a nice night. And a nice day. Even though more than half my research students in one class chose to make today their Playing Hooky day. Given that today commanded a pressing deadline for their submission of their notecards and documentation exercise, it was only too predictable. (I think this is a recent phenomenon: students vanishing when deadline comes.) I told the three studebnts who did come through for me that it didn't matter to me: as long as I can have just one student who takes research seriously, that's enough for me. This generation of college students, I tell you, are hopelessly unread, hopelessly incapable of comprehension, and hopelessly saddled with personal problems and esteem issues. In my literature class, I have long ago abandoned the classroom practice of letting a student read aloud from the text. More than half the time, the student turns out to have the reading level of a first grade pupil, complete with unforgivable mispronunciations, unfamiliarity with freshman vocabulary, and the stutter of someone who does not know how to read. It's really painful to listen to them read, and it's more painful to consider that these guys will be running the country one day. Ayay.

Nevertheless, I made sure I was going to enjoy my day. And I did.

Coffee helped, of course.


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Monday, January 23, 2006

entry arrow10:44 AM | Why Cities Without Gays and Rock Bands Are Losing the Economic Development Race

Fictionist Susan Lara sent me the following article, after reading the post below about homophobia in a Freeman editorial.

By Richard Florida

The creative class: a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend. Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries -- from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.

More and more businesses understand that ethos and are making the adaptations necessary to attract and retain creative class employees -- everything from relaxed dress codes, flexible schedules, and new work rules in the office to hiring recruiters who throw Frisbees. Most civic leaders, however, have failed to understand that what is true for corporations is also true for cities and regions: Places that succeed in attracting and retaining creative class people prosper; those that fail don't.

Stuck in old paradigms of economic development, cities like Buffalo, New Orleans, and Louisville struggled in the 1980s and 1990s to become the next "Silicon Somewhere" by building generic high-tech office parks or subsidizing professional sports teams. Yet they lost members of the creative class, and their economic dynamism, to places like Austin, Boston, Washington , D.C. and Seattle -- places more tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity. Because of this migration of the creative class, a new social and economic geography is emerging in America, one that does not correspond to old categories like East Coast versus West Coast or Sunbelt versus Frostbelt. Rather, it is more like the class divisions that have increasingly separated Americans by income and neighborhood, extended into the realm of city and region.

The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to "create meaningful new forms." The super-creative core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the "thought leadership" of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers. Members of this super-creative core produce new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful -- such as designing a product that can be widely made, sold and used; coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many cases; or composing music that can be performed again and again.

Beyond this core group, the creative class also includes "creative professionals" who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries such as high-tech sectors, financial services, the legal and healthcare professions, and business management. These people engage in creative problem-solving, drawing on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. Doing so typically requires a high degree of formal education and thus a high level of human capital. People who do this kind of work may sometimes come up with methods or products that turn out to be widely useful, but it's not part of the basic job description. What they are required to do regularly is think on their own. They apply or combine standard approaches in unique ways to fit the situation, exercise a great deal of judgment, perhaps try something radically new from time to time.

Much the same is true of the growing number of technicians and others who apply complex bodies of knowledge to working with physical materials. In fields such as medicine and scientific research, technicians are taking on increased responsibility to interpret their work and make decisions, blurring the old distinction between white-collar work (done by decisionmakers) and blue-collar work (done by those who follow orders). They acquire their own arcane bodies of knowledge and develop their own unique ways of doing the job. Another example is the secretary in today's pared-down offices. In many cases this person not only takes on a host of tasks once performed by a large secretarial staff, but becomes a true office manager -- channeling flows of information, devising and setting up new systems, often making key decisions on the fly. These people contribute more than intelligence or computer skills. They add creative value. Everywhere we look, creativity is increasingly valued. Firms and organizations value it for the results that it can produce and individuals value it as a route to self-expression and job satisfaction. Bottom line: As creativity becomes more valued, the creative class grows.

Why do some places become destinations for the creative while others don't? Economists speak of the importance of industries having "low entry barriers," so that new firms can easily enter and keep the industry vital. Similarly, I think it's important for a place to have low entry barriers for people -- that is, to be a place where newcomers are accepted quickly into all sorts of social and economic arrangements. All else being equal, they are likely to attract greater numbers of talented and creative people -- the sort of people who power innovation and growth. Places that thrive in today's world tend to be plug-and-play communities where anyone can fit in quickly. These are places where people can find opportunity, build support structures, be themselves, and not get stuck in any one identity. The plug-and-play community is one that somebody can move into and put together a life -- or at least a facsimile of a life -- in a week.

Creative centers also tend to be places with thick labor markets that can fulfill the employment needs of members of the creative class, who, by and large, are not looking just for "a job" but for places that offer many employment opportunities.

Cities and regions that attract lots of creative talent are also those with greater diversity and higher levels of quality of place. That's because location choices of the creative class are based to a large degree on their lifestyle interests, and these go well beyond the standard "quality-of-life" amenities that most experts think are important.

Talented people seek an environment open to differences. Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background or sexual orientation, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays in particular is a sign that reads "non-standard people welcome here."

The creative class people I study use the word "diversity" a lot, but not to press any political hot buttons. Diversity is simply something they value in all its manifestations. This is spoken of so often, and so matter-of-factly, that I take it to be a fundamental marker of creative class values. Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, trade views and spar over issues.

As with employers, visible diversity serves as a signal that a community embraces the open meritocratic values of the creative age. The people I talked to also desired nightlife with a wide mix of options. The most highly valued options were experiential ones -- interesting music venues, neighborhood art galleries, performance spaces, and theaters. A vibrant, varied nightlife was viewed by many as another signal that a city "gets it," even by those who infrequently partake in nightlife. More than anything, the creative class craves real experiences in the real world.

They favor active, participatory recreation over passive, institutionalized forms. They prefer indigenous street-level culture -- a teeming blend of cafes, sidewalk musicians, and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between performers and spectators. They crave stimulation, not escape. They want to pack their time full of dense, high-quality, multidimensional experiences. Seldom has one of my subjects expressed a desire to get away from it all. They want to get into it all, and do it with eyes wide open.

Creative class people value active outdoor recreation very highly. They are drawn to places and communities where many outdoor activities are prevalent -- both because they enjoy these activities and because their presence is seen as a signal that the place is amenable to the broader creative lifestyle. The creative-class people in my studies are into a variety of active sports, from traditional ones like bicycling, jogging, and kayaking to newer, more extreme ones, like trail running and snowboarding.

Places are also valued for authenticity and uniqueness. Authenticity comes from several aspects of a community -- historic buildings, established neighborhoods, a unique music scene, or specific cultural attributes. It comes from the mix -- from urban grit alongside renovated buildings, from the commingling of young and old, long-time neighborhood characters and yuppies, fashion models and "bag ladies." An authentic place also offers unique and original experiences. Thus a place full of chain stores, chain restaurants, and nightclubs is not authentic. You could have the same experience anywhere.

Today, it seems, leading creative centers provide a solid mix of high-tech industry, plentiful outdoor amenities, and an older urban center whose rebirth has been fueled in part by a combination of creativity and innovative technology, as well as lifestyle amenities.

There you go, Mr. Tundag.


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Sunday, January 22, 2006

entry arrow11:29 AM | A Call For Lynching (Revised Version)

These are increasingly dangerous times for those who want to be who they are, because intimations of murder seem to come so easy for some people.

Look at the world around you. Smell it, and feel the undercurrents of the everyday. Unless you live with your head buried under the proverbial sand, you know that there is a cultural war going on around us, the stake of which is our very soul. And yes, our necks.

It is a war that puts frailty in our freedom, the kind that tells us we have the right to live the life we believe we should live, if only to be true to the human beings beneath our skins.

But it is also about how much of this world imposes on us the frightening notion that there is no such freedom at all -- an idea that makes many unfortunate people believe that some just have no right to exist. That it is actually better if there are laws to properly lynch them away out of existence.

Kill them, for example. Maim them away to oblivion.

If you are thinking, What a Hitlerian thought!, you are right. This is the very same intolerance that drove the engines of the Holocaust in World War II, a Nazi genocidal project that wiped away -- through torture, hard labor, and the gas chamber -- the so-called “undesirables” from the face of Europe.

But this essay is not about history or old wars. It is about the world we live now. It is almost too ironic to consider this debate again in the heels of the releases of two movies that dare declare the humanity of gayness. Much has already been said about Ang Lee's new film Brokeback Mountain, and how it is unleashing a new level in the old debate about alternative lifestyles. An award-winning film based on the acclaimed short story by Annie Proulx, the story revolves around two cowboys who, while working in the quiet of Wyoming's mountains, find themselves falling in love with each other almost against their will. It is also about the 20-year affair they hold in deep secret, and how the silence and prejudice wreck havoc in their lives, and in the lives of the women they marry. Today, that film has become the water-cooler subject of conversation from all corners of the Western world, creating panic in some places, and outright sighs of relief in many others.

In the Philippines, this debate about sexuality has centered not around Ang Lee's film, mostly due to the fact that it has not yet been released for showing in our shores. The debate has instead circled around Aureus Solito's equally well-received Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, another acclaimed film that was the surprise hit in local cinema at the end of last year. A fresh and endearing story about an effeminate boy and his loving family of brusko men and the chances they make in their lives in the slums, the response to Maxi inmany quarters has been electric and positive. It is even translating that critical and commercial success to the fact that it is receiving its North American premiere in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, the first Filipino film to be included in the official competition.

But some, of course, predictably steer along the ultra-conservative route (I call it the scourge of ignorant fundamentalism), and has virtually pronounced the end of the world via a Gay Apocalypse. Some have even said that the debate -- and the two movies along with it -- is not necessary. I've read more than few bloggers and some paper scribes talking about raising their eyebrows at the fact of having to mind another gay movie. "What's the big deal about the gay life anyway?" most of these people ask, often with a tint of the self-righteous, often with the deadpan tone of the bored and the miffed.

What's the big deal? I'll tell you what's the big deal. Here is a perfect example to illustrate the necessity of this debate. Last December, The Freeman -- a major Cebuano daily -- published an editorial in the heels of the Wesy Quisumbing controversy. (For those not in the know, Mr. Quisumbing, the transgendered son of a prominent Cebuano businessman, filed a harassment case against the father for being, above all things, an abusive homophobe.)

In any given day, an article that smacks of homophobia no longer raises my ire. But this was an editorial, not just some column by a hack journalist, in a paper that dares call itself "The Freeman". (How ironic. And yes, I used to write for this paper.) If an editorial is supposed to be the very soul of a newspaper, what then can we make of this tirade?

The editorial reads:

The Gay Issue Beyond the Quisumbing Case

An editorial by Jerry S. Tundag

The issue raised by Wesy Quisumbing against his father, industrialist Norberto Quisumbing Jr., that of allegedly stripping him of his positions in family owned corporations on account of his being gay, wouldn't have been any less interesting had the personalities been different.

Forget about the Quisumbings because that is their personal affair. But it is perhaps time that the issue of gay people and how society relates to them be given ample time for healthy debate.

To be sure, we do not advocate same sex marriages. The notion itself is revolting and we do not aim to go that far. But gay people are in our midst in increasing numbers and the sooner society draws parameters on how to deal with them, the better.

Not that it is even necessary to draw parameters. But let us face it. Society can never be unanimous in its feelings toward gays. There will be those who accept gays and those who don't and those who don't are what can prove to be troublesome down the line.

For down the line, as the gay population increases, they will interact more and more with the "normal" population (pardon the adjective for lack of a better word) and those who accept them will accept them, but God knows what will be on the minds of those who don't.

You do not hear about this in the news because it is not talked about in public, but in certain countries in the Middle East, gays are actually wasted, and it is up to you to determine what that means.

Here in the Philippines, where we have a more tolerant society, gays can even occupy the same high positions in society that the "normals" occupy. But that does not mean everything is all hunky-dory out here, as the Quisumbing case in fact shows.

Maybe the Quisumbing case is an isolated one. Or it can be just a scratch on a surface that is hidden under layers and layers of pretending that a problem does not actually exist. But sooner or later, we will all have to deal with the problem, or situation, if you will.

We like to pride ourselves as the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia. Well, even the sitting pope, Pope Benedict XVI, has finally chosen to seize the bull by the horns, so to speak. The matter of gay men in the priesthood has at last become the subject of papal edict.

The Regional Trial Court in Cebu has issued a gag order against discussing the merits of the Quisumbing case and we are not about to violate that. But there are issues that go beyond the instant case that now need discussion, perhaps even action, by our lawmakers.

It is virtually a call to lynch all gay men and women in the country. Prospects of genocide? Most certainly. But what frightens me most may be the silent knowledge that a lot of the people we know -- perhaps even those whom we are familiar with intimately -- will not hesitate to agree.

I sent the editorial to some of my writer/journalist friends in Manila and around the country. The fictionist Susan Lara countered the editorial's argument by sending in a famous essay by the economist Richard Florida whose idea of the "creative class" as being the engine for economic growth declares that cities without rock bands and gay people will be economically marginalized. The essayist Lani Montreal also emailed me this short note: "I couldn't finish reading the article. It made me real sick. But yes, I will finish reading it and maybe forward to Sunday Inquirer with my own comments. I just need to be in a different space right now."

Poet and gender theorist J. Neil C. Garcia wrote: "Thanks for letting me know about this bit of distressing news from Cebu. It's a pattern in our country, I guess: at least one or twice a year, something homophobic makes it to the media. I remember many years back in Manila we had our fill of gay-related news, and predictably enough, their accompanying stupid, bigoted, utterly disgusting commentaries (gays in the military, gay managers abusing their talents, etc.) our lives are fodder for such media carnivals, and while I used to think the best response was combative (in other words, fight fire with fire and write angry letters to the editors left and right), now I'm of the opinion that ignoring the entire circus is the best course of action. (This seems apt here, for the journalist in question is obviously incompetent and daft after all). But there are limits. Do keep me posted about any additional noise on this issue. If things get interesting -- or worse -- I suppose we in Manila can raise a heavenly stink and perhaps get some stupid reporters and columnists fired (wishful thinking.)"

And stink we will make.


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entry arrow9:32 AM | Useless Sundays Drenched in Blackouts

"Do not let us speak of darker days...."
--Sir Winston Churchill

The sounds of Sunday in Dumaguete, the visitor will quickly observe to himself, is the drone of many electric generators, their low rumbling piercing the air like a disease. What an ugly, dark, small city, he might even say, while snapping a quick picture of the tangled, black cobwebs we call our electrical lines. He will notice that they race like a threat between low electric posts lining the narrow streets, all of them sorry-looking wooden protuberances that have definitely seen better days.

Sometimes that visitor can very well be ourselves. Because when you are able to step back from your comfortable perspectives of things, to see what a stranger -- free from the blindness of the everyday -- might see, you will have to wonder: how long can you crow about, with a straight face, the so-called progress of Dumaguete City when you constantly have to suffer its epidemic of blackouts?

Let's see.

It's a typical Sunday in Dumaguete -- and as usual, this should be your day of reprieve from all the demands and stress of the working week. Sundays are made for recharging the soul, you tell yourself. Which is why sometimes you take your time waking up on Sunday mornings. When it rains, for example, and the lull of the falling water outside keeps you cocooned in a sleep that is snug and cool. Most often though, Sunday mornings are brightly sunny, a testament to the day's name which calls for an abundance of sun. So on most weekends, you go about your early mornings tending to the sweet, inconsequential matters of housework or hobby. The silence is golden, something you know can only be true on the weekends. There is virtually no snarling traffic outside to cut you away from this reprieve from the fast regular days. So you turn on your coffee maker for that much-needed brew to start out your week. Your body longs for the caffeine that will keep it awake for the next few hours. You turn on the radio for the weekend news or for the lilting music they usually play when it's a Sunday, or you place a compact disk in its turning cradle because Sunday mornings are made for music. Some of you would rather turn on their television instead, to catch a cartoon, to see a rerun of a late-night gabfest, or to watch a movie you have missed because in your pressing days work is what counts the most and movie-watching becomes a luxury you can only enjoy on a Sunday morning. Or maybe you turn on your computer, to finally sit down and write out that long-delayed letter or the email you've been meaning to send, or perhaps to just coast through the rest of Sunday morning surfing the Internet, to catch up with the rest of the world.

You say to yourself, This is going to be a nice Sunday. And you say it with such sincerity, because we are all creatures of hope and renewal, and there is nothing like a transformed sense of humanity to mark the beginning of another week. Sundays, after all, are made for resolutions. It is already eight o'clock in the morning, and everything seems to be going well for this Sunday. You later plan to go out with friends by the afternoon, perhaps to catch a movie at Park or Ever Theater, perhaps to window-shop at Lee Super Plaza, perhaps to have another caffeine break at one of those lovely places and cafes that do not think it a travesty to open on Sundays. This is going to be a nice Sunday, you tell yourself once more.

And then everything grounds to a screeching electrical halt.

Nine o'clock sharp.

The city, once more, is drenched in another exasperating blackout.

Welcome to hellish Sundays without electricity. Like walking the Boulevard, blackouts have become a strange Dumaguete tradition -- and the very fact that we do not seem to care anymore should scare us. It tells us how complacent we have become, how inexcusably accepting of moronic sense of service. Think of the large electric bills you have to pay. Think of the many appliances you once had that have all gone bonkers because of the electrical surges and untimely blackouts we have to endure. Think of the countless inconveniences and lost opportunities you have swallowed because our electric company likes to play with our fates. And if you are a businessman, think of the oodles of money you have lost because most of your services cannot be carried out without electricity, or wasted because a substantial sum has to go towards the running of a generator you really should not have in the first place, if Dumaguete should rightly call itself a city of the first rank.

You know what you thinking when the city once more plunges into darkness: Personally, you just want to go to NORECO II and burn the whole stupid place to the ground.

There, I've said it. That felt good. That felt very, very good, didn't it? Like pus suddenly broken free from its festering boil beneath the skin. Like magma bursting from an exploding volcano. Like seething anger released from its repressions. I have just put into words the very thing every Dumagueteno thinks about when another brownout comes our way.

And what do they give us as a reason for the constant blackouts? Maintenance. Maintenance? Is that a joke? They have been doing "maintenance" forever, and nothing seems to have changed. Last Sunday, for example, the blackout came early, around eight o'clock, rousing us up from our Sunday morning extended sleep because of the overwhelming heat. The air-conditioning or the electric fan had stopped, and our rooms had become tombs. Maintenance, we told ourselves, although deep inside us, we seethed with anger and frustration. By late, late afternoon, the electricity came back on. And then it began to rain. Just slightly -- not a storm, or anything. And just like that, the city once again plunges into darkness, leaving us in a mad scramble for candles and matches.

Maintenance, you say?

I remember a summer two years ago when the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop -- with writing fellows from around the country and from the United States in attendance -- had to endure three weeks where every single day became a season of endless blackouts. This disrupted most of the workshop sessions, leaving National Artist for Literature Edith Tiempo in a huff. Ultimately, we had to transfer to a different venue, to one outdoor cafe -- because intelligent discussion about creative writing just was not possible in a hellhole.

That made me think: if constant blackouts are to be a fact of life for all Dumaguetenos, can we ultimately hope for progress? Progress needs electricity, after all, endless and continuous streams of it, and not just in spurts. We talk, for example, about bringing call centers and other new industries into the city. But why should any new business bother to come here, given our sorry electrical state? Should 24-hour/7-day call centers run on electric generators, too?

I guess I'll end this post now, and save it. It's another Sunday after all. Another blackout might suddenly pounce, and I certainly do not want to rant about two hours of work suddenly lost to the oblivion of darkness, courtesy of your local electric company.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

entry arrow10:10 PM | What World Outside? It's Warmer In My Room

Holy hikikomori. Is this a strange real-life realization of Luis Joaquin Katigbak's "Subterrania", or what?


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entry arrow9:13 PM | In Between, and Straight to Your Heart

I watched Duncan Tucker's transsexual dramedy TransAmerica, starring the formidable Felicity Huffman and the incandescently beautiful Kevin Zegers, a few weeks ago -- and found it a heartwarming road trip with a gender twist. (The offical website can be found here.)

I remember telling Mark, "Felicity has got to be nominated for this role." And now, she has just won the Golden Globe Best Dramatic Actress award for her role as a man getting transformed into a woman. A role like this usually gets the Oscar nod (note Linda Hunt's Oscar-winning role in Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously -- where she convincingly plays a male reporter, and note the gender surprise pulled off by the Oscar-nominated Jaye Davidson in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game).

I watched the movie again with Mark tonight, after witnessing Felicity Huffman's coup at the Golden Globes where she memorably said in her acceptance speech: "I know as actors our job is usually to shed our skins, but I think as people our job is to become who we really are, and so I would like to salute the men and women who brave ostracism, alienation and a life lived on the margins to become who they really are." (Very nice, Mrs. William H. Macy.)

The movie is even funnier and more endearing the second time around. You have to watch it. Check your gender squimishness at the door, and watch it if you can.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

entry arrow7:42 PM | Maxi Talk and Other Links to Spend Away a Rainy Monday


Jessica Zafra unleashes the podcast of her interview with Raymond Lee, the producer of Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, which is set to make its North American debut at the Sundance Film Festival this week. Mahaba ang buhok mo, Maxi! (You don't believe me? Here's the film schedule at the Sundance website.)


You know about that Colin Farrel and Playboy bunny Nicole Narain sex tape, dontcha? Well, his lawyers have made good about the cease and desist order given the website selling the 15-minute tape. But DirtyColin has some stills to tease you...


This is so much more of Mariah Carey to love.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

entry arrow4:45 PM | The Buzzing is Faint

Effing Buzznet! Something's seriously wrong with it. I can't even upload pictures without getting error messages. And God knows, I've been trying for three days already.

So anyway, here are two pictures of Dumaguete's St. Catherine de Alexandria Cathedral. Took this during the magic hour of New Year's Day, without a flash. I hate flash photography.

Mark says the last one reminds him of The Exorcist. I think I have an idea why. In any case, Dumaguete is one Gothic place. The exorcist will feel right at home here in our Southern, sugared decay.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

entry arrow12:14 PM | From Grafiction Master Arnold Arre...

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

entry arrow11:55 PM | Dark Clouds

Yay. People seem to be in a foul mood of late in most of blogosphere. I've been hopping from one blog to another, and people seem to be seething. Must be the post-holiday back-to-work funk. Must be the extra calories we packed in from those endless noche buenas. Must be the wishy-washy weather. Must be the post-New Year blues, that strange in-between time in January when one hovers between the hopefulness of resolutions and the collapse of things into the persistence of old habits and reality. Yesterday was almost a disaster for me, too. Depression set in before I could say, "I need Prozac." Thank God I caught myself in time, took a deep breath ... and let things go. My therapy has always been to clean the pad from top to bottom. That felt good.

Goodnight, all you sweet people. Tomorrow is always another day.


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Saturday, January 07, 2006

entry arrow9:12 PM | A Night.

Just had dinner with Bing Sitoy at Persian Palate. I remember the rush going into the six o'clock rendezvous: I was running late, and the silly attendants at Rose were still not finished with my facial and my foot spa. And I am very serious about my facials and my foot spas. What should have been a late afternoon of splendid pampering (something I needed, given the stress of editing the accreditation self-survey reports for the past few days at work) was seriously marred by murderous thoughts. Nah, not really. I was just tired of it all, and was deeply disappointed. I wanted to tell the slow attendants to hurry everything up. Bubu was pissed for the most part, and I felt even more tired, and we ended up in Scooby's with him devouring a burger and a hotdog bun. With generous helpings of mayonnaise and catsup. I saw him off in a tricycle for home in Bantayan, and I decided to walk all the way to the Boulevard, where Persian Palate was, to clear my head. It didn't take more than five minutes. But Bing was already there. So was Moses. I don't remember much what we ate: some nan, I guess. I think I had chicken kebab and mango lassi. All I remember is the talking. About Denmark, and crazy writers, and Dumaguete serial killers, and sex and falling in love, and taking a stand against deadening convention, and Boy Abunda, and terrible Filipino films, and gaining weight, and losing weight, and marriage, and sex scandals, and Butch Dalisay and Exie Abola and Dean Alfar and Krip Yuson, and agents, and Story Philippines, and old boyfriends, and the all-too real lives we mask in our fiction. Three hours of that. I guess we ate a lot of nan, too, but I am not sure. Now, I'm headed to the funeral wake for a bigshot Chinoy guy I know. I'm supposed to meet Gideon and Gerard here in Scooby's before we head off to the Carmelites where the body lies in state. Still waiting... I don't know how long this will take, but I think I need my sleep. Saw John Madden's Proof and Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha back-to-back last night, and I had a long lecture this morning. I'm tired. Okay, there's the funeral, and then perhaps I can call it a night.


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Friday, January 06, 2006

entry arrow11:41 AM | Show Me the Money!

Eh, sorry for the interstitial ads, guys. It's an experiment in ad revenues for this blog. I'm just wondering how long it will take me to make a dollar with this kind of shameless commercialism.

But on that note, get this: a very good friend of mine will be receiving about P40,000 for just 15 days of ads next week. (And if you clicked that link, you just made her a dollar richer, too.)

Makes you want to get a PayPopUp account and a Google AdSense account too, eh? Come on now, join us in the Dark Side.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

entry arrow9:23 AM | 2006 PBBY Alcala Prize Call for Entries

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is now accepting entries for the 2006 PBBY Alcala Prize. The contest is co-sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and The National Library. The winner will be given a cash prize of P25,000.00, a gold medal, and an opportunity to be published with the help of the PBBY. Prizes will be awarded in an appropriate ceremony to be held during the celebration of National Children's Book Day on July 18, 2006.

Contest Rules:

1. The contest is open to all Filipino citizens except those who are related to any PBBY members up to the third degree of consanguinity.

2. Entries must be based on any of the three winning stories: Can You See (What Buboy Sees)? by Marielle Nadal; Tonyong Turo by J. Dennis Teodosio; and, Rosario and the Stories by Ian Rosales Casocot. Copies of the story may be requested from the PBBY Secretariat. [Or you can email me for a copy of my story at icasocot(at)gmail(dot)com.]

3. All entries must be original unpublished illustrations that have not won in any previous contest.

4. All entries must consist of three (3) illustrations that are of the same size and medium.

5. A contestant may send in more than one (1) entry.

6. Each entry must be signed by a pen name only, preferably on a small piece of paper pasted on the back of each artwork. Entries with a signature or any identifying marks are automatically disqualified.

7. Together with each entry, contestants must submit a separate envelope, on the face of which only the pen name of the contestant shall appear. The envelope must contain the contestant's full name, address, contact numbers, short description of background, and notarized certification vouching for the originality of the entry and for the freedom of the organizers from any liability arising from the infringement of copyright in case of publication.

8. All entries must be sent to the PBBY Secretariat, c/o Adarna House, Room 201, JGS Bldg., 30 Scout Tuazon St., Quezon City by March 4, 2006.

9. Winners will be announced no later than March 25, 2006. Non-winning entries must be claimed no later than April 29, 2006, after which they will no longer be the responsibility of the organizers.

For more details, interested parties may contact the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, at Room 102, JGS Building, 30 Scout Tuazon St., Quezon City.

Telefax 372-3548, or email pbby(at)adarna(dot)com(dot)ph.


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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

entry arrow9:25 PM | A Viewing Report Card

I think I gave up on Filipino films this year. Perhaps because of lack of time, or perhaps I just didn't want to be disappointed again. See, this here below is my sorry report card in Filipino film viewing. All things marked with an X, I've watched. So let's see how I fared....

[ ] Uno (Ronnie Ricketts)
[ ] Let the Love Begin (Mac Alejandre)
[ ] Dreamboy (Gilbert Perez)
[ ] Bunso (Sadhana Buxani and Ditsi Carolino)
[ ] Melancholy (Raymond Red)
[ ] Diliman (Ramon Mez de Guzman)
[ ] Romeo Must Rock (Roxlee)
[ ] Salvaged Commercialism (Raymond Red)
[ ] Bathhouse (Crisaldo Pablo)
[ ] Birhen ng Manaoag (Ben Yalung)
[ ] Bahay ni Lola 2 (Joven Tan)
[x] Santa Santita (Laurice Guillen)
[x] Boso (Jon Red)
[ ] Can This Be Love (Jose Javier Reyes)
[ ] Nasaan Ka Man (Cholo Laurel)
[x] Bikini Open (Jeffrey Jeturian)
[x] La Visa Loca (Mark Meilly)
[ ] Pepot Artista (Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr.)
[ ] Pinoy/Blonde (Peque Gallaga)
[ ] D'Anothers (Joyce Bernal)
[ ] 24 Hours (Jose Aurelio Lozano)
[ ] Tandog sa Baryo Sanghay (John Paul Seniel)
[ ] Mga Pusang Gala (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil)
[ ] Lovestruck (Louie Ignacio)
[ ] Dubai (Rory B. Quintos)
[ ] Tuli (Auraeus Solito)
[x] Masahista (Brillante Mendoza)
[ ] Bilog (Crisaldo Pablo)
[x] Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Auraeus Solito)
[ ] Shake, Rattle and Roll 2k5 (Richard Somes, Uro dela Cruz, and Rico Maria Ilarde)
[ ] Exodus: Tale of the Enchanted Kingdom (Erik Matti)
[ ] Enteng Kabisote 2: The Legend Continues (Tony Y. Reyes)
[ ] Terrorist Hunter (Val Iglesias)
[ ] Blue Moon (Joel Lamangan)
[x] Mulawin (Mark Reyes and Dominic Zapanta)
[ ] Ako Legal Wife: Mano Po 4?! (Joel Lamangan)
[ ] Kutob (Jose Javier Reyes)

That's seven movies I've watched out of the 37 released this year. Dismal. (But I did include some out-of-reach short films and documentaries in this list.) Ayay, I miss the mid-1990s. Now those were the years...

Ikaw, alin ang napanood mo?


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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

entry arrow7:08 PM | The Terrifying Lady Sets Sail

Story Philippines's Vanni de Sequera just emailed to inform me that my anti-love story "The Painted Lady" has been accepted for publication in the second issue of the landmark all-fiction magazine. Woohoo! The publication date is February 2006.

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entry arrow6:39 PM | Movies For My Life (With Additions)

[meme from the coffee goddess]

Total number of films I own on DVD, VCD, LD, and VHS
: Around 400 titles or so in VCD and DVD, but I donated all my films in VHS (about 200 titles) to the Silliman Library last year. Yes, I am that kind of rabid cineaste. Why not rent, you say? Because I know my dismal record as a video renter: it takes me days, sometimes months, to return videos -- which totals to a hefty amount of penalty. I'd rather own a film than pay fines.

The last films I bought: Jim Sharman's The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know. Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man. Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny. Francois Truffaut's Day for Night. Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend. Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Sylvia Chang's 20/30/40. Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape. Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. Sydney Pollack's Tootsie. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's Inside Deep Throat. Ron Howard's Cinderella Man. Q. Allan Brocka's Eating Out. Nicolas de Boiscuille's To the Extreme

Five films which I watch a lot: (1) Audrey Wells's Under the Tuscan Sun -- every time I feel my life is going nowhere. (2) Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally.... -- every time I want to see how magical movies -- and screenplays -- can be. (3) Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle -- every Valentine's Day. (4) Chris Columbus's Home Alone -- every Christmas. (5) a toss-up between C. Jay Cox's Latter Days and the entire first season of Bravo TV's Queer as Folk -- every time I want to feel kilig.

And five more... (1) Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society -- still my manual for teaching. (2) Mark Waters's Mean Girls -- because it is really, really witty. And educational. (3) Blake Edwards's Breakfast at Tiffany's -- because it is beautiful, and has Audrey Hepburn singing "Moon River" in it. (4) James Cameron's True Lies -- the one action picture that doesn't bore me to death. (5) Richard Linklater's Before Sunset -- the perfect sequel to Before Sunrise, which chronicles our pain and accommodations, ten years after our breezy march through exhilarating youth. Can you say everybody's autobiography?

Five films that mean a lot to me: (1) Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction -- because it blew me away with its revolution in film writing and directing. (2) Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters -- because New York is my fabled city, and Allen its foremost storyteller. (3) Fred Schepisi's Six Degrees of Separation -- because it hits me between the eyes with its power. (4) Steven Spielberg's E.T. The ExtraTerrestrial -- because it makes me remember when I was a kid. (5) Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies -- because it makes us see the human tragedy in war.

And eleven more... (1) Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together -- because it gave me the mood for love. (2) Lino Brocka's Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang -- because it taught me first about what Filipino filmmaking could offer. (3) Peque Gallaga's Oro Plata Mata -- because it blew me away, even in memory. (4) Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman -- because it first showed me Asians can be masters of film as well. (5) Anh Hung Tranh's Scent of Green Papaya -- because it showed me how silence can be beautiful in film. (6) Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain -- because it taught me how musicals can rise above song-and-dance crap. (7) Mike Nichols's Working Girl -- because it was truly funny. (8) Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock -- because it is eternally haunting. (9) Wash West's Naked Highway -- the best gay porn ever made, so much so that I don't even want to call it porn. The film moved me, dammit. (10) Louis Malle's My Dinner With Andre -- because it is about two people talking for two hours, but you're hooked. (11) John Hughes's Ferris Bueller's Day -- because Hughes is adolescence's philosopher, and more so than The Breakfast Club, this should be every young person's cinematic Bible.

Guilty pleasures, or bad movies (or just sly geniuses) that I truly, truly love. Andy Warhol's Blow Job. David Mirkin's Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman. Emile Ardolino's Dirty Dancing. Robert Wise's The Sound of Music.

[to tag naya, ginny, james, and paolo -- all of whom I can't directly link here, darn]


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Monday, January 02, 2006

entry arrow2:23 PM | Some Things


Maryanne Moll, the third prize winner for last year's Palanca for the short story (for the wonderful story "At Merienda"), now blogs. Sir Butch Dalisay also writes about the blogging life in his weekly column in the Philippine Star.


David Byrne gives a fascinating account of his trip to the Philippines, to research on his Imelda Marcos musical, "Here Lies Love."


From Marie's resurrected blog:

Here is where loveliness can live
with failure, and nothing's complete.
I love how we go on.

~ From "Loves," by Stephen Dunn


And because I am the youngest in the family, this fact from BBC's "100 Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Year" completely amuses me:

69. First-born children are less creative but more stable, while last-born are more promiscuous, says US research.

Ahahaha! True.

[via pine for pine]

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

entry arrow12:01 AM | Just One Line to Start the Year

To friends, love, and family, and the occassional stalkers, Happy New Year to everyone.


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