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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?


Saturday, April 29, 2006

entry arrow10:12 PM | Here We Go...

So, okay, I finally decided to get into the action, win or lose.

God bless us all.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

entry arrow4:35 PM | The 2006 Dumaguete National Writers Workshop Fellows

National Artist for Literature and National Writers Workshop Director Edith Lopez Tiempo has announced the list of fellows for this year's workshop:

For Poetry

1. Michellan Kristine Sarile (De La Salle University)
2. Andrea Teran (Ateneo de Manila University)
3. Darwin Chiong (De La Salle University)
4. Ana Escalante Neri (UP Manila)

For Creative Non-Fiction

5. Patricia Evangelista (UP Diliman)
6. Noel Pingoy (Davao Medical Center)

Fiction/Short Story

7. Antonio Adrian Habana (Ateneo de Manila University)
8. Erika Jean Cabanawan (UP Los Banos)
9. Douglas James Candano (Ateneo de Manila University)
10. Larissa Mae Suarez (Philippine High School for the Arts)
11. Dominique Cimafranca (University of San Carlos)

Sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and coordinated by the Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group or DULA, Inc. headed by Atty. Ernesto Superal Yee, the workshop will be held at the CAP Building in Dumaguete City from May 8 to 26.

Among the panelists expected to assist Dr. Tiempo are Dumaguete-based writers Ernesto Superal Yee, Bobby Villasis and Cesar Ruiz Aquino, as well as guest panelists Dr. Rowena Torrevillas from the University of Iowa, R. Zamora Linmark from Honolulu and San Francisco, NCCA Literature Committee chair Lito Zulueta, Dr. Gemino H. Abad, Dr. Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara, DM Reyes, Dr. Anthony Tan and Krip Yuson.

Congratulations to the new fellows, and welcome to Dumaguete. Bring lots of cotton white shirts and shorts. It's a sizzling summer down here. (And get ready for the experience of your lives...)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

entry arrow9:31 PM | April 30 Beckons Like a Threat and a Temptation

I will make my decision whether or not to join the Palanca contest this Friday. Dean and Nikki have already submitted theirs via email, and here I am still being wishy-washy. I don't like any of the stuff I have written, save for the essay -- which I believe still needs polish. The short story? Never mind. I have long since abandoned, too, my one-act play about Manuel Arguilla in the fever of writing the magnificent short story "Midsummer." And my children's story about a boy who discovers the magic of traditional music is not magical enough for me. Work and personal drama interfered. In any case, let's see how it goes this Friday. But I'm off to Bacolod tomorrow, and then back again in Dumaguete the very next day. And then off to Canlaon for the Labor Day weekend. Will I have any strength or imagination left? Let's see. I'm off to sleep now. I still have to catch the early bus for the five-hour trip to the other side of Negros.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

entry arrow5:30 AM | Timothy Montes on Creative Writing in Dumaguete

Dear Ian,

I would have wanted to participate in a colloquium [regarding] the state of creative writing in Dumaguete [part 1, part 2, and part 3], but the long quote from my S&C article was, I think, enough. A person like you, native to the place and perhaps hitching one's literary dreams to the locale, has reason to be disturbed. People like us who just passed through hold the place in our hearts like a cherished dream of youth.

When I was young and voluntarily stuck in Dumaguete, I thought it was the center of the universe. My post-Copernican phase in life, however, won't let me forget that I nurtured my literary dreams there. I still believe it is one of the best places (better even than UP) for a would-be writer to grow up in. If there is a downside to it, it would be the realization that it is a Garden of Eden, and a lot of interesting things happened after the Fall.

I never considered it a problem when I was there, though. Loneliness is part of that sullen art of writing and, performer that I was, I was always uneasy about being in a "literary barkada." I remember Cesar noting in a recommendation he wrote for me saying that if I had any weakness it was my aloofness to other writers. My remembrance of Ed Tiempo was that of him walking ALONE every afternoon along Bantayan and Silliman Beach shoreline. I took walks ALONE at night. Organized literary activities were few and far between, usually in the launching of issues of Sands & Coral, and we had to take the initiative in publishing the journal.

I remember my sister Rhoda coming over from UP to take up creative writing in Silliman in the early 90s. During Founders Day, she, along with another guy from UP, organized a poetry reading in the middle of the booth area during Founders Day week. Can you imagine their frustration? Nobody would listen to them -- the boosters and amplifiers were blasting at them with rock music. That, I think, is the position of the literati in a postmodern age.

Despite the roster of writers coming from Dumaguete, creative writing has always been an elitist, marginal activity, and I am saying this sans the negative connotations of those qualifiers. Writers have always been a minority, often a silent minority, even in a revered literary center such as Dumaguete. What I liked best about the place was the sense of humanity it gave me, a sense of humility that is a by-product of a reverence for life -- an attitude necessary for a serious writer. According to Neil Garcia, writers in UP are a dime a dozen, and I would add that most of it is mere posturing and you would have to shout at the top of your lungs in order to be heard, so that I remember the workshop in UP I attended in the late 80s as a circus.

In Dumaguete, though, one need not have pretensions of being a writer, and the title does not confer any privilege or exemption from the pains and joys of ordinary living. I do not remember THE Cesar Aquino as a magisterial character but as a nervous companion to my courting girls at Chapman dorm. I remember Mom Edith not as a philosopher-savant but as a teacher with quiet demeanor who would serve us binignit during breaks in class discussion. As for the rest of the populace being philistines, well, that's their problem. A writer should go on writing despite the dearth of fans.

In Dumaguete I learned that one can live life with integrity as a writer. When I moved over to Davao, I was shocked by the lionization of writers, it being associated with rich and famous families that often I equated it with social graces, like learning to play the piano if one comes from the alta sociedad. In Dumaguete, to be a writer was no big deal because the act of writing and the living of a rich internal life was what mattered, not the title or the adulation. If writers continue to go on pilgrimage there every summer, then it comes from a realization that it offers something to them on a deeply personal level, usually associated with what the Tiempos represented. You should ask Susan Lara about it -- she has been a faithful pilgrim.

As for me, I like the ambiguity of reality the place has given me. True, Dumaguete is not the microcosm of social reality of our country; one only has to cross the channel to see the contrast of Cebu City. But in moments when my Protestant sensibility gets the better of me and I am frustrated by the sordidness of life in Manila, I think that Dumaguete SHOULD be the reality of our country, a place kind to writers and to human beings in general.


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Sunday, April 23, 2006

entry arrow10:02 AM | Yvette

Yvette Natalie Tan now blogs.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

entry arrow8:42 AM | How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I wonder if it is really summer. Only the sun tells me it is, and when I do pass by the Boulevard, the blue-green resplendence of Tanon Strait is like a seductress, and Siquijor -- only thirty minutes away by boat -- beckons like a beautiful witch. But I find myself not having time to do anything, except for the stolen hours I get when Mark and I (always impulsively) jump into his car and go away to Valencia town up in the hills, where it's cooler, and where we can swim among waterfalls and in river water. Still, there's the heat. No matter what I do -- duck into the shadows, apply generous amounts of sunblocking lotion, curtain off my windows to ward off the steaming rays from the outside, worship the night and proclaim allegiance to its cool, undarkening ways -- the humidity and the inescapable brightness of the every day are particularly harsher this year: the hottest summer in Dumaguete in living memory. I die of thirst every single minute. I am reduced to wearing cotton t-shirts again and cargo short pants, the official fashion of Dumaguete. And to compound all these summery "discomfort", here is my reality in the name of duty, work, and responsibility: a thousand duties to accomplish before deadlines always hanging above my head like a double-edged sword (among them the revived Poetry Edition of Sands & Coral, the Fiction Project I have with Kit Kwe which is long overdue, editing two issues of Silliman Journal, directing a farewell program for our outgoing University President, polishing off the second collection of short stories for publication, editing the Edilberto K. Tiempo anthology with Timothy Montes, reviving the Survey of Philippine Literature website, and deciding for sure -- and before April 30 -- whether or not to join the Palanca this year) and six units to teach for summer school -- although that one is never a pain because I like teaching Philippine literature in the summer, in Dumaguete, a magical time when the people I teach about in my classes actually roam the streets of Dumaguete. This summer, I am teaching Dean's novel Salamanca, the first Filipino novel I totally enjoyed, and he will actually be around to give a forum on speculative fiction in the Philippines for Silliman University, and perhaps a little talk on the writing of his novel.

Forgive me for my silence then, good people. (And my beloved Kristyn.) I'm just trying to breathe... So many things have happened in the past two months. So many things. I do not even know where to begin...


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entry arrow7:55 AM | Is That My Phone?

Dean Francis Alfar speaks on blogging and personal writing in the iBlog 2 Summit.

View Larger Version

[via manuel viloria]

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

entry arrow5:27 PM | Erratum on the Palanca Awards Contest Rules


"A work which has been awarded prize in another contest BEFORE 12:00 m.n. of 30 April 2006 is not qualified for the awards."

[from the palanca foundation]


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Monday, April 17, 2006

entry arrow8:27 AM | no orGy

Vince Groyon III now blogs.

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entry arrow8:20 AM | Call for Submission to Poetry Anthology on Globalization

Poets Against Empire: An Anthology of Contemporary Filipino Poetry in the Age of Globalization is a multi-lingual anthology of contemporary Filipino poems in English and in Filipino vernaculars (Tagalog, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bisaya etc. in translation) to be edited by Joi Barrios, Fidelito C. Cortes, and Nerissa Balce.

It will focus on the violence and vagaries of globalization including poverty, underemployment, exploitation, forced migration, dislocation, war, and the lived experiences of Filipina/o workers, migrants and the undocumented around the globe. We seek poems that depict Filipino global experiences and realities -- the dreams, desires, fears and nightmares of Filipinos who live in the homeland or those forced to leave it. The collection will feature poems by Filipino writers and poets living in the Philippines or wherever the diaspora has taken them. We welcome contributions from new and established writers, in any of our national or regional languages. While we might consider some previously published works, the editors will give preference to new poems.

Submissions should be created as Word documents, sent as JPEG or PDF files. Contributors must send a brief bionote.

Poems that will be chosen for publication in the anthology will be announced in 1 October 2006. Deadline for submissions is 1 July 2006.

You can e-mail your submissions to desarapen@gmail.com, or send them via snail mail to

Maria Nerissa S. Balce
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
409 Herter Hall
161 President's Drive
Amherst, MA 01003-9312

[via letters from canberra]

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

entry arrow11:42 AM | Letters From the Outlands

Bing Sitoy now blogs.

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entry arrow11:07 AM | Google Self-Love

I really have nothing to do this Easter morning, except probably play The Sims or watch Grave of the Fireflies, but never mind that. So I'm passing on this fascinatingly narcissistic little meme from Moki instead...

Google-search the phrase "I love (your name) because" and post your 5 (or so) favorite results.


I love Ian because he knew my class was going to be special before I did.


I love Ian because we can wear the same size pants. (Actually, Mark says this a lot...)


I love Ian because he rocks my socks off and makes me want to do a little dance in a fit of joy! (You betcha!)


I love Ian because he is making God his all and all and not focusing/obsessing over me. (What?)


I love Ian because he the best.


I love Ian because he is wonderful.


I love Ian because his performances are superb. (The writer actually meant Ewan, as in Ewan McGregor.)


I love Ian because he has sparked an interest in cooking in my son. (Awwww...)


I love Ian because he has my TV boyfriend job.


I mean if I "love" Ian because I've been digging his music since his King Crimson days, then you obviously must be in love with Mick, Lou, and Fabio. (My favorite.)

Go ahead, google yourself. (Sounds dirty, doesn't it.)

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Friday, April 14, 2006

entry arrow9:57 PM | National Artists Named

Six Filipino artists will be conferred the rank and title of national artist in ceremonies scheduled June 9, Malacanang announced Tuesday.

Aside from Fernando Poe Jr. who distinguished himself in film, also named as national artists were Bienvenido L. Lumbera (who used to blog) for literature, Ramon A. Obusan for dance, Benedicto R. Cabrera for visual arts, Ildefonso P. Santos Jr. for architecture, and the late Ramon Valera for fashion design.

The six awardees were recommended to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by the Joint Boards of the Commisioners of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in conformity with their prescribed rules and processes.

The President, who gave her confirmation last March 30, will lead the conferment ceremonies in Malacanang. It will be followed by a tribute to the honorees to be given at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The conferment rite is traditionally held in anticipation of the anniversary of Philippine independence on June 12.

[news swiped from philippine star]


The Philippine Daily Inquirer has short bios of the new National Artists. And Gigi Goes Gaga talks about how it is to have National Artist for Architecture Ildefonso P. Santos Jr. for a father.


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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

entry arrow9:28 PM | Identity Thief

Somebody's masquerading as me in Paolo Manalo's blog, using for his identity the handle 'eatingthesun' with my blog URL as his address. The thief gives the following comment regarding the whole national artist brouhaha (I didn't know a one-sentence opinion invoking the word "sabong" could land me with such unwanted attention, and stalkers):

Why don't you just come clean and admit that you have something personal against Krip?

Sir Krip is a friend and early mentor, and Dumaguete buddy. But not many people know that Paolo and I are also good friends and sometime textmates. (Yes, the Philippine literary circle is soooo small...) He published my first story in the Philippines Free Press ten thousand years ago, and he's one of only a few people who has been honest about my fiction -- a constant guide really, and goader, too. Chari Lucero considers him the komadrona of her stories. So do I. For example, Paolo woke me up one night in 2003, telling me that I must submit a new story for FP as soon as possible. So I got up from my bed, and cranked something out. That story, "Old Movies," was written specifically for Paolo, and won me my first Palanca.

So this whole episode of somebody posing as me, and giving such an oblique comment in his blog -- totally not me.

Get a life, thief. If you can't put a name behind your own opinion, just shut the fuck up.

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entry arrow7:44 PM | The Coach's Wife

Janet Villa now blogs.

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entry arrow7:39 PM | Caracoa Accepts Poetry Submissions

Caracoa, the official literary publication of the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) and the longest-running journal of poetry in English in Asia, is now accepting submissions for Caracoa 2006.

The return of Caracoa marks the 25th anniversary of the PLAC. It will be the first Caracoa anthology to come out in almost ten years.

There is no specific theme for this issue. Those interested should submit two unpublished poems in English via email (word attachment only) thru caracoa2006@yahoo.com. Deadline for submission is 15 May 2006. Those submitting should include their contact info and a brief bio-data.

Caracoa 2006 will showcase the works of 20 to 25 poets and will be guest edited by several up and coming poets in English.

[you can find more information in joel toledo's blog]

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

entry arrow9:01 AM | Books for the Summer and Small Notes on Audacity

Sunday Inquirer Magazine gives its annual rundown of things to read for the summer. Not necessarily all good reviews, but I like what Ruey De Vera has to say about the stories in Dean's Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology:

A welcome visitation, this collection of short stories from Filipino writers delves exclusively in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, yet the pieces in Philippine Speculative Fiction may have evolved into a different breed somewhere in between, which is a good thing. From Ian Rosales Casocot's audacious investigation of Jose Rizal to J. Pocholo Martin B. Goitia's vision of the Filipino's future in the being Magenta, the stories here lace the future with the flavor of our past. New and old fictionists like Angelo R. Lacuesta, Gabriela Lee and Francezca C. Kwe lend their vibrant voices to this project. "To find the fantastic, we must create the fantastic," Alfar writes in his introduction to this fantastic find.

Audacious is good, right?

But here's Penny Azarcon de la Cruz's take on Ernie Yee's Out of Doors:

Think "Brokeback Mountain," except that in place of Wyoming cowboys, Wendell and Adrian are childhood friends and later, partners in an architectural firm. All about how they discovered and finally acknowledged their tentative feelings for each other, how Adrian found a succession of lovers, and the many ways one can describe male tumescence and gay lust. Really now; I'd like to meet these characters who can be unnaturally articulate about their sex life even to first-time acquaintances. Like most porn movies, the novel gets repetitive after the initial encounters and you actually feel a headache coming on. Not tonight, please.


UPDATE: I'm still thinking about the last note, about Ernie's book. Troubled, not just because Ernie's a friend...but more so because -- for an issue supposedly about book recommendations -- is the negative review necessary? Oh well.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

entry arrow8:30 PM | Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned in Grade School

Two weekends ago, my grade school alma mater -- West City Elementary School -- invited me to speak before their Recognition Day honorees. The first thing that came to mind was this horrified thought that I am already of a certain age where I am already being asked to do this kind of things. I already have one previous graduation day speakership in my basket. To have two eggs in that basket...what does that say about my perceived "seniority"?

Nevertheless, you don't get this kind of requests often, and in a sense ego won over vanity (not much of a moral fight between prideful things, is there). This weekend, we also happen to be celebrating Easter -- and for me, what could be more Easter-like than a note of resurrection, of triumph, via a recognition day speech? In a sense, I'll be killing two birds with one stone -- taking note of the tail-end of the graduation season, and the celebration of Holy Week. This is what I told the kids down in my old school...

I promise I am not going to be one of those regular bores of keynote speakers who use events like these as if they are running for President of the Republic, giving out bromides as if life was a matter of black and white. This is your day, after all, and so I will kept what I have to say short because I know you all of you just want to get on with the rest of the day in celebration of your triumphs in the classroom.

What I want to do for you this afternoon is to tell a little story.

Once there was a little boy who was very skinny, and was full of wonder. He had the same innocent concerns like most of you probably once had: the desire for ice cream, vanilla flavored, and the desire for more time to play.

This little boy went to a school just like yours. He remembers going to his first class in Grade One, trembling with both fear and excitement -- because being in Grade One meant he was now a big boy, and although he still played marbles and tayukok with other little boys and girls, he knew that being in Grade One meant something.

Do you remember your first day in Grade One? That day may seem like a thousand years ago now, but we all still remember the mad and fearful churning in our stomach as we nervously entered our first classroom, as we inhaled the smell of newly sharpened pencils and the earthy scents of our young classmates.

In Grade One, this little boy knew what it was to finally consider that he was a person of the world, and although his young mind did not yet make this connection, he somehow knew that this world demands that he make his mark on it.

In Grade One, the little boy finally knew how to read. Mrs. Valencia, his old teacher, taught him to read his first words from his first book: "Henny Penny. Henny Penny was a hen. Henny Penny was a red hen."

These were very simple words -- but words that nevertheless contained so much magic for that little boy, because it would soon lead him to stories he, too, would make, always with the hope that these stories would contain the same old magic.

By the end of Grade One, his old teacher Mrs. Valencia told the little boy that he was being given a ribbon for being the Most Diligent in Class. Not First Honors, not Second Honors, not Third Honors. Most Diligent. But the little boy did not care. He was very, very happy. He ran home to his mother, and told her in very excited voice: "Mom! I am being given a ribbon for Most Intelligent!" And his mother was very happy, although the little boy heard his teacher wrong.

In Grade Two, the little boy learned how to read better, and he learned how to write in a cursive style -- tinapot, in other words, and he learned stories about heroes, and he learned about numbers. For the longest time, the little boy was scared of numbers -- how they jumbled together in their own worlds of additions, subtractions, multiplications, and divisions. They did not make sense at all for the little boy, and he felt scared.

Do you remember when you first learned how to do your mathematics? Did you also feel scared?

Nevertheless, the little boy bravely went on, and he even tried to become "friends" with the puzzling numbers themselves, willing them to bend to his will and to his understanding. When Grade Two finally ended for the little boy though, there were no ribbons at all. No First Honors, no Second Honors, no Third Honors. Not even a ribbon for being Most Diligent.

But the little boy thought that was okay. It was certainly not going to be the end of the world for him.

In Grade Three, something magical happened. Somehow, either by mistake or by happy fortune, the little boy fell into the wrong line during enrolment. He ended up not with the regular classes, but with the Special Education Fast Learners class. We call this the SPED class. There, he met wonderful teachers -- Ms. Concepcion, Mrs. Ricardo, Mrs. Paltinca, Mr. Corsino -- who taught him to appreciate things beyond a child's simple imagination. They laid for the little boy the basics in life, perhaps without them even knowing it. They taught the little boy science that jumped and quivered in little children's hands, mathematics that challenged but did not belittle, dancing and singing that edified and made performers out of little children, and finally -- and most importantly for the little boy -- language skills that slowly transformed nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and prepositions into a living and breathing experience.

By the end of Grade Three, guess what happened. The little boy got a ribbon for Second Honors! Finally. Nothing much happened in Grade Four. There was no ribbon for the little boy at all, although by Grade Five, he got a ribbon for Third Honors.

When he was about to graduate from Grade Six, however, the boy -- no longer so little -- got the biggest surprise of his life so far. He was playing soccer with his classmates near the start of summer, and his teacher came up to him, and told him, "You are graduating Valedictorian."

Nothing ever prepared him for that. How could he? From Grade One to Grade Five, he had always just somehow hung on -- no First Honors recognition at all, just spurts of brilliance aptly rewarded, but never consistently maintained.

That boy, of course, if you can guess by now, was me. And why am I telling you my story? Because I find it ultimately strange that I am being asked to speak before you today as Recognition Day speaker when I had never really been that familiar with such rites when I was growing up. But there are some lessons to be gained from the story of this little boy.

First, that winning the battles may be important, but it is eventually winning the war that is of great consequence. I was never a First Honor student, but I did graduate Valedictorian -- which ultimately matters more, right? In the long run, it is what you have done all in all that will define who you are. So for those who are not here today as honorees, do not take this non-recognition as a measure of what you can do finally in life. Life, like the old folks usually say, is all about ups and downs. Someday, after all the hard work, you will really get your due.

Second, never ever underestimate yourself. When you are as young as you are now, you are the very vessels of potentials -- in other words, you are all potentially great inventors, great singers and actors, great writers, great public servants, great professionals -- but most of these potentials you will never really know when you are still in elementary school. Why? Because that is the very fact of human nature: that when we are young, we are blind to our gifts.

It will take a good teacher to recognize the potentials in you, and sometimes the best thing to do is to just accommodate your teacher's dreams for your life, and follow the course of wherever the fates may take you. In Grade School, for example, my teachers told me I could write and draw. I never even knew I was capable of these, but my teachers pushed me to join many competitions, to write essays, to read books from the SPED library, and to edit The Western Star, which I hope is still around. If I had refused their counsel or their dreams of what I could do, I would not be enjoying the distinction of being an internationally-published writer today. Pero, katong bata pa ko, gisakyan ra nako sila -- and I am now winning many awards for what they first instilled in me: a belief that I can do exceptionally what I promised I could do.

Third, luck does play a small part in all of your lives, but the rest is all about hard work, and learning -- like instinct -- the basics of everything. For example, language. When I was a little boy, I used to think of my English classes in SPED as something extremely demanding for a public school student like me. We were told to speak English from sun-up to sun-down. And from Grade Three to Grade Six, my teacher Ms. Bennie Vic V. Concepcion kept on repeating all the basics of language, and I mean everything.

I did not realize then that these repetitions, and Ms. Concepcion's unwavering consistency, will eventually make the grasp of the English language instinctive for me. When I entered Silliman High School, my SPED classmates and I far outstripped even Silliman Elementary School graduates in our language skills. Our English was impeccable, and I have always believed that this command of language has carried me through every success that I have had.

Fourth, never be docile, and never be a conformist. Never wait for life to happen to you, and always think independently, even when you are young. My teachers in grade school taught me this as an important fundamental for living the life. And I now know that they are right. The writer Sidney J. Harris once wrote: "Parents want two opposite things at once: they want their children to excel, and they want their children to be docile. But the two don't go together, and never have." He goes on to say that every study made of achievers in a truly creative sense -- "that is, people who are truly innovative, whose existence made some positive difference for the human race" -- has shown that as children these people were anything but docile and conformist. Almost all were independent, in mind, in spirit, if not in body...."

When I was in Grade School, we were taught by our teachers all the fundamentals of contemporary thought and living -- but at the same time, our teachers encouraged us to question even all of these. Because to question is to sharpen our minds and to know our place in the world.

In a sense then, all I needed to learn about life I learned in West City Elementary School.

Thus, every time I am asked to determine what forces have shaped my life, I always return to my days in elementary school as the very years that formed my personality and my talents. I will always thank my elementary school teachers for teaching me the basics, and for endeavoring with me to go beyond the basics.

Mrs. Paltinca, who taught the mentally-challenged in SPED, taught me the basics of appreciating differences in people, and learning tolerance above all. I will forever thank her for that.

Mrs. Ricardo, who taught us Filipino and manned our library, taught me to love books. And in a sense she taught me to seek and fulfill my wonder of how this world works. I traveled all over the world when I was in college, because Mrs. Ricardo taught me the basics that there is so much more of the world out there beyond Dumaguete. I will forever thank her for that.

Mr. Corsino, who taught us science and mathematics, also taught us dancing. He made seasoned performers of us all. Life, being a theater stage, is all about performance, and because of Mr. Corsino I was properly rehearsed to face any audience. I will forever thank him for that.

And finally, Ms. Concepcion, who taught us English, and who taught us to love words. I owe my life as a writer to her above all.

These people taught me the basics. And life is all about basics, above all. I just hope you have good teachers like I once had. Someday, when it would be your turn to speak as Recognition Day speaker, you would realize that everything you would be in the future, was first shaped when you were a young boy or a young girl in West City Elementary School.

The basic of everything is right now. Breathe in all of it, and explore every bit of your potentials with the help of your mentors. Thank you, and good day.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

entry arrow9:23 PM | Migginot's Line

Migs Villanueva now blogs.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

entry arrow6:57 PM | Story Philippines is Now Accepting Submissions

Story Philippines welcomes and considers submissions of new fiction stories and one act plays under 7,000 words, as well as paintings, photographs, and digital art from Philippine citizens or individuals of Philippine ancestry.

The magazine is now accepting submissions on a regular basis, with no themes or deadlines. Please send all submissions to englishmpublishing@yahoo.com. Only email submissions with complete name and contact details will be considered. We look forward to discovering new Philippine fiction.

[texted in by kit kwe]

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

entry arrow9:32 PM | On the Count of Ten, Hand Me Your Money

Carlos Celdran gets held-up -- through hypnotism. I tell you, we Pinoys are so weirdly talented, it's uncanny. We can rule the world and solve all problems if we really put our minds to it.

[via jessica zafra's twisted]


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entry arrow11:15 AM | Best Easy Recipes

Hey look...

A cookbook which I designed a year ago (A Touch of Spice by Cecilia Helen Bruce) is a finalist for Best Easy Recipes (scroll down to the Philippine entry) at the 11th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2005. The winners will be announced on 21 May 2006 in Kuala Lumpur. Now that's something.

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entry arrow3:44 AM | Neil Gaiman's Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards Night Moved to July 15

Hello everyone,

We'd like to announce that due to the overwhelming amount of entries we have received for the competition, we moved the awards night to 15 July 2006. This will coincide with the sci-fi convention together with the New Worlds Alliance, as well as the first year anniversary of Neil Gaiman's visit here in Manila. It will be held at the Rockwell Tent. Will keep you posted on developments.

Thank you very much for your patience, and once again, congratulations to all who have submitted. We were very impressed with many of the entries, and we are very excited to publish these in our special compilation.

Fully Booked Management

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

entry arrow1:53 PM | Is the Pen Dry in Dumaguete? (Part 3)

It does not help, of course, that one of the saddest news I've received most recently is from Danah Fortunato of Village Bookstore -- that wonderful nook for Filipiniana literature over along Cimafranca Street -- who texted me that the bookstore was closing: "Ian, you're one of the first to know, we're closing shop. Maybe only until we find another place, maybe for good. Truth is, I wasn't able to spend enough time on it -- for years -- and everything suffered. I'm working on an alternative so there'll be books, even if I won't own it." Like her, I felt like an old trusted friend had died.

And always, after moments like this, it gets to me, this gnawing suspicion: Does Dumaguete even read? Is the pen indeed dry in the city? Because we can always argue about sustaining our generations of writers in the community -- but like what is true in the poem "Getting the Message" by Ateneo poet Vincenz Serrano: "A kiss is complete / only in another's mouth and tongue, like how / a writer needs a listener for the words / to be whole..." -- there will be no writers at all if there is equally no community of readers. Else, we will be like "the mad [who] talk / to themselves and set speech adrift in air / only to drown in the loneliness of no one / listening..." Ouch.

Sometimes I suspect the negative, when my students for example always seem to preface their book reviews for my literature classes with the constant (and increasingly irritating) confession that they do not read books, and certainly never novels. (What is sadder still is the realization that there seems to be a shade of delight or pride in this admission.) For the proud bannering of our distinction as the country's University Town, where are our bookstores? Does anybody even know we have a Public Library which has forever remained a sad shadow beside City Hall?

It also does not help that one of the young Dumaguete writers I have just mentioned, Cindy Mae Almazan -- the talented niece of poet Anthony Tan -- recently contacted me through my blog and left me this message: "Hi, Sir. This is Cindy. Somebody told me about [the article on Dumaguete writing.] Anyway, I think the pen is drying up in Dumaguete," and followed that pronouncement with a sad-looking smiley colored blue, as in distress -- the perfect summation for generic mortality.

I hastily wrote back: "No, it's not," and ended that brief rejoinder with another smiley -- all brightened up this time, and sporting the hopeful shade of yellow. Call that sheer missionary zeal from someone whose passion and community are being declared dinosaurs, but in the two weeks that have taken me to get my bearings on this issue I have increasingly come to believe that creative writing in Dumaguete is alive and well and kicking -- but like all things Dumaguete, it masks itself in the slowness of things, in a state of invisible but still pervasive presence that sometimes many people mistake for absence.

But this is hardly a uniquely Dumaguete problem. The young writer Ned Parfan has recently remarked this to me when he said, "I noted the same trend in Thomasian [UST] literary writing many times before. Notable writers here, I think, come and go in batches. The difference is the shifting to (or focusing on) the poetry genre. In the latest volume of Dapitan, our college department's version of Sands & Coral, I noted that gone are the glory days of fiction when F. Sionil Jose, Paz Latorena, and Wilfrido Nolledo brought pride to the university with their stories. Many agree that poetry has been the focus of Thomasian creative writing for many years now, producing only a handful of successful fictionists since the last decade. That would include Eric Melendez, Kit Kwe, and Pocholo Goitia."

In Silliman, the trend is the personal essay -- and hardly anyone calls that seriously literary, which may be part of the problem. The latest issue of S&C, edited by Misael Ondong, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, and Andrea Soluta, is devoted entirely to the personal essay, and has yet to see the light of the printers due to some unfortunate layout problems.

But what most people want as proof of creative writing life are images we borrow from too many Woody Allen movies -- the smoky camaraderie between writers and their coteries hatching plots and verses and dalliances between bottles of beer, the active churning out of printed things, the manic staging of many literary events, the sight of writers milling about in our cafes debating about things literary till a thousand sunsets go down. Many of these cliches do happen, mostly in metropolises like Manila where literary happenstances are immediately followed by drinking sessions at Penguin, or somewhere in Tomas Morato -- but to expect the same of Dumaguete is unfair. Things here just happen differently -- more subdued perhaps, like an Edith Tiempo demeanor, but nonetheless alive.

Still, we must realize that the pronouncement of death is always a commonplace practice. Hardly a year goes by when nobody laments the death of anything. Just a year after the invention of the movie camera in 1895, for example, the cultural pundits then had pronounced the death of cinema, calling it a fad that would fade away into the obscurities of entertainment footnotes. This is so much the same way similarly-inclined critics do with their "death of the novel" or "death of the short story" or "death of poetry" chants.

Everybody wants to be an undertaker, and it pays to bear caution that declarations like these should always be taken with a grain of salt. I've always taken these as nothing more than impassioned alarm calls for a return to the lovely old order.

What I probably need to do right now, to hopefully settle the debate once and for all, is to define what exactly makes a literary community like Dumaguete particularly dry. Is it the lack of resident writers? Is it the lack of workshops that can stimulate what we patronizingly call "budding writers"? Is it the lack of avenues for reading? Is it the lack of proper spaces for publication? Is it the lack of encouragement?

As for the question of resident writers, there is always Grand Dame herself, National Artist Edith Tiempo who -- even in her 80s -- continues to astonish us with her brilliance and her being extraordinarily prolific. At her age, she still commands presence as a working woman, this time away from the academe and settled with the more controlled atmosphere of her office in CAP. It is remarkable that she still continues to churn out literary tomes after another -- more recently a novel, The Builder, which is a murder-mystery set in Dumaguete City

Around her, there are Bobby Flores Villasis who keeps winning national literary contests (excerpt from the Philippines Free Press Literary Awardee "Elegies From Another Book" here), and Ernesto Superal Yee who has just published his novel Out of Doors (excerpt here). There is Mr. Aquino who was just recently a recipient of the SEAWrite Award given out by the Queen of Thailand. Three years ago, I helped him in birthing his personal anthology, Checkmeta, which was subsequently cited in the National Book Awards given out by the Manila Critics Circle. Miggy Ybanez will be publishing his poems with an American imprint. One of the city's youngest authors is Stacy Alcantara -- a former Miss Silliman and now a Mass Communication student in the same university -- whose fantasy book was recently published by Midtown. In Silliman, when there is time to do some writing beyond the grueling demands of academic work, teachers Sherro Lee Lagrimas does poetry on the side, Rebecca de la Torre some fiction, and Earl Jude Cleope some historical recordings. I am sure that many writer-teachers in Foundation University, Saint Paul University, and the Negros Oriental State University are also of the same bent. Jared Tirambulo, for example, continues to produce his poetry in Binisaya. (Silliman President Agustin Pulido used to write poetry, too, and had several of them published in old issues of the S&C.) About two years ago, a bunch of writers and literature enthusiasts -- including Mr. Yee, Mr. Villasis, Mr. Ondong, Jee-Yeon Park, Philip Van Peel, Bing Sumanoy, Jay Quevenco, Niccolo Vitug, and yours truly -- formed the Dumaguete Literary Arts group, which aims, among other things, to foster a sense of the literary in the community. (Note how our writing circle includes a Belgian and a Korean -- which is indicative of the expatriate culture in Dumaguete. How does one define Philippine literature in the Dumaguete context?) Our biggest concern now is to provide needed assistance to the National Writers Workshop -- but we have been hatching a lot of plans to jumpstart the sense of literature in the city, among them a survey of Negrense Cebuano literature which is a neglected part of our local literary heritage. And if we include in this brief survey all the other Dumaguete writers who now live somewhere else, we will be guilty of bursting the seams of this essay. Writers here are indeed very active -- and perhaps we can credit the silence about so much of these to the typical writerly repugnance for self-promotion.

Is it the lack of workshops? But there is always the National Writers Workshop every summer in Dumaguete, which Krip Yuson has called the Mother of All Workshops. Together with the Village Bookstore, Mr. Aquino also gives small creative writing workshops, mostly poetry for children. As recently as last year, the English Department of Silliman University, through the efforts of Mr. Vitug and Ms. Soluta, launched the First Personal Essay Writing Workshop -- a precursor of sorts to the First International Creative Non-Fiction Workshop held in parallel to the Dumaguete workshop, this time attended by fellows from the Iowa International Creative Writing Workshop, with Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas. And Dumaguete has always been a favorite spot for literary conferences. Three years ago, it hosted the British Council's annual creative writing conference, which brought in British writers Atima Srivastava and Hon Ying. And four years ago, it hosted the Japan Foundation's first conference on the teaching of film and literature, with the venerable Bienvenido Lumbera as guest speaker.

Is it the lack of avenues for reading? Village Bookstore may soon be gone and the other "bookstores" in the area may be forbidding places that do not attract the consummate book buyer at all -- but observe the casual swarm of people going to the used books section of Lee Plaza, and you get the feeling that there is an undercurrent of literary hunger going on. If only some plucky (and forward-looking) entrepreneur recognizes this...

Is it the lack of proper spaces for publication? There is always S&C, and the other local universities I'm sure have their own equivalents. But even with the lack of a proper journal for literary pursuits, the school papers published in the Dumaguete do take up the slack. The Monthly Paulinian, for example, publishes student poetry. Consider, too, the strange -- but edifying -- position the city holds with regards newspaper publishing. For a city this small, we do have an amazing surplus of local papers, with MetroPost at the helm (but of course), followed by Negros Chronicle, NegrosNews (which I once edited), Visayan Daily Star, Sun-Star Dumaguete, and three or four other papers that seem to follow a random sense of publishing frequency. We know that MetroPost, on occasion, publishes poetry -- and NegrosNews does provide space for Cebuano balak, which is a delight.

Is it the lack of encouragement? Of this, I would like to quote Mr. Parfan who texted me this query: "I just want to ask about the literary output in Dumaguete, like books by individual authors. I think it reflects enthusiasm when authors join and win in contests and publish their works. These signs marked a revival in UST."

I agree with him. When I first won the Palanca for the short story, for example, it was astonishing to find many of my writer-friends trying to join the competition the very next year. This year, several of my students -- perhaps buoyed by their teacher's success in competitions -- have told me they want to join the Palanca this year. One of them, Tara de Leon, went on to join the PBBY-Alcala Illustrators Prize, to illustrate my children's book Rosario and the Stories, which recently garnered Honorable Mention in the PBBY-Salanga Writers Prize. Many people say one should not write for awards -- but I think that's what competition losers always say to cover their disappointment. (Haha!) Competitions, Dean Alfar once said, should not be the be-all for one's literary output, but it does give a necessary kick in our literary efforts. "Joining competitions keeps us on our writing toes," Dean has said. And also pushes other budding writers to try their luck.

It is in book publication that we Dumaguete writers seem to be perpetually in limbo. Only a handful here have books to their names, which points to a real literary drought in terms of gathering together an impressive local bibliography. A visit to the Sillimaniana section of the university library yields only a small cabinet of written efforts. I sometimes wish that Silliman Press will go beyond its functional status as mere printer, and become a stalwart vanguard of Philippine publishing, the way it is in the University of the Philippines, De La Salle, Ateneo, UST, FEU, and even the University of San Agustin in Iloilo.

Given all these, there is really no concrete reason to put Dumaguete creative writing in its coffin just yet.

Or is it just every generation's inherently selfish claim that theirs is always the worse in the continuing tradition, that the past is always necessarily brighter? If that is true, what may be more dangerous is one's constant measuring up to the past that will paralyze us. I guess the thing to do then is for everybody, all the Rodrigo Bolivars in the world, to start making things matter, to shake things up, to realize that all efforts may not necessarily always begin with a bang but that constancy and hard work will somehow pay off in the long run.

I would like to end this essay by quoting Dominique Cimafranca, who had some things to say after last week's installment of this series. "I was thinking about this...and three things came to mind, though these don't necessarily point to the heart of the matter.

"First, we're suffering from narrow overspecialization. This is not an observation on Dumaguete alone but on Philippine society as a whole. Even Rodrigo falls prey to this, I think. Literature should not be a specialized endeavor limited to AB English or Mass Com, but should be encouraged among everybody, nursing students included. Alas, the professionals have edged out the amateurs (and if we go back to the root of 'amateur,' it really means someone who does it for love).

"Second, we need to move with the times. Literature should no longer be limited to the printed word on dead-tree. Instead, literature should begin to explore other media, such as comics, the hyperstory, and even film. As it stands, the way we tell our stories and even the stories that we tell have become stultified.

"Last, together with [the previous] point, we should explore the means by which writers can get compensated for their work. Case in point: someone from Guimaras writing erotica and earning $200 per month on AdSense. Love is one thing, and money is another."

I'd love to expound on these things more, but given the length of this post, it will have to be for another time.

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entry arrow12:01 AM | Elizabeth Bishop

This is a post for Naya, my cheshire cat, because she's happy.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

This is one of my favorite poems, from one of my favorite poets. Here's a distillation of the poem. Here's something on the controversial book on Bishop's unpublished work and drafts by The New Yorker's Alice Quinn. Here's David Orr's The New York Times review of that book.


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Monday, April 03, 2006

entry arrow9:52 PM | Papa-Ooh-Mamaw's Mood, With Dress and Shoes

Ned Parfan and Ricci Guevara now blog.

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entry arrow11:28 AM | Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Cebu-based poet Myke Obenieta writes about what is raising the hackles of the Queen City of the South's City Council.

This tease of a print ad...

Myke writes: "Roll their eyeballs, the councilors do as they raise their hackles against a print advertisement pitching for Penrex herbal capsule. Meant for those suffering erectile dysfunction, the ad offers a picture-perfect example on how to tease the imagination. It shows a bespectacled, naked male bowing his head in discontent while holding and covering his private parts with a cardboard showing a bulldog dozing off. But so extra alert are the councilors -- most of them in their late 40s and obviously downhill from their roll-down-the-hay days -- to fancy foulness, finding the promotional pitch as 'offensive to morals' and 'goes beyond the Filipinos' line of decency.' You bet, they're not joking."

Ehehehe. Makalingaw labaw sa bulan ang mga tigulang, no?

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entry arrow10:18 AM | Krip Yuson Replies

A Language for Nationalism?

By Alfred A. Yuson

Of course friends called, texted, e-mailed their support. Some, not all, agreed with the points I raised in that column a fortnight ago. Most were privileged to read the pig Latin in my flak vest, so their offers of assistance stayed private. Some actually said: Hey, own up, you're playing rope-a-dope, right?

Well... Okay, let's be a tad bit serious. A lot of hackles have been raised, for which I'm sorry. No intention there to raise the rage level on this planet. But I should have known better than to provoke a bit of a firestorm over "nationalism." So here's clarifying some points, in response to those raised.

A pity that poet Joi Barrios' intended letter-to-the-editor didn't see print. Not sure she did send it, but it got first play on the Internet. Basically, Joi took umbrage over my apparently reckless endangerment of Bien Lumbera's person, given the recent crackdown on perceived enemies of the state.

I'd like to make this clear. I didn't label Bien a communist. Even if he were, which I don't know, nothing wrong there. It's legal to be a commie in this country. In any case, I'm not into that sort of vintage labeling. What I more than inferred, and decried, was the "nationalist" posturing (being careful now to employ quotation marks, as an indication of both eyebrows raised) of his fan base.

The passages in my column that quoted what I've heard in beerhouses and then some (about "communist candidate" and nothing really memorable in his works, something like that) were meant to add some flavor of reportage. Oh yeah? What kind of reportage is that when it doesn't identify the speakers? Tsismis reportage, that's what. Hearsay, firsthand. No need to reveal the identities of those from whose lips I heard those views, to which I must confess a level of tacit agreement on my part.

But Joi may have been in her rights to raise the alarm. As for "red-baiting," no, I assured her by SMS, I'm not into that either. Just as I don't have "patrons" whose desires or policies I could've been carrying out. Why, I don't even dislike communists. What I didn't text Joi was that I found them rather funny at best.

The Left, with its wide gamut of ideological predilections, I respect as a whole, albeit not entire. I told Joi that I'm with her and "them" when it comes to mounting any civil struggle against the "pang-gigiit" against Reps. Beltran, Ocampo and company.

Okey naman kami ni Joi matapos ng mahabang diyalogo sa selfon. Sa wari ko. She said I better clarify all of that. I agreed. So here it is: I wasn't red-baiting -- which would be an even funnier proposition than any perceived goals of the intended prey. And I'm not a Commie-hater, since hardly any gander gets up to ever replace bemusement.

As for the reported comments on Bien's candidacy for the National Artist award, to relate these to any Commie witchhunt was a stretch, I thought. Maybe I'm not given to paranoia where I sit or stand. But if it alarms friends and colleagues alike, then I regret having included those remarks.

What I found admirable in Joi's heartfelt communication, in private, was her loyalty to her mentor Bien, whose influence she acknowledges with great appreciation. In gist, she said she couldn't allow anyone to attack Bien and get away with it.

Again, I assured her I hadn't been on attack mode. It was her rejoinder that was "banat," I said, before adding facetious remarks like "buti na lang banat na'ng mukha ko" -- to which she replied something about "Botox." And that's how our SMS dialectics ended.

Next came a diatribe from Gary Devilles of Ateneo something or other, in very angry Filipino. I can't comment on his protest over what I wrote on the National Artist awards, as I sense from his language that he's so used to denounce anything in high dudgeon. Aba'y palengkero daw ako, eh siya yung nag-gagalaiti at halos makita na'ng tumiklop ang mga litid sa leeg.

Rosario "Chari" Lucero's letter, published in this space last week, I can appreciate for its relative elegance and elements of humor, irony, sarcasm and hyperbole. The valid points raised are marred somewhat by academically liberal -- in more ways than one -- leaps of deconstruction. I never equated "nationalist" with "communist." That inference she made on her own. Neither have I ever put myself "forth as a spokesperson for Philippine literature." Maybe for beerhouses, even as I favor whisky.

I agree that Dr. Lumbera enjoys a "primary position" in "Philippine culture and literature." Never mind the academic "canon" to the left and right of us. Her proposal to thresh out matters of literary evaluation in a conference would be welcome had it not betrayed unfair terms of engagement, as well an assumption that a rep from the lush life can't partake of an educated exchange.

Jonathan Chua was most civil, for which I am thankful. He too raised valid points that can be properly addressed, most soberly indeed. He credits Dr. Lumbera with having co-pioneered the "Bagay" poetry movement together with the multi-genre genius Rolando Tinio. All I know, in my semi-illiteracy, is that some lines of Tinio's "Valedictory sa Hillcrest" are still recited from memory by lushes like myself. I'm sorry, but I can't recall a single poem title by Bien. True, he still qualifies as an artist, because he has written exemplary librettos, some early poetry, and voluminous critical work.

I don't dismiss all that. Bien deserves to be a National Artist all right, but for his art and not for his perceived "nationalism." (More on this later.) What I maintain is that if the choice should be between Cirilo Bautista's and Bienvenido Lumbera's totality of artistic merits, the former would undoubtedly be more formidable. Bien has been a scholar-critic more than a literary artist. But his lifework and influence have also been formidable, for which he also deserves the highest award imaginable. And yet, to my mind, not over Cirilo. The problem, as I saw it, is that ideological accommodation played a part in the choice.

I would've been very surprised if Paolo Manalo hadn't joined the Internet critics. This fellow has long had it in for me, for reasons we both know but which would be irrelevant to mention here. I just wish that as literary editor of Philippines Free Press, Manalo makes a better effort at ensuring that contributors receive their fees, for it is a more fundamental responsibility than writing precipitate poetics.

Reuel Aguila was right. I made dabog. Naiintindihan ko rin kung saan siya nanggagaling. Nirerespeto ko ang kanyang kakayahan at mga akda, at ang bunga ng kanyang batikos ay isa na rin sa aking pinagsisisihan. Hindi ko naman gustong makipag-away sa mga Filipinista. Dapat nga tayong magtulungan.

As expected, the most sophisticated and enlightening take on the brouhaha has been Adrian Cristobal's. He intelligently takes me to task, but seems to exonerate me even before he engages in subtle excoriation. Whee! And I can only agree with his closure:

We should judge writers by their works alone, lest we consider Ezra Pound and Carlos Bulosan to be bad writers because one was a fascist and the other a communist.

That risk belongs to the philistine. May their tribe decrease!

Others have joined the fray in strange ways, like e-mail-baiting in private and then sharing the exchange in public, while masking themselves with pseudo-addy-nyms. Oh, well. Blithe as blithe goes, to each his perverse pleasure.

Now, for more provocation, possibly, owing to the sensitivity that has only led to token politeness, and, well, tokenism.

But let's get "nationalism" out of the way muna. The reason I place that term within quotation marks is that I find the manner in which it is commonly claimed credit for as unbearably proprietary. The trouble with "nationalists" is that they love to proclaim themselves as such, as if everyone else who doesn't cannot be a nationalist.

It's become a matter of seething too much, denouncing too much, bearing too much of a humongous chip on the shoulder for too long, while taking too much credit for being the only lovers of country.

I agree with Jimmy Abad. (I hope his letter to the editor appears somewhere on this page.) There's no monopoly on nationalism, which is not gauged by the language one uses or where one lives. I love our country for all its faults, our faults, and our own brand of occasional idiocy. But I do not have to proclaim myself a "nationalist" to the exclusion of most everyone else. And I'm tired of having to walk on eggshells due to PC awareness of sensitivity.

Ma. Luisa Igloria, recent winner of the highly prestigious Stephen Dunn Award for Poetry, is no less of a nationalist for writing in English, let alone for choosing to teach literature out there in Virginia, USA. By the by, she competes in a much larger, more challenging arena. And yet she does us all proud with her Filipino poetry in English. Heck, make that poetry, period.

When Eric Gamalinda gets a story accepted by Harper's, it's an honor for all Filipinos, whether they write in Filipino, English, or Spanish. Heck, whether they write at all.

I am not advocating that we all write in English. I try to write in Filipino, but am better trained in English, as was most of my generation that grew up in Manila. Let us strengthen Filipino, and all other languages in our regions. Let us not however equate writing in Filipino (or Tagalog), or favoring the writing of Filipino (or Tagalog), with stronger or more authentic nationalism.

The demographics alone are against that sort of reckoning. We still have more Cebuano speakers. Ilocano writers write in Ilocano, Ilonggos in Ilonggo or Hiligaynon, Bicolanos in Bicolano. Sure, there are exceptions: a few Ilocanos, Ilonggos and Bicolanos write or also write in Filipino. But more of the same can and do write in English.

Contrary to doomsayers for English literary use at the height of the bilingualism debate of the '70s, greater numbers of Filipino poets and writers are writing in English, I believe so much more than the increasing numbers of writers in Filipino. That's because Filipinos outside the Tagalog region have not yet reached any proficiency in Filipino. Someday it'll happen, when the electronic media -- radio, TV and film -- manage to eventually improve that proficiency.

For now, there are hardly any venues for literature in Filipino. Hardly anyone even engages in travel writing in Filipino, or creative non-fiction in Filipino. Which is not saying that it's an inferior language. It's just younger than major literary languages of the world.

When a Filipino writes in English, he necessarily takes on a tougher challenge -- that of participation in the continuing evolution of a language that has been used for centuries, by the likes of Chaucer and Shakespeare and Oliver Wendell Holmes and Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje.

When a Filipino writes in Filipino, yes, he is writing in the language of his blood, and yet -- and this is no invidious comparison -- he is upholding, enhancing and reinventing a much younger tradition that "only" goes back to Balagtas and Lazaro Francisco and Amado Hernandez and Virgilio Almario.

When Cirilo Bautista writes in English, he vies against the standards of excellence that continue to be set in that yet dynamic language. When Bienvenido Lumbera champions Filipino literature almost to the exclusion of the merits gained by Filipinos in literary English, I believe he does a bit of disservice to scholarship and criticism.

Three years ago, I formally argued for a National Artist award for Virgilio Almario because I believed in the total creative worth of his literature in Filipino. I even said it was high time another NA award went to a writer in Filipino, after Amado Hernandez. I would have argued the same for Dr. Lumbera, but not at the expense of Dr. Bautista.

Of course all this has been moot, even when I first wrote on the matter (which is why Reuel is right in saying na nagdabog lang si ako) -- given the fact that Lumbera was already chosen as the sole finalist for Literature. Even as this is being written, he could well be on his way to gaining the award. I cannot begrudge him or any other writer or Lotto winner any prize.

On an aside, as I texted Jonathan, bigyan naman sana ko ng konsiderasyon na sa tanda kong ito, alam ko namang ang nakikitang pagbatikos ko kay Bien ay malamang na mag-garantiya na maging NA nga siya. Alam naman natin ang sikolohiyang bumabalot sa mga nagdedesisyon.

No claiming of any credit, however, in hindsight or with foresight. I just had to say what I believed in, maybe because I have the guts, or chutzpah, or moxie, or apog. Na magdabog.

But again, at the risk of offending sensibilities, even those of my ka-barkadang mga Filipinista, uulitin ko ang aking paniniwala na mas mahigpit pa rin ang hamon ng pagsusulat sa Ingles. Kayat ang dapat ay galingan pa ang pagsulat sa Filipino. Mas madaling mangyari ito kung ilalapag na lang muna ang bagahe ng ideolohiya.

Sa ganun ay dadami ang magsusulat ng mga kaakit-akit na kakaibang mga tula tulad ng mga gawa ni Freddie Salanga, Pete Lacaba, RayVi Sunico, Beni Santos at Allan Popa -- na siyang mga aral din sa Ingles at nagamit ang kanilang natutunan dito. O mga akdang pang-awit tulad ng mga hinahangaan natin mula kina Heber Bartolome at Joey Ayala -- at panibagong hinahangaan kong si Israfel Fagela ng sisikat na bandang Los Chupacabras.

To my calumnists, please understand that not everyone can have a regular newspaper column. Some of us are asked to fulfill the role. I try to popularize literature, mostly Philippine -- more often those in English because there are more works in English. I am not a critic but a reviewer and a tsismoso. I also try to be light, which is why I dub someone like the young Angelo Suarez "the Kobe Bryant of Philippine Literature." Sorry if I can't similarly laud efforts to tack on to a topical-trendy term like "jologs" for perishable poetry.

I am so sorry to Bien and Shayne for the hurt I caused. Couldn't help it; it couldn't be helped.

Let me end with gravity and flippancy: two sides of the same coin of eloquence (ahem). "The language of nationalism is in the heart, while the art of literature is in the mastery of universal craft." That is mine. "Thanks for the intellectual discussion. It's always hard to defend a losing argument. But you did a decent job of it." From the Cleveland Cavaliers message boards, and which we're all free to say to one another.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

entry arrow8:36 PM | April Fooled

I wanted to do an April Fool's joke today -- but stopped myself. Eh, who cares? I thought. I've either grown up, or just gotten old. Eh, who cares.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

entry arrow8:10 PM | Add These to Your Book Pile...

Recently-launched books from great authors...

Go ahead, scratch the bibliolust...

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[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich