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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?


Sunday, May 28, 2006

entry arrow8:06 PM | Please?

Be a friend. Add up. This one won't take too much of your time.


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

entry arrow12:53 PM | The Sweet, Delirious Madness of Being in Dumaguete in May

Last night, I got drunk on just three bottles of beer, oogled at a fashion walk-off where Mark was part of the bevy of models being fashionable for a night on a catwalk at El Camino Blanco, and then much later -- around two in the morning and just next door -- we danced to an intoxicating reggae beat, all our flesh touching, at Hayayay, this outdoors bistro with a treehouse just along Tanon Strait. Danced like there were no limits to being dazed and sexy with the fellows of the National Writers Workshop, who are now on their last week of glorious self-abandon in Dumaguete. But this is how we really get to be in Dumaguete -- any previous fellow can attest to that -- and perhaps no other workshop in the country can approximate the headiness of our May days and May nights. Patricia Evangelista gets it exactly right in her new Philippine Daily Inquirer column, Rebel Without a Clue. She writes:

Drunk on Dumaguete
By Patricia Evangelista

The sea is blue and green, and scattered with a thousand diamonds, but right now I'm sitting inside a coffee shop, a full block away. I tried to write by the sea, I really did, but melting under a scorching summer sun with the concrete pavement roasting my backside to a crisp isn't quite as inspiring as I thought it would be.

There are 11 of us here for the Dumaguete National Writer's Workshop led by Dr. Edith Tiempo, who is "Mom" to half the writing community in the country. We sit wide-eyed, soaking in wisdom, learning literary lore, discouraged one moment and encouraged the next. If there's anything I've learned, and learned well, it's that I know very little, and that I have a long, long way to go. No wonder so many writers have gone mad -- how can anyone stay sane working in a world where a misplaced comma can spell doom?

I read somewhere that the Chinese character for "crisis" is wei-ji, represented by two symbols: danger over opportunity. I'm beginning to think of writing as walking a thin line -- cannons to the right of you, cannons to the left of you, and the voice of Mom, authoritative in the background: "Don't disappoint me." I'm guessing everyone has someone's voice somewhere in the back of their heads.

I've found that there's a certain freedom that comes with being here, a sort of sovereignty over self. In Manila, I'm the girl who cannot sing, cannot dance and cannot swim. I tried to sing once for a class musical of "Aladdin" in second year college. The play was over when my friend JP went up to me and asked, "Why didn't you sing?" I was annoyed -- I sang, I told him. I sang twice, and he should know. He looked confused. "I thought you were reciting a poem."

Here in Dumaguete, I've sung in tricycles, in the shower, at the dining table, sometimes alone, sometimes in chorus with the rest of the writing fellows. We've run the gamut of the Beach Boys, Aegis and Smoky Mountain. The other night, at Mom's glass-walled home, somebody brought out soda and vodka. I don't think it was the alcohol that had us singing for a good two hours -- without the benefit of music, microphone, or anything resembling melody. Writers, they say, teeter on the edge of madness. I think some of us fell off. Someone would ask "Do you remember Moon River?" and we'd burst into song. Whenever we forgot the words -- which we usually did -- there was still Doc Noel's rich voice to carry on while we scrambled to catch up.

Fiction literally means illusion, fantasy -- an invention of the mind. Poets and fictionists can create worlds and change realities, non-fictionists never. Truth, always truth -- but there's a way out for non-fictionists like me: memory is a tricky thing. Some things we choose to forget, or have forgotten, or remember in the strangest of ways. When I leave, there are things I'll remember -- and things I'd seriously hope to forget. I'll remember giggling and sighing with the other girls over Dr. Gemino Abad -- Sir Jimmy -- the poet whose love for literature has him pounding the table and practically erupting out of his seat in his attempt to express that love. I'm told that girls (and boys) from every batch of Dumaguete fellows fall a little bit in love with Sir Jimmy -- the gentleman whom even Mom Edith claims she can fall in love with. I'll remember Krip Yuson's resounding delivery of his beautiful poetry, and his unstinting generosity to penniless young writers -- but will attempt to forget the sight of his black-and-white snake print swimming trunks. I'll remember I danced laughing in the rain at two in the morning, and try to forget the fact that I slipped on a puddle a minute later, slid down the sidewalk, fell sprawling butt-first into a canal and was pulled up dripping, barefoot and half drowned.

The minutes are going, going, going and then it'll be over. Just one more week left until reality takes the driver's seat. All of us have had so many firsts. First time to ask for a boy's number. First time to dance on top of a bench in the middle of a blackout. First time to eat tempura on a sidewalk, at three in the morning. First time to get drunk on laughter and cheap beer. First time to see the sunrise. First time to walk barefoot in the rain. First time to lie on a sidewalk and count stars.

Yesterday, I was talking to Sir Sawi -- poet Cesar Ruiz Aquino -- when he told me a story that accounts for why so many writers, artists and poets have called flying into Dumaguete "coming home." Legend says that hundreds of years ago, whenever the rainy seasons came, the wily south wind would blow pirate ships into the island's port. Villagers would send up a thousand prayers to the sky in despair. Marauders would swoop into the villages to steal away the beautiful daughters of Dumaguete. It is said that this is why the island became known as Dumaguete -- from dagit, meaning "to take" -- in memory of how the pirates of old took beauty from the island.

Now it's Dumaguete that takes. People find themselves walking down the shore one moment, the next moment stunned by the realization that the island has taken hold of their souls. They sit and they stare -- at the clouds scudding across the sky, at the yellow sun beating down on the asphalt ledges, and at the edge of the world, the place where nobody knows where the sea stops and the sky begins.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

entry arrow8:42 PM | Rolando and Krip

A favorite pop culture theorist and short story writer, Rolando Tolentino, now blogs. So does, apparently, Krip Yuson.

[via letters from canberra]

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

entry arrow6:45 AM | The Evolution of Dance

All your favorite moves through the years, from Elvis to N'Sync. (Feel free to dance along.)

[via expectorants]

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entry arrow5:59 AM | The Weight of Beauty

A little less than three weeks ago, in time for Negros Occidental's celebration of the Panaad Festival, I was invited by the organizers of the Lin-ay sang Negros beauty pageant to serve in the panel of judges for the pre-pageant competition. The task was deceptively simple: we were told to trim down, by means of points, the Lin-ay finalists through a parade of exquisitely rendered festival costumes, wondrously embellished gowns, shapely swimsuits, and of course through bursts of talent clocked down to a challenging 90 seconds for each candidate. The pre-pageant show -- directed with a sure hand by Rene Hinojales from a sharply written script by Al Melgar -- was a well-oiled mechanism, like the whole Lin-ay organization (headed by Ian de Ramos) itself. Everything ran like clockwork, and I found myself having new respect for my Negrense kins across Cuernos de Negros in the western side.

I may have been the token "virginal" judge in the panel, which included Faith Javellana, Laarni Aguilar, Tres Solis, and Antonietta Lopez. Unlike them, it was my first time sitting on such a panel, although like most Filipinos, I was no stranger to the nuances of pageant shows.

All of us have fond recall of pageant moments, from remembered brilliance of candidates (such as Charlene Gonzales's evocation of the number of islands in the Philippines during high or low tide in Miss Universe 1994), to even more remembered gaffes (like Jeannie Andersen's terse "Quiet please" admonition for the audience in Bb. Pilipinas 2001, or the funny bit about a contestant mistaking a carabao for "a black cow" in Miss Earth 2004). Faith, for example, gave us a grand time in her remembrances of having judged a thousand and one pageants -- including a curious incident where a contestant bit off a chicken's head for the talent portion, and chucked the bleeding head toward the horrified judges.

My visit to Bacolod was memorable, although the fact of having to make almost quick but fair judgment on 24 contestants made my head swim. What do you say, for example, about a gown that looked like a wedding cake? Or a festival costume that made our heads turn simply from the fact that it was made from the cocoons of silkworms? How do you tell which girl was best, and why? But prevail we in the board did -- and later we learned that Ms. Bacolod won the title in the final show. I remember her wowing us with her pageant competence; but it was a great batch of girls, and I was glad I made a contribution to the success of the show. Also this realization: the judges found ourselves going for the most part beyond the superficial -- heaping it on us to look for signs of inner brilliance among the women.

Beauty pageants. There are many ways to look at a beauty pageant -- the most common being a view of the entire enterprise (nay, an industry) as nothing more than mere entertainment, a casual parade of flesh. For some, it is something ridiculously frivolous, and -- especially if you are a feminist of a militant sort -- a "patently patriarchal exercise in sexism."

Beauty pageants, as one famous friend once told me, are an undignified estimation of humanity as nothing more than the sum of body parts, made to take part in a pseudo-fashion show. I do not necessarily agree with this, because I do like pageants. They're fun to watch. And like your ordinary postmodern man, I may at first think of shows like these as remnants of a "sexist hegemony," but I can also think of the wonderfully subversive ways one can upend these expectations and make pageants bear the burden of something loftier than mere ogling of flesh. Proof of this later on.

I vaguely remember, when I was a high school boy some years ago, reading something like the following in Sunday Inquirer Magazine: In the old days, virgins were routinely sacrificed to appease the gods; today we hold beauty pageants instead. That witticism stayed with me through the years, refusing to relinquish space in my haphazard snatches of cobwebbed memory. Perhaps this was because I found the observation funny, because it felt like a sociological truth. And perhaps because it also made me rethink the nature of a favorite staple in Filipino popular culture.

I will not be the first one to take note that the Philippines seems to be eternally pageant-crazy, with every single sitio or barangay or municipality, or school even, having some form of pageants for both women and men, some even attempting to navigate the shadowy divides of gender via Miss Gay tilts. Today, there are even more alternatives -- bikini opens among them, as well as body-builders' physique competitions and PTA-sponsored money contests involving grade school girls.

Sometimes I think that this impulse to conduct "searches for beauties" is an all-too-human preoccupation.

Peter Paul Rubens,
The Judgment of Paris (c. 1636, National Gallery, London)

Greek mythology, for example, gives us a tale of a "beauty pageant" to top all beauty pageants: the goddess Eris (also known as Discord) -- because she was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis -- created a golden apple to be the prize in a pageant between the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris, prince of Troy, was to judge them, eventually choosing Aphrodite as the winner after the goddess promised to assist him in the abduction and wedding of Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta. The immediate result was the devastation known as the Trojan War.

Beauty pageants begetting warfare? Not always. The early pageants in the country were rigorously attended annual events, grounded to a halt only by the clouds of war, with the coming of the Japanese to the Philippines. Pageants had always been a popular tradition in the country, as old as the republic itself. In the early days of the last century, during the American colonial period, we were already crowning Carnival Queens for expositions held primarily to advertise Philippine products.

McRonald Banderlipe, in Jose Wendell Capili's seminal Mabuhay to Beauties: Profiles of Beauties and Essays on Pageants (Milflores, 2003), writes that "for visitors to the carnivals, it was not sufficient to only view various attractions in the carnival without viewing the carnival queens, which epitomized the Filipino's romantic nature. Among the more interesting activities during the early carnival queen contests were the colorful parades on water featuring the Queen of the West, the Queen of the Orient, and the Queen of Peace with their beautiful floats."

Beauty queens then were daughters from prominent families, chosen for their societal connections as well as for their regal bearing -- counting among them Paz Marquez Benitez, who is our first published short story writer in English whose "Dead Stars" is still a powerful staple in the Philippine literature canon.

World War II may have erased the existence of carnival queen selections, but the tradition was resurrected in 1947 when a beauty pageant was organized to promote an airline. Five years later, the Miss Philippines tilt was officially organized to select the country's first representative to the Miss Universe pageant -- itself once starting as a showcase for a brand of bikini wear (a breakaway contest from the Miss America tilt, after the 1951 winner Yolande Betbeze refused to be photographed wearing the sponsoring bikini company's apparel).

The Miss Silliman pageant, which was first organized in 1946 by The Sillimanian in a campus-wide search for the most popular college girl, may be the oldest -- and still running -- beauty pageant in local history, older even than Miss Universe or Bb. Pilipinas. Patria Obsequio was the first Miss Silliman, then known as Most Popular Co-ed.

Why the popularity? Banderlipe writes: "As a favorite pastime among the FIlipinos, beauty contests are undeniably a microcosm of the present-day standards of our society. They can also be a means for some women to become functional in society." He notes that Miss America, for example, prides itself as a scholarship grant rather than a beauty pageant title, and that the Bb. Pilipinas organization operates mainly as a charity. He also takes note of title-holders who have made names for themselves, using their titles as necessary shortcuts for a beloved cause, as a means to be heard in a society that entertains mostly male voices. Banderlipe quotes Miss India Lara Dutta, the 2000 Miss Universe, as saying: "I believe that pageants give a woman a platform and enable her to foray into the various fields, whether it be entrepreneurship, the military, or politics. And it gives a woman a chance to voice out her opinions, and makes women strong and independent as they are right now."

I agree with this. In a previous post, I've said that one of my favorite people in history is Miss America 1945 Bess Myerson, the first Jewish winner of that pageant who used her title to confront the issue of racism and anti-Semitism in America. Even when openly shunned by large segments of the American population for being Jewish, she embarked on a tour of American cities to educate people about tolerance. That she held the crown of Miss America readily provided an audience for her views. I said that she made great strides in that respect, that she was a true beauty queen.

I am thinking of pageants these days because I seem to be surrounded by it. I am one of the advisers for this year's Miss Silliman, for example -- helping mould a 60-year old pageant which is, I think, wearing its age on its sleeve. (Something's got to be done to revive its flagging fortunes.)

Even closer to home, Mark -- I've posted this before -- has been selected to be among the 25 candidates vying for the Hari ng Negros title. (A reminder: The organizers have launched a Mr. Friendster side-competition, the winner of which automatically gets a slot in the top ten semi-finalist circle. The Mr. Friendster competition starts from May 15 to July 1. Every friend added to a candidate's account will be one point. Every testimonial will be five points. The candidate with the most number of points by 8:00 pm on July 1 will be declared Mr. Friendster. Please add Mark up with this email address: mrjimalalud2006@yahoo.com.)

We like pageants, I guess, because they present an enduring tradition that approximates popular concern. That despite everything in a crisis in our country, we still have the guts to appreciate beauty and not apologize for it. Pageants are in our blood. We might as well own it.


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

entry arrow1:10 PM | Yamin Goes

Goodbye, Elliott. (I'm sorry, Dean and Naya. I know you both were rooting for the guy.)

So anyway: Go, Taylor. Go, Kat. Will the George Clooney/Jay Leno clone win over a Miss USA kind of beauty? Does anyone still care?


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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

entry arrow8:26 PM | Notes From the Dumaguete Workshop

Dean Francis Alfar makes a scrapbook. And Patricia Evangelista gives Sawi a new surname. And Juaniyo Arcellana (who dropped by) has some memories. There's one more week to go, and summer's suddenly over.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

entry arrow5:30 PM | O..

All afternoon, the great poet Cesar Ruiz Aquino keeps sending me this text message:


And nothing else. Not even an explanation. Just a simple, enigmatic message consisting of a capital "o" -- which may also be a zero -- followed not even by an ellipse, but a mere shadow of it. Two periods, and nothing more. This can be the seed of a short story...

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

entry arrow11:22 PM | Becoming Hari ng Negros

Mark has been selected to be among the 25 candidates vying for the Hari ng Negros title -- a pageant increasingly becoming quite known in national male pageant circles of being able to catapult winners into considerable success. (Case in point, Reiven Bulado, 2004 Hari ng Negros, who eventually cashed in on his win by landing a plum role as Cesar Montano's brother in Panaghoy sa Suba.)

In the pageant's short history (it started in 2003), Mark has always been hounded by invitations to join it. This year, he has made up his mind to finally join, in honor of his father's memory. The late Mr. Gad Fabillar, Mark's father, hailed from Jimalalud, the town Mark is representing. He died almost two years ago from a freak accident, and one of his unrealized wishes had always been for Mark to make his "mark" in a search like this, if only to make it as a stepping stone for something greater in his son's future. "This may be my last pageant," Mark tells me, "and I am here to do more beyond mere pageantry. I am here to make a difference, to prove to people that pageants also require smarts and substance. In the long run, however, I am doing this for the memory of my father."

The organizers have launched a Mr. Friendster side-competition, the winner of which automatically gets a slot in the top ten semi-finalist circle. The Mr. Friendster competition starts from May 15 to July 1. Every friend added to a candidate's account will be one point. Every testimonial will be five points. The candidate with the most number of points by 8:00 pm on July 1 will be declared Mr. Friendster.

So why add him up? Perhaps to prove a point. Mark's an award-winning debater, schoolpaper editor, orator, singer, and social advocate. He embodies for me what I have always believed a true pageant winner is like: someone who can take a popular platform such as beauty pageants, and make it mean something beyond your usual bikini open searches and flesh market affairs. One of my favorite people in history is Miss America 1945 Bess Myerson, the first Jewish winner of that pageant who used her title to confront the issue of racism and anti-Semitism in America. She made great strides in that respect, a true beauty queen. I believe Mark has the same exact qualities.

So, all you people with Friendster accounts (which is basically everybody in the Philippines), help me out here, and help Mark as well. Add him up with this email address: mrjimalalud2006@yahoo.com. What's in it for you? My eternal friendship. Really.


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entry arrow9:05 AM | Happy Mother's Day!

This is my mother, Fennie Rosales Casocot. Phenomenal woman, if at times passive aggressive (but aren't most mothers when the nest becomes empty?). I once wrote a story about my father, which became "The Hero of the Snore Tango" -- but I always thought that in many ways, it was also mother's story. She inspires me to be more than I can dream for myself, and for that, I love her.

Photos taken nine years ago, and last Christmas 2005.


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entry arrow8:58 AM | The Middle of Summer

Because the days have since bled into each other, no one in Dumaguete knows whether it is a Saturday or a Sunday...or a Friday to look forward to for a weekend away from the "real." What we know for sure is this: the real and the unreal have long since bedded each other in caloric lust, their vapors becoming summer heart, and heat.

Everywhere else, there is a quiet unmitigated by the drones of the slowly dying traffic. There is a tendency now for things to slow down, or at least close for the season. Down the road, in Tubod, right in the very corner of things, the karinderia has closed shop -- one hopes temporarily (where were we going to eat if things were permanent?) -- since there were no more students, its usual clientele, to feed.

So we grow quiet, too, or close shop. We spend fleeting days and nights in bed, watching TV, or surfing the Internet for things to do. It is like that, and soon, in our haze, the days start to blend.

And so we have then forgotten our calendars, all of us, as we descend into another season of endless sun.

We can only vaguely remember, too, the days before this limbo, when everything had its schedule: our lives around the clock, and then the rewards, like bones to obedient dogs, as in occasional holidays of beaches, or books to cursorily glaze over (but long abandoned in piles of must-reads), or afternoons to laze away in hammocks under acacia trees. Weekends with punctuations. The short squeeze before heartless Mondays. All those things we have come to know in lives increasingly wearied by the drumbeat of citified expectations. We know, by the skin of our rituals, that weekdays have come to distinguish themselves by the precision of official hours, and deadlines as concrete as papers to check, calls to make, people to deal with. These are days that begin with breakfast at 6, Bundy clocks at 8, and commutes through diesel smoke to come home to mindless soap operas by 5 or 6, depending on the traffic.

We made beelines for the crunch of the ending days of March. Your quarter earnings to be soon calculated. Your deadlines soon to be met. Your travel plans soon to be set in stone. Your daughters or sons eager to get into their togas newly-rented from God-knows-where, their mothball smell a condensation of the promise of a non-future. That one, I remember most. It has been half a decade since I've said goodbye to college, and I have yet really to cut loose. Each new graduation that we see brings memories and half-wishes of hopes we have long since abandoned. Now we, the adults, watch this generation's own graduations with careful hopes, knowing -- like reading our own biographies -- the scary lurches through life in the "real world" they will soon know.

And then after that, the nothing.

But the summer has returned, as stealthy as the blue sky that crept from the wetness of February, to lay claim to the air with the familiar descending dryness, and quiet, of a small Southern city abandoned by students. It is a return to the hometown quiet that was once its character, and will be its once again, even if only for a short while, until June. We know by heart that the coming days will pass, and nights, too, in a doldrum of sweet boredom. We will soon forget that there are days with names, seven of them in a week.

So now, no one knows what today is, not even the stray dogs sunning themselves in the cement sidewalks outside my apartment in Tubod: they used to howl every single Friday night, perhaps to serenade some ghost or other, I don't know. These dogs were my marks for the clock in my head. But I haven't heard from them for the last two Fridays, not a whimper or a slight howl. All they do is droll and chase after little boys in bicycles.

There was also a slight surprise today, waking to a Monday without my knowing it. I used to know what day it was -- without glancing at the small calendar that hides among the clutter of my small desk -- by sensing the kind of heat that pervades skin, or by the smell of the earth outside my window: hard and busy for weekdays (especially on Tuesdays), and a kind of gentle musk for Saturdays, which turn bittersweet by Sunday morning. Now, there is only a smell of summer -- sepia, nostalgic, lazy. Full of sun.

Today, I woke up way past noon, something I haven't done in a very long time. Then I scanned the TV for a while as I waited for my sleepy body to catch up with the rhythms of the day (the ramble of pedicabs passing by outside, the shouts of children playing tayokok somewhere, the grumble of my own slowly dawning hunger....). After I showered -- slowly, skin gently soaking up water -- I made plans to lunch at 4 in the afternoon somewhere downtown, where I know that life still remains.

After that, there will be a visit to the Boulevard, if my feet doesn't take me somewhere else. In the seaside Boulevard, I know the sunlight will be golden and gentle. There, they will bounce off the blue-green of Tanon Strait, and will make the horizon twinkle like a mirage. Everything will be perfect and lazy, the way a Dumaguete summer should be. And I will not wonder anymore if God is in His heaven. He is not. He is somewhere in Siquijor drinking a piƱacolada, as bright and colorful as the red and blue batik shirt I know He is wearing.


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Friday, May 12, 2006

entry arrow3:19 AM | No More Dry Pens (Or a First Week Report From the Literary Shenanigans of May in Dumaguete)

Perhaps it should finally happen like this -- that there should be a renewed sense of beginning for literary culture here in Dumaguete City. Things are unfurling, and perhaps even just for that, most of us can heave a sigh of relief.

Last Monday, for example, the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop began its 45th year, making it the longest-running creative writing workshop not just in the Philippines, but also in Asia. A new batch of writing fellows -- Michellan Kristine Sarile, Andrea Teran, Darwin Chiong, Ana Escalante Neri, Patricia Evangelista, Noel Pingoy, Antonio Adrian Habana, Erika Jean Cabanawan, Douglas James Candano, Larissa Mae Suarez, and Dumaguete's own Dominique Cimafranca -- are finding out for the first time why is it exactly that a huge segment of Filipino writers have kept to calling National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo "Mom."

This week, the panelists assisting Mom Edith are Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara, DM Reyes, and Anthony Tan. And so far, it has been a great first week. Ma'am Marj has already commented that this may be one of the best workshops she has attended -- because of a perfect combination of great manuscripts, chemistry between the fellows, and dynamics between them and the panel. It promises to be a sizzling summer dipped in the worship of the printed word, and like all past summers with writers, the only thing to expect is the unexpected.

This week, too, we find Silliman University stirring to flex its literary muscles once again. One of the things we Sillimanians love to do to relive past glories has always been to drum up hazy memories of how our campus once overran with brilliant fictionists, poets, dramatists, and even poseurs -- a state of things that has not been evident for the longest time in campus, until now. This is something we kept on being in denial about -- but I guess it's healthier to call a spade a spade, if only to be able to start from scratch again, and re-aim for the literary stars. We had asked ourselves this question in this very blog a few weeks ago: "Is the pen dry in Dumaguete?" Certainly, not anymore.

Yesterday, the Department of English and Literature successfully launched the First Literatura Festival, a small showcase of literary brilliance meant to jumpstart things, and get the creative writing juices running again. The highlight of the festival was Palanca-winning novelist Dean Francis Alfar giving a talk on "Speculative Fiction in the Philippines" to a packed Silliman Hall. He almost panicked when Mom Edith Tiempo came right in the middle of his lecture -- but he did not miss a single beat. By the time we got around to holding the second event in the afternoon -- a Reading and a Writers' Forum on the Creative Writing Process -- we had sold out all copies of his novel Salamanca and the anthology Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 1. (There is even a waiting list.) The forum featured Dean in his element once again, this time with Myrna Pena-Reyes, Stacy Danika Alcantara, and yours truly on stage. Because the attendees were mostly students, we were deluged with the usual questions about writing blocks, and inspirations, and processes -- and the old concerns about literature's social relevance in the face of contemporary woes, and the use of English and nationalism. We held our own, I think.

The annual Catacombs Poetry Night followed at 6 pm at Cafe Antonio in the Spanish Heritage Building along Sta. Catalina Street. The poetry reading featured the writing fellows of the Dumaguete Workshop, including Ino Habana who read an excerpt from his exquisitely effective horror story, and Patricia Evangelista -- great girl, somebody easy to love and get along with, damn all that controversial air -- who read a short essay about navigating through the hilarious idioms of Pinoy talk. Larry Lacambra Ypil read the "bayot" poem that caused so much stir when he read it during the opening of the Kabakaba Ba Ka? in Cebu. (Jeneen Garcia came late, so I could not ask her to read a poem.) Marjorie Evasco read a new poem, and with her I read her famous poem "Sagada Stills in a Floating World," something my students love. DM Reyes, who was celebrating his birthday, read from his book Promising Light. Anthony Tan read his "Crossing the River," and heartily apologized for reading a poem about the dead. My students and some of the city's culturati -- including the formidable trio of Cecilia Hoffman, Esther Montenegro Windler, and Ma. Luz Havranek -- read assorted poems from some of Silliman's best poets, including Edith Tiempo, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Elsa Coscolluela, Jaime An Lim, Grace Monte de Ramos, Michael O. Ligalig, Merlie Alunan, and others. All of these, with dancing and coffee and violins and acoustic guitar, under the Spanish glow of the cafe, and under a drizzle of rain. Sharon Dadang-Rafols wowed everyone with her magnificent voice as she sang the traditional Bisaya song "Bugsay", that we had to ask her to end the whole show with a song. When it all ended, I was struck by this: that I had great, great friends -- talented ones, too -- who would not hesitate to help me out, just to put on a good show. Imagine the demands of a single day with three events happening one after the other. Even an old activist friend and classmate from college, Jubabes, went down from the mountains (you know what I mean) just to play guitar and sing a song for the show. That's friendship.

The night before, together with Mark, Moses Atega, and theater goddess Dessa Quesada-Palm, I took Dean, Susan, DM, Anthony, and Marjorie to the hills of Valencia, where we had a wonderful dinner of paella with the beautiful Arlene Delloso-Ramas Uypitching and husband Don. At our feet, from the house's balcony, there was the entirety of Dumaguete in grids of lights. The moon had a halo that night.

It came as a pleasant surprise to me that many people here in Dumaguete were quite affected by the series of articles I wrote about the so-called death of the literary sensibility and production in the city [read part 1, part 2, and part 3]. There were text messages and the occasional sudden conversations on sidewalks. Even Jong and Danah Fortunato, of the much-missed Village Bookstore, invited me for talk and coffee over at Cafe Memento.

Fictionist Susan Lara wrote me:

[This makes] me nostalgic and sad. Yes, compared to the late 70s and early 80s, the Dumaguete literary life has dipped somewhat. When I joined the National Writers Workshop in 1979, Dumaguete was enriched by the likes of Marj Evasco, Leo Deriada, Anthony Tan, Butch Macansantos, Ed and Christine Ortega, who were all teaching there. And of course, Rowena and Lem (Torrevillas) were still around. And Grace Monte de Ramos, Fanny Llego, and Lina Reyes. Besides them, there were the ones who were "passing through" as students, like Butch Bandillo and Ester Tapia, Elson Elizaga, Matthew Kuzhippallil -- all of them published in national publications, most of them winners of national awards.

But the fact that University support for the workshop was withdrawn in 1992, and that the workshop would be just a memory by now if the Creative Writing Foundation had not been established to fill up the vacuum, speaks volumes about the University's priorities. I hope a new enlightened University leadership will realize the value of a dynamic literary life in the city, and bring writers back to Dumaguete. In the meantime, you're there, along with Ernie and Bobby and the DULA members, keeping the flame alive, for which I'm grateful.

Cebuano literary maven Erlinda Alburo wrote:

The state of literature here [in Cebu] is not the same, because of those who write in Cebuano. You need to have more regular dissemination of the outputs, even if it's not in book form. [But] as far as I know, no Cebuano writer from Negros Oriental has made it, although I'm sure there are contributors to Bisaya from there. I'm more familiar with Cebuano writers from Leyte and Mindanao. The Negrenses are not keen on joining the writers' groups like LUDABI, Bathalad, Dagang, etc.

Krip Yuson wrote:

Good work, Ian. Thanks for this. I'm forwarding this to some people. Maybe it'll make sindi some puwets. Not just poets.

And then from incoming Silliman President Ben Malayang III:

This is disturbing. Thanks for your effort to regain our leadership in the molding of Filipino writers. I hope you can continue leading our collective endeavor in this area. I hope to see Mom Edith next time I come to Dumaguete. Maybe we can have coffee (or is it beer among writers?) somewhere with her.

But the best comment still has to be Tim's.

Things are changing, though. Thank God. I've managed to convince the Sillimanian writer Graciano Arinday to resurrect the Arinday Literary Awards even. Let's see how we will go about this resurrection... I'm so serious about this, no? Dapat lang naman. (And it's all your fault, Rodrigo.)

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

entry arrow12:01 AM | The First Literatura Festival in Silliman

This is a pre-dated post. See below for the latest blog entries.

You are invited to...

11 May 2006, Silliman University, Dumaguete City. Novelist Dean Francis Alfar will talk about speculative fiction in the Philippines in the morning lecture-forum, and will participate in a reading and a discussion about the creative writing process in the afternoon with Sillimanian authors Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Myrna Pena Reyes, Ian Rosales Casocot, and Stacy Danika Alcantara. The Annual Catacombs Poetry Reading with the fellows and panelists of the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop will be held later in the evening at Cafe Antonio. The readers include Marjorie Evasco, Larry Ypil, Susan Lara, Anthony Tan, DM Reyes, and other writers.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

entry arrow8:27 AM | A Pause Before Heading Out to a Full Day

Busy, busy. Busy as a bee. Should post something soon. Don't know when, but soon.


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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

entry arrow8:42 AM | This Made Me Laugh Early Tuesday Morning, After the Stress of Traveling Last Weekend (Something I Need to Distract Me From the Heat of the Summer)

History is written by the victors... What do the losers write?



[cat and girl, via bookslut]


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