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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?


Monday, February 26, 2007

entry arrow3:53 PM | The Ides of February

There were so many good things about this February: attending cultural shows left and right in Dumaguete, getting published in a swanky new anthology, and having a satisfying Oscar day to end it. But I seriously hated, hated this month. For so many reasons, some of which I can't mention here. But I can mention the heat. My God, the heat. It's relentless and vicious. It was part of what made me sick last week, and look: I'm still coughing and sneezing a little bit till now. I want it to be March already.


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entry arrow1:03 PM | And the Waiting Has Ended

I promised myself, after the debacle of Brokeback Mountain losing out to the Crash trash last year, I will never ever get myself so emotionally involved with the lottery called the Oscars again. But I didn't reckon on Jennifer Hudson tearing the screen apart with her presence in Dreamgirls. And so I conceded. And so I secretly hoped. And when George Clooney announced her name out of the envelope this morning, that was my great emotional finish. Wow. Jennifer Hudson as Effie White, best supporting actress. Oscar winner.

And Martin Scorsese! The best director alive -- responsible for such immortal classics as Mean Streets, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, and The Age of Innocence -- has finally won his much-deserved Oscar! And got it from his 70's cinematic geniuses of a kabarkada Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, too!

To sum up: I was a little shocked by Dreamgirls' Eddie Murphy's loss for supporting actor. His loss proved two theories: (1) comedy actors don't get much respect, even in dramatic roles, and (2) veterans like Alan Arkin, who was, umm, okay in Little Miss Sunshine, eventually gets the trophy. Still, Mr. Murphy is not exactly a gentle kitten when it comes to marketing his chances. And his new movie Norbit -- critically-panned, although it won the box office when it opened -- may have hurt his chances for the trophy. I knew An Inconvenient Truth's and Helen Mirren's wins were locks -- so I did not break sweat before the envelopes were opened. Still, I was praying so hard: please, please... let anything win Best Picture. Just not that pesky Little Miss Sunshine. I liked the movie, but I never thought it was Best Picture material. If the Academy had to award the Oscar for a small film, I'd take the elegance of The Queen any time. But The Departed won. And I'm happy. Although I hated the fact that Venus's Peter O'Toole got snubbed for the eighth time for Forest Whitaker's glorified minor role in The Last King of Scotland, I'm still ecstatic over the general results, even Ellen DeGeneres's on-off stint as host. Pan's Labyrinth's many wins was grand, too. But what's with the general antipathy towards Bill Condon's Dreamgirls? It did not come up with nominations for Best Picture and Director first of all, which shocked many. Still, it was the most nominated film, and it had three nominations alone for Best Song, and An Incovenient Truth's Melissa Etheridge -- singing a forgettable eco-song for a documentary -- wins? Strange one, this.

For complete coverage, click here.

Now back to real life.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

entry arrow6:04 PM | The Waiting Begins

Begin already. I wanna see Jennifer Hudson get that trophy. And Peter O'Toole make an upset and an emotional return.

And don't you dare change that channel.

(In the meantime, here's a mathematical analysis of what'll win the much contested Best Picture race.)

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entry arrow9:35 AM | And Now, For a Little Showbiz Gossip

But Kris Aquino always had bad choices in men. The first time she went trophying around this weird-faced James Yap basketball guy, he looked like trouble from the get-go. That's another Philip Salvador and Joey Marquez, I thought -- and not too deeply: nobody thinks too deeply about showbiz shenanigans.

But why do we even bother watching this latest soap opera about our one-time Laban-yellow princess?

I'll attempt some answers. Because, as a kid, she was a dramatic bellwether of our political hopes in turbulent times, embodying Ninoy's charm when Ninoy was already gone. Because she appealed to our sense of rooting for the underdog when, seemingly without any hard-core show-business talent (can she sing? can she dance? can she act?), she went on to become a TV drama anthology queen and then a surprise movie star, even managing to secure acting awards -- and, goodness me, deserving ones at that -- against all odds. (It proved the theory that nobody really has to have talent in Philippine showbiz to have staying power: all one has to do is to be a magnificent manipulator of being a tabloid fodder without seeming to be -- and none of that lightning-quick scandals and spats variety either.) Because she is joyfully tactless in her reign as TV's local Oprah, but in a grudgingly admirable way -- while we shake our heads in embarrassed surprise every time she does another brazen interview, we all know that those are the questions we want to ask ourselves, if we were a little more shameless. Because, in a culture where saving face is paramount, she has the guts to say "I have VD" on national TV. Because, with all those billboards and print ads and TV ads blurring our everyday landscape, we breathe Kris Aquino whether we like it or not: she has become the imp in our subconscious, and we read about her latest commiserations to satisfy that imp in our heads. Because she mirrors our own sense of emotional vulnerability, and in her hopping from one bad man to another, we see our own circles of hell that we gravitate to despite our earnest efforts to do better, and to decide better. Because in her, we see the truism: breeding doesn't account for shit. Because in her, we see the embodiment of the caricature of the Philippine status quo: she is both showbiz and politics, and all our lives have fallen prey into that circus that is the very depths of hell.

And so, as we fall deeper into the abyss that is our lives in this God-forsaken country, we might as well get entertained by all its vicious gossip. And what gossip is better than about the figure that more or less defines our trying times.

Don't pity Kris Aquino. This showbiz "monster" -- and I mean that in the Frankenstein sense, the Mary Shelley way and not the Hollywood way -- will always bounce back.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

entry arrow9:28 PM | Mig Alvarez Enriquez, 82

The writer Mig Alvarez Enriquez, whose canonical short story "The White Horse of Alih" was a pathbreaking exploration of the personal despair and murderous tension between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, died a few days ago. The Palanca-winning writer authored two novels, The Devil Flower (1959) and House of Images (1983), and various short story collections.

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entry arrow9:13 PM | Lily Pad

Ninotchka Rosca now blogs.

[via wet wet trampoline and the attack of the warm babies]

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entry arrow6:11 PM | Blog Terrorists

Somebody's terrorizing Gibbs Cadiz's blog, grammatical errors and all. The name's Cindy Reyes-Dalusong. Claims to be a three-time Palanca winner, too. (See her assertions here.) Thing is, can't find her name anywhere in the database the Palanca Foundation gave me. Kawawa naman ang babae. She has to claim something false (and easily verifiable) to make herself heard and to sound believable. Good luck, Gibbs. Scums like these do happen. I've had my share of them over the past. It only means one thing: your blog has arrived.


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entry arrow4:02 AM | Then I'm Alive Again

My Internet's finally back. And I've recuperated from the fever that incapacitated me for much of this week. I still cough and sniffle a little though. But I'm glad the worst is over. (It was basically my body succumbing to the stress. I've been sooo busy lately.) And, finally, my pad's no longer a sty. (Takes a deep breath. Sighs.)


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Friday, February 23, 2007

entry arrow3:41 AM | An Awakening in Dumaguete

"You live in paradise."
--Yuval Avital of Three Plucked Strings, greeting a Luce Auditorium audience

There's something to be said about the sudden explosion of things cultural in Dumaguete City over the past few days. That it is a welcome development is an understatement that nevertheless quiets down some of our trepidations over Oriental Negros going down uncultured muck. It also springs from earnest hopes that the city can recapture the mantle of being the Cultural Center of the South -- a title which we seemed to be at the brink of losing to neighboring Cebu.

In the past five years, Cebu -- beyond the annual Sinulog orgy -- has been more than methodical in building up a grand cultural climate. Already, an international film school and studio has set up shop in Mandaue, and the city's arts council -- something largely non-existent in Dumaguete -- has been inviting top acts to perform in the metropolis, including plays like Doubt starring Cherie Gil in a cerebral performance that would have been more than right for our own University Town. Instead, for the longest time, Dumaguete culture was mostly choral concerts, tired Broadway musicals, or parades with artistas.

But there has always been a culture of the artistic kind in Dumaguete, which is home to not just one but two National Artists: Edith Lopez Tiempo for literature, and Eddie Romero for film. Not even Bacolod, for all its airs, can claim that distinction. In the early days of Silliman University at the turn of the last century, band music was considered a necessity for the local community, leading to the now-100 year old Silliman Orchestra Band. Shakespearean plays were regular (and much-attended) fare in the old amphitheater, and an impressive string of internationally-renowned virtuosos and performers -- imagine the Ballet Classique of France dancing up a storm in the rickety old gymnasium -- have paraded through our streets and enriched our small town lives. When the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, a gift of Time magazine founder Henry Luce III, was finished in 1975, it ushered in a gold rush for culture in Dumaguete, prompting even Mr. Luce to pointedly announce in the New York Times in 2000 that it was "the best performance space in the Philippines outside of Manila."

True enough, the Luce stage -- and Dumaguete's enviable cultural climate (with taskmasters such as art critic and connoisseur Albert Faurot, writers Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, ethnomusicologist Priscilla Magdamo Abraham, and dancer Luz Jumawan seeding long-lasting traditions) -- has prodded the rise to prominence of local artists, such as Junix Inocian who would eventually become The Engineer in Miss Saigon, Portal Players founder Amiel Leonardia who would become a prominent name in Philippine theater, Gilopez Kabayao who would become one of the Philippines' finest violinists, and Paul Pfeiffer who would become the toast of international contemporary art, the inaugural recipient of the Bucksbaum Award given by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

And these are only a few names.

The Luce stage, too, has seen the likes of Cecile Licad, the Bolipata Trio, Ballet Manila, Repertory Philippines, Bayanihan, Ballet Philippines, and Dulaang U.P., among many others, perform for an increasingly discriminating Dumaguete audience whose cultural education may be one of the best in the country.

Think about this: at the subsidized rates of Silliman's Cultural Affairs Committee, a typical P500 to P800 ticket price for a show by a major performing company in, say the Cultural Center of the Philippines, can be had for as less as P200 or P150 in the Luce -- and nobody even need buy a plane ticket for Manila. Not a lot of people in Dumaguete realize how fortunate we are culturally -- we get most things for almost a steal.

But then, for the past five years -- save for occasional gems such as the anime parade of Nihon Eiga Sai in 2001 and a controversial staging of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues by the New Voice Company in 2003 -- there was really nothing much to crow about. Was it an expected downturn from the cultural fiesta that was the Silliman Centennial in 2001, to be immediately followed by the terrorized malaise of September 11? Perhaps. But culture in Dumaguete since then had arguably declined, and the audiences with it. Nobody in Dumaguete seemed to care about culture anymore.

And yet, here we are. For the moment, the arts -- from music, dance, painting, film, literature -- seem to have found haven for all the Muses in a singular place: wake up in Dumaguete these days, and always there is something to keep anyone’s calendar filled up. Sometimes there are hard choices to make for the knowing culturati: must one miss out on a film showing and a panel discussion of Sarong Banggi with director Emmanuel de la Cruz over a rondalla concert featuring Russian musician laureates? Remarked one friend, "It's a circus. And I like it."

It may have started last September when Foundation University unleashed the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra as its initial offering for the cultural season at Sofia Soler Hall; continuing on to an increasingly worthwhile Buglasan Festival; and straight on to the tribute for National Artist Edith Tiempo early this month. These days, the Second International Rondalla Festival -- held for the most part at the newly-built Convention Center -- seems to occupy most of our attention with its slate of string music appreciation spilling over into concerts, lectures, and outreaches.

Last Thursday, four international acts -- the Silay Kabataang Ensemble, Silliman University's Kwerdas, Russia's Quartette Phoenix, and Israel's Three Plucked Strings -- gave a varied sampling of rondalla music to a packed Luce Auditorium. (When was the last time this happened for a cultural show in Dumaguete?) It was, to be sure, a resounding success. The concert, billed as One: Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa, found an audience grateful for the string renditions by the Negrense troupes of traditional melodies (and some delightful non-traditional ones as well, including a rondalla version of Koji Kondo's "Super Mario Brothers" computer-game soundtrack, arranged by a young Dumagueteño composer Algernon Van Peel).

But it was mostly an evening for discovering world music and finding there is much to appreciate both cerebrally and emotionally. Three Plucked Strings' conceptual music energy rang close to the affecting and disturbing (in turns), from the more traditional "Jewish Klezmer Suite" by Zeev Bitkin, to the playful "CODA" by Vyacheslav Ganelin, to the strangely hypnotic "Dark City Alleys" which the Israeli trio -- Avi Avital on the mandolin, Yuval Avital on the guitar, and Yizhar Karshon on the harpsichord -- played with Kwerdas as a soundtrack of sorts to a projected 10-minute film of a walk-through in the dark byways of an Israeli city.

And then there was the comic folksiness of the Russian Quartette Phoenix. Their rendition of the traditional American melody "El Cumbanchero" (done in bluegrass style), and Vasily Parhomenko's "Block-Fox" readily fleshed out the bright folksiness of the pieces, but made them resonate more with the skillfully appropriated humor of their act. At the end of their repertoire, the Russian musicians -- Inessa Gareeva on the domra, Anatoly Kazakov on the domra-viola, Radi Gareev on double-bass balalaika, and Alexander Ivanov on the accordion -- brought the entire auditorium to a standing ovation.

Beyond string music, there is also the independent filmmaking forum -- sponsored by Silliman's Cultural Affairs Committee and the College of Mass Communication -- with director Emmanuel dela Cruz and producer Raymond Lee, two cinematic voices responsible for two of the most acclaimed Filipino films in recent years: Sarong Banggi (directed by Dela Cruz), and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (directed by Aureus Solito). The latter -- the first Filipino film to be accepted at the Sundance Film Festival and the first to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in the prestigious Independent Spirit Awards, which is the Oscars for independent films -- had its showing at a packed Luce Auditorium as well, a good turnaround from its disappointing regular run last year in the city, when its showing at the decrepit Ultra Vision Theater did not even attract the haphazardly curious.

In the coming weeks, there will be more. The University of the Philippines Dance Company will perform with Silliman's Kahayag Dance Troupe in a dance concert titled Sayaw Pagtagbo on February 26. The international VDay movement, in time for Women's Month, grows even stronger this year with poetic performances for VPoetry on February 28, and the coming of New Voice Company's play of Eve Ensler's The Good Body some time in March. The Philippine Madrigal Singers is coming on March 7 for its national outreach tour of Tara Na! MADZitawanan Na! The Silliman University Campus Choristers will perform its musical history in Passion slated on March 24. The Second Terracotta Biennial and Arts Festival will unfold sometime in the summer. And then the writers will come in May. And in the coming cultural season, perhaps we will have Tanghalang Pilipino. Perhaps even French Spring in Dumaguete. Perhaps more.

A cultural avalanche in Dumaguete? That would seem to be the case. Nobody's complaining.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

entry arrow8:36 PM | A World of Strings Coming Together

Music may what finally and truly unite a perpetually divided world. And the world indeed will come together in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental this year to celebrate the tradition of string music in the second edition of the International Rondalla Festival, slated from February 19-22.

One festival highlight presents four world-class ensembles in a concert billed as One: Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa, on February 22 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. The concert will gather acclaimed rondalla groups from Negros Island, including the Kabataang Silay Ensemble from Negros Occidental and Kwerdas from Oriental Negros, together with Quartette Phoenix of Ekaterinburg, Russia and Three Plucked Strings of Israel.

It may prove to be an interesting musical combination, spanning generations of musical performers playing a wide variety of string traditions, each of which has a specific cultural expression.

The Kabataang Silay Ensemble, which started in 1993 as a group of musically-gifted primary school students in Silay City, has distinguished itself not only for the active promotion of traditional Filipino folk music and dance, but also for serving as an effective component for tourism promotion and youth development. They have extensively traveled within the country as Young Cultural Ambassadors, and have represented the Philippines in the Second Asian Children's Folklore Festival in Guandong, China in 2000, where they received the Performance Memento distinction. In 2001, they were given the Award of Excellence for their performance in the 2001 Aberdeen International Youth Festival held in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Russia's Quartette Phoenix was created in 2001 by a group of Ural State Academy of Music graduates that included Inessa Gareeva, Anatoly Kazakov, Radi Gareev, and Alexander Ivanov, all of them acclaimed laureates of various international competitions. They have been critically acclaimed for their originality as well as in their diversity of style and repertoire that has made them popular fare among Russian audiences.

Three Plucked Strings, playing a repertoire to display the colorful and diverse character of the Jewish and Israeli culture, is a contemporary ensemble dedicated to the performance of pieces by foremost Israeli composers, commissioned especially for this trio. It was founded in 2000 after the posthumous discovery of a rare work for mandolin, guitar and harpsichord -- never performed -- written by the acclaimed Israeli composer, the late Paul Ben-Haim. Since then, more than ten original works, by such composers as Tzvi Avni, Yehezkel Braun, Haim Alexander, Abel Ehrlich, Michael Wolfe and Slava Ganelin, have been written for the ensemble.

Silliman University's Kwerdas is a six-member rondalla group composed of students, faculty, and alumni of the College of Performing Arts, founded in 1999 as an ad-hoc musical group for the classes of acclaimed ethnomusicologist Prof. Priscilla Magdamo-Abraham. Since that inauspicious beginning, the group has gone on to national acclaim, and has performed in international exhibitions and competitions. Kwerdas was among the pioneer participants of the 1st International Rondalla Festival in Bicol, and chosen to perform at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with four other groups for the festival's final concert.

The second edition of the International Rondalla Festival, which is presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Province of Oriental Negros in cooperation with the University of the Philippines College of Music and the Musicological Society of the Philippines, aims to explore the uniqueness of the Filipino rondalla as national heritage with a long tradition evolving from the Spanish and Latin American comparsa and estudiantina, which the rondalla has adapted to express a nationally specific consciousness. A late 18th century tradition, the rondalla in the Philippines has come to encompass a variety of folk songs, dances, and short pieces from full-blown classical to modern compositions and adaptations.

The festival also aims to showcase the international expression of the Filipino rondalla, and how the national musical culture has proliferated in the current Filipino diaspora, serving not only as a symbol of national identity but also as a link to the expressions of the mother culture. It also takes into account its musical connection with string music covering the Arab region and cultures around the Mediterranean, as well as Western and Eastern Europe and various parts of the Asian continent

Aside from the four ensembles mentioned, Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa -- the Cebuano equivalent of the Strings of Unity or Cuerdas de Unidad -- is a week-long event (slated from February 19-25) featuring other local and international rondallas and plucked string ensembles, totaling some 400 artists and practitioners. They will engage in daily concerts, multiple outreach performances to outlying localities such as Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor island, a conference on aspects of the rondalla tradition, historical and national styles, workshops in performance techniques and instrument-making, exhibition, and an international rondalla congress. Other special events are also being lined up by the organizers.

The event is intended to promote the UNESCO-International Music Council action program on cultural and musical diversity, a standing commitment of the Filipinos to advance the cause of world peace and understanding through the celebration of shared cultural heritage.

One: Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa is part of the ongoing National Arts Month, as well as of the cultural season of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. Tickets are available at the College of Performing Arts, the Luce Auditorium, and at the theater lobby before the show. Season passes are honored. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please see posters and banners for more details, or contact (035)422-6002 loc. 520.


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entry arrow8:26 PM | Cinema Test

What can I say?

Spending your whole life imbibing film can give one a cutting edge. Why don't you try your chances.

[via paolo manalo]


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

entry arrow6:44 PM | Hey

I miss blogging seriously. But until this problem gets resolved, I'll be doing it only when I can. Hopefully by Monday. Come back then.


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Friday, February 16, 2007

entry arrow1:32 PM | Rene Estella Amper, 67

Late last January, a giant of Philippine literature died -- and only a few people knew. Rene Estella Amper, Cebuano poet, doctor, and politician whose Palanca-winning poetry was both a sad and funny indictment of our quirks as a people, has died. I wouldn't have known about this if I weren't googling him today.

We will all remember him for his very funny "Letter to Pedro, U.S. Citizen, Also Called Pete":

Pete, old friend,
there isn’t really much change
in our hometown since you left.

This morning I couldn’t find anymore
the grave of Simeona, the cat we buried
at the foot of Miguel’s mango tree,
when we were in grade four,
after she was hit by a truck while crossing
the street. The bulldozer has messed it up
while making the feeder road into the mountains
to reach the hearts of the farmers.
The farmers come down every Sunday
to sell their agony and their sweat for
a few pesos, lose in the cockpit or get
drunk on the way home.

A steel bridge named after the congressman’s wife
now spans the gray river where Tasyo, the old
goat, had split the skin of our young lizards
to make us a man many years ago.

The long blue hills where we
used to shoot birds with slingshot or spend
the summer afternoons we loved so much doing
nothing in the tall grass have been bought
by the mayor’s son. Now there’s a barbed wire
fence about them; the birds have gone away.

The mayor owns a big sugar plantation, three
new cars, and a mansion with the gate overhung
with sampaguita. Inside the gate
are guys who carry a rifle and a pistol.

We still go to Konga’s store for rice
and sardines and sugar and nails for the coffin.

Still only a handful go to Mass on Sundays.
In the church the men talk, sleep; the children play.
The priest is sad.

Last night the storm came and blew away
the cornflowers. The cornfields are full of cries.

Your cousin, Julia, has just become a whore.
She liked good clothes, good food, big money.
That’s why she became a whore.
Now our hometown has seven whores.

Pete, old friend,
every time we have good reason to get drunk
and be carried home in a wheelbarrow
we always remember you. Oh, we miss
both Pete and Pedro.

Remember us to your American wife,
you lucky bastard. Islaw, your cock-eyed
uncle, now calls himself Stanley
after he began wearing the clothes you sent
him last Christmas.

P.S. Tasyo, the old goat,
Sends your lizard his warmest congratulations.

Doc Rene, say hi to the Big Pete for us.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

entry arrow4:39 PM | Red Day

Happy Valentines, one and all!

[via village idiot savant]

I'm in Scooby's. Still. Computer back home is still feeling dramatic. The radio is blaring out the inane Valetine advice by this deejay, and his guest whose English is beyond atrocious. One such: "Don't gib yur gerlprend linjeri. Yu might gib da wrong says." It's the word "linjeri" that sticks to my head. It's painful.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

entry arrow5:04 PM | A Whirlwind of a Day with Computer Problems, Bad Love Songs, and the Dixie Chicks

Something's terribly wrong with my computer, or perhaps my Internet connection at home. Bombarding the hard disc with so much movie files (torrenting taken to the extreme, I guess...) may have taken its toll. Then again, the computer I have -- which dearest Francois gifted me a few years back -- is a little old and cranky now, and the many, many trips to the computer shop to repair this and that may have taken its toll on the poor old and faithful thing.

Which is why I am back in Scooby's doing my online work now -- and right in the middle of the semester, too. Grrr. Which is why I am sad, and stressed out. Which is why I'm spying somebody's brandnew-looking laptop computer a few feet away from me, and I find myself drooling.

Oh well.

I've been subsisting on coffee lately -- mostly black, which is an acquired taste but proves eventually exquisite. I have so much work to do (that's why this computer problem is a inconvenience to me now), and I need all the energy boosters I can get. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day, and sometimes I wish I could have the power to will myself not to sleep for a week straight, and not ravage my body. Sometimes I wish I had the foresight to buy a laptop years ago...

Early this afternoon, I was part of the panel to pre-judge the competing pieces in Silliman University's annual Valentine Songwriting Competition for tonight. (I know which one I will make win.) Some of the compositions were amateurishly written -- the same casual nod to the romantic tropes in lyric-making. Nothing new here. I loved one or two songs, but the rest were forgettable pieces which had no more ambition beyond two or three chords. Parang Yeng Constantino, only less poetic. Some of the lyrics were brutally bad. One "love song" is a horrifying paean to domestic violence, while another one was completely murderous, with lyrics that alluded to "human shields" taking in "bullets," "stabbing," and what have you. Terrifying. The frightful thing is that many of these composers are former students. How do I make judgment without making any of them cry?

I should write about this soon, on Valentines Day.

Speaking of songs, I watched the Grammys last night, and was exhilirated when the Dixie Chicks -- Dubya's foes and country music's elegant outcasts -- walked away with all the major awards, and swept the rest. The New York Times called the wins a "vindication." (Read the article here.) I love this part of the article:

Mr. [Jeff] Ayeroff, who founded the voter-registration group Rock the Vote, said a man sitting behind him in the Grammy audience snickered each time the Dixie Chicks received another trophy. "Finally," Mr. Ayeroff said, "I got so disgusted, I turned around and said: 'Dude, you're in California now. Even our Republicans are Democrats.'"


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Monday, February 12, 2007

entry arrow9:12 AM | Torrent Crazy

I am going nuts with Bit Torrent these days, my computer has not been shut down for days. See, I've been downloading movies like crazy, and it can take forever to download. Still, the results are simply astounding. You get to watch all the movies you've been dreaming of seeing, but can't seem to find in your local video store. (That's the reason why we pirate, my dear MPAA.) I've been watching a lot of Woody Allen films, a lot of classics, and finally a lot of Ingmar Bergman. You can't imagine that cineaste that I am, I haven't seen a single Bergman movie -- until last week, when I stumbled on this treasure trove.

There's GayTorrent (thanks, Aldwyn and Daz!), if you need that (currently downloading The Boys in the Band, the Boys Brief series, Man of the Year, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, Yossi and Jagger, The Broken Hearts Club, and others). And then there's OscarTorrent, where you can get all the Oscar-nominated movies for this year's film derby (I've seen most of everything, but I'm currently downloading The Devil Wears Prada, Jesus Camp, Letters From Iwo Jima, Pan's Labyrinth, Water, Lives of Others, The Prestige, Half Nelson, and others). Treasure trove, I tell you. Now let me plan on getting meself a DVD burner...

And yet, still no Splash anywhere. Strange one, that.

[some links via oscarwatch]

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

entry arrow11:35 AM | Meme for Page 123

[tagged by gibbs]

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Mark the fifth sentence. Pick up the next three sentences and post. (In other words, post sentence nos. 6-8 on page 123.)
4. Acknowledge the book and the author.
5. Tag 3 people in turn.

Gibbs, the first book I grabbed had no page 123, but here's the second one...

It's Jan (formerly James) Morris's acclaimed autobiography of gender reassignment, Conundrum: An Extraordinary Narrative of Transsexualism, which Cecilia Hoffman gave me a few nights ago because I'm always interested in reading about ... the weirdest things.

In this passage from page 123, Morris recounts her children's gradual acceptance of her new gender, confronting the necessary dilemma of having a father one day, and then a mother the next:

Helped along the way by sensitive teachers, they seemed to escape the miseries of school taunting, and the more feminine I became, the closer to my own reality, the closer I felt to them too. There was no moment of instant trauma in our relationship, no matter when, standing before them as a man one day, I reappeared suddenly as a woman. The process was infinitely slow and subtle, and through it all anyway, as I hope they sensed, I remained the same affectionate self.

It's a delightful, and sensitive read. Mark read it in half a day.

[tagging dean, ned, kokak, and zarah]

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entry arrow12:01 AM | Lovefool

"We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we only owe to God. Then they become gods; then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred."
—C.S. LEWIS, The Four Loves

"Give yourself to love itself, without a shred of you remaining. Die completely into loving. When you return, when your sense of self is recollected, you will be refreshed through and through, washed awake by the innocence lying wide on the other side of surrender."

I have only loved two people in the romantic sense my whole life. The First was my awakening, and the Second has become my eternal anchor. They do not cancel each other out, and while one belongs firmly to the past and the other to my present (and hopefully my future), they both finally come together to define who I am. For what is love except an untidy measurement of our humanity? There are those who are most perceptive among us who are able to see beyond the initial giddiness of newfound love or the routine companionship that becomes the years of staying together: they are able to realize the confounding capacity in us to envelop another into our emotional lives.

When I first fall in love, first comes wonder: that I am actually able to love this much. Who knew? And so, as I walk down the street lost in my smile and my reverie, the whole world becomes a bursting experience of color and sound, and I heave a dramatic sigh and acknowledge the sudden fullness of being that only falling in love can bring.

But to go back to lovers...

Both of them are vastly different from each, almost like fire and water -- and if anyone must ask me how I came to love either one of them in the first place, I would not be able to answer in exactitude. It would be foolish to.

Because what is exact in the mysterious chemistry of loving? Perhaps the best way to understand it all is to subscribe to the maxim that one cannot possibly choose whom to love; it is love that finally chooses you. That is, of course, a convenient excuse to explain away the sheer lunacy of falling in love. Maybe that is exactly why loving someone always merits metaphors of accidents: falling in love, love is blind, a broken heart, a certain madness. Because "love" does not make sense. Because it plays a juggling act of reason and logic. Because its overriding drive springs from the animal truth that starts out as a fluttery ache from within, and finally spreads as a lightheadedness or a warming to the nether regions between our legs or inside our hearts. And when it catches you, it completely overwhelms. The only way to survive love's onslaught is to succumb to it.

In my life, there are, of course, the other minor lovers in between, but they are lost in the shadows of consideration -- fleeting and stupid romances whose gravity existed only in the moment, but became only a blur in the final analysis. Sometimes I ask myself whatever possessed me to consider these unfortunate creatures as contenders for the heart: and how unthinking I must have been to stake happiness in their possibilities of loving me. They are faceless. Only the two remain clear as the insistent tugging of the heart.

When I met the First, it started out as a slow evolution that became a consuming passion. We met in rehearsals for a musical play, and discovered we had so much in common -- similarities that provided the engine for more discoveries, and so when the season was over, we came together. It was inevitable. We fit. We loved the same things. We finished each other's sentences. We connected in the strangest ways. We were both young, and that added fuel to passion. But sometimes the young have expectations of loving that exceed their capacities and sometimes their destinies. When I left for schooling outside the country, the distance between us ended everything. That was the start of how I became intimately acquainted with loss.

Sometimes I tell myself that I became a writer because I tried to use words to create a suitable fiction to explain our breaking separation. How many stories did I write to explain you? Thousands. Most of which saw only the darkness of trash cans. For those which saw print, they became exorcisms to soothe a ravaged soul. It took many years, but wounds did heal.

When I saw the First again, it would be years later. Ten years had passed since our youth. We were much older. And I have become a better man -- someone no longer in love with a ghost, but knowing nonetheless that we were both important parts of each other's lives.

Still, the First told me once: "I am not sure I was ever in love with you."

That ravaged me. Unsettled my past again. Because how then could we come to explaining those letters sent between us, those thousand "I love you's" becoming litanies on paper? The realization came that if this latest pronouncement was in fact the true state of old things, then what I must have lived through -- those two years when we were young together -- was all a lie. That all those tears I had shed were all for nothing. That all those "I love you's" were as empty as a soulless ghost.

You must understand that was when I knew hate.

When I first met the Second, we knew at once that there was a chasm of differences between us. I had seen the Second around the city before, but we finally met through some strange circumstances when I was speaker for this or that, and the Second was the volunteer to assist me in what I had needed for the occasion. When we met again, many days later, there it was: that undulating possibility of connection. Still, I was wiser now, and more discerning, and too afraid of loving again. But how do you say no to falling? When the gravity strikes, there is no other choice but to dive into the abyss. Only to find, in the comforts of the eternal falling, that while there are paramount differences between our character and between everything else, it is the opposite polarity that strangely binds.

And the love endures.

Because the Second is capable of love, and is not afraid.

In the end, you must understand that this is really the story of a boy who first falls for one, and then falls for another. And becomes, finally, a man. In each falling, he finds a paragon of how to love, and consequently how to live. In the first there is heartbreak -- no matter the similarities -- because there is denial. In the second, no matter the differences, there is life, because there is finally an infinite acceptance.

This is my love story.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

entry arrow10:56 PM | Where You Are Not Wanted

Gay men are banned from Lovapalooza 2007.

So then, let's not go. Who needs corporate-sponsored stupidity anyway. Lovapalooza is for loozas.

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entry arrow9:38 AM | Get Lost

The New York Times has a snobbish article, by Alessandra Stanley, on the resurgence of fantasy (they call it "the supernatural") on television, specifically with Lost and Heroes. One part goes:

Lost is at heart a science-fiction thriller, while Heroes is more of a comic book, but both genres have a similar appeal: they provide an alternative society for those who don’t fit comfortably into their own. (That is to say, smart, socially awkward adults and all 12-year-old boys.)

It also says that this fascination is a harbinger of eventual "social decline." I want to say: "Oh, shut up."

I'm warming to Heroes, but Lost I already know and love. Unlike most friends who are similarly addicted, I didn't find the third season disappointing -- but I do acknowledge their growing antsy-ness and frustration over where the whole island mystery was taking them. Plus, too many characters we came to love were dying away. (And the whole Jin-Sun relationship squabble angle was getting a little too old.)

Then again, I came to the TV show waaaay later than most people. Never really followed the series, because the first time it aired over AXN, Mark wouldn't let me watch it. "What's that?" he'd say, and switch to something else. Many months later, I decided to buy the DVD of the whole series from the pirates, and that was when I got hook. I remember skipping work just to find out what happens in the next episode. I saw the first two seasons in roughly four days. (You can imagine how that marathon felt like.) And when the third season aired last year, I breathlessly downloaded the contraband copy of the first episode in YouTube (now whisked away, and slapped with a "copyright infringement" tag) -- and loved the shock of seeing The Others in completely new light.

Why do we love Lost? Because it's a good story. Because we love mysteries. Because it is patient and surprisingly believing in our capacity and smarts to follow convoluted narrative arcs (unlike most of episodic TV that has absolutely no faith in such).

So now this TV bitch is telling me that my fascination with Lost is a sign of societal decay? Why? How? It's the whole silly argument over realism vs. fantasy again. And really, that's old hat.


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Thursday, February 08, 2007

entry arrow8:40 PM | Don Carlos Palanca Awards 2007 Opens

It's that time of the year again.

The Carlos Palanca Foundation has announced the opening of the 57th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. The country’s premier literary awards will accept entries until the midnight of April 30, 2007.

The literary awards is open to all Filipino citizens and former Filipino citizens. The competition includes the following categories: Short Story, Short Story for Children, Essay, Poetry, One-act Play, and Full-length Play in Filipino and English divisions; Screenplay in Filipino division; and Short Story in Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Iluko regional languages. (The Futuristic Fiction and Teleplay categories have been discontinued this year.)

This year’s theme for the Kabataan Essay is "The Filipino Value I Would Like to Share with the World" for the English division; and "Ang Kaugaliang Pilipino na Nais Kong Ibahagi sa Mundo" for the Filipino division. This is a special category open to persons below 18 years old.

Established in 1950, one of the objectives of the Palanca Awards is to serve as an incentive for Filipino writers to craft their outstanding literary works. It is noteworthy that more and more first-time entrants are winning in the contest.

National Artist for Literature Edith Tiempo noted that writers should take full advantage of the annual literary competition to hone their craft. "We are all privileged to have a good number of our writers and their best works being acclaimed and applauded -– and we, readers and writers may well wonder about the enormity of literary expertise and craftmanship and long earnest labor that must have gone into the performing of these chosen works."

Entries for the literary competition may be submitted in person, or sent by mail or courier service to Carlos Palanca Foundation, 6th Floor, CPJ Building., 105 C. Palanca Jr. St., Legaspi Village, Makati City. Entries may also be submitted through e-mail in Rich Text Format or in Microsoft Word Document as an attachment, together with the author’s resume, official entry form and original copy of the notarized authorization form.

Complete contest rules and official entry forms may be obtained from the Carlos Palanca Foundation office or via e-mail to cpawards@info.com.ph or palancaawards@yahoo.com. For inquiries, please call 818-3681, local 31.

Or go to the Don Carlos Palanca Awards website for more details.

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entry arrow8:33 PM | RussLigtas the Show

More details here.


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entry arrow2:45 PM | Turning Off

It's true what Jimmyboy said: "As soon as you say, 'It's been forever since I...' -- it happens." Because a while ago, while watching Oprah, I told Mark, "Hey, it's been forever since I've been depressed." And now I am. I don't want to do anything. I feel like a slob. I'm behind most of the deadlines I've set for myself. I'm a zombie. Wake me up when this is over.

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entry arrow2:18 AM | Free Movies!

I have just discovered ... Bit Torrent. Well, not really discovered, because I had it before, but didn't exactly know how to use it. So I erased the program from my computer. Last week, I was looking for ways to get hold of Ron Howards' Splash, the mermaid movie with Tom Hanks and Daryll Hannah. Mark's been on a mermaid addiction lately, and so we'd constantly hunt down every pirate stall and every video outlet in the city to find a copy. Nothing. We tried YouTube and Limewire. Still nothing. Finally, I tried Bit Torrent once more.

Still nothing.

But what did I find instead? Fritz Lang's M. Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Silence, and The Seventh Seal. Michaelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura. Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives, Interiors, and Zelig. Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim. Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. It was like being a kid let loose in a candy store.

There should be more movies out there, but I'm limiting myself to these classics for now.

It does take a while to download a movie, but I just leave them to slowly trickle in while I surf the Internet or watch TV. And suddenly, you have all these masters in your hard disk. I love Internet technology.

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entry arrow1:04 AM | 10 Men That Go Owww...

[inspired by bulletproof vest]

This is the gayest thing I've ever done in this blog. But who cares. I'm also doing this on a dare. And like what BV said, it's fun.

10. Patrick Wilson

The first time he enters the frame in Mike Nichols' adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, you will want to convert to Mormonism forever. If a missionary like him does appear in your doorstep.

9. Ian Lawless

Most of us only got the PG version of his Lacoste commercial, and so there were only hints of what he had to, umm, offer. (Find the uncensored version here.) But he made nudity look like a wholesome thing, you just want to hug the man. (Yes, it's that smile in the end that does you in. Bastard.)

8. Sacha Baron Cohen

He is odious as Borat, or Ali G. But when he does appear as himself, he is strangely composed, and gentlemanly. And his villainous French race car driver in Talladega Nights was inexplicably sexy. Must have been the accent.

7. Barack Obama
U.S. senator

He's the black JFK, embodying a fine balance of charisma, intellect, and a wise handle of issues. So he's not that experienced in politics. I'd still vote for him any day of the week.

6. Tom Ford
fashion designer

The eyes! The eyes! And the fabulous cut on those clothes! Even with all that fashionista air, he exudes a musky machismo that overwhelms.

5. Reynaldo Gianecchini

This guy is said to be the most beautiful man in the face of the earth. I wholeheartedly agree. I mean, wouldn't you?

4. Joseph Cooper Ramo
Time Magazine senior editor

That intense look. Those intelligent articles. It's impossible not to like the man. He makes brainy sound pervertedly sexual.

3. Jonathan Bennett

I hate Lindsay Lohan. But I completely empathize with her character in Mean Girls. I mean, I'd fail math, too, to get the guy.

2. Jude Law

He has an odd look that is at once mesmerizing and dangerous. And he simply smolders, right from the very beginning when we first noticed him coming up from the surf in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Venus would be jealous.

1. Joel Stein
columnist/pop culture commentator

What can I say? He's got that puppy look that blends well with his nerdy, but I'm-cooler-than-you persona. Plus, I'm always a sucker for writers.

And maybe also... Ethan Hawke.

Because he was in Reality Bites and Before Sunset, two wise movies that mirrored my own realities and delusions. And he wrote two novels, which I liked.

Where are the Filipinos? I don't know. There sure are a lot of eye-candies around, but nobody to really go "oowww" for. Oh, wait, there's Jun Lana. And Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Raffy Ruiz and Ronnie Salvacion, too. And that ABS-CBN reporter from Baguio or somewhere. (UPDATE: Si Cris Zuniga! See him do his report here.) And that's really it.

Next up: women, just to explore my heterosexual side.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

entry arrow7:13 PM | Everyday Wear

Mark's mom has a blog titled Everyday Wear. She's really into it, so check it out.

It's quiet fascinating watching mothers discover something like this -- the way I once felt about my 74-year-old mother discovering how to use the cellphone some years ago. She was giddy, like a kid. It was quite unsettling. Now, she would text me out of the blue, and say something like, "I miss you, I don't see you anymore."

Guilt by new technology.

Now, what if my own mom starts to blog? Will I want to read what she has to say? About me? About her secret life? Better still: will she be reading the shenanigans I post about in my blog? Egad.

Hi, mom.

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entry arrow9:21 AM | Maitim ang Ari

A good laugh makes your day. (And my day has been made.) I was rolling on the floor laughing when I read the following in Frank Cimatu's blog, ug sayang man pud kung dili nako i-share ug lain. So here goes...

Literal translations in Filipino of American movies...

Dead Man's Chest - Dodo ng Patay
Mary Poppins - Mariang Putok
Brokeback Mountain - Bumigay sa Wright Park
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Ako, Ikaw at Kayong Lahat
Four Weddings and A Funeral - Apat na Beses Ka Mang Magpakasal, Madededo Ka Rin
Waterworld - Navotas
Black Hawk Down - Maitim ang Ari
Swordfish - Talakitok
Kill Bill 2 - Kilikili at Bilbil
Gone in 60 Seconds - 1 Round, Tulog
The Fast and The Furious - Ang Bitin, Galit
Too Fast, Too Furious - Kapag Sobrang Bitin, Lalong Nagagalit
Never Been Kissed - Pangit Ka Ba?
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone - Adik si Harry, Tumira ng Shabu
Employee of the Month - Ang Sipsip
Robin Hood: Men in Tights - Robin Padilla, Naging Kapitan Barbell
Snakes on a Plane - Ahasan sa Ere

[from pine for pine]

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entry arrow8:28 AM | LitCritters Dumaguete Originals No. 1

It almost did not happen because of conflicting schedules and bad Internet connections and such. But they were adamant about not missing a LitCritters session this week, since last Saturday was already spent giving them free time to pursue some other extracurricular activities. (RJ and Odie had debates to do, etc.) But last night, LitCritters Dumaguete unveiled its first set of originals. I'm astounded by the works, even if admittedly most of what was written needed some precise editing and revision if only to make them work better as stories. Still, I am happy. Very happy. Given the fact that for most of them this is their first attempt at fiction, the outputs they gave me was highly satisfying -- and the way they critiqued each other's works made them grow in my estimation as passionate individuals who are in this endeavor for longer than a stretch. Who knew these kids had it in them, and in spades, too? When I first gathered them together for an informal weekly workshop, I had already known what they could deliver in terms of literary essays and such. The challenge was to get them out of their comfort zones, and to try fiction. One or three of the stories from last night may already be ready for eventual publication, if the authors do decide to shape their stories up with the relentlessness of unforgiving editors.

One thing I noticed though: only one of them finally proved to be a real children's story. I asked them why. And got the expected response: writing for children is not a walk in the park, after all. It's hard. It's very hard to modulate the language, to straddle the thin line between passable and overtly childish.

A few weeks from now, we're going to produce another set of originals, this time starting out with the prompt I gave them a week ago -- which resulted in them writing what they thought would make a good beginning of a story.

LitCritters Dumaguete is turning out to be a fun experiment. (Thanks, Dean.) What's more, it forces you to write on a regular basis, too. That's always good.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

entry arrow5:30 PM | A New Short Story

[edited version]

I just finished my first short story for the year! Woohoo! So, okay, it's a children's story -- and older children at that -- but still. It's basically about how not following one's artistic dreams can eventually deaden you.

Did I say "nursing"?

By the way, a previous version of this post contained the title of the story and included an excerpt as well. But in the last hour or so, I decided to enter it into a contest. Because I don't want to be accused once again in this blog for "trumpeting" my bid too much (remember the whole Neil Gaiman Prize brouhaha?), I decided to edit out those portions of this post. And hope for the best.


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entry arrow3:17 AM | The Mouse Crawling Between the Walls

I've been thinking of children's stories for the past few days, and this is directly because the first LitCritters Originals I'm doing with the Dumaguete group is exactly that: stories for children. (And also because I'm currently doing research for a paper I have to deliver during the Tamaraw Workshop in Iloilo later this summer.)

That said, I'm trying to write a children's story now, and as usual, I'm going through my protracted ritual of putting down a piece of fiction by scanning my favorite stories, this time from Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

But all that sticks to my head is this children's story included in John Irving's novel A Widow for a Year (the first part of which was filmed as The Door in the Floor, which is the title of a children's book written by one of the main characters).

It's titled "The Mouse Crawling Between the Walls," and it sticks to me because it scares me and seduces me at the same time. It goes...

Tom woke up, but Tim did not.

And Tom woke up his father... and asked him, “Did you hear that sound?”

“There’s the sound again,” Tom whispered to his Father.

“It’s a monster!” he cried.

“It’s just a mouse... crawling between the walls,” his father said, and thumped the wall hard with his hand.

And the mouse... scurried away.

"It’s just a mouse. That’s all,” Tom said.

And he quickly fell asleep.

But Tim, he stayed awake all night long.

And every time that thing crawling between the walls came crawling back, he’d hit the wall, and he’d listen to the monster... scurry away, dragging his thick, wet fur, and no arms and no legs with it.

Heavy, huh? And so much is going on in less than 120 words! By the way, the children's story "The Door in the Floor" is available here, with illustrations by the actor Jeff Bridges.


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entry arrow12:21 AM | Back to the Trenches

Last night, I got scared -- terrified -- by my work backlog. It loomed above me like a terrifying monster -- and it's about to swallow me whole. So here's a little resolution to start my February (it's February already?): 1. Stop watching DVDs for a while, and Goddamn it, stop buying them as well. 2. Better yet, turn off the goddamn television. 3. Tell yourself, "Bullshit," everytime you rationalize something like, "Well, I could always wake up early tomorrow to do this." Because you know you can't. 4. Map out what you need to do and prioritize, and zealously do everything one by one.

I used to be very O.C. with regards keeping a tight schedule. Now, I don't know how I learned to take everything easy. (Too easy, in fact.) It's freaking out my innate sense of order. I'm putting a stop to this, and if I get the label "workaholic" any time soon, I'll take it with a sense of pride this time around. Because, really, if you don't do your all for your responsibilities, and if you don't succeed to do your jobs on time, your name is basically fucked.

I'll still blog, of course. Blogging keeps me sane. Also this: without me blogging regularly, nobody will ever know whether I'm still alive under that avalanche of lists of things-to-do.

So now I'm off to keep a dinner engagement at Esther Windler's, with Mark. Who says being a workaholic stops you from being sociable?


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Monday, February 05, 2007

entry arrow9:42 AM | How Other People See Home

Peace Corps Tommy Schultz -- I've seen him around town -- has a website containing journals and photo albums that document his very long stay in Dumaguete. Quite interesting. (And it helps that he doesn't look too bad himself.) Then there's Fulbright scholar Rosanna Brillantes documenting the filming of the infamous (or notorious?) shamans of Siquijor. The resulting documentary, The Healers, should be a fascinating ethnographic look at a much-maligned (but I think completely misunderstood) local tradition.

It can be very interesting to know how outsiders exactly feel and see your world. I've long since given up trying to see Dumaguete with fresh eyes. Every time I take a photograph of this and that, I inevitably churn out generic stuff informed by the vocabulary of tourist brochures. (Is this because all locals have an innate need to shine positive light on own our places?) So when people like Tommy and Rosanna (and for that matter, my photographer-friend John Stevenson) show us some snippets of home through their work, we reel from the shock and the surprise of seeing the familiar in completely new light.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

entry arrow12:13 PM | That's It


Sometimes, you stumble on a piece of writing so funny and immediate that you are overwhelmed by sheerest desire.

I have a huge crush on Jun Lana.

Read Jun Lana's absurd take on the search for love and relationship in la-la (or hihi?) land, and recognize yourself.


It's not hype. When Jennifer Hudson as Effie White (the Florence Ballard role in the original Supremes) launches into "And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going)" in the middle of Bill Condon's Dreamgirls, the screen tears itself apart from the power of her presence and her vocals. It reduced me to tears.

(I'm so effing gay.)

Give her that Oscar already. It's a lock.

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entry arrow12:38 AM | Sexy Scripture

According to Slate, Ezekiel Chapter 23 is the sexiest chapter in the entire Bible. Well, I happen to like the sensuality of Song of Solomon and the undercurrent of homoeroticism in 1 Samuel 17:55 and 18:1-4 and 2 Samuel 1:17-27, but with Slate's suggestion, I am leaning towards agreement. Oh yes, Virginia, the Bible can be very, very sexy.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

entry arrow12:10 PM | Edith Tiempo Tribute Program

A PDF copy of the Edith Tiempo tribute program (which is in sepia, I have no idea how it got blue after being uploaded), complete with all the testimonials, is available for download. Click on the link.

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entry arrow8:41 AM | Delusions of Writing Grandeur

I know people who are exactly like this...


[from sinfest, via bookslut]

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entry arrow7:54 AM | Hungry for Food Mixed With a Little Fiction

I can't wait to get my hands on my copy of this...

My story "Pedro and the Chickens of Dumaguet" is in it. (It has since been retitled "A Tragedy of Chickens.") I wrote the story in a rush for editor and writer Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. I had already finished half of a story titled "Kitchen" for the anthology ... when something clicked in my head. I went searching for Ma'am Cecilia's original email inviting me to submit something for the anthology. In it, she said she was looking for "lighthearted" fiction: "Can you look at your short stories to see if there's something light, funny, and short, that's connected with food?"

Light, funny, and short.

God. But "Kitchen" was already too long, too sad, and too heavy. I immediately shifted gears, saved the story in my "Raw Fiction" file, and proceeded to start anew, this time telling myself that if I had to write a new story within 24 hours (the deadline given was the following day), I had to write about my favorite Dumaguete fare: Jo's chicken inato. And it had to be light, kinda funny, and short. That's the genesis of my story.

Also in the new anthology: Dean Alfar's "Sabados con Fray Villalobos" and Mia Gonzalez's "Bread" (which I recommended for inclusion to Ma'am Cecilia.) The wonderful Janet Villa also has a story in it, but I don't know what the title is. The other contributors are everybody's idols... Carlos Cortés, Jose Dalisay Jr., Veronica Montes, Oscar Peñaranda, Brian Ascalon Roley, Joël Barraquiel Tan, Linda Ty-Casper, Alfred Yuson, and others.

(The book launching is on February 12, from 5:30-7:30 pm at the 2nd Floor of The Lounge, in front of National Bookstore Bestseller-Podium, 18 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. Dean says he will be where the food is, hehehe. Me, I'm still making up my mind whether to go or not. I want to go.)

The mix of food and fiction always fascinates. Ernesto Yee says as much in his testimonial for Mom Edith yesterday: "After her critique [of Ernie's story], she shared with me the delightful comfort of her food. Eating with Mom, even today, is always one glorious feast. It is one fond memory that you can take home with you and share with your family, your circle of friends. This must be the reason why, when in Manila, my usual conversation with my dearest Susan [Lara], Marj {Evasco] and D.M. [Reyes] is always about Mom's dinner table. We all tremble with youthful anticipation and excitement at the mention of binakut -- soup of shredded chicken, shrimps, crab, sweet corn and sprinkling of horse radish commonly known as kalamunggay, and the ground meat wrapped in gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk. And of course, the dinugoan, I jokingly refer to as Count Dracula's favorite pudding, that goes with Mom's golden letchon. All prepared under her strict instruction and supervision! The sweet smell of pork and the steaming, crackling yet succulent skin tempt lasciviously our senses. Sight and smell collide. Our tongues are beginning to water. We crave for food. We start missing our Mom, our shared longing."

Which Rowena [Tiempo-Torrevillas], from Iowa, takes notes of in her email to me: "It's amazing that the binakut that Ernie uses as his central image is exactly the same comfort food from Mom's table that I wrote about in Erlinda Panlilio's collection, Comfort Food. My description of Mom's binakut is on pages 15-16 of the book, and includes this thought: 'Filipino writers, all siblings adopted into my ever-enlarging family of writers, have eaten binakut from my mother's table."

That said, get copies of both books. They will make you, umm, hungry.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

entry arrow9:00 AM | Mom Edith and Her Stories

By the time most people have finished reading this post, the tribute for Dumaguete-based National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo -- which I had coordinated for Silliman University, UP Likhaan, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts -- will have already become part of my grand recollection of wonderful things. (And hopefully other people's too.)

The event, which was one of the highlights of the National Arts Month, honored the National Artist for her lifetime of words, creativity, and nurturance of several generations of Filipino writers in a program that featured testimonials from various local writers -- including Ernesto Superal Yee (whose testimonial was read by Mom Edith's granddaughter Rima Torrevillas-Seamans), Myrna Peña-Reyes, Bobby Flores Villasis, Andrea Gomez-Soluta, and Vim Nadera Jr. -- including several dances inspired by the writings of Dr. Tiempo, choreographed by Ronnie Mirabuena and Marie Veronique Berdin of Silliman University's Kahayag Dance Troupe.

It was a tribute that was only fitting for someone whose poems, novels, essays, and short stories have enriched Philippine literature -- and have basically put Dumaguete on the map of the literary imagination. It was a long time in coming, but in today's tribute, I am grateful that Dumaguete -- and Silliman University -- has finally come about to honor a native daughter. Although she was born a Gaddang in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya in 1919, Mom Edith is -- by choice -- an Oriental Negrense. She was already a movie actress in Manila by the age 18 (appearing in Nasaan Ka Irog, Ang Gagamba, Pugad ng Agila, and Hatol ng Mataas na Langit, for what was then Parlatone Pictures), but she made the ultimate move to Silliman University where, together with husband and fellow writer Edilberto, she became a teacher and honed her literary reputation. "I chose to come here," she once told me, "to Dumaguete."

After furthering their studies at the prestigious Iowa International Writers Workshop, both came back to Silliman and founded the National Writers Workshop in 1962. The workshop is the oldest creative writing workshop in Asia, and to date is still considered the "mother of all workshops" in the Philippines. Under the continuing guidance of Mom Edith, it has produced most of the luminaries that now make up Philippine literature.

For this timely tribute to her genius and influence, it was my pleasure to introduce a dance based on my favorite short story by Mom Edith, "The Black Monkey," which was one of the winners of the Palanca when the prize was first inaugurated in 1951.

I have always known that to read the stories of Mom Edith is to enter a world of quiet. The writer Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo says exactly the same thing in her overview of Mom's short fiction for The Edith Tiempo Reader (UP, 1999). From "Chambers of the Sea" to "Dark Joshua" to "The Dimensions of Fear" to "A Concept of the Primitive" to "The Black Monkey" -- we enter the small tempests in the quiet corners of a coastal village, or a small and sleepy provincial town, or a thick forest. In her stories, most of which have been collected in Abide, Joshua and Other Stories, which was first published in 1964, and in her five novels, Mom Edith renders her quiet scenes in her strength as a poet, always striving for effect by evoking the sharp image or the striking metaphor.

Hidalgo has said of these stories: "Nothing very much seems to be happening in these quiet little stories. But at the denouement, the reader realizes that everything has been moving inexorably toward this inevitable end. And at the heart of every tale is the protagonist, who, again, seems a rather ordinary type of person—simple, unprepossessing, even nondescript. But something about him or her engages and absorbs and compels. So that when we are shown 'what happens to him inside' (Tiempo's phrase) we care."

We care, for example, for the character of Marina in "The Black Monkey." She is a young wife caught in the tentacles of World War II, hiding with her husband and the families of other guerillas deep in the forest, away from the menace of Japanese soldiers. Our concern for her lies in the very fact that she has twisted her kneecap while fleeing from the Japanese, and becomes partially paralyzed -- making her a dangerous liability for the rest of the villagers.

Knowing this, she relents to living on her own in a makeshift hut hidden away on a precipice, which could only be negotiated by lowering a ladder into the river. The other villagers bring her food, and her husband visits, but for the most part, she is entirely helpless and alone -- surrounded only by trees and the screeching monkeys that live in them.

One particular black monkey begins terrorizing her, and in the animal she sees all of her fears manifested, including the fear of being discovered by an escaped Japanese soldier roaming the area. Her husband finally gives her a gun to kill the monkey -- bringing about her realization that only she, alone, could kill the monkey and rid her of her nightmares.

In the end, she does kill the monkey, and in so doing slays all her other fears.

According to Hidalgo, Marina is "perhaps the most impressive of Tiempo's female protagonists." And I agree. And maybe this is because I know Marina is really a fictional version of Mom Edith.

This is her story.

I remember my visits to Mom Edith's office in CAP Building when I was still quite new to the craft of writing, and in the middle of the morning she would regale me with stories of writers and writing, and of anecdotes from her interesting and colorful life. I felt that it was a privilege to be in that presence, and to be welcomed and nurtured as a writer as she had always done with generations of Filipino writers since the 1960s.

I must have been quite a listener because in her dedication to one of my copies of her books, she wrote: "For Ian, who likes to hear stories, not just to write them! Mom E." One of these stories she loved telling me was of her experience as a young wife in the jungles of Negros Oriental where most of Dumaguete hid when the Japanese invaded the island. She was Marina, and she lived Marina's nightmares and salvation -- including the specter of monkeys, and the education of firing a gun.

Beyond the autobiographical elements however, "The Black Monkey" works as a magnificent, tightly structured, and highly dramatic piece of fiction, because the character in the story is someone whom we finally truly care for, whose story becomes our own story, and whose denouement also brings about a kind of finality and truth in our lives.

Mom Edith's been a little weak lately, but at her age (she is 87 years old) that is only to be expected. Yet she continues to be prolific, easily shaming those of us who are still young but whose output are yet so meager. Now, there are plans to collect her early stories, even her children's fiction, for suitable publication. Then there's the personal anthology of the three Tiempo women currently in the burner, involving daughter Rowena Torrevillas and granddaughter Rima. She shows no sign of slowing down, and is still the doyen of Montemar, her residence in Sibulan town.

I will always be grateful for having known Mom Edith, and for the intimate and writerly circumstances that have allowed me to call her by such affectation. Thanks, Mom, for everything.

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entry arrow8:11 AM | A Tribute to Mom Edith

[this is a post-dated entry. please scroll below for the new posts.]

You are all invited to attend a tribute to National Artist for Literature Edith Lopez Tiempo.

This event, slated on 2 February 2007 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Dumaguete City, is sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing, and Silliman University Department of English and Literature. The tribute will showcase dances by the Silliman University Kahayag Dance Troupe, based on several literary pieces written by the National Artist. The event will also feature tributes by writers Ernesto Superal Yee, Myrna Peña-Reyes, Bobby Flores Villasis, Ian Rosales Casocot, and Vim Nadera Jr.

UPDATE: My article on the tribute appears January 29 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. ANOTHER UPDATE: Rima Torrevillas Seamans, Mom Edith's granddaughter and daughter of Rowena, will take the place of Ernie Yee in giving the testimonial. Ernie will be in Cebu for business. Reserved tickets available by tomorrow.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

entry arrow10:12 AM | Define Stress

Busy, busy, busy... I'm scrambling to make full use of what time I have left to juggle everything. There are so many things to do, articles to write, deadlines to catch, people to meet, meetings to join, plans to put into action, classes to teach, and the Edith Tiempo Tribute tomorrow to make sure everything flows. So if I'm a bit silent these days, you have to understand. Please? Gotta get a massage later in the day. My back's aching from stress.


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