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

Interested in What I Create?


Saturday, August 30, 2008

entry arrow9:30 PM | Things You Don't Know

Here's a little shameless promotion... My short story, "Things You Don't Know," which somehow won first prize in the 2008 Palanca Awards, is now out in the Centennial Edition of the Philippines Free Press, the August 30 issue. Do buy a copy.

[thanks to kyu for the tip]

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Friday, August 29, 2008

entry arrow11:17 AM | Sillimanian Writers in the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards

Three Silliman University alumni bagged top prizes in the 2008 Philippines Free Press Literary Awards.

Dumaguete-based poet and fictionist Cesar Ruiz Aquino won First Prize for Poetry for “Jerahmeel,” Manila-based poet Marjorie Evasco nabbed Second Prize for Poetry for “Luna’s Lost Earrings,” and Copenhagen-based novelist Lakambini Sitoy won Third Prize for the Essay for “The Sound of Silence is Not a Vacuum.”

The other winners for the essay were Wilfredo O. Pascual, who won first prize, and L. Lacambra Ypil, who won second prize. For poetry, Lourd de Veyra won third prize. For the short story, first prize went to F.H. Batacan, while the second and third prizes went to Celeste Flores Coscolluela and Amado Bajarias, respectively.

The judges for short fiction and the essay were Dean Francis Alfar, Vicente Groyon III, and Katrina Tuvera, while the judges for poetry were Alfred Yuson, Marne Kilates, and Victor Peñaranda.

Aquino is currently a member of the faculty of the Silliman University Department of English and Literature, while Evasco, who is the 2008 Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee for Creative Writing, is with De La Salle University. Sitoy, a former president of Silliman’s student government, recently taught at the Negros Oriental State University, but is now currently writing a novel in Denmark. Sitoy’s Sweet Haven has also been long-listed in the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, which is considered as the Asian Booker Prize.

“The poem is composed of 14 lines and 2 stanzas, and I wrote it for the poetry and dance collaboration project with Myra Beltran for last year’s Frida Kahlo Centennial of the Instituto Cervantes and the Embassy of Mexico,” says Evasco of her winning poem.

The Philippines Free Press Literary Awards is one of the oldest and biggest literary prizes in the country.

The recognition goes to what are adjudged as the best literary works in English by Filipino writers culled from the annual crop published in the magazine. First handed out in 1949, its roster of winners have included many of the giants of Philippine literature, including National Artists Nick Joaquin, Francisco Arcellana, Edith L. Tiempo, and N.V.M. Gonzalez, and other writers including Kerima Polotan Tuvera, Mig Alvarez Enriquez, Gregorio C. Brillantes, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Bienvenido N. Santos, Estrella Alfon, Wilfrido Nolledo, Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez, Erwin Castillo, Renato Madrid, Resil Mojares, Ninotchka Rosca, Alfred Yuson, Tita Lacambra Ayala, Emmanuel Lacaba, Lina Espina Moore, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Federico Licsi Espino Jr., and Cirilo F. Bautista. Silliman writers have been regularly included in the winning roll announced every year, and top prizes have gone to such locally-trained writers as Edilberto K. Tiempo, Roberto Montebon, and Timothy Montes.

The awarding ceremony was held last August 27 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati.

The Philippines Free Press Magazine, one of the country’s oldest news magazine, is celebrating its Centennial this year.

[dean has some photos]

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entry arrow10:27 AM | Mookie and Sarge Move Their Workshop Schedules

The workshops slated for this week at A Different Bookstore have been postponed. Angelo Rodriguez Lacuesta's fiction workshop, "Telling the Untold," will be moved to September 18 and 25 (Thursdays) at 5pm to 7pm. Mookie Katigbak's poetry workshop, "Lightning in the Mind," will be moved to September 19 and 26 (Fridays) at 5pm to 7pm. Workshoppers are requested to reconfirm their attendance by sending a short email to sargelacuesta(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

entry arrow8:11 PM | Booboos and Chichangs

The fabulous Jose Claudio Guerrero -- otherwise known as Butch -- now blogs.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

entry arrow4:59 PM | Desaparesidos

The great Lualhati Bautista -- author of the novels Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?, 'Gapo, and Dekada '70 -- is blogging her latest novel Desaparesidos. Click here to read the first two chapters.

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entry arrow8:26 AM | Marjorie Evasco to Talk About the Art of Poetry and Healing in Silliman University Today

Today, the Silliman Cultural Affairs Committee is sponsoring a lecture by the major Filipino poet Marjorie Evasco, the 2008 Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee for Creative Writing. She will be speaking on "The Art of Poetry and Healing" at 2 p.m., at the Audio-Visual Theater 1.

Dr. Evasco was born in Maribojoc, Bohol, and finished her B.A. from Divine Word College of Tagbilaran (now Holy Name University), M.A. in Creative Writing at Silliman University, and her Doctor of Philosophy in Literature at De La Salle University. She became a member of the faculty at De La Salle University, while completing her doctoral degree in 1998. For many years, she was Director of DLSU’s Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center.

She has received several Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, National Book Awards from the Manila Critics’ Circle, the Arinday Awards from Silliman University, Gintong Aklat (Book Development Association of the Philippines) and Philippines Free Press prizes for her poems and essays. Her poems have appeared in many important anthologies including Luna Caledonia and Six Women Poets. She has been published extensively in Asia, Europe, and North America. She has also received various international fellowships; among them, a writing fellowship at the International Retreat for Writers in Hawthornden Castle in Scotland in 1991; a Rockefeller grant and residency in Bellagio, Italy in 1992; 10th Vancouver International Writers’ Festival in 1997; International Writers’ Program fellowship at the University of Iowa in 2002; University of Malaya Cultural Centre grant in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in 2003; the Wordfeast 1st Singapore International Literary Festival in 2004 and the Man Hong Kong Literary Festival in 2006.

Evasco’s prizewinning poetry books are: Dreamweavers: Selected Poems 1976-1986 (1987) and Ochre Tones: Poems in English and Cebuano (1999). Ochre Tones was launched last May 1997 at National Artist Edith L. Tiempo’s residence on Montemar, Sibulan, Negros Oriental. Evasco calls this volume a “book of changes,” following Dreamweavers which for her was a “book of origins.” Evasco hopes to finish her third poetry collection soon.

Evasco’s other books include A Legacy of Light: 100 Years of Sun Life in the Philippines, Six Women Poets: Inter/Views (co-written with Edna Manlapaz), Kung Ibig Mo: Love Poetry by Women (co-edited with Benilda Santos), A Life Shaped by Music: Andrea O. Veneracion and the Philippine Madrigal Singers and ANI: The Life and Art of Hermogena Borja Lungay, Boholano Painter.

Evasco was a founding member of two organizations espousing the cause of women writers: Writers Involved in Creating Cultural Alternatives (WICCA) and Women in Literary Arts (WILA). She has written many essays on women’s poetry, several of them finding their place in various anthologies. She is an associate fellow of the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC).

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

entry arrow5:58 PM | Choice in the Age of the Internet

"I can either be a guy who writes novels, or I can be a guy who answers emails. Realizing I cannot be both, I've made my decision, and now I can live with it."

-- Novelist Neal Stephenson, on distracting email correspondence

[sent as a text message by the lovely ginny mata]

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

entry arrow4:28 PM | The Bayanihan Dance Company and a Stamp Exhibit This Weekend in Dumaguete

Opens August 23 and runs until August 26, Silliman University Main Library Exhibition Hall. The Cebu Stamp Club, Inc. presents the Philippines as "the land of heroes" in a retrospective showcasing stamps depicting Filipino heroes. The traveling exhibit visits Dumaguete, as well as selected schools in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay, and Lapu-lapu.

August 23 and 24, Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium. Bayanihan, the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, returns to Dumaguete City as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. Surging to the Crest celebrates 2008 as a high point in Bayanihan’s first 50 years, and a starting point for its next 50. There are the two new numbers in its repertoire: Marikit Na, from the folkways and traditions of people living along Marikina river; and Bangkero, from the traditions and lore of the boatmen of Pagsanjan. With music direction by Melito Vale Cruz and choreography by Ferdinand Jose.

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entry arrow9:54 AM | Fashion Design, Pinoy-style

I want to like Project Runway Philippines. When you're a great fan of the U.S. original, a local incarnation has to be part of your TV viewing life. And I do like it, albeit grudgingly and with an allowance for tolerance. There's drama naman -- put a bunch of attention-craving flamboyant gay men in a room, ask them to compete, and then watch sparks fly -- and some of the contenders do have a great eye for fashion, notably excepting the lola who was cut first and had no business being there in the first place. I do try to watch the weekly installments. But what's with the horrid lighting that makes everyone look cadaver-pasty? What's with the barriotic-looking SoFA that looks like a spiffed up version of a baranggay hall? What's with the echoing runway made obviously of plywood that booms with Teresa's every step? What's with the drab production design? What's with the barely-there editing? What's with the pulot-sa-palengke models? And what's with the zombie music (by Diego Mapa) that absolutely refuses to insert some much-needed thrill into the segments? If you remember, in the original, the music -- the fashion soundtrack and the dramatic segues that herald each pronouncement by Heidi Klum -- is a great part of its appeal. Here, it sounds like a monkey just had his way with a keyboard.

The overall impression: a galling undercurrent of cheapness -- like the vomitus Nesvita "colors" they lavishly draped over all the last episode -- that has absolutely no place in fashion television. And the judges, by the latest episode, look like they're all so tired and would rather be somewhere else. Jojie Lloren, with his cringe-inducing bangs, is no Tim Gunn who cuts elegantly both as a critic and as a mentor. Rajo Laurel is okay, but has yet to grow into the gravity that is Michael Kors. I can't say anything about Apples Aberin without rolling my eyes. This is our Nina Garcia? I told Myrza I'd rather see her as one of the judges. She sent me a smiley over text.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

entry arrow11:04 AM | Making God Laugh

[a longer version of an older post]

Today I celebrate the fifth anniversary of my 28th birthday. And if you don’t get what I mean by that, please realize that I mean to say it tongue-in-cheek, the root of which is the denial that comes easy the moment you realize you’re not that young anymore. Birthdays, I have found out, are everybody’s grand occasions for denial.

Forever twenty-eight years old. (Why not 29? Twenty-nine is too near Armageddon.) This has been my own running joke for all my birthdays since turning 30, but now I’ve decided enough is enough. My name is Ian Rosales Casocot. And I’m 33 years old.

There you go. Like AA. Somebody should invent group therapy for age-deniers.

But it is a tendency that is easy enough to sympathize with. Ancient cultures used to celebrate old age, and the wisdom that came with it. But things have changed. We live in an agist age—where youth is worshipped and prized. Botox, and gym membership, and mid-life crises, and plastic surgery come to mind as the embodiment of that. Photoshop, as well. (How we love our discovery of the liquefy tool!) While the international definition of youth sets the demarcation at 40—tell that to the 29-year-old slowly growing in panic as the prospect of the big Three-O springs. I used to be that youth. How silly that seems to me suddenly, now.

I used to dread this particular week—the birthday week, the seven days that come and go before you wake up to stare at the bare fact of another natal day. I’ve been dreading it since I turned 25, many years ago, and suddenly realized, like the proverbial punch to the stomach, that I had lived a quarter of a century already but there was not much I could show for a life well-lived. I had only discovered Sartre then, and felt it to my bones.

Birthday weeks after 30 are easy to describe. I’d succumb to a cliché, of course, and mope around, find a place to be a hermit for a few days, until the whole dreaded prospect of celebrating another year of turning older has cleared, and nobody has to greet me anymore a half-hearted “Happy Birthday!” followed by the inevitable query of “Where’s the party?” (My answer: “I thought you were planning to surprise me.”)

Moping became a tradition of sorts. Those closest to me expected it, and gladly gave me space to breathe while I went about living in the frame of mind of a rabid dog. Then again, I was the original emo guy. While others would go to orphanages on their birthday morning to bring good cheer to the less fortunate (like my good friend, and angel, Bing Lacdo-o), and while others would go to a spot in the Philippines they’d never been to (like my friend Moses Joshua Atega, whose birthday tradition has made him an intrepid traveler), I’d close my doors instead, pull down the blinds, and wallow in the darkness of a few hours, or days, alone.

In the occasion that I feel brilliant enough to psychoanalyze this tendency, I think of it as some Freudian wish to get back to the beginning of my own life, to get back to the cocoon of my mother’s womb. I’m not sure it is like Woody Allen’s immense existential fear that life is a cruel joke. It cannot be that depressing. I think of it as a communing with a profound sense of unrealization—a thorough reexamination of my life to see what had been done, and what had not been done.

All of us carry a certain yardstick to measure our personal best. The most competitive among us have it down to inches. I’m not that competitive, but I do (or did) have my own measurements that go (or went) by the meter. One of my favorite songs come from the Broadway musical Rent, and Jonathan Larson who wrote that wonderful Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play, penned these wonderful lines for “Seasons of Love,” which to me spoke of that all-too-human tendency to measure all that we are: “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear / five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / how do you measure, measure a year? / In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee / in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife / In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure a year in the life?”

Larson’s final answer is to measure life in love. And I believe that, and so do most of us, I think. We like the sound of that. Love, the antidote to everything. But we soon come to realize, of course, that it is a resolve and a philosophy that is often harder to realize in daily living, considering everything that we go through each single day that we breathe. Our lives are vacillations of all emotions, including hate and despair. To measure life fully in love? Impossible. And so we turn to other measures.

For example, the measure of life when I turned 24 went this way: “Oh my God. Next year, I’m turning 25, and I’m still living with my mother.” The next thing I knew, I got myself an apartment, and embarked on a tumultuous “independent” life that has lasted to this day.

Each year, it went like that, with one kind of measure after another. Every birthday marked a change: a new job, a new love, a new story… Some years seemed dipped in so much blessedness, but there were also times when I considered myself the utter embodiment of failure—and the most recent years between 2003 and 2005 seemed like black holes especially, years of stumbling in the proverbial dark when there seemed to be no salvation from a general sense of despairing. What is happening to me? I used to ask myself when I felt everything turning loose from all sense of control. Will things get better? The birthdays then were acute occasions of bewilderment—and the days of those long-gone birthday weeks seemed longer and slower, the way one would feel for the entire minute you dip your finger in a bowl of hot oil. But somehow, prayers do get answered. And God does listen.

And now I couldn’t care less about birthdays anymore. Let them come, I say now. I’ve already gone past the number of days in the calendar—and after enduring that, there really is no use anymore battling with the inevitable. One grows old, simple as that. The folly of the young is the false sense of “forever.” Age--and the slow physical decrepitude it brings—becomes the antidote to that, and once you take that in as the truest thing of being biological entities, each day somehow becomes a miracle of living. Finally owning up your years after thirty becomes the best gift you will ever give yourself.

Now, I don’t even have time to mope. True, I’m still convinced my life is largely incomplete -- but here suddenly comes wisdom: what can one do, really, but roll with the years, and grab whatever it is that comes your way? Life, you soon realize, is too random—we all know this truth, but it takes years for us to feel its gravity.

And the ancients were wise indeed: the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan. There is a grand and divine design for all of life—I believe that wholeheartedly—and it takes a little faith to surrender to that notion. I still do make plans—if only to unclutter my minutes and my days as well as to reassure the obsessive compulsive that lurks under my skin. But the grand scheme of things, I surrender all of that to the divine. I’ve been quite a schemer most of my young life, but less than half of the fancies I’ve made ever got realized—and I always ended up feeling a little silly for even scheming.

So here’s a cheer to life’s randomness. Here’s a cheer to unfulfilled dreams, but not plans. And here’s a cheer to the number 28, and how good it sounds mixed with the gaiety of winking denial. And here’s to ditching that, finally, and own up the blessed years.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

entry arrow7:34 PM | ...

My baby is in Dipolog. And I can't sleep. It rained yesterday. I like it when it rains. I don't like it when the sun returns with so much vengeance the next day. My body can't handle the fluctuations in temperature. And now I feel a bout of colds coming, and now there's also a headache waiting to jump and prey on me. I need a massage. I need a hug. My hug's somewhere in Dipolog though. Sad, sad.

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entry arrow6:36 PM | Billiard Balls

Tell me if I'm a monster. In my research writing class, I'm especially hard on College of Education students. Our future teachers. I call so much attention on work they submit that contains sloppy research or, worse, an avalanche of grammatical errors. Today, for example, I wrote in the margins of one paper submitted to me by a sophomore enrolled in Secondary Education: "I have to be harder on you and your partner. Because I cannot envision you teaching kids in the future with this kind of sloppy writing." Once, many years ago, I had another Education student who was majoring in English -- can you imagine that?. She was one of those kikay types. Her grammar was so bad her papers gave me endless headaches. Paper after paper I would tell her to do something about it -- and I would often green-mark her papers to such a degree that I couldn't even see the original composition beneath all the corrections in green ink. But she never improved. She would just stare vacantly at me, and go back to her kikay barkada after class ended. So I told her one day, "I'm not sure you should be a teacher. Maybe you should shift to another course. I can only pity the students you may have to teach in the future." Ouch. I don't really know what happened to her after graduation. I kinda feel guilty about what I said -- but I was getting frustrated, and I saw myself as some sort of gatekeeper to education. See, we all keep complaining about the kind of education system we have here in the Philippines, and yet we keep allowing mediocrity to get past our levels of standards, so I decided to be tough in my own little way. I didn't care at all if students would label me as a "terror" teacher. God knows I tried hard to teach that girl something. But I remember what Paul Engle once told Edith Tiempo: "Even the best teacher can't make hair grow on a billiard ball." I don't think I'm the best teacher there is -- God knows how faulty I can be -- but that girl definitely was a billiard ball.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

entry arrow12:41 PM | Ballet Manila presents Pinocchio and Sonata

August 16 and 17. Matinees at 3 p.m. and gala shows at 8 p.m. Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, Dumaguete City. The Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee presents the first event of Dumaguete’s cultural season, and its showcases dance in a very colorful and magical manner. From Philippine prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Ballet Manila comes a one-of-a-kind reconception of Carlo Collodi’s classic tale of a puppet who wants to become a real boy. This eternal children’s favorite is brought to life with this joyful, sweet, and fast-paced ballet incarnation staged by Ballet Manila associate artistic director Osias Barroso. Ballet Manila is also presenting Sonata.

Tickets and Season Passes are available at the College of Performing Arts Office and the Luce Auditorium Office, and at the theater lobby before every show. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please call/contact Gang-gang at (035) 422-6002 loc. 520.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

entry arrow8:13 PM | Mookie and Sarge Do a Workshop

This is your chance to learn from local litdom's power couple, the poet Mookie Katigbak and the fictionist Sarge Lacuesta. Multi-awarded writers, brilliant friends. Now go sign up.

From Mookie:

A Different Bookstore in Serendra will be hosting two workshops by Mookie Katigbak and Angelo R. Lacuesta.

"Lightning In The Mind" with Mookie Katigbak on August 30, 2008, Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A two-part poetry workshop highlighting image and meaning in poetry. All author's proceeds to go to World Vision. August 30 and September 5. Registration fee of P750 to cover resource book, snacks and workshop materials. Participants also receive a permanent 12% discount card from A Different Bookstore.

"Telling The Untold" with Angelo R. Lacuesta on August 28, 2008, Thursday, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A two-part writing workshop highlighting the art and the craft of fiction. All author's proceeds to go to World Vision. August 28 and September 4. Registration fee of P750 to cover resource book, snacks and workshop materials. Participants also receive a permanent 12% discount card from A Different Bookstore.

Please take note that the dates on the posters are not final. Refer to the block quote above instead.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

entry arrow9:06 PM | A Few Days Early

In a few days, I will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of my 28th birthday. I used to dread this particular week, been dreading it since I turned 25 years ago, and suddenly realized, like a punch to my stomach, that I had lived a quarter of a century already but there was not much I could show for a life well-lived. I'd succumb to a cliche, and mope around, find a place to be a hermit for a few days, until the whole dreaded prospect of celebrating another year of turning older has cleared, and nobody has to greet me anymore a half-hearted "Happy Birthday!" followed by the inevitable query of "Where's the party?" (My answer: "I thought you were planning to surprise me.") But now I couldn't care less. Now, I don't even have time to mope. I'm still convinced my life is largely incomplete -- but here suddenly comes wisdom: what can one do, really, but roll with the years, and grab whatever it is that comes your way? Life is too random. The ancients were wise: the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan. I've been quite a schemer most of my young life, and less than half of the fancies I've made ever got realized. So here's a cheer to randomness. Here's a cheer to unfulfilled dreams, but not plans. Here's a cheer to the number 28, and how good it sounds mixed with the gaiety of winking denial.


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entry arrow8:58 PM | Sign of the Times

What does it say about me when I actually get irritated when I try to look up somebody online -- and there's just nothing there? Nothing in Multiply. Nothing in MySpace. Nothing in Facebook. Nothing in Friendster. And absolutely nothing in Google. Which begs this question: In the Age of Web 2.0, if you're not Google-able, do you really exist? Ehehe.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

entry arrow1:10 PM | Palanca Awards 2008

It's mid-August and the grapevine is buzzing...

... and the list will grow.

(Update: I think the blocks of pictures above make more sense arranged this way...)

And oh, yeah. I got the letter from the Palanca Foundation a few hours ago. My story "Things You Don't Know" won First Prize for the Short Story in English (yipee!) -- and I was quite ecstatic, even if I was (still am) very sick from the relentless August heat. That story was an experiment in minimalism and tone. Tone, especially. One of the judges, upon learning the identity of all the winners, texted me a few minutes ago: "We thought a woman wrote it!" Hehehe, well I kinda channeled Migs Villanueva when I was writing it. So, thank you, Migs!

[And who are those happy people above? By rows, from the top, left to right: Miguel Syjuco, Norman Wilwayco, yours truly, fellow Baguio kumag Tara FT Sering, Nadine Sarreal, Rommel Rodriguez, fellow Sillimanian Francis Macansantos, fellow Baguio kumag Ana Maria Katigbak, fellow Purple Patcher Marie La Viña, Mikael Co, adopted Baguio kumag Jose Claudio Guerrero (what a butch name!), Ina Stuart Santiago, Jhoanna Lyn Cruz, Jing Panganiban-Mendoza, Michael Coroza, Eugene Evasco, Celestine Trinidad, fellow LitCritter Kate Aton-Osias, fellow Baguio kumag Allan Derain, Maria Clarissa Estuar, Percival Intalan, Floy Quintos, Debbie Ann Tan, Allan Lopez, Peter Solis Nery, Michiko Yamamoto, Emman de la Cruz, Dennis Marasigan, Macariu Tiu, Edgar Godin, Lilia Tio, fellow Sillimanian Leoncio Derriada, Danilo Antalan, Ariel Tabag, Aurelio Agcaoili. Winners we all know so far, anyway. They're mostly great friends, so it will be grand company come September 1 in the Manila Pen. Dean -- who does this every year -- has the unofficial list... and disclaimer.]

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