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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?


Friday, February 27, 2009

entry arrow11:17 PM | “Mag-mugna Ta!”

... Because that was how it really was, in the beginning, when Dessa Quesada-Palm — Dumaguete’s transplanted resident theater maven and tireless cultural worker — gathered a group of local artists and culture advocates (among them, Glynda Descuatan, Ronnie Mirabuena, Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafols, Jean Cuanan-Nalam, Joji Benitez, Ditz Villas, Nicky Dumapit, Claudio Ramos, and yours truly) last January, and gave us what could be the equivalent of that great grade school staple of “Let’s put on a show!”

The plan was to gather, as much as possible, all cultural groups mushrooming in their secret corners all over the province, and put them together during one week of intense celebration of the arts—from dance to music, from literature to the visual arts. Thus was Kisaw 2009 born—a “pasundayag sa bulan sa sining.”

“Mugna” seemed the right tag line to describe the endeavor. It is the Cebuano word, after all, for “create,” but the word has also—of late—taken this street lingo connotation of friends gathering together to create something, anything in the spirit of fun, and in the light of communal effort. “Mag-mugna ta!” sounded like a spirited battle-cry, with the benefit of a smile and a wink.

But why exactly put on a show? Because February was National Arts Month—and it was becoming too strange to note that, no matter how much we hype Dumaguete City as the “Cultural Center of the South,” the city—and in a larger context, the province of Negros Oriental—had yet to undertake something as culturally all-encompassing as this particular celebration.

The rest of the country—particularly in stronger cultural centers such as Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Baguio—has been celebrating it for almost every year of the past decade, courtesy of the provisions of Proclamation No. 683, which has declared February of every year as National Arts Month. It is an official recognition of the role of the arts in reflecting, affirming, critiquing, and shaping our society—and, Dessa tells us, “it is a time when artists can take claim on public spaces, to engage with each other and with its communities, to create.”

Thus was Gihay Artists in Action, or GAIA, born—the new collective of local artists that was, and still will, spearhead the local effort to make art matter in the community. Its creed for the year: “We, artists from the disciplines of the visual arts, music, literature, dance, and theater, wish to contribute to celebrating the wealth of Philippine culture and arts and work on the theme ‘Art is a Right.’ Can you imagine a world without music, no poetry nor movement, no drama and the richness of the palette? Art is a right, almost in the same breath as the right to express and create. We envision a week, from February 22nd to the 28th, gathering artists from the city and beyond, a week exploding with performances, exhibits, workshops and forum, exploring and expounding on the various perspectives and understanding of art as a right.”

Because art is truly a right—something that only the most pedestrian cannot understand. And art truly has a function to fulfill as a beacon for the development in any community, something I have already explored in previous columns. For the most part, the GAIA group’s push to do something of this magnitude is encapsulated in America’s Public Broadcasting Service’s acknowledgment of its cultural advocacy: “For art is, at its core, about true freedom, about untrammeled speech, unbridled expression of the spiritual and the relentless search of conscience. Art explores our every corner—high, low, sublime and sorry alike; it is the mirror of humanity. And we have come to see cultural democracy as a right, just like economic and political democracy. It is a right that can be the foundation of change, wherein self-expression is a prerequisite for self-empowerment. In that sense, then, human rights, is at the core of artistic practice, in all its difference and breadth.”

The past week the, has been an exploration of art in public spaces, using the parks, the tempurahan, the boulevard, the kampanaryo, the wet markets, and the streets as venues for the arts to engage with the people.

In Tayada Kada Adlaw sa Parke, we took note of Tayada sa Plaza as having been the sole cultural showcase of the City of Gentle People, regularly featuring amateur and professional performances of talents. For Arts Week, various performing groups from all over Negros Oriental—including Youth Advocates of Theater Arts (YATTA), UGKAT, Silliman University Kahayag Dance Troupe, the Silliman University Campus Choristers, Asyano, as well as dance troupes from St. Paul University Dumaguete and Negros Oriental State University—gathered together in the heart of Quezon Park in Dumaguete, for a week of drama, dance, and music, in a public celebration of the cultural heritage of the city and the province.

For Balak ug Balitaw sa Tempurahan last Friday, we paid tribute to Dumaguete as a literary capital of the Philippines. Acclaimed writers and lovers of the literary arts from all over Negros Oriental gathered together at the junction of Silliman Hall and the Tempura Area of the Boulevard to give a spirited rendition of Cebuano poetry and balitaw (courtesy of Enriquita Alcaide and Veronico Duran), with a sprinkling of Cebuano love songs from some of the best local talents.

For Hugis ug Dibuho sa Boulevard, the visual arts heritage of the province was showcased in a public art exhibition by some of the best artists in Negros Oriental, including Sharon Dadang-Rafols, Razceljan Salvarita, Susan Canoy, Jana Jumalon, Amihan Jumalon-Fernandez, Jutze Pamate, Yvette Malahay-Kim, and Babu Wenceslao.

For Huni ug Sayaw sa Kampanaryo last Wednesday, local music took a boost in a spectacular concert of some of the best musical groups and singers of the city, including Kwerdas, Quddus Ronnie Padilla, Earnest Hope Tinambacan, Sharon Dadang-Rafols, Kakay Pamaran, Naddie Orillana, and others.

For Puting Tabil sa Tiangge, cinema—long considered as the favorite entertainment mode of Filipinos—was taken to the more public realm in a rare showcase of the best of Filipino short films, projected on the walls of Building II.

For Hinabi sa Sidlakan, renowned composer, theater director and impresario Gardy Labad, now of Bohol, shared his wealth of experience and wisdom on the topic “Art is a Right: Examples of Bohol People’s Organizations Initiatives in Sustainable Tourism” at the Sidlakang Negros.

It was a veritable celebration of our artistic wealth—a good enough beginning for what is hopefully an annual celebration locally. Good enough, even with its marvelous kinks, given that this was conceived on the fly, and with absolutely no budget or institutional sponsorships—only magnificent scruples and a great love for culture by all those who participated.

In behalf of everybody in GAIA, I would like to thank everybody for making Kisaw 2009, our Arts Week in Dumaguete, a success. Here’s looking forward to Kisaw 2010.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

entry arrow3:46 PM | The 59th Palanca Awards is Now Open

On its 59th year, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the country's most prestigious and longest-running literary contest, officially opens on 1 March 2009.

This year, the Palanca Awards announces the introduction of two new categories –- Poetry Written for Children in the English Division and Tulang Isinulat Para sa mga Bata in the Filipino division. In these new categories, envisioned to encourage the development of a body of poetry for young children, an entry must consist of a collection of at least 10 but not more than 15 poems. It may deal with any subject and must be comprehensible within the grade-school reading level of children ages 6-12, but accessible in its oral form by younger children.

The complete regular categories under which participants can submit their entries are: English Division (Short Story, Short Story for Children, Essay, Poetry, Poetry Written for Children, One-act Play, Full-length Play); Filipino Division (Maikling Kuwento, Maikling Kuwentong Pambata, Sanaysay, Tula, Tulang Isinulat Para sa mga Bata, Dulang May Isang Yugto, Dulang Ganap ang Haba, and Dulang Pampelikula); Regional Languages Division (Short Story in Cebuano, Short Story in Hiligaynon and Short Story in Iluko). Each contestant may submit only one entry per category.

Meanwhile, in the Kabataan Essay Division, the Palanca Awards' special division for writers below 18 years old, the theme in the English category is "How can the Filipino youth help build a globally competitive nation?" In the Filipino category, the theme is "Paano makatutulong ang kabataang Filipino sa pagtataguyod ng isang maunlad na bansa na maihahanay sa mga nangungunang bayan sa buong mundo?"

The literary contest is open to all Filipino (or former Filipino) citizens, except current officers and employees of its organizing body, the Carlos Palanca Foundation, Inc. Contest rules and official entry forms are available at the Palanca Awards' official website. For further information, you may call telephone number 856-0808.

Entries with complete requirements may be submitted to the Foundation's office at the 6th Floor, One World Square Bldg., 10 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Hill Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City or may also be entered online through the Palanca Awards website or sent through email at palancaawards@yahoo.com.

Deadline of submission of entries for this year's awards is midnight of 30 April 2009. Winners will be announced on 1 September 2009.

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entry arrow1:15 PM | Bleep Out the Queer!

What the...? I'm watching the rerun of the Oscars over at StarMovies -- and they totally cut Milk's scribe Dustin Lance Black's beautiful acceptance speech about growing up gay!

The complete speech goes this way:

Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make. First off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast, my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story. When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married. I wanna... I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.
Instead, it went...

Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make. First off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast, my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story. When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. / Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.


Then again, what can we expect from the broadcast family that has given the world stupid FoxNews?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

entry arrow3:18 PM | Favorite Song No. 17 : I'll Be Seeing You

[warning: diabetic writing ahead]

"The big difference between people is not between the rich and the poor, the good and the evil. The biggest of all differences between people is between those who have had pleasure in love and those who haven't."
- Paul Newman in
Sweet Bird of Youth

Somebody I met in Manila, a Bikol writer, told me something strange during one of those afternoon lulls in Taboan 2009 while we were waiting for something to happen: "I love your love life," he said.

Note that this was somebody I just met only a few days before that afternoon -- but somebody who knew me a little more intimately through occasional correspondence, and through this [increasingly very] confessional blog. But when Kristian Cordero said that to me, I was a little confused -- because what was there to love about my love life? I've had two great loves, yes, and also two great heartaches, the pain of which I cannot even wish on anybody. Only a masochist can want to love the love life I've had.

And yet today, a few weeks later, I seem to have finally caught the gravity of what Kristian meant. I actually do love my love life. The intensity of what I've been through. The searing totality. I've been through so much passion, so much love -- but also this: I love the way both ended: with just a little drama to spice up a real-life teleserye, and yet continuing on to such beautiful friendships, the kind that only two people who have been through a long life together can fathom.

I'm not sure I can ever define for anybody the bittersweet nature of that life after love. Most think old loves and memories of it must die a painful death, something you never revisit at the risk of untold misery. Honestly, I cannot be that nihilistic. My philosophy has always been something like this: You've shared a good life with this person. Cherish the memories of it at the very least. There's a kind of nobility to it: the knowledge that you are still in love, but cannot be together anymore because ... well, you just can't. There are minute circumstances that build up together to something bigger than yourselves to tell you it just cannot be. And when you learn to respect that, you realize that the heart, above all, is a thing of astonishing beauty: because it can continue to love and be passionate, even when you have moved on to separate lives.

I'm a sentimental fool. I grant you that. And so today, this is my song for M. It's a wonderful piece from the 1938 musical Right This Way, written by by Sammy Fain, with the lyrics by Irving Kahal. It's a song about cherishing good memories, and also letting go. I heard it again during the Oscar telecast last Monday when Queen Latifah gave a wonderful rendition for the dearly departed of Hollywood's cinematic establishment. It's an old song, a forgotten favorite, and when I heard it last Monday, I thought it was a perfect theme for the state I am in.

So, enjoy this little version by Bernadette Peters, which -- aside from Rosemarie Clooney's cover -- is for me the best one there is.

I'll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.

In that small cafe;
The park across the way;
The children's carousel;
The chestnut trees;
The wishin' well.

I'll be seeing you
In every lovely summer's day;
In every thing that's light and gay.
I'll always think of you that way.

I'll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you.

I'll be seeing you
In every lovely summer's day;
In every thing that's light and gay.
I'll always think of you that way.

I'll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you.

I love good, bittersweet endings. Like that closing scene where Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford say goodbye in The Way We Were, the way she reached out her hand to brush his hair, perhaps for one last time... A good friend once told me that we must be able to end relationships in the best way possible, in a celebration of the best of who we were, together. I believe that. I'm a sucker for that.

But now, let's move on, shall we?

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entry arrow1:38 PM | Oh. My. Freakin. Goat.

Somebody from my old grade school unearthed a class picture of my batch, and posted it in Facebook for all the world to see. I am both horrified and amused.

But really, I just want to say to that little, brown, thin boy standing there at the back: "Don't worry too much. You'll be okay."

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Monday, February 23, 2009

entry arrow10:29 AM | Watching the Oscars!

I am sooooooo loving this Oscar telecast. Iba sya. (If you're tired of waiting for ABS-CBN's 10,000-year delay, go to Justin TV online.)

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

entry arrow11:01 PM | The Lights Over in Kichijoji

He tells the day to end now, and for the evening to come to a breathless close. He needs the solitary dark, and the comforting quiet. Because he's confused about what he's feeling. He knows he doesn't need this. So why is this stupid feeling even there? Why does he feel this way? He tells himself, you wanted this, so deal with it. But he hates the hollow sound that last statement made. Hates it. He wants back the solid but fading certainty of recent days. He wants to be able to say, once more, that he's okay. But he will go to sleep now knowing that tomorrow will be another day, another battle, another reckoning with old things surfacing. Great God Almighty. He looks forward to licking the scars. The scars, he secretly knows, are always the most beautiful thing in everything bathed in exquisite pain. He looks forward to telling his tale in the first person once more. He looks forward to the black-and-white. He looks forward to the end of the story. He looks forward to the beautiful scars... In the distance, the lights over the city seem to fade, in his sight, into the dark high above. But beneath that, they glow, still, like a cancer that will not go away. What an ugly city, he says, and how so beautiful.

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entry arrow4:02 PM | The Days Are Different. And They're Fast.

I still remember a time in my life when my every day can be described by the most predictable routine: there was work, there was home, there were those lovely in-betweens with Mark, and there were those days (mostly weekends) when there were movies at Ever or Park Theater, or coffee and newspapers on Sunday afternoons in Don Atilano or CocoAmigos, or a drive to Tanjay or Bais for budbud and tsokolate, or breakfast with Margie and Bing at Tropini, or a night-out with Charlotte and Angelie at El Camino or Hayahay, or karaoke with certified mic crazies we knew. If somebody had been tailing me, the assignment would have been a breeze. It was, let's put it this way, a settled life. Completely domestic, but in a good sense. Solid. And in many ways, I miss the certainty of those days. They had their own pure simplicity that transcended the mundane.

I can no longer say the same about my days since. For one thing, they're too fast. And too many things are happening, leaving me both breathless and ecstatic.

I'm barely home -- my pad has become a mere holding place where I spend the hours beyond waking on catching up with just enough sleep. I've been traveling a lot -- and the foreseeable future tells me there will be more of that. I work hard more, but I party even harder. And except for the every day constancy of work and gym, there are no absolute similarities between one day and another, my schedule having become a thing of beautiful delicate balance. There's a manic edge to how I move things about, and for the most part -- and this is contrary to my normal obsessive compulsive ways -- I let the things that I must do "flow" without too much planning (but without sacrificing an ounce of responsibility), assured that the universe always has a way of making things beautiful.

And everything leads me to an old realization: when you're having too much fun, life takes on this gigantic swirl, and there are so many things you want to write about in this blog, but you're still out making more memories.

How do I begin to chronicle my life these days? What does one say about the heat and excitement of Taboan 2009, the first Philippine International Writers Festival, which only ended a week or so ago? What does one say about meeting and reunioning with many of the biggest names in Philippine literature? What does one say about watching ZsaZsa Zaturnnah ze Muzikal for the first time? Breakfast with Coke and Chino Bolipata? Drinking cappuccino with Gibbs Cadiz? Singing karaoke with Bituin Escalante, J. Neil Garcia, Ronald Baytan, and Wendell Capili in Morato? Having beer with Rock Drilon and Ginny Mata in Mag:net Katipunan? Exchanging shop talk with Thai literary superstar Prabda Yoon? Meeting Cynthia Alexander? Finally seeing the real man behind Manila Gay Guy?

Planning the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop for May? Preparing the stage for upcoming concerts, such as with the Philippine Madrigal Singers? Delegating tasks for one art exhibit after another? Planning, and seeing come to fruition, an unexpectedly (or relatively) successful three-day Drama Festival featuring Bobby Villasis' Demigod, Nick Joaquin's Tatarin, and Chris Martinez's Last Order sa Penguin? Planning a performance of Cebuano poetry for Kisaw 2009, the First Dumaguete Arts Week? Editing three books at the same time before a March deadline? Writing three stories for three anthologies? Writing a film script? Developing local advocacy for HIV/AIDS, with Wanggo Gallaga? Helping out the Friends of the Banica in their renewed campaign for a heightened sense of local environmentalism after the devastating flood of three weeks ago?

Coming to terms with beautiful, old ghosts?

And giddily falling in love?

I've been busy, see. And I'll be blogging about these things soon, when things are slower and time allows for the best possible recollection of all immediate past. My now-Bali-based painter/friend Razceljan Salvarita keeps reminding me of my mantra from late last year: "The days to come will be beautiful." I still believe that. My days reflect that. (That's the kind of beauty I know and love and cherish, dear Donita, my lovely troll. A full life. Where people appreciate you for what you've done, and not what you look like -- because otherwise, we wallow only in the shallow. Like you do. But as Migs would constantly say, "World peace!")


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

entry arrow1:59 PM | The Corrections

What I need most right now is a siesta. Perhaps an hour or two of sleep would do well for my system. I knew for sure, going out into the late night last night for Reggae Wednesday at Hayahay, that having a beer or two would be a bad idea. The day was already quite full and the night that capped it -- having a movie game with Annabelle and the gang at Gabby's -- was truly well-spent. And then, of course, I had to go to Hayahay. Bad idea. Something about the Red Horse from last night must have triggered this string of not-so-good things today. Wala namang hang-over, but I felt a mild kind of grogginess waking up to what promised to be a humid day. I had to woke up early to edit a video I promised for Arlene for a program slated tonight. It took me the whole of three hours to polish it. And I was almost finished with it, just needed a few more tweaks -- when then the lights went out at 10 A.M. When the electricity came back an hour later, I tried booting my PC -- and all I got was a blue-screen that told me, in technical gibberish, that some damage daw has been inflected on my poor computer. It refused to boot. Poor computer crashed! And then, of course, the Globelines technician had to come at that exact moment to check up on my complaint about not having an Internet connection at home. And then later, I had to go to a luncheon meeting right after, something I was dreading. And then later, going to my research writing class early this afternoon, I became angry that more than half the class defaulted on their deadlines. Gisapot ko. Ako sila gikasab-san. I told them, "I give up. I refuse to care anymore. If you give me something, fine. If not, fine rin. It wouldn't be my transcript getting riddled with red marks anyway."

Pero bahala na. Positive vibes gihapon. There's no use being morose just because some things about today are kinda flaky and dodgy. Days like these naman make the better ones even more beautiful. Let the day roll on!


In the end, it really was a beautiful day. Old friends, former students, great coffee... Good combination.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

entry arrow8:00 PM | Never Again

In Ateneo the other week, a bunch of students stopped to talk to me inside the university's famed art gallery. They asked to take pictures with me. "Sir," one of them said, "we read your blog!"

"Oh God," I said. "You must know too much about me already."

"Yes! We know about your love life!"

Oh dear God.

Facebook status messages aside, this blog has become quite confessional for me -- and I seem powerless to stop it from being so. James, a good friend of mine, told me it's perfectly okay: "We are merely trying to make sure we record the fact that we exist." Existentialism for the Internet Age? Perhaps. Heck, my life's already an open book. So let me blog about this particular ... indulgence. Let's talk about weight. I am what Oprah would call an emotional eater. Or I used to be. (The "used to be" is the good news.) I ate when I was depressed, so much so that recent years saw me balloon from 145 pounds to something close to 190 pounds at my heaviest. I was the most unhealthy balloon there was, walking on two legs. But food was my ultimate lover: it tasted great, it gave instant satisfaction, and it was there in both good times and bad. Food was also the great democratizer for me -- in a fellowship with people you barely know or had nothing to talk about, the only "communication" device that is guaranteed to satisfy all would be a banquet. Last December, I saw shots of me and Jean Claire that our old college buddy Clee took of us in Hayahay. (This was the night that changed everything in my life...) Among the photos Clee took was this...

... evidence of how obese I was becoming. Look at that neck. That trunk. That elephantine leg. Even that black shirt couldn't hide anymore the size of my misery. That December night, I weighed perhaps 174 pounds. A virtual whale. I had to shave at least 30 pounds off that. Or else call myself the ultimate loser. Two months later, I'm halfway through my goal.

That's 14 pounds off, baby. And here's to losing more for the coming summer.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

entry arrow3:18 PM | Life is Good

"I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with
somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

- Billy Crystal as Harry Burns in
When Harry Met Sally...

These days, I love how every single day seems to me like a promise of better things to come. It's like I've taken a large dose of existential Ecstasy, and I'm still reeling high. And great things are already coming in naman, like a great flood of blessings and good surprises. Sometimes I scare myself about how happy I feel. I tell myself this can't be real -- but it's there, and I don't have the heart to question it. In Manila, John (or was it Claire?) told me, "You're quite a bundle of energy." And it's true! I couldn't wait to do this or that, I was practically terrorizing my companions into coming with me for one adventure or another. ("John," I told him last Wednesday, "ayaw na kapoy-kapoy. We can always rest when we get home to Dumaguete and Davao." Sorry, John!) There's always a goofy smile on my face (today especially), and nothing -- not even the demands of work and travel and odds-and-ends of responsibilities -- can seem to erase it.

So I wish everybody this kind of happiness. To live each day to the potential you can best imagine it can have. And belated Happy Valentines Day to one and all.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

entry arrow11:45 AM | Departures, and All Beautiful Arrivals

For R.

I will confess to you now, how I have a strange affection for airports.

This one fact about what makes me, only a few people know. I simply don’t go around telling others, “I love airports.” (Or more specifically, airport lounges.) That I am telling you this means that I feel you have the heart to understand the certainty that comes with that statement.

What does that mean? Perhaps that I am asking you to stay close, to listen to my secret heart, to know a part of what makes me tick, simply because only those who truly know me—or deign to want to know me—can understand why there can be such an urgency when I make that declaration, almost as if I have pronounced the name of some place restful, some place that binds the loose threads of who I am.

Airports? those who don’t really know me would ask, perhaps not aloud. But sometimes a wry, bemused smile would be enough to betray their unsecret thoughts, their question marks laden with unwelcome amusement, bordering on scorn, something small and vicious. When I feel like it, I do try to accommodate their refusal to believe that there is a vast seriousness to what I have said. But I imagine what they must think—how do you love being lost or adrift in the din of people and baggage pushing each other? how do you love the long lines? how do you love the savage and thorough security checks, the frightfully expensive food in the kiosks, or the cold disembodied voices of announcers reminding harried passengers what flights were boarding, what gates to rush to, what time it was to make everybody’s pulse race with the terrifying tick-tock of schedules and duties?

I understand that. But what most people do not understand about my affinity for airports is how I can find and thrive in a shell of exquisite solitariness in the midst of all this chaos, a paradise of control and sweetness seized and tamed from the abandon and hectic race that pervades everything in an airport. The shell requires the din, the way light becomes because it is not darkness. Perhaps what I love is the irony of having comfort and a kind of quiet grace in the middle of too much bustle. Perhaps for me it captures the universal human want for repose in the middle of the chaos of all our lives.

Certainly perhaps all these parades of people and things remind me that life is just a series of arrivals and departures—which are what constitute the drama of all our human existence, and the gamut of emotions that lay bare our strengths and frailties: nervousness, expectations, tiredness, hopes, fears, boredom, feeling lost, feeling found, feeling home.

Today, I leave Manila for Dumaguete—a journey for home from a week of traipsing through the great asphalt jungle, which has a geography unknown and foreign to me even though I have thrived and navigated through its traffic and rudeness for days now. (So how come I do not feel like I am headed for home at all? Perhaps it is because I already miss you.)

I am in the new domestic airport, all chrome and glass and grey marble. There is the usual airport bustle: people mill about negotiating space and luggage—and because the place is barely half-full, the flow reassures and does not stifle or stress-out. My flight calls for boarding at 2:25 in the afternoon, but I have been here since mid-morning. It is almost noon, and there is still time to kill. I have chosen to spend it writing to you. Imagine me now tucked in one corner of a little café-Délifrance—beside the departure lounge. A glass pane stands between me and a garden oasis in the middle of Terminal 2. I have coffee. A cup of cappuccino first, and then a cup of café latte. The minutes rush by. Between words as I type, I pick up your book of poetry, and read at random. I am finding much that I love in your verses, in your confessions—and I finally text you: “It is as if you have managed to sift through my secret thoughts and found the heart that pounds and throbs inside all that expectation and all that pain.” You reply with such thanks, and I sink into my easy chair warming with a familiar glow. I simply don’t question the universe anymore why it does what happens—it has proven it knows more than I do, or can, about how my heart can beat and be broken and be healed.

The hours pass. Soon it will be boarding time, and I only know that I do not want to go home yet, to all that is overly familiar, and sometimes breaking, in Dumaguete. There are too many ghosts and pressing things in Dumaguete. I crave for the newness you promise. But how does this go?

I cannot call what I feel now as sadness, because every inch of me declares that I am happy, and content. I have a new life after all, and all the sunshine that it brings. If I try to form it now in this airport in words you and I can understand, I can only describe the feeling as a wavering (or a flickering?) sense of nostalgic loss and warmth, the way one misses a wonderful kiss: how it can remain for days as a phantom pressure on your lips, and you know there can only be a profound sense of bittersweetness in the very act of recollection.

Such is what happens when you don’t expect what you think is deep, surprising affection to walk in. Such is what happens when circumstances dictate that you must only have furtive, stolen moments to acknowledge a sudden intimacy, a want to know more—you and I—before acknowledging there will also be a wrenching away. I am Dumaguete, after all, and you are Manila. So what I feel right now is a nod to arrivals and departures.

And yet I feel brave enough to think distance cannot matter now, and that I must try. You once wrote, after all, when you first felt love stirring a long time ago, that “it was either this train or never.” Planes, trains… the point is to risk all and to move towards the direction the heart dictates.

Departures have other meaning, too, especially in this spot of—and in this moment in—the airport lounge I cocoon myself in now. You already know how recently my heart has been broken—and yet how in our last meeting you were kind enough to tell me that things like breaking up is part of the flows of our lives. You told me that I did not have to apologize that this might be too soon, this thing strangely happening between us. I go back to reading your book, and how strange it now seems to me that you are the one to provide me with the words for my grief in another poem you’ve written for somebody else. You wrote:

Tonight you are walking
In another world.
I press my hand to my face,
My arms and armpits, knees
And legs, hoping to find
Traces of you in my body.
But you have been gone
For months and countless
Showers have expunged you
From my body.

I look all around me—
The books, the pillows,
The tapes, our pictures—
And the room can only declare
With such clarity your absence.
Perhaps you too are alone
In a solitary room
Too big for one person,
Dreaming of the voice
That has kept you warm
For many years, or the face
You have memorized
Constantly with your fingers.
Perhaps truth is not that sweet:
You are in a bar to small for fifty,
Your lips pressed against
The cold mouth of a glass
Of beer, and you have ordered
Another one for the man
Sitting just across the bar
And his grin says he likes you.

In my mind, you are present
In all things. But the bed
Betrays me: It remains half-full.
The quilt of your voice
Stretches across the continents
But it cannot keep me warm enough.
Love is all proximity
And nothing, not even the thought
You are thinking of me, can
Equal your return.

I have felt the same way for a former lover, and you gave me, however belatedly, the words to encapsulate, poetically, the unsaid words in the hidden torrents of the grief I had felt the past two months. But I know also that I have moved on.

And I must. Because if moving on means that I will arrive at you, I know no other action except to hurry.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

entry arrow11:58 PM | Call for Submission of Manuscripts to the 48th Silliman National Writers Workshop

The Dumaguete National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 48th National Writers’ Workshop to be held May 4-15, 2009 in Dumaguete City. This Writers Workshop is offering fifteen fellowships to promising young writers who would like a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation. To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts in English on or before March 27, 2009 (seven to ten poems; or three to five short stories; or three to five creative non-fiction essays). Manuscripts should be submitted in hard copy and on CD, preferably in MS Word, together with a resume, a recommendation letter from a literature professor or a writer of national standing, a certification that the works are original, and two 2X2 ID pictures.

Send all applications or requests for information to Department of English and Literature, attention Prof. A.G. Soluta, Chair, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City.

For information, please email english@su.edu.ph. Or go to the workshop website.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

entry arrow7:22 AM | I am...

... not "angry" anymore.*

Just like that. (But it was, nevertheless, a process of utter quiet, and slow and steady reawakenings.)

Because the day feels beautiful. Because I'm ridiculously happy it will take a thousand armies to wipe this silly grin off my face. Because I'm astounded by the avalanche of possibilities there is before me. Because I have made my peace. And because I feel love, and it embraces me like a flirt, and I'm grateful.

Have a beautiful day, people!

* Not that I was really wallowing in it. But isn't that the last stage next to acceptance?


Guys, I've edited or even deleted some older posts. It's time to move on. Life is so much more beautiful when you grab the positive. So, here's to old loves and beautiful things...!

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entry arrow7:18 AM | PETA Presents 'Batang Rizal' This Weekend in Dumaguete


This is tomorrow, folks!

Pepe and Pepito are both intelligent young boys, of almost the same height and might even be mistaken for each other physically. Of course, one of them is destined to be a national hero and one is… well, one is hiding the national hero’s statue in a storeroom.

Pepito is a Grade 6 student of Rizal Elementary School and he accidentally broke the head of the statue of the young Rizal, given to the school by the City Mayor as a gift for the celebration of the Buwan ng Wika. He has a week to return the statue and when he mournfully goes to the storeroom to check on Rizal, he finds himself in Calamba, the hero’s home and surrounded by the Mercado sisters.

The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s BATANG RIZAL takes the audience from the present to the time when Jose Rizal was a boy and then back again with Pepe in tow as the two boys experience life in each other’s time zone in an adventure of a lifetime, discovering that patriotism and heroism can be found even in an ordinary child’s heart.

Written by Christine Bellen and directed by Dudz Teraña with music by Vincent A. de Jesus, BATANG RIZAL performs at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium on 7 February 2009 with shows at 4 PM (matinee) and 8 PM (gala).


P150 and P200 for Matinee
P200, P300, and P500 for Gala

Here's Gibbs Cadiz's review of the play in Philippine Daily Inquirer:

If you were Jose Rizal as a kid—say, 10 years old, snotty, sickly, sensitive, a wisp of a boy in a household full of grown-up women—and you happened to learn, by some cosmic fluke, that in time you’d do great things and become a National Hero, you’d be elated, wouldn’t you? The monuments erected in your honor, the books written about your life, the countless streets bearing your name, even your likeness in a friggin’ peso coin! Music to your teeny-weeny ears, right?

What if, however, that ego-stroking peek at the future comes with news that you’d also end up dead, cut down by firing squad one morning, for all your so-called grand, heroic exploits? Would you still want to be a hero? Would you still choose the path to glory, or would you rather retire to a farm in Calamba, raise a family, and live the rest of your life in obscure but fulfilled quietude?

A question worthy of Nikos Kazantsakis and Martin Scorsese, if you think about it. They posed a similar conundrum in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which had a very human Jesus—knowing what he knew was coming—questioning right up to his penultimate breath whether the agony and death he was to go through were all worth it. (As you know, the Bible ruined the suspense with spoilers.)

Look at me—lost in Heavy, Serious Thought, brow all furrowed and lips all grim, when I’m actually talking about... a children’s play. That’s right, the thing that got me all hunched up on heroism, choice, destiny, crystal ball-gazing blah blah blah is a show meant for kids (though not exclusively, thank God or the muses for that): PETA’s current production of “Batang Rizal.”

I hope I didn’t scare anyone with my little bout of, ah, mental onanism. That’s just me when it’s past midnight and I’m hungry and oxygen-deprived. The show is in fact one bright, funny, fizzy ball, a “message” play that goes easy on the Big Idea and lets the story, an imaginative time-travel adventure performed by a winning set of young actors, do the job instead. The scene where the kid Rizal first hears, to his horror, that he’s going to die in a strange place called the Luneta actually plays out as one of the show’s high points—a hilarious moment of unexpected revelation that, on the Sunday afternoon I watched, the mostly-student audience lapped up with gusto.

You might say that “Batang Rizal” adheres to the classic Mary Poppins philosophy: you know, that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, never mind the calories. I’m happy to report that this entertaining play is topical without being preachy. Its ultimate take-away thought—that there’s a little bit of Rizal in all of us—is actually hard to convey without Mariah popping up in the background and warbling “Hero” as the default soundtrack.

However, playwright Christine Bellen and director Duds Terana skirt this problem by ditching the hagiography altogether. The Rizal that emerges from their ministrations is delightfully alive and accessible, and that humanity helps the play put its point across simply and clearly, in a manner that refuses to talk down to the kids while remaining engaging to the grown-ups in the audience.

What’s praiseworthy about “Batang Rizal,” at least to me, is that, by knocking the hero off his lofty pedestal, it brings him back to ground level where we can size him up more rigorously. Mike De Leon attempted something similar with “Bayaning Third World.” As with that movie, I came away from this play with my view of Rizal both reinvigorated and reaffirmed.

Find out more about the play (for videos, interviews, and all that) in Gibbs' blog.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting take on the play by another writer. This is an excerpt from a review by Palanca Award-winner Exie Abola, published in The Philippine STAR:

In contrast to Lola Basyang, Batang Rizal consists of one unified narrative, which is a reason it is the superior, more satisfying work. Written also by Christine Bellen, the play follows the story of Pepito Waling-Waling, a student at one of our many schools named after the national hero, as he journeys back to Rizal’s time and brings the boy who isn’t yet a hero but is already destined for greatness to the present. (Pepito’s time-travel device is that instrument of imaginative wonders: a book.) The narrative is interspersed with the writings, mostly poems and tales, of the young Rizal.

Mel Bernardo’s set looks like a blown-up student’s desk, consisting of massive pencils and books. A space in the far wall like a lined sheet of school paper becomes a screen for video work by Don Salubayba and the Anino Shadowplay Collective. Ron Ryan Alfonso’s costumes are again playfully vivid. The students wear bright yellow uniforms with candy-colored stripes. (These would be welcome in the real world, where khakis and whites reign in bland supremacy.)

The play is a richer experience than Lola Basyang also because it traverses a broader spectrum of emotions. Though largely a comedy, it also has poignant moments: Pepe visits his mother, Donya Lolay, in jail (she spends more than two years there on trumped-up charges), and he recites a poem to her as she listens, attentive and sad. Pepe’s older brother Paciano desperately exhorts the young boy to study hard in Ateneo and not waste his gifts. Brief episodes with stern friars remind us of a grim part of our history. Young though the boy is, he is already awakening to the harshness of the world. (Dudz Teraña’s astute direction keeps the shifts in tone finely modulated.)

Part of the play’s humor derives from its doing something most others find unthinkable: poking fun at the national hero. How often have we seen plays or films about him or his work that groan under the weight of their own solemnity? Pepe is just a little vain. Upon seeing a portrait of his grown-up self in Pepito’s school, he grins and says, “Es muy guapo!” Pepito replies, “Sabi na nga ba, mayabang ito, eh!” In a skit reenacting Rizal’s execution, a student turns to the audience to recite his famous farewell poem, forgets the lines, and substitutes wildly inappropriate words. When he is scolded for it, he says, “Mamamatay na nga, tutula pa! Meron bang ganoon?”

Again the PETA ensemble turns in a strong, assured performance. Not only that: I watched both productions on the same day, and most of the performers in the morning show of Lola Basyang appeared in Batang Rizal in the afternoon. It’s a testament to the skill of Bernah Bernardo, Joann Co (as both Miss Tangolang the teacher and Pepe’s mother), and Wylie Casero (the mayor and Pepe’s brother) that they move easily from cartoonish humor to tenderness and as deftly make us laugh as make our hearts heave. And when it comes to making us laugh, Bernardo and Casero do it best. Bernardo plays Tangolang as a garish sequined butterfly, one part schoolmarm and three parts palengkera. Casero’s Mayor Rapcu (say the name quickly several times to get the joke), who donates a monument to the school, smiles with unctuous pomposity and mauls the English language with clueless impunity while wearing perhaps the most hideous barong tagalogs ever seen on a public stage. The gaudy bling is the cherry on top. Other standouts include Abner Delina, whose preternaturally youthful countenance and voice make him perfect for the title role, as well as Kitchie Pagaspas, Joan Bugcat, and Carlon Matobato as Pepito’s feisty classmates.

The play has a conventional moral about everyday heroism, yes, and it even comes bundled in a song (Vince de Jesus provides the music and lyrics), but it goes down smoothly with so many spoonfuls of sugar. Wholesome in the best sense yet daubed with welcome irreverence, Batang Rizal is infused with something else that young and old will have no quarrel with: childlike wonder.

Read the rest here.

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entry arrow5:47 AM | SundaySalon Interviews Bino A. Realuyo

SundaySalon's Nita Noveno has a fascinating interview with poet and novelist Bino A. Realuyo, author of The Umbrella Country. His response to a question about moving writing and publishing into the electronic age is particularly thought-provoking. Here's an excerpt:

Nita Noveno: Nowadays authors can bypass the publisher and self-publish, and for a select few, this has lead to success. The rise of electronic tools like Amazon's Kindle, which cuts down on publishing costs, translates to less money for writers. With these trends, the individual reader's taste is more pronounced and less dependent on what comes out of the gates of the conventional literary establishments. What are your thoughts of the way publishing is moving towards the electronic age?

Bino Realuyo: This goes along my previous response of leveraging power in new ways, especially in the new world of technology. Your question touches on the scholar Howard Gardner's "multiple intelligences" theory, where every person has a unique way of learning and acquiring information and knowledge. One size no longer fits all. I am excited about the changes in literature and readership. I was part of the first generation of writers who migrated from typewriters to laptops. During my early years as a poet, I was visited by a New York Times photographer who asked me to pose next to piles of manuscript, emulating a Hemingway perhaps. I told him I didn't have such, and then showed him floppy disks instead. The photographs didn't get published, but the astonished look on the man's face remained in my mind. Now, a decade later, I am once again experiencing another shift in technology, this time, in readership. I think technology will partly address the unfortunate privileging of writers by very few mainstream publishers, as if they're being selected into a special country club of sorts. It is extremely difficult to penetrate mainstream publishing, especially if you're a writer-of-color. There is almost a quota for how many ethnics get published in a year. Unfortunately, Asian Americans are put in the same bowl. If a Filipino writer is put next to an Indian writer, who do you think would they choose?

I believe technology will democratize literature. But, we as writers need to participate in the process. We can't simply sit passively and wait for things to change around us. The transformation can't happen without our input. If these so called "digital natives" are reading differently, and are using hand held devices to read literature, then how can we create new ways of writing such that we accommodate this shift in reading styles? There is much to think about and discuss, but it has to happen now. I can never separate activism from literature.

Read more here.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

entry arrow11:50 AM | Status Update

Every time something happens in the minutiae of our lives, we think: "I can't wait to Status Update this in my FB." Good Lord.


Newsweek's Steve Tuttle is bidding goodbye to Facebook for good. But here's HappySlip just telling us to take down the fever a little bit...

[thanks to dear ted, digital imageer, and the letter e is not uncommon for the links]

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

entry arrow4:17 PM | Theatrical Stirrings

I don’t exactly remember when I started loving theater, and most especially musicals. Local theater producer Hendrison Go of Little Boy Productions is surer of his own memory. He writes in a Facebook note: “My love of theater I got from my mom. As a child, during bedtime, she would tell me the stories of Chinese opera, and sing some of the songs. It was all from memory, how she remembered them, and she was quite theatrical in the telling, hand gestures and all. One opera would last a few weeks, as she was in the habit of ending each ‘episode’ with a cliffhanger.”

For me, I think it was the first time I saw The Sound of Music on the big screen for the first time. They were showing it in 1985 in Park Theater (which is now a shell of its former self, transformed into a shopping center of the cheap variety). This was around the time they were exhibiting it all over the world for the film’s 20th anniversary. I still remember that moment of introduction well. The theater was packed with people, SRO, and I had to stand at the back—but there was no denying the electricity of watching Julie Andrews cavort in the romantic glow of night with Christopher Plummer, each singing “Something Good” to each other. I was enchanted by the very magical quality of its story-telling. I was ten. I had already seen my share of movies—but of this kind? Never. People were singing! People were falling in love in graceful abandon! Children my age were traipsing around the beautiful Austrian countryside singing “Do Re Mi!”

Years later, I would rediscover the very influence of that musical on my life when, during a road trip with a bunch of close friends, we found ourselves singing, at the top of our voice, the entire range of “I Have Confidence,” lyrics all remembered. How was it possible to remember all those words, after all those years? Only if it is embedded in your soul.

I have recently rediscovered a love of theater again, after a strange hiatus of half-a-decade that saw me completely ignorant of what was going on in Manila, in West End, in Broadway. (Don’t ask why.) In the past few weeks, I have discovered new theatrical gems to treasure, mostly via Hendri, who has been egging me to download one cast recording after another. (To my count, I have already downloaded and have been humming the songs of Avenue Q, In the Heights, The Last 5 Years, and Spring Awakening...)

I particularly love Spring Awakening. I have been listening to its songs nonstop for weeks now, and each day I have grown to appreciate more the subtlety of its material. (And I can’t wait, in fact, for the local production to be staged in Manila this September.) I have a proprietary obsession over it, and it delights me. The last time I went crazy over a musical, it was for Rent, and that was ten years ago. But it almost saddens me to note that perhaps I will always look back at Spring Awakening—one of the best new musicals to come out of Broadway—as the soundtrack of a part of my life that cradled heartbreak. Still, there’s no stopping the obsession. Because there is almost a wistful tenderness in its story of youth gone wild, unanchored by an uncaring adult world. Every song, written by Duncan Sheik, throbs with a delight and sensuality that set them apart from the usually unformed recitatives that make up most of Broadway’s fare. (I was listening, for example, to the cast recording of In the Heights, which shares with Spring Awakening the distinction of having won the Tony for Best Musical, and I remember thinking—I love the Latin beat, but is any song here a “song”? It is the same reserve I have for Avenue Q, which, while truly delightful (in a Sesame Street kind of way) falls away, as a staged spectacle, merely as a piece of irrelevant musicality: its brand of cutesy, heard on record, becomes irritating, and you get away from the listening wanting to kill all talking puppets.) In Spring Awakening, however, every song is memorable, and can stand out as an independent ballad of love and angst—although taken altogether, they transform a story into a powerhouse of drama.

I’m thinking about things theater because of some winds of change, drama-wise, in Dumaguete. It’s almost peculiar, how a different sense of theater has descended the way it has on Dumaguete’s landscape lately. It is something different because it is—in a manner of speaking—new. And anything “new” is always a welcome thing, given most Dumagueteño’s persistent tendency to try and retry the classic, the proven, and the doggone tired—to the point of cadaverous repetition.

That the repetitious actually sell in this city is beside the point. If art must be an extension for how we learn to be more human and engaged in an acute refining of our sensibilities, then the real point is to chart new grounds, to find new expressions, theater-wise, for the complexities of all that we are. A patronage for the recycled is understandable: Dumaguete is really a city full of people lost in nostalgia—those hankering for the innocent tartanilla days and all that—and so, for the longest time, the only kind of theater we seemed to be churning out are of the Rodgers and Hammerstein variety. And why not? They’re familiar. They’re comfortable. We know the lyrics already. Going to the theater becomes an instant sing-along.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. I must profess that I love my Sound of Music as much as the next theater freak. One reason why I love Mamma Mia!, despite the schmaltz that threaten to overwhelm my postmodern sense of irony, is the way it engages theater furiously and unapologetically into a communal act of delight. Everyone knows his ABBA, and all come away from the experience fulfilled with that one promise popular entertainment sometimes misses to do: to let people come together in the name of joy.

My only misgiving springs from the fact that, in the pursuit of the tried-and-true, the fresh and the groundbreaking is often left off, simply because they are unfamiliar. And there is nothing like the unfamiliar that rouses the hostility of many. I still remember those years when we persisted to stage Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues amidst the horrified protests of many who labeled us as pornographers—which is testament, of course, to how even well-intentioned (and educated!) people can be led astray by sheer ignorance of the material. Because these materials are edgy, they are mostly left untouched by a community afraid to rock the boat, any boat. Which is to our detriment—because how do we grow, how do we fully engage a changing world (and it is changing fast!) when we refuse to acknowledge the presence of new dynamics and new realities? Even Tevye in Fiddler in the Roof acknowledges that: tradition, yes, but sometimes even the deep-rooted ones can be swept away—whether we like it or not—with the unforgiving wave of new things. When we are not ready because we are not fully engaged, the end is a painful uprooting.

There is a wealth of new (and even not-so-new) materials out there, both foreign and local, that demand our attention, and perhaps our willingness to adapt them on our local stage. Most will be, of course, unfamiliar to the locals, and some may make them uncomfortable by tackling subject matters that threaten to upset, or perhaps unmask, Dumaguete’s Peyton Place veneer. There’s, for example, David Mamet’s Oleanna, about the intricate politics of sexual harassment. Or Rene O. Villanueva’s Asawa, about the sexual darkness of marital abuse. Or John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, about religious certainty and priestly pedophilia. Or John Larson’s Rent, about a disappearing bohemia in the Age of HIV. I dream of the day when we get the courage to stage materials such as these, and gain an appreciating patronage as well. Enough of old farces like Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero’s Wanted: A Chaperone, those old standbys. Leave them to amateur productions, if we must do them for the sake of introducing the tried-and-true for new generations of playgoers. Any theater person worth his or her salt should be a kind of trailblazer instead.

Sometimes, we ourselves are culprit to such accommodations: the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee once looked into the possibility of staging Altar Boyz locally. The musical by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker is a satire about Christian boy bands—and we felt, at that time, that perhaps Silliman—a Protestant institution—was not ready for such material. (But later, I would ask myself: When will we ever be ready? And isn’t the point of higher education also to challenge conventional thinking and create debate? What are we so afraid about?)

The whole thing can be disheartening, given the fact that Dumaguete has always had a rich tradition of theater. We have been routinely staging Shakespeare since the Americans came over to our shores. And we have produced a steady string of award-winning playwrights—Elsa Martinez Coscolluela and Bobby Flores Villasis among them—but whose works have largely remained as file cabinet fodder instead of full stage productions. We gave the Philippines and the world such luminaries as Junix Inocian, who went on to become The Engineer in Miss Saigon; Frances Makil Ignacio, who went on to become the title character in the widely-acclaimed sarswela Atang; Luna Grino-Inocian, who went on to pen and produce the local production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe... What happened since the days of Paul Palmore, Elmo Makil, Amiel Leonardia, Meg Doromal, Gamaliel Viray, Rhoda Pepito, and Belen Calingacion?

But look. Things are changing.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I felt that theater was changing for the better in Dumaguete. The evolution has been slow and steady—and there have been many productions over the past few years (Evelyn Aldecoa’s, Ana Borja’s, Mayah Dulnuan’s, Laurie Raymundo’s, Ronnie Mirabuena’s, Claudio Ramos’s, Naddie Orillana’s, to name a few) that kind of contributed to the whole development, but I guess I recognized it for sure when I saw the quirky Kikay Kalaykay, a locally crafted Cebuano musical about—of all things—solid waste management, in Saint Paul University’s Fleur de Lis Hall last year. A YATTA production directed by Dessa Quesada-Palm, from original material written by Joji Benitez and the cast, the musical somehow provided those who witnessed it an incentive to see that we are also capable of making our own theater, from scratch, and make something that truly hums and enchants.

And somehow, theater has become something ubiquitous, but also deeply enmeshed that we almost taken it for granted now—and this is an observation of something good—because it is just there. We’ve already had, in the past two years alone, a wealth of national productions coming to our own town—and beguiling us with possibilities beyond the usual: Repertory Philippines staging an adaptation of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, New Voice Company in Eve Ensler’s The Good Body, Tanghalang Pilipino in Chris Martinez’s Welcome to IntelStar and Jose Dennis Teodosio’s Gee-gee at Waterina, Actors’ Actors Inc. in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters and Yasmina Reza’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Art, and, just this weekend, PETA with Christine Bellen’s acclaimed Batang Rizal. That’s five institutions—stalwarts in the Philippine drama scene—descending on the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium to give Dumagueteños a dose of some of the best of national theater, cast with some of the best names in local theater—Bart Guingona, Miguel Faustmann, Monique Wilson, Juno Henares, Pinky Amador, Audie Gemora, Jaime del Mundo, Lou Veloso, Mailes Kanapi, among others. (This may be a drop in the bucket compared to the outpouring in Manila, but look -- we're a small city. How's that for ambitious.)

And in the coming days alone, we will have local productions of Chris Martinez’s Last Order sa Penguin (directed by Carl Vincent Lim), Bobby Villasis’ Demigod (directed by Jiomalee Ege), Nick Joaquin’s Tatarin (directed by Rusty Ometer), and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero’s Three Rats and Aureus Solito’s Esprit de Corps (both directed by Claudio Ramos), all in assorted performing spaces around town.

I don’t know what happened, but I must say if this is a harbinger of things to come, then drama has found good legs in the city and it is here to stay until the last stagelight falls away.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

entry arrow6:45 PM | A Little Fever Can Be a Good Thing

It's not easy to be optimistic when your Internet connection at home is nonexistent -- Globelines, ano ba? -- or when you're suddenly stricken with fever, plus colds and coughing, at the start of what should be a very busy week for you. But I am. Strangely. I guess it pays to just take one day at a time, and learn to go with the flow. Even when the flow means sleeping more than the usual.

Also, this is a published excuse for not being able to post something for days now. I just came off work. I'm in Don Atilano, bathing in its free wifi. I know, I should be home taking care to purge this fever out of my body, but I figured that I actually went to work today, sniffles and all, and did more than a passable job lecturing on the intricacies of the Filipino short story in English, even when half my brain was somewhere in Timbuktu, and so I figured I can slack off a little bit to do some Internet surfing. I actually told my class kanina, "If I start talking about Martians and all that, don't mind me. That's just my fever talking." They laughed. But I wasn't making a joke.

Good thing I'm sick now. I don't want to be sick when I head for Manila next week for the First International Philippine Writers Festival. I plan to paint the town red. After, of course, enduring the days being, umm, "literary."

So here's a cheer to free wifi, Neozoep, Vitamin C, and Tempra. Here's to gallons of water gulped every minute. Here's to a little sickness: it makes one treasure the good days all the more. (That's being very optimistic, right?)


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