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

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

entry arrow7:18 PM | Tagalog Movies in the Reality of Our Lives

Yesterday, I heard the most amazing story. It seemed to come straight out of the cheesy but much-beloved Tagalog movies of the 80s -- of the desperately melodramatic Regal Films strain, and not the contemporary polished schlock of Star Cinema. It revitalized my own dwindling hopes that stupid, this-is-crazy-why-am-I-doing-this romance is still alive in a world that's overrun by irony and jadedness and sexual games and perfectly cultivated sense of detachment.

Let's talk about it in the dramatic present.

A very good friend of mine [let's call him Jared] is finally going home to Mindanao after years of study in Dumaguete. He has just come off a protracted breakup from a most serious relationship that may have lasted only months but had the intimacy of years. On his last night in Dumaguete, he had texted the former lover: "I am going home in five hours. I hope we can talk."

The lover [let's call him Joshua] does not reply. We soon see him instead in Escaño carousing with friends. Does he not get the message? Why is he not replying? "I want to go home na," says my friend, a catch of petulant sadness in his voice.

We look at each other. It is only 2 AM. That's like "lunch" in Escaño Time. Too early.

Hours later, in the early morning, Jared is finally bound for Dipolog, ready to go home. Another close friend [let's call her Maan] is with him to help arrange the various details of passage. Thirty minutes before the boat leaves, they receive a frantic call. It is Joshua, the former lover.

On the phone, Joshua begs Maan, "Don't let him leave, please."

"But he's already about to embark!"

"Please, Maan. Don't leave him leave. I need to talk to him."

"You waited until now to talk to him?"

"I did not get his messages until this morning! I swear! Please don't let him leave. Stall him."

"I can't, Josh."

"Let me talk to him."

But Jared will not talk on the phone.

Maan is flustered. How can all these things suddenly break in the last minutes? "He doesn't want to talk, Josh."

"Fine. I'm going there right now. Don't let him leave."

"The boat is leaving in fifteen minutes!"

"That boat is always late. Wait for me."

Joshua hangs up.

"He's coming," Maan tells Jared.

"I don't care," Jared says fiercely. And then, with sad tenderness, he tells Maan: "I'll miss you. Take care of yourself."

"But... but..."

"I'm going home." He hugs Maan goodbye, and hurriedly gets on the boat.

Soon, only minutes later, Joshua's car screeches into the small pier.

"Where is he?" he asks Maan.

"He's in the boat!"

"No no no no no... This is not happening." Joshua bangs his head against the steering wheel. He looks up suddenly. "Fine, I don't care. If I must, I'm going to Dipolog with him."

He yanks his car door open and rushes out, does not even close it.

"Where are you going?" Maan asks him.

"I'm buying a ticket."

"But your car!"

Joshua hesitates for a bit -- and then he turns to Maan quickly:

"Do you know how to drive? You can drive it back to my house."

"I don't know how to drive a car!"

"Bahala na."

"You're leaving it open?!"

"I have to go."

Joshua runs to the ticket booth, and a few minutes later, he walks the small plank to get inside the boat. A few more minutes, and it will whistle its signal to leave.

A stevedore standing nearby asks Maan: "Is everything all right?"

"I don't know," she says. "I don't know..."

Meanwhile, inside the boat, Jared is just settling into his bunk. On the other bunk beside him, an old man is preparing his flimsy bedsheets, arranging his travel stuff about him. Jared must have been thinking, So this is it. My last sight of Dumaguete. After those years studying here, this was how it was going to end...

He must not have expected to see the sight of Joshua suddenly standing there in front of him.

"Don't leave, please." Joshua tells him.

The old man beside them stares, perhaps out of puzzlement.

"What are you doing here?!" Jared says.

"Please don't leave!"

"The boat is about to leave na!"

"I don't care. I have a ticket. I am going to Dipolog with you. But please, please don't leave yet. Let's talk." He grabs Jared's trolley bag.

"Don't leave, please," Joshua says once more. But he knows that Jared knows that one more request like that, and he will be kneeling in front of him. Regardless of the spectacle. People in the cabin are now beginning to look at them.

The boat is now whistling... One toot, second toot...

"Fine, I'll stay." Jared says -- dazed. There is a look in his face that says I can't believe this is actually happening.

And they leave the boat.

And that's how Jared came to stay one more day in Dumaguete.

I told you, straight out of a Tagalog movie.

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[1] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Friday, October 23, 2009

entry arrow5:40 AM | The Players -- A Continuation

One of the last things he said before we left Qyosko to go home at 4:30 in the morning was: "The only thing to learn from life is this -- how well you must learn to play the game. Or you will be played," then he paused. "You can never ever trust anyone, but yourself."

I thought about what he said, and I felt the dread truth of all those words finding space in the gnawing hollow suddenly inside me. You might think what he said was something quite generic, wisdom from the commonplace. But I thought of those words in the context of what had transpired in the last five hours -- the sudden confessions, the inadvertent revelations, the stories of what lies beneath all our tranquility: the drugs, the violence, the frenetic sexual musical chairs of people we know.

What he said came at the end of a very long night that started at 10 pm.

In the beginning of this night, I had thought of myself as someone who has seen and heard and done everything in Dumaguete. I had thought I was no longer capable of being shocked. I've had my days of riding the wild side, after all. And in the past six months, in pursuit of gritty research for my novel "The Players" (a reworking and expansion on a short story I once wrote for the Philippines Free Press that depicted the casual sex lives of the young and bored in Dumaguete in the 1990s), I'd been living the life to get first hand knowledge of the dark negotiations of my book's characters.

At the very end, I realized how stupidly naive I was. How blind, how I knew about nothing at all.

This night will come to haunt me as the time I've lost truly the last vestiges of innocence. And for that I am thankful.

I don't think I can divulge the details. The details are too raw, too shocking. But the night began with me receiving a note from a social networking site, asking me if I was open to do a "live sex act" in a particular establishment that will lead to ... something. That was only the start. By the time I finished the night, I saw pictures and heard stories of murders, of drugs, of casual prostitution, of sexual escapades that shocked even me.

And finally there was this one revelation that truly broke me.

How do you sleep after this?

I see the dawn breaking now. It's 5:30 AM.

I still can't sleep.

I have knowledge of the game now. I have been played.

And I could only wish I weren't so naive.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

entry arrow2:23 PM | The Ramp is Short, The Night is Long

Part 4 of a Series on Night Life in Dumaguete

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3

“We do too many fashion shows in Dumaguete.”
—PATRICK BOGLOSA, event organizer

It was already 6 o’clock in the late Saturday afternoon of August 29—and Dumaguete was at the start of the difficult process of winding down after the weeklong founding celebration of Silliman University.

It was the last day for a partying month—and the night to come was to be the last call for letting down one’s hair. “It was party to the limits, or bust,” recalled Gerard Anthony Adiong.

The entire month was already a veritable beehive of activity, but the seven days before this day had been particularly crackling with the excitement of a mob let loose: Silliman’s collegiate throng—and this is the only crowd that actually makes the city alive—saw no classes, and there was suddenly the excuse, the daily invention to party.

Mostly, they descended on Hibalag, the booth area near the Silliman gym—a bastion of tradition, and in the old days even bigger than the city fiesta, that had lasted decades. The year’s edition of Hibalag, even if small, was still surprisingly particularly zesty, its sense of fun miraculously infectious after seven years of morass that had its size and ambition contract year by year. This year’s Hibalag, needless to say, still mostly paled in comparison to the booths of more than a decade ago, when the soccer field became a virtual bustling city of nipa and amakan and kawayan, filling the entire span from Larena Hall to the Silliman Library, from the gymnasium to the Divinity School. There were a maze of byways and little streets that it was easy to get lost in the storm of organizations ready to spring on you both pranks and innovative commerce.

But even then, all throughout the week, there had been food fairs, and class reunions, and private parties, and exhibitions, and concerts, and horror chambers, and beauty pageants, and fashion shows, and tattoo artists plying their trade. August 29 was the last day of all that—and people seemed bent on giving the month that one last fling before they settled to the ides of September.

On that date, at six o’clock, Jaysun Penales, an event organizer and a clinical instructor at the College of Nursing, was still at Barefoot Bistro doing last minute preparations for the event he would be hoisting on the city late that night. It was the third edition of an annual “fashion fling” he called D’Ramp—and all pressure was on him. Already this one was the fourth—and the last—fashion show to hit Dumaguete in a week. Only that Wednesday, and in the same venue, Toto Marquez and his crew had already unleashed their Sneak Foam Party that featured a revealing ramp show of models wearing nothing but the skimpiest of beach wear. (The foam party part, however, was largely a bust—there was no foam, and nobody partied.) The following night, annexing Barefoot Bistro and El Camino Blanco this time around, Tyrone Tejam amped the ante with his X International Fashion Party that brought in a Manila deejay and a batch of international models, purportedly Eastern European and Brazilian.

Was Dumaguete already in a fashion fatigue? The tickets for the previous shows had already been priced quite high, one at P200 and the other at P500—enormous sums for the notoriously cheap Dumaguete crowd. The lingering question remained: was there a paying crowd left for D’Ramp 3, even at P150 per ticket? Better yet: would anyone be left to care for what passed for a fashion show in the city?

Fashion shows in Dumaguete are relatively a new phenomenon—although Dumaguete society had long since done their share from the 1960s on with private fashion shows exclusive to their well-heeled ilk. The city had never really been fashionable, given everybody’s predilection for tropical uniform: a white shirt, a pair of “city shorts,” and sandals. The idea of couture is largely lost, but in the late 1990s and finally in the 2000s, fashion shows became almost an epidemic—and it came out in all sorts of disguises, from low-brow bikini opens celebrating the carnal, to wedding shows at the boulevard at the height of May.

Some call the phenomenon a travesty.

“Sometimes,” says local fashion designer Josip Estolloso Tumapa, “I do agree that we do a lot of fashion shows in Dumaguete. But it is quite an insult to attach the word ‘fashion’ in relations to many of these shows. Because some are done with intentions other than serving fashion. They’re more like Monterey ‘walking-meat’ shows. They’re partnered mostly RTW boutiques that make everything look ... commercial. If I were to pay P150 to see clothes that I see anytime I want just by walking the streets of this city, then hell I would rather sweat it by walking rather than paying. It’s getting kapoy. And it’s getting generic. That is why I do filtering on the events I am invited to—to only work with established or semi-established and competent, well-experienced people in the field of production whom also I can learn from. And to check the production plans and see that everything won’t be half-baked. Lisud naman gud especially from my side. Here I am working and enslaving myself making clothes and—ugh, utter disappointment. But I think it comes in stages. Hopefully Dumaguete will get there sooner than later if we do serve the growing Dumaguete ‘fashion crowd’ with something deserving and worth the money. Nothing run-of-the-mill.”

Mr. Penales, in the meantime, hung on to what he thought would make his show a little different—this was going to be a bigger show, featuring almost fifty models culled from the various social sets around Dumaguete and Cebu. And he was also launching Faces magazine, a project he was editing for Negros Chronicle, which for its first issue would showcase what he called “the fifteen hottest bachelors of the city.” Most of those bachelors—which included the ragtag bunch of Gabby del Prado, Ian Lizares, Marco Ongsingco, Dudly Mark Realuyo Rios, Farzad E. Pakdamanian, Jonathan Keane Camat, Jacob Carl Jumawan, Ian Rosales Casocot, Saturnino Pacencia Jr., Bernard Piñero, Kyle Janruss Delfino, and Ralph Percidenes—would open the show and walk the ramp. He believed people would come. It was the last night of the Founders Week, after all. People would come.

And then it started to rain hard.

Dressed only in a plain orange shirt and shorts and a pair of slippers, Mr. Penales had been doing last minute preparations, checking that everything was set—the lights, the sounds, the stage that had been hurriedly set up only that morning, the makeshift dressing area, the sponsors’ various tarpaulin, the arrangement of the models’ clothes. It would have been a logistics nightmare, but his production assistant Bogy Lim, a quiet young man whose unassuming air belies a sharp fascination for dealing with details, was busy zeroing in on the essentials. Somewhere in the chaos, Angel Gonzales, another production assistant, counted out the clothes, and the choreographer Janjaran was busy plotting out the intricate finalities of the models’ movements on the long runway, a not-so-sturdy plank made of lawanit that was now beginning to get soaked in by the pouring rain. The models, meanwhile, were billeted in three hotels around town—in Hotel Carmila, in Hotel Nicanor, and in Ildesefa. Call time was six o’clock, and all were busy getting their makeup. They were all getting hungry, but no one dared eat—it wouldn’t be good to look puffy and stuffed in front of a crowd. And some of them would be wearing lingerie and stylish briefs in a few segments. In Room 303 of Hotel Nicanor, event organizer Kathleen Hynson Patacsil was helping put on the makeup for the boys while the newly made-up Aesha Amigo Villanueva gingerly brushed away the hotel’s curtains and looked out the window to see the rain pouring down like mad on San Jose Street. “Do you think it’s still going to rain at 10 o’clock?” she asked no one in particular. “Will we even have a show?”

The show, of course, was still a distant four hours away, but the rain was not helping anybody—including those who planned to see the show—feel at ease. In her house somewhere in Valencia, Arlene Delloso-Uypitching was a little worried about the tickets she was promised, and also the possibility of getting wet. In Hotel Carmila, Miss Dumaguete Maria Luz Catan was not happy with her make-up, and swore to hop to another hotel and another make-up artist, her boyfriend and fellow model Ian Lizares in tow. Back in Barefoot Bistro, sitting quietly at the bar, Mr. Penales was already thinking in terms of contingencies—what he would do if the rain persisted, or if a blackout would occur? But he was also thinking: what would I wear? It had to be something that would make him look good on stage. He wanted to go home, take a shower. He felt sticky and sweaty despite the cold air.

Earlier that Saturday morning, things were the very picture of preparations going well. The day was fine and bright, the skies blue. It had been rainless all of August, and no one would foresee the drench of rains ahead. That morning, El Camino Blanco and Barefoot Bistro—the twin venues for things nocturnal in Dumaguete—looked quite different in the daylight that at nighttime, at the height of weekend parties where the darkness hide the empty beer mugs, the ashtrays filled with discarded cigarette butts, the curious flirtations between friends and strangers alike. In the daylight, the remnants of Friday night were all too clear and topsy-turvy—it looked like the aftermath of a battle. The tables and chairs were haphazard, some in a dance of tumbled madness. Everywhere, the carpenters and electricians were busy putting in the effects for the duo events for the night—D’Ramp 3 and the Philip Morris Party. The ramp in the bistro was being built—a plywood runway held together by a flimsy wood frames. The speakers were being put in place, the tents unfurled. Inside Camino, new lights—better, more dramatic ones—were being installed, and a new deejay’s booth being placed on stage. The models were in clusters were everywhere, all trying to get last minute instructions for how to move that night. Still, this was going to be my first time to walk the ramp—I have never “modeled” before, if that was the word for it, as I was always in the background of things as these events go. But I took to the experience as an observer of new things—and came to this conclusion once said to me by a friend, a socialite: “I like fashion shows. They’re shallow fun, and vanity is the perfect excuse for being in the center of things.” But considering the rain later, I asked ruefully, would the “debut” even happen?

But by nine o’clock, the rain was slowing down—but it would not readily vanish away. It slowed down in spurts. It was still cold, but at least nobody was going to get wet, except by stray showers. By ten o’clock, the two red billowing tents that graced the catwalk and the rows of chairs that surrounded it were filling to the brim, and by the time the fifteen bachelors walked the ramp to open the show to the tune of Pitbull's “I Know You Want Me,” the crowd was screaming. At nearby El Camino Blanco, the now legendary Philip Morris Party was also starting.

The night of August 29 was going to be a night everybody would remember.

Later on, Mr. Penales would tell me it was not glamorous at all, the staging of fashion shows—it was all of grit and tons of headache. But it was fun.

“Why do you do it then?” I asked.

“Passion,” he replied.

(To be continued…)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

entry arrow11:58 AM | Armando Lao's Biyaheng Lupa

Armando 'Bing' Lao first feature film is being unleashed today as part of the Cinemanila International Film Festival. It's particularly significant because Mr. Lao, who has written many of our modern cinematic masterpieces, is hailed as the mentor for many of our award-winning filmmakers today, including Brillante Mendoza, Jeffrey Jeturian, Francis X. Pasion, Jay Altarejos, and many others. Here's the synopsis of the film:

A bus takes off from urban Manila to the rustic southeastern side of the country, carrying a motley group of passengers from all walks of life, each one with a personal story to tell and telling it in their own voice. During the long journey, as the passengers mentally sort out their past and their future, things happen in the present, by choice or by providence, that make the journey memorable—the bus blows a tire, a song elicits tears, a butterfly causes commotion, a photograph gets lost, a head is stoned, some hearts are broken, some mended. The bus ride poetizes the life journey and poses questions on issues of life and death and where exactly the line is drawn between free will and destiny.

The cast is superb, and includes such acting stalwarts of independent cinema, including Jaclyn Jose, Julio Diaz, Coco Martin, Angel Aquino, Sharmaine Buencamino, Mercedes Cabral, Allan Paule, Andoy Ranay, and Eugene Domingo.

Mr. Lao notes: "The voice-over device allows me to take a glimpse of the inner lives of the passenger characters as their minds wander off into streams of consciousness. It offers me an opportunity to use an impressionistic approach to film that acknowledges spoken language as the logical medium for telling a story and in a form that only voice-overs could effectively fulfill. In Biyaheng Lupa, I believe that only the use of language, together with occasional sound effects and music, can unify exposition and capture the immediacy of the characters’ random and intrusive thoughts."

The screening schedule for October 19 is at 8 PM, and at 4:30 PM on October 23, both at Cinema 6.

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entry arrow9:11 AM | Lav Diaz on Film Censorship

The Board of Censors here in the Philippines banned my films, my two films that won at the Orizzonti of the Venice Film Festival. There’s nudity and sex, they said. Without proper critical viewing of my films by the honorable members of the Board of Censors, they deemed the films not appropriate for viewing here in their country of origin. They banned other works, too. And lately, they have been encroaching on the freedom of venues like the Adarna Theatre of the University of the Philippines. Benito Mussolini must be very proud. I’ll say it again. Censorship is poison to cinema. Censorship is poison to the arts. Censorship is poison to culture. Censorship is a very feudal act. It is fascism.

The invitation also says that I should talk about my Venice experience. So, here’s a piece from a Filipino independent pornography filmmaker. First, I would like to congratulate the 8th edition of the Italian Film Festival here in our beloved battered Philippines. The Venice Film Festival or the Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica di Venezia is the Mother of film festivals. It is the oldest film festival in the world. This tradition of mounting film festivals had its beginning in Venice, Italy in 1932. In 1952, the first Filipino film to compete, Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan, exhibited in Venice. In 1985, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. was shown at the festival. And in 2007, my film Death in the Land of Encantos competed and won Special Mention at the Orizzonti section of the festival. The following year, in 2008, my film Melancholia, competed in the same section and won the Orizzonti Prize. This year, Briliante Mendoza’s Lola was a Philippine entry at the Main Competition and Pepe Diokno’s Engkwentro coveted two prizes, the Orizzonti Prize and the Luigi di Laurentii Lion of the Future Prize. Despite the dearth of our participation in the seventy six years existence of the Mostra, only six films to date, we have had a very triumphant and respectable run. Long live, Philippine cinema, indeed! And I would like to point out that despite the absence of state support in our cultural struggle, in the state’s sheer ignorance on the very important role of the arts in educating our people, cultural workers, especially artists and activists, persevere in pursuing greater discourse and praxis in this vast wasteland called the Philippines.

[from a speech read by angeli bayani for the 8th italian film festival in manila, 14 october 2009. photo and note courtesy of adolfo alix jr.]

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

entry arrow5:56 PM | Eric Gamalinda Makes It as Finalist to the Man Asian Prize!


Omair Ahmad, Siddharth Chowdhury, Eric Gamalinda, Nitasha Kaul and Su Tong are today announced as the shortlisted authors for the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize, the leading regional prize for novels unpublished in English. The shortlist, chosen by an international judging panel, was announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where a display about the prize can be seen at the Hong Kong Government pavilion.

The five shortlisted books, chosen from a longlist of 24, are Omair Ahmad's Jimmy the Terrorist, Siddharth Chowdhury's Day Scholar, Eric Gamalinda's The Descartes Highlands (read an excerpt here), Nitasha Kaul's Residue, and Su Tong's The Boat to Redemption.

Chair of the judging panel Colm Toibin, comments: “Reading these books was a fascinating experience because of the range of styles and subjects. The variety of ways in which voice and tone was used in these novels, the sense of commitment to story, the range in the methods of exploring both self and society, the interest in experimenting and making it new, made the time
spent judging this prize rewarding and enlightening.”

The winner of the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize will be announced on Monday, 16 November 2009 at a dinner at the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong. The winning author will receive US$10,000 and can look forward to publication and wider recognition in the English-reading world. A distinguished panel of judges selects a single work of fiction to be awarded the prize each year. Chaired by Irish novelist Colm Toibin, the 2009 judges include Chinese American author Gish Jen and Indian writer Pankaj Mishra who was also a judge of the 2008 Prize.

The Man Asian Literary Prize was established in 2006 to bring greater worldwide attention to Asian writing and authors. Works submitted for consideration must not yet have been published in English, although they may have been published in other languages. The Prize is jointly administered by representatives of the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The inaugural prize was awarded in 2007 to Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, which was published in English to great acclaim in early 2008. Miguel Syjuco’s Illustrado won the 2008 prize and will be published in 2010. Many of the short- and longlisted works from 2007 and 2008 have also been published.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

entry arrow7:37 PM | Negros Through the Personal

The art of photographing places can be tricky. Given the ubiquity of the camera in these digital times, a lesser photographer, especially those ignorant of the whole photographic tradition (Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson who?), can always be reduced to romanticizing the generic—another shot of distant mountains, another shot of a bustling downtown, another shot of an orange sunset or sunrise—and think they are God's gift to the whole art. Generic.

The results, of course, may be sufficiently arresting in their capture of a beautiful landscape, but in the relentless democracy of images we find ourselves awash in, the trick for the photographer who is also a true artist is to have something to say, and to say it in composition that awes. This is often difficult because much of photography relies on extinct gained from experience and the luck of having clicked the shutter at the right dramatic moment. But all these still come together because of the artist’s personal vision.

Good photography is all about the visual story. Which is why there is much to rejoice—and also perhaps to shrug off—over the ongoing photography exhibit at the Sidlakan Negros Art Gallery.

Dubbed My Negros Oriental, the exhibit—which extends through the entire Buglasan Festival run until October 26—gathers for the first time fifteen photographers from all over the province, each one tasked to capture what for them is a very personal vision of Negros Oriental. All told, these are unique stories of the place set in the eye (or the camera) of the beholder. That personal and individual focus (we actually see the personalities of the photographer) is why much of the collection succeeds, because the exhibit indeed manages to transcend, at least for the most part, the commonplace.

Still, some of the exhibitors such as Gerald dela Cerna, Revey Nuico, and Randolf Bandiola feel restrained from going beyond the box. What we mostly get are generic beauty shots—I call them “the postcard factory for brochure tourism.”

In Mr. Bandiola's case, his shots of the oldest tree in Canlaon, the caves of Mabinay, the mountain rivers of Valencia, the architectural odds and ends of Bayawan are perfect examples, but in “Dagitab sa Sanga,” a serene portrait of a gas lamp shining bright against the encroaching darkness, we get a tad of a promise of something else. That can grow, and as we say in cases like this, Mr. Bandiola is a photographer to watch.

Alma Zosan Alcoran’s photographs are set in the tradition of the matter-of-fact—unembellished images that may lack the punch of depth and contrast, but nevertheless successful because they manage to put out the drama of the unexpected. There’s the sudden bird over a sailing boat in “Means of Transportation.” There’s the ball of fire coming to sharp focus after a swirl in “Kisaw.” There’s the almost surreal burst of color against night skies in “Buglasan Fireworks.” There’s the seemingly sudden gesture of a peace sign from two girls in costume in “We’re Friends.” There’s the Philippine Airlines plane descending over cranes in the pier in “Untitled.”

Jaysie Tayko, on the other hand, has perhaps the photographs that are most interestingly human in the exhibition. His are almost tender portraits of ordinary folk doing ordinary stuff in an ordinary farming community in Siaton town, but he manages to capture their moments without the slightest hint of an intrusion, and somehow with a touch of wonder. In “Tanum,” an old man is crouching to plant rice in the paddies, and is bathed in blue and green hues. In “Taligsik,” a child rides a carabao in the soft rain. In “Rayos,” a girl rides a plow, her red shirt a sharp contrast to the green vastness of surrounding fields. In “Sahid,” a dramatic picture in black and white, fisher folk mend nets, but our eyes center on a middle-aged woman in the center, her face almost passive or sad. That he also surrounds them in arresting color (or perfectly toned black and white) gives his photographs a dimension that brings his stark photojournalism to the level of art.

In Greg Morales’s photos, the softly poetic comes out of such subtle imageries, so subtle that one is often tempted to see only the ordinary and take them as just that. But take a long look again—those two specks of green in “Islands,” that basket of orange fish in “Lab-as,” that girl in costume in “Negros Beauty”—and what you get is actually a remarkable photographic wit, a la Manuel Arguilla, that actually subverts the subjects.

Then there is Robert Tan and his generic shots of Silliman Beach in the sunset—dramatic and beautifully rendered in bombastic saturation and contrast, but alas also perfectly dull in all its ordinariness. Because how many photographs of generic beautiful sunsets are there in the world? Millions. It doesn’t help that his titles contribute to that blah effect—“Serenity,” “Endless Horizons,” “Golden Opportunity.” All sweet titles signifying nothing. (Let me note, however, that these are the type of pictures that actually sell quite well.) But what we need in a world drowning in pictures is good provocation, a trigger for thought. Or at least a certain newness that separates the amateur trigger-happy shutterbug from the artist.

Good thing, however, that he has saving grace in “Child’s Play,” an eloquent shot of almost unassuming poetry that plays on color tone and shadows. Here, two children only seen in silhouette rush into the sea, while the sea itself rushes in opposite direction, to the shores, its energy seen as the surf that twinkles in the fading light in steel blue.

Rilt Dorado has a fascination for the dangerous in the middle of the ordinary or the mundane. His “Dauin Church” merely shows the façade of the said limestone church—but the structure is rendered in menace by the show of dark clouds in the distance. The smiling girl in “The Secrets of Negros Oriental Are Best Seen Through the Eyes of Its People” glows in yellow dress and a yellower aura—but her brightening eyes, they show something almost cat-like. In “Capitol,” the provincial seat of government is seen in a long distance take that follows the long promenade slicing through Freedom Park. It is readily an ordinary night scene—but look at those balls of fluorescent lamps lining the path, especially the one on the left that seems suddenly spectral. In “Thunderstorms in Apo Island,” the picture is a literal demonstration of the title—and we behold the velvet darkness of sea and sky as streaks of sudden light crashes through that dark color. In “Land of Milk(fish) and Honey (Sugar Cane),” an encroaching fog coming straight from the gradient blue of distant mountains approaches a nipa hut built on stilts, as if ready to topple it into the fish pond in the foreground.

John Stevenson, the only American in the lot, has always exhibited a hint of ironic detachment in his previous exhibits around town. He is one who is always ready to see Dumaguete through eyes we are not familiar (or comfortable) with. Which is good of him. He often renders his subjects in strange angles and patched-on stories that underline the obvious and the caricaturish of our Negrense lives, lives that most of us don’t easily recognize (or choose to).

Or perhaps it is just his comic perspective that gives us something new to think about over old things. In “02” for example, Mr. Stevenson takes apart the infamously hideous cement statues of the Paulinian nuns gracing the Rizal Boulevard—by composing a story that has a trio of nuns, their faces hidden by their habits, crack apart into isolation, a lamppost in the middle separating them. Is it a metaphor of something? Knowing Mr. Stevenson, you bet it is.

But his pictures may also be about concealment. In “05,” Mr. Stevenson snaps a photo of a man sleeping on a reclining monobloc chair, his head cropped away by bushes in the foreground. In “04,” a Jollibee billboard—perched on the roof a downtown building—shows the actor Aga Muhlach about to bite into a burger. But it becomes more dramatic when his eyes are cropped away by the roof of the nearby department store, leaving only his gaping, oddly threatening, mouth.

The pictures of Luigi Anton Borromeo cannot be taken separate from each other. If we do, there is nothing much to get. But as a photo-essay, the set becomes brilliant as a piece of photojournalism, rendered more dramatic by the intricate manipulation of contrast and hues. What we have is a collection called Cerámica, essentially a depiction of Daro people in the very process of making earthenware. He documents that process with an eye for detail, and from “Moldedo” to “Viruta” to “Lena” to “Potes,” we get a procedural story that becomes more involving because they are also portraits of common clay folk as they go about their ordinary tasks making a living. Who documents these things anymore? Most of us are all too ready to settle with generic beautiful sunsets.

In a sense, the exhibit also becomes a showcase of personal philosophy with regards photography in the Age of Photoshop. Some, like the names above, are relentless in their fidelity to the “real.” What is captured by the camera, unenhanced by any process, becomes sacred testament. Other photographers, however, are not documentarians, but painters, using pixels as their paintbrushes. This is what you see in the photographs of Charlie Arbolado Sindiong, Phil Calumpang, and Clee Andro Villasor.

In Mr. Sindiong’s photographs, the personal comes in the form of unexpected angles—composition choices that somehow lend his subject an almost surreal quality that haunts. The protruding limb of a driftwood in “Lumot” is haunting, and becomes more so because of the emphasis given by the saturated clumps of violets and like colors. The same template occurs in his other pieces. There is the dancing girl flanked in yellow in “Sinulog de Jimalalud.” There is the street watcher in the middle of a rainbow of motorcycle hoods in “City Bikes.” But the one that strikes the viewer the most, simply because it has a colorful tenseness that amounts to drama, is his “Baulan Festival.” Here, street dancers seen in full body profile and dressed in the traditional festival garb, are poised in a crouching position, ready for their presentation—something in their stance suggests potential energy about to burst into kinetic.

In Mr. Calumpang’s photos, the danger may be in the overuse of high dynamic range imaging which, in lesser hands, can be the equivalent of an unwanted sugar rush. This is seen in “Dumaguete Circa 2009,” and terribly so in “Migraine Boy.” This is not to say his pictures are bad. They are quite good, but they have been processed to shattering pieces that somehow the poetry becomes throttled before it even has a chance to come out. And yet, oddly enough, the same technique also works very well in “Acacia,” where the titular tree gracing the haunted stretch of San Jose’s Lala-an seems to stand in testament to decay and beauty. In “Dreams of Gold,” a generic mother and child story becomes more dramatic because of a clever use of silhouette and a generous swab of gold that becomes the sky. This is HDR in its best use—highlighting only the necessary to render the best details.

In Mr. Villasor’s images, the hypersharpening of images works because there is no pretense at the documentary. This is photography aspiring towards painting. When it works, it is great. When it doesn't, it becomes pretentious. But the results in this particular exhibit are brilliant, which happens when the elements in the composition—the painstaking layers of images, the relentless adjustments of hue, contrast, burn, and blend—comes together into a haunting, colorful, and arresting finish. You do not see everyday landscape done this way all of the time. What is that texture in the sky that crowns the Cathedral of St. Alexandria in “Escape From Sepia”? What is that fire in the clouds—or is it the cosmos in a war of red—over old Silliman Hall in “Centennial Hall”? And yet we also see that HDR does not necessarily always provide similar drama. In the un-Photoshopped “Persistence of Light,” a driftwood becomes a thing of danger and beauty, and in “Wind-swept Mohon Church,” the said building becomes the steady focus in the staggering dance of the landscape around it.

But it all comes down, eventually, to the possession of the “eye.”

And Hersley-Ven Casero has it in spades. His pictures are all about the finest textures amidst an overwhelming hue that nevertheless does not overpower. And then he adds one more detail to that pictures by inserting something ... odd. In “Meadow of Blue,” for example, his portrait of Escaño Beach in the early morning, he has a fish grabber working the shallows, dwarfed by the faraway event of an orange sunset, which is in turn dwarfed by the soft blue of rainy clouds that are also reflected on the waters. And then here and there, two alien orbs—actually buoys at rest—seem to shine out an eerie welcome.

But the photograph that strikes me the most is his “Road to Boulevard,” a brilliant study of a street landscape that uses shadows in a dramatic manner. In the light, we see the Boulevards’ faux-antique lamps in the distance, and also a glimpse of Tañon Strait, and in the middle of it all, we see some people walking and some tricycles plying the early morning street. And then all of these are framed elegantly in sepia-like shadows, like a film iris. The result is a haunted romaticism that captures Dumaguete in all its terrible, romantic beauty.

My Negros, indeed. What is a good picture of home except a vision of how our hearts see it. To see this exhibit is to behold the hearts of our local photographers—and for the most part, it is an interesting look into how we live.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

entry arrow11:30 PM | Life Grinds On

How many times must I say "I needed this" -- this heartbreak, this disappointment, this onslaught of sad things, this ... stuff -- before I actually do learn something? I will sleep now. Early tomorrow, before the crack of dawn, I will wake and pick up the pieces. And all will be well. And I should have already learned something.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

entry arrow1:27 AM | Jay Altarejos' Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan

This is a film I cannot, cannot, wait to see.

Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan explores two hours in the life of Juan Reyes (Ray An Dulay), known to others as Erwin. Juan is a 25 year old Masbate native who just found his way to Manila three years ago. Erwin has tried his hand at many odd jobs and now works as a live-sex performer at an underground gay bar but has decided to leave Manila for good. On the day of his departure, he will take us with him as he makes life decisions—big and small. The most important one of all is leaving the impoverished place which he called home for a year, capping it with his emotional goodbyes with his lover, Noel (Nico Antonio). And how a raid by the authorities marred his last performance in an underground bar called Inner Sanctum which changed his resolve.

The film marks the beginning of filmmaker Joselito Altarejós foray in producing his own films under BEYONDtheBOX. It stars 2008 Cinemanila Best Actress awardee Angeli Bayani, Richard Quan, Perry Escaño, Lex Bonife, Nico Antonio and Ray An Dulay. The support cast is led by daring newcomer Ace Ricafort, Ivy Sumilang, May-i Fabros, Bobby Reyes, Michael Cayetano, Tony Lapeña, Dexter Pelagio, Annelle Durano, Arlene Pilapil, and Mark Fabillar.

Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan will be showing exclusively at Robinsons Cinemas (Galleria and Manila) on October 21st.

From Stir.

Here are some stills with Ray-An (whose intensity as an actor, from Bathhouse to Kambyo, is unbelievably underrated by the rest of the film industry) and Mark (who plays ... Marc, in his first film role ever) from the film...

Way to go, buddy! So proud of you.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

entry arrow12:47 PM | Lawrence Lacambra Ypil's The Highest Hiding Place

Multi-awarded poet and Ateneo professor Lawrence Lacambra Ypil launches his first book of poems, The Highest Hiding Place, on Friday, 23 October 2009 at Fully Booked, The Terraces, Ayala Cebu. Collecting the poems that have won for Larry the Carlos Palanca Awards and the Free Press Awards among others, The Highest Hiding Place charts the author’s more than ten years’ exploration of the intersections of desire, displacement, and voice. Born and raised in Cebu, Larry teaches literature and creative writing at the Ateneo de Manila University, while keeping a bi-monthly column in Sun Star Weekend, Dog-ears in the Wrong Notebook.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

entry arrow5:07 PM | An Education

"Nobody teaches a writer anything. You tell them what you know. You tell them to find their voice and stick with it, because that's all you have in the end. You tell the ones who have it to keep at it and you tell the ones who don't to keep at it, too. Because that's the only way to get where you're going. Of course, it helps if you know where you want to go."

~ Michael Douglas as Tripp Grady in Curtis Hanson's The Wonder Boys, adapted from the novel by Rick Moody

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Friday, October 09, 2009

entry arrow4:38 PM | The Long Party of the Bubble Years

Part 3 of a Series on Night Life in Dumaguete

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2

“We were gods and goddesses of dance and light. Everywhere we went, we glittered.”
—ERIC SAMUEL JOVEN, on Dumaguete of the mid-1990s

All what ifs, given the right nurturing and a little kick of imagination, are excuses to party.

Like all good ideas that become infectious and are soon carried through by the sheer push of will and word-of-mouth, the one I am about to tell you started out as a broad stroke of such kind of speculation.

But let us begin by noting that What Ifs was the game to play—bordering sometimes on the wicked and the suggestive—in the boredom-infested, pre-cellphone, pre-Facebook days of the mid-1990s. This was when, for a brief moment, a kind of affluent flowering enveloped a suddenly burgeoning Dumaguete, turning the city into a frenetic beehive.

It was a brilliant bubble of a time, coming right before the Asian financial crisis (which shook our lives, and from which we have yet to recover). President Fidel Ramos was in power, and the Philippines—just coming out of the dark ages early in the decade that saw the country crippled by endless blackouts that ravaged the economy—was suddenly enjoying a belated (and, alas, short-lived) reputation of having become the new economic miracle of the region, Asia’s “new tiger.”

Those were the days when Dumaguete began stirring from the slumbering pace, when old and new began to clash and to accommodate each other. Its narrow streets were no longer so quiet. By 1998, Felipe Antonio Remollo was the new and dynamic mayor. Everybody suddenly seemed flushed with extra cash. The air was drunk with unbridled optimism (there was talk of a Metro Dumaguete, of urban master plans that would change the way Dumagueteños lived and interacted…). Every day felt like a promise of bigger things. And every night was a party.

There was no such thing as a slow night at the Rizal Boulevard, for example. In the heady days of the 1990s, it was Party Central every night of the week—even Sundays. Newly rehabilitated from its bleak 1980s reputation as a red light district, the seaside promenade was suddenly a slick stretch of simple but handsome design, thanks to outgoing mayor Agustin Perdices. The place practically leaped away from its previous incarnation as a concrete monstrosity with bad lighting. Suddenly, it became postcard perfect. There was now a set of faux-antique lampposts lining the walkway, as well as a meticulously cultivated landscape of carabao grass with brick (and later, brown slate) borders. Families could picnic in the new Boulevard in the daytime, and nocturnal creatures could cruise a thriving scene after hours, drinks permitted.

The famed Sugar Houses along the Boulevard stretch, long “abandoned” by their hacendero owners to the ravages of time and fortune and the red blinking lights of streetwalkers, were suddenly being spruced up. Tocino Country—the collective name of the mass of barbecue stands that dotted the Boulevard—was transferred to the vacant lot fronting West City Elementary School, where it thrived for years. (Now it is situated on the lot beside the City Engineer’s Office in Lo-oc.) New restaurants were opening along the stretch, and new hotels, too. Bethel Guest House, the Cang family’s idea of a “Christian” hotel, was a swanky addition to the Boulevard cityscape—and Honeycomb followed suit, settling in the old Medina mansion, which was refurbished to suit its new function. The Lees, too, took over the old house where the legendary local mystic Father Tropa used to house his exotic pets, and made it into a slick bar called Lighthouse. This became the nightly hub of the young social set. (This is now Shakey’s.)

Over at the other end of the stretch, near Silliman University, some things strained to get on with the bandwagon—like Ocean’s Eleven across old Silliman Hall. (This is now Blue Monkey Grill). The restaurant didn’t quite catch on, and for years, the place was reduced to a rubble of an empty lot. But, near it, Hotel Al Mar suddenly became a more posh La Residencia; across the street, the honky-tonkish building housing a pub called The Office became a private condominium where Globelines now is; and the barely-used lot beside The Office became an outdoor grill and beer garden called Ang Boulevard. Much later, that beer garden became a popular bar done up in a ‘50s diner-style and was called, appropriately, Happy Days. (This soon became the short-lived Grin Life, and is now CocoAmigos.)

Happy Days… This was where Tina Alcuaz, the proprietress of exceeding proportions (a cheerful demeanor included), reigned over the black and white chessboard-tiled floor, flanked by screaming red walls with framed posters of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the whole pantheon of classic Hollywood icons... This was where her friend Zaldy would tether his horse outside, after a gallop at the Boulevard. (Yes, a horse...) This was where the A and B Crowd descended regularly for their fix of Budweiser, then the beer of choice. In the island bar that dominated the middle, a kind of social Mount Olympus existed. On one end, Vincent Joey Alar—the 1990s poster boy for partying—trafficked the crowd, introducing everybody to everybody else. “Gideon of Caballes Printing Press,” he would say, for example, “this is Star of Wuthering Heights. Say hi to each other.” The placed buzzed with beso-besos everywhere... Every night was dance night. This was where Wednesdays happened, before there was ever a Reggae Wednesday in Hayahay... This was where we held plenty of erotic poetry readings—courtesy of the shenanigans of the posse of the resident intellectuals Eva Repollo, Jean Claire Dy, Bombee Dionaldo, Jesselle Baylon, Tintin Ongpin, and Aivy Nicolas—complete with smoke machines, a ceiling full of condom balloons, and throaty deliveries and a lot of moaning... This was where Tuesday Nights were Girls Nights, Thursday Nights were (unofficially) Gay Nights, and the rest of the weekend a merry mix of Everybody Else.

Those days, indeed, were happy.

It suddenly seemed that Dumaguete was becoming truer to its cityhood. It was starting to feel like one; it was no longer so much an overgrown town, although much of its charm was still derived from a lingering sense of smallness as well.

It became a kind of secret destination, a Filipino city that was like no other. Soon, celebrities—film and TV actors and singers of all stripes—were constantly flying in from Manila, not to perform, but to bask in the Dumaguete sunlight as adopted locals. Here, they could not be harassed as they would be in Manila’s public places. They could walk the main stretch of Alfonso Trese (which was renamed Perdices Street), and not be gawked or rushed at by hysterical fans.

Then again, it was an old Dumaguete (now gone) that didn’t care much about local celebrities, nor fawned over them. It was a city that was not capable of being star-struck. (The teleseryes of ABS-CBN and GMA had yet to come in with such popularity to make a bakya masa of all of us.)

It was a city where actors like Mark Gil could come in to set up shop. In the old Perdices mansion along the Boulevard, where Mamia’s is now, the actor opened Limelight—a grand forerunner of El Camino Blanco, only better—which was a fine dining restaurant by day (and all throughout dinnertime) and a VIP club by night. This was where the best parties happened—its kidney-shape bar overflowing with the partying days of Daniel Fernandez, who was Dumaguete's Party King and Ultimate Ringleader.

And the city, of course, felt like partying with him. It partied for the rest of that decade, to the soundtrack of Paul Van Dyk, Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill and Madonna’s Ray of Light.

“In 1996,” now Manila-based Dr. Gideon Caballes recalled, “the place to hang out in was El Amigo, our version of Minimik. It had great food, cheap too, but it was generally a nice place to chat over beer. And I remember Orient Garden, fronting what is now Gold Label Bakeshop. It was around from 1987 until probably 1990. It had a band famous for overplaying ‘The Name Game’ song. I remember hanging out at St. Moritz in Agan-an a lot. It was a nice seaside place to have a cheap date. This was the place to go to before Escaño became popular. Then there was Colors Disco in front of West City Elementary School. Then there was Music Box and that disco on the second floor of Gemini Building around 1991 or 1992. In 1996, there was Gimmick. Remember when Warren Cimafranca first broached the idea of opening an outdoors bar in the family property in the middle of all those residences in Claytown? We all told him the idea won’t work. That it would flop. We ate crow later on, didn’t we? We had no idea it would become so successful. Is it still the place to be seen in right now?”

The long party would go on until a little beyond the worldwide welcome for the new millennium (which unleashed the biggest Boulevard party in local history—complete with fireworks and spontaneous dancing in the streets).

The party would go on into the frenetic months of the Silliman Centennial, culminating in August 2001 when—for an entire month—Dumaguete did not sleep. That August was the peak of Dumaguete’s partying: it was filled with hundreds of random 24-hour parties everywhere, lasting all of its 31 days. How busy was it? Imagine the ultimate in traffic gridlock—at four o’clock in the morning, every day.

Then September 11 happened. When we all lost our innocence that day, our world shattered and shaken, the party ground down to a halt. For the next five years or so, all we had were shadows and memories.

Every generation in Dumaguete’s social set always has a muse who sets the tone for the party scene of the moment—a list that would include Jacqueline Veloso, Lua Khanum Padilla, and Christine Torres.

Flashback to 1996. Campus beauty Cherokee Dawn Esguerra—known more affectionately as C.D.—decided that she wanted to remember her twenty-first birthday the best way possible and in a manner that staid Dumaguete had never seen before. She was then the reigning Miss Silliman, and she would have none of the usual birthday buffets. None of the usual inuman at St. Moritz either. And none of the usual beach parties in the Bais sandbar, or Dauin. The speculation she hatched that soon raced through town like wildfire and had every one clamoring for the “exclusive” invitation to the shindig was—what if she invited the Who’s Who of the young Dumaguete set and ask them to dress up in 70s vintage costume, would they come?

A costume party. In the bell-bottomed, tie-dyed, sideburned, miniskirted gloriousness of the Bee Gees and their 1970s ilk.

The idea worked, for the most part, because of the promise of exclusivity. You were either invited, or you were not. For days before the party, those who still did not get the purple envelope with instructions to descend in full vintage regalia on the Joshua Room of Bethel Guest House—then the newest hotel in town—were feverish from anticipation and worry. It became, so to speak, a question of sociable existentialism: if you did not get the invitation, were you in fact a nobody?

In retrospect, the theme of the party was perched on an idea of risky novelty, given the notorious tendency of many Dumaguteños to spoil the fun in the name of “keeping a low and humble profile.” This is often the excuse for dressing down and going around in typical pambalay wear—a plain shirt (several sizes loose), a pair of “city shorts,” and sandals or espadrilles. Even for parties. And yet, perhaps for the first time ever, people heeded the sartorial challenge and began digging into their parents’ kabans. I went in as Elvis Presley in his Las Vegas years, minus the drugs and the paunch and the air of eventual doom. My pair of bell-bottoms was hot purple, my shirt a blazing LSD rainbow in brilliant Technicolor. My hair was too short, however, to be coifed into the standard Presley style—but I promptly made do by sporting fake sideburns. Everybody else—save for a staggering few who came in dressed as typical Dumaguete killjoys—dressed to the nines, and came in droves to the Boulevard, down to Bethel. They became a spectacle the likes of which this small city has never seen before. Everybody danced to the merry hits of the Village People and the Bee Gees and Gloria Gaynor until the wee hours, and soon everybody spread out around the city to satellite social hubs—the neighboring Lighthouse Bar was the next best thing—to prolong the party.

And for the longest time, that 1970s shindig was billed as the ultimate Dumaguete party to beat. It took five more years—with the month-long centennial celebration of Silliman last 2001—and another eight years—with the Philip Morris party last August—before the sheer audacity of C.D.’s party could be eclipsed. Great parties in Dumaguete, we soon learned, always came far between.

But in the final analysis, the 1990s would forever be marked as the decade where the city flowered and changed. Variety bloomed, for one thing. “In my time,” artist Sharon Dadang-Rafols said, “it was Silliman beach and Wuthering Heights, and it was always ‘action’ with friends, inom, tsika, poetry readings...”

“The places we went to,” recalled Silliman University’s students activity head Jojo Antonio, “were Lighthouse and Gimmick. In Lighthouse, new bands played every two to three weeks, and they were all from Manila and Cebu. The music ranged from the usual latest pop hits to retro. Everybody knew everybody then, and one didn’t worry over getting stabbed and shot after the late night fun. We could even leave our rhum or tequila bottles in the bar with our names scribbled on them, ready for consumption for the next day’s hangout.”

“Limelight was the ultimate!” remembered medical representative Jesselle Baylon. “It was great because of its cool house music. Great service, too. And in Lighthouse, we got different bands from all over the country, every month. And for your last stop if you felt like partying at 2 AM onwards, there was Detour. I loved that placed. It was hard to get another drink, and you just stand the entire time because there were no chairs—but people danced like crazy and you couldn’t help but bust your own moves… Dumaguete party places back then were better—but the number of people who knew how to party was even less than we have now. Now you have cross-generations of partygoers from their teens, their 20s and 30s. I wonder why they don’t open any more bars or clubs…”

To be continued…

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

entry arrow12:36 AM | The Entries to the 61 Film Festival of Student Shorts

These are the entries of my film students to the Second Communication 61 Short Film Festival this October 10 at 6 PM at the Audio-Visual Theater 1 in Silliman University. I haven't seen any of these yet, but I'm nevertheless excited. They've worked so hard these past few weeks on finishing and polishing these, their first films -- and regardless of anything, I'm quite proud of their efforts already.

[Click on the images to enlarge.]

I hope to see you there.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

entry arrow6:27 PM | What I Forgot to Mention

By Lawrence Raab

Things fall apart.
First a chair, then a table. We can see
the roof needs replacing,
the garden's overgrown. How easy
to think only of obligation,
to talk for hours and say
nothing surprising. One afternoon
a neighbor's tree is struck by lightning.
It falls. And the maples shelter tiny insects
chewing on their tender, folded buds.
Then it's summer. All the convenient emblems
--flowers, seasons, rivers --
shrink a little in the heat, that cruel
weather I wasn't going to speak of.
But you, dear, what did you remember today?
Oh, the mind leaps backwards
and we shrug it off: just one flower,
nameless, bent toward water.
We were walking by and you picked it
out of sympathy. Or you let it stay.
Long ago the petals fell off.
Why think of it? That stain of purple,
so small it could mean anything.


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Monday, October 05, 2009

entry arrow11:53 PM | Luis Katigbak's Robot Boy and Hepa

I was a college student then, way before I even became a "budding" writer. I was already reading the fiction of J.D. Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis, and was angsty to the core. The universe was both romantic and oppressive then -- that beautiful netherworld only the very young (and naive) can inhabit -- and I kept wondering to myself, "Why were there no stories like this about young Filipino boys (and girls) like me?" Where were the fiction of young, raw emotions? The rage of hormones? The anger of existential despair? There was only Jessica Zafra, but her sense of irony made things funny. I wanted them raw, like a gaping wound. And then I picked up a copy of Happy Endings many years ago. It was authored by a young U.P. writer roughly my age. His name was Luis Joaquin Katigbak. And his fiction spoke to me. And I felt so jealous, because here finally was a writer who spoke of my generational yearnings, and I wanted to be in his shoes. But by God, this young man made me start to write, and write, and write. Years later, we would become friends, and I still wonder if he knows how much he has actually influenced me. (Yes, Luis, 'wag kang papalag!) These days, I keep egging him to do a novelization of his First Graphic stories (his early stories centering around an advertising agency of that name). He only keeps smiling. But never mind that. Luis has a new story out in Philippine Graphic, and here is an excerpt:

I was standing on the edge of a thirty-story drop when I heard Hepa’s voice. "At the risk of, you know, stating the fucking obvious, I’ll just say that this is not one of your better ideas." The surprise of hearing his voice in my head—exactly the way I’d imagined it, over twenty years ago, a voice I can only describe as fuzzily gruff—almost sent me flailing off the roof all by itself. I turned around. I saw a stuffed animal and a small robot with a robot dog, looking at me expectantly.

They looked oddly familiar. My mind swam through the last two decades of memories, trying to find something to connect them to. It didn’t take long to reach the bits and pieces that remained of my childhood: A star on the wall, dark blue curtains sporting a pattern of marching toy soldiers, ice candy with real mango bits, local reprints of ’70s US comics, that relentless early-morning dread before every single day of grade school—and, finally—

"...Robot Boy?" I said uncertainly. "Hepa?"

"Right the first time," Hepa said. "I hope you’re not expecting a prize."

Read the rest here. Better yet, buy a copy of the magazine.

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entry arrow1:29 AM | An Anthology of Filipino Fantasy Worlds

So, of course you have Narnia of C.S. Lewis, and Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien, and Earthsea of Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hogwarts of J.K. Rowling. The fantasy worlds everybody knows about. Ever heard of Hinirang? No? Then it's time you get to know some original worlds conjured by our very own tinkerers of fantasy. Here's an online anthology of speculative worlds, edited by two people who know best, Dean Francis Alfar and Joseph Nacino.

From Joseph's own introduction:

What exactly defines a secondary world anyway?

The grandfather of all fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, once said the story-maker, as a successful ‘sub-creator’, can make a secondary world in which the reader’s mind can enter. He states, “Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside.” It is this ‘internal consistency of reality’ that is important to make a secondary world work.

Thus, an author creates a story wherein the world imagined in it (but separate from our own reality) must be sound—from its internal laws, principles, etc.—as well as consistent in order to believable. Moreover, this ‘separate’ world combines elements from the ordinary and extraordinary so that readers will be able to find some familiar footing in such an unfamiliar setting.

Given this partial description of what a secondary world is, I then left it to the writer to define the term. And such an interesting set of stories! From a gigantic turtle-like beast traveling in space, to a young woman’s cry for justice in an imagined world, to a witch-queen intent on escaping a deal with a devil, these writers showed how secondary-worlds can be done—with or without the pressure of trying to write a Filipino story.

Read the rest of the introduction here.

Click here for the anthology.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

entry arrow3:26 PM | The 61 Film Festival of Student Shorts

On 10 October 2009, the Communication 61 (Film Appreciation) Class of the College of Mass Communication under yours truly will be presenting their final short film projects in the Second Communication 61 Short Film Festival. The event will be held at the Audio-Visual Theater 1 at the Multimedia Center and the program will begin at 6 PM.

The festival will showcase both narrative and documentary short subjects by mass communication students Albert Babaylan, Eliora Eunice Bernedo, Marc Cabreros, Jenifer Ediesca, Hamfredo Golosino, Judy Gay Jandayan, Bobae Lee, Anthony Gerard Odtohan, Shan Marie Sojor, and Karen Grace Yasi. These are their first films.

The screening is open to the public. I will be posting the official posters of the ten films by Monday, October 5.

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entry arrow1:55 PM | Gang Badoy is the Bomb

I have to post this article, "We Were a Nation of Citizen Journalists That Night," written by Pam Pastor for the Philippine Daily Inquirer's YOU Section. It's about RockEd's Gang Badoy, one of the bestest people I know, simply because she radiates a fine sense of advocacy in whatever she does. (And I love the way we just keep bumping into each other. "Oh, andito ka pala sa Dumaguete?" I told her a few months ago when we bumped in Hayahay after last seeing her in Cubao X. She laughed, and then we got to talk a little bit...)

Here's an excerpt from Pam's article:

[T]he night “Ondoy” struck, the Rock Ed founder set aside her grief and did what she does best – try to make a difference.

“I tried driving out to Eastwood to pick up the core group of Rock Ed volunteers who were there early for our Girl Code event. We drove around for over two hours trying to get to Eastwood from Ortigas Center. We never got to them. Finally, at around 3:30 p.m., I decided to go back home and go online.”

Gang soon realized that so many Twitter and Facebook users were posting useful information about the typhoon. But she knew a lot of people had already lost electric power and most likely no longer had access to the Internet. They had only their mobile phones which gave them access only to FM stations and not AM radio.

Gang felt she had to do something. “I said, I’ll go on air!”

But Gang isn’t a DJ on Jam 88.3. She hosts Rock Ed Radio, a two-hour talk show Wednesday nights.

She walked to the studio in Ortigas Center to get hold of the station manager. “But he lived in an affected area and was managing things at home. So I just barged into the dark empty studio.”

She told the guard, the only one around, “You must help me stop the auto-broadcast and I need to go on air. He was very hesitant because he didn’t know me and wasn’t sure if I knew how to operate the board. He was right, I didn’t. But I insisted and said, ‘Malaking tulong ang may radyo na nagbobroadcast ng info, bumabaha na sa labas, parang malaki ’to, sir.’ We stared at each other for a time, with me determined to go on air even if I had to force my way through the board buttons.”

Read the rest here.

In other news, American G.I.s wonders why we still could smile after everything. (Because we're not a pampered culture! Which may be why not having affluence can be such a blessing, in a way...)

[photo courtesy of pdi]

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Friday, October 02, 2009

entry arrow2:56 PM | BC 25 Model Papers

For my research writing classes: please download the following as guides to your final paper composition: APA Model Paper and MLA Model Paper. The files are in PDF, and are stored in my FileDen account. Just click on the links and download as instructed.

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