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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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Monday, November 30, 2009

entry arrow12:29 AM | A Beautiful Detachment

"Detachment for me doesn’t mean indifference. It means being able to be passionate about something and yet at the same time, having the ability to peacefully accept whatever it is that happens in the end. It’s about having the humility to accept that there are so many variables in the equation, and not everything can be achieved just by working hard on it, or by thinking that you are entitled to it because you are this and that. Life is full of these complex things. Being able to detach one’s self from the fruits of our labor, our pseudo-urgent wants, even from those we feel so much for, is an act of humility."

~ Manila Gay Guy

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

entry arrow10:13 PM | In Memory of Connie Jayme-Brizuela and the Other Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre

The massacre was spawned by a culture of impunity that has long been kept unchecked by a government that is now widely perceived by the international community to be tolerant or approving of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

This culture of impunity imperils the exercise of the legal and media profession in the country and the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms including the right to suffrage.

We can only surmise that, as a lawyer, Connie must have asserted herself as part of the negotiating panel to ease the tension or to remind their would-be attackers of the rule of law, if any such dialogue could have occurred at all. We are certain as well that Connie, having been a broadcaster herself, and her companions, had thought that a horde of media practitioners and the presence of women would deter any act of violence against their party.

But because of the culture of impunity in this country, these have become mere notions.

The unchecked rule of political warlords like the Ampatuans, army and police units like those controlled by President Arroyo’s mistahs, and warmongers in government like General Hermogenes Esperon and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, make up a culture of tolerance for killings and contempt for the rule of law. Thus, this culture of impunity traces itself right back at the doorstep of Malacañang.

Atty. Connie Jayme-Brizuela had been at the forefront of the campaign against impunity. We are outraged that it has caught up with her through this tragic and gruesome death. We will miss her. She was a gentle but firm and determined human rights advocate. In her diminutive frame loomed large a feisty peoples’ lawyer and human rights defender undeterred by the rich and the powerful in Mindanao.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

entry arrow12:25 PM | The Magicians

Part Five of a Series on Night Life in Dumaguete

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4

“It’s not easy being an event organizer. It’s all just flash, and more flash.”
—POL CADELIÑA, local event organizer

Let it be said that, as with any profession worth its salt, an excess of passion and the capacity for thinking out of the box very much define this strange new career called Eventology. It helps its dubious respectability, especially if the poster boy for that line of work bears the mug of Tim Yap, society magician, alleged ringleader of the notorious Gucci Gang—and favorite whipping boy for the commonplace complaint for First World excess in Third World reality.

Because it is a career entirely weaved out of the celebration of the “superficial,” it largely bears little respect the way a career in law or medicine would be—which is ironic since there is nothing like the promise of spotlight and glitter that can seduce even the high and the mighty. Like Oscar Wilde’s dictum that confers shallowness on those who do not get the importance of judging by appearance, it recognizes that the glitter of things is more often a barometer for the real.

In Dumaguete, event management—be it for club parties, concerts, or fashion shows that are slowly becoming ubiquitous in this city—is not entirely something new. People, after all, have been managing and putting up parties in Dumaguete forever. But as a full-time profession in a small city not exactly known for its partying ways, it is still largely something that falls below the radar. And yet it is increasingly lucrative.

A series on the Dumaguete night life can never be complete without the voices of those who conjure the magic of the events we go to. And so I gathered together three of Dumaguete’s current eventologists—Tomas Alvin Timbancaya (more popularly known as Dok), Kathleen Hynson Patacsil (more popularly known as Kleng), and Tyrone Oliver Tejam—all hardworking local organizers (and rivals) who work behind the scene of every dance party, corporate event, fashion show, and concert you have probably gone to in the last five or six years. All, they said, in an effort—too often quixotic—to try to enliven up the place and make it truly worth its “city” moniker.

Dok is basically known as the guy in-charge of promoting the any-given-month’s KillerBee party, usually held at El Camino Blanco. “I make the best poster and tarpaulin designs around town—and some people actually collect them, and there is always anticipation for the next KillerBee poster model,” Dok says. He was president of the KamiZeta fraternity and sorority for three years, and was the chair of the Silliman University Council of Student Organizations twice.

“I am into advertising and promos,” he continues. “I suck with anything that has to do with academics, unless I find the subject remotely interesting. I also enjoy movies and videogames a lot.” 

What people don’t know about Dok is that he has actually already graduated from college (although you won’t immediately deduce that just by looking at him) and is now taking up MBA at Silliman. (“Yes,” he says. “Finally. I know. Hush.”) He does penciling and cartooning, too, and plays the piano. “I like liquiding and raving with glowsticks. I like thought-provoking readings, too,” he continues. “I listen to all kinds of music—except for J-Pop, diva RnBs, gangta rap, farty jeepney technos, noontime Pinoy music, and other sorts of ka-jologan.” He used to rappel down Doltz Hall using bed sheets—“never-been-caught!”—to escape into the Brickhouse and party out at El Camino, but lately, he prefers Escaño with friends over any bar or club.

Kleng is a Mass Communication student in Silliman, and, like Dok, is also into the arts—especially cosmetic artistry, theater, and fashion.

Tyrone, on the other hand, has already established an image of being the “life of the party.” He is the lead vocalist of the Koo Fellas, and he is the constant host of various events and parties around town. “I manage talents, and I produce and organize events,” he says. “What they probably do not know is that while doing all these, I mean business. I am strict at making sure everything I do is to the utmost satisfaction of my clients. My obsessive-compulsive traits always play a vital role in the success of all my events.”

What got them into events organizing in the first place?

For Kleng, her foray into a events organizing first started out as just a hobby. “I liked the idea of getting my hands into event organizing,” she recalled. “This immersion made me realize that this was something I loved doing. It gives me a sense of fulfillment every time I know I’ve been part of making a certain event successful.”

For Dok, it was a necessary, but completely unexpected, byproduct of his college partying years. “My buddies—Dindo Gatmaitan, Gigs Atega, Joel Canon, Mark Argote—and I partied hard on our first year in Dumaguete, between 2002 and 2003,” he remembered. “From El Camino to Escaño to Detour and finally to the Brickhouse, two to three times a week. In the process, we partied and got acquainted with the Zetans, the Amicitas, and the other party socialites of that time. I joined Zeta—or KamiZeta as it is now known in Silliman, a school organization infamously known for having socialites who drink and party every chance they get, till dawn. I became its president in 2003.”

As he recounts those days, one suddenly gets the feeling that with Dok comes a very specific chronicle of Dumaguete and its party scene in the late 1990s until the 2000s. “As 2003 went to a close, the trance era started going down,” Dok recounted. “Chicane’s Love on the Run was the last hit trance track, and the RnB and hip hop generation was on the rise. But it wasn’t so fun anymore, at least for those who party out with ATB, Chicane, Happy, Safri Duo... Everyone was getting busy looking cute, sexy, and flashy in the club. People were a little less conscious before. El Camino went from free entrance, to getting in students with validated IDs, to P50 with two beer consumables, to P100 with no consumables. I think 2004 was a sad year for El Camino. In came 2005, with the advent of the more recent house tracks. I was comfortable at El Camino again.”

In his second term as president of Zeta in 2005, he thought of organizing a one-of-a-kind fashion show—a “clique” fashion show with Penshoppe and Leila’s Couture—during Founder Day, to feature the Miss Silliman candidates of that year and “all the other model-ly people in school.” A friend, Mike Figdor, suggested that an event as big as that needed more marketing time to maximize the mileage offers for Penshoppe—and that was when KillerBee came into the picture. “This was how I got acquainted with Roy Bustillo, the KillerBee manager,” said Dok.

Three days after the event, with Roy and Mike as backers (and with help from Zeta, Rodecans, Hermanas, and Amicitas), he gunned for another show featuring the SMBee Girls/KillerBee Girls composed Tanya Beatingo, Francine Arrieta, Sheena Santiago, Raissa Jalandoni, Ruth Libarnes, Sunshine Sarne, Aleen Diago, and others. “It was our first El Camino Event,” Dok remembered. “We called it POW—Party on Weekends. San Miguel saw this and contracted me to organize the Sarap Mag-Buglasan Bar Tour with the SMBee Girls.”

What they had, Dok said, was a vision to enhance the Dumaguete lifestyle and social leisure scene and to promote it as “a hotspot for culture, tourism, and investment by featuring a spending market that has a penchant for fashion, dining, spa-ing, networking, and partying.” They wanted to revive the party scene in Dumaguete, particularly in El Camino.

That was when they conscripted Banda Mangga to be their featured band for the first Sandurot Rhythm that November. After that, there was Sinulog at El Camino in January the next year, Love Sucks in February, Bar Exams in March, and Freshmen Nights in June. These were their “mainstay” parties, but there were also “filler” parties for the months of July, August, September, and October. The party name and the “gimmick” that colored each one varied from year to year—but the rule was to jump on what was “hot” for the moment. Fitting that bill would be the white parties, the black parties, the fashion parties that came and went, featuring assorted motifs of bikes, bartenders, fire dancers, just to name a few. “We have a party every month—sometimes even twice a month,” Dok said. 

Of course, it did not take long for Dumagute to start partying again. “The only time there would be people in El Camino in huge numbers would be when KillerBee holds a party,” Dok observed. “After that, going to El Camino became part of the people’s lifestyle again—at least on the weekends when we normally hold our parties.” The other pieces of the partying puzzle started falling into place as well, and other organizing groups—such as those by Toto Marquez, Jaysun Penales, and Tyrone Tejam—soon came into their own and became more visible in 2008.

In many ways, Tyrone shares the same story as Dok. At 16, fresh from high school and gunning for a degree in Physical Therapy, he already acknowledged that partying was going to be his one major “vice”—and is now mightily surprised to find himself now making a business out of “this seemingly age-inappropriate habit of constant partying.”

He recalls, “My craving for new, unique, and unusual events, I think, prompted me to try organizing some minor activities.” Minor that is until, through and because of time, experience, and the large network that he has established through constant events organizing, things soon inevitably led him to building a local events agency that, accordingly, does not just aim to provide fun and excitement to his audience, but also strategies and solutions to clients. His agency—E-SOLUTIONS Events & Entertainment—would soon take Dumaguete by storm, and remains, to date, the most sophisticated in a city that is just beginning to realize that all shimmer may not be gold, but it sure does grab attention.

And shimmering attention, most of all, is the prize that all parties strive to get.

(To be continued…)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

entry arrow6:31 PM | Seeing Clearly

It's a rare day when the sum of the hours permits you to ponder, so clearly, on the often suffocating vastness of our lives and see how each piece fits with another. What you see are the fine details wrought only from the most sustained and careful pain. And while there are still no clear instructions on how to begin the process of putting together the rest of the puzzle, there is only a kind of calmness that fills your senses, something that gives you not the overwhelming and treacherous high of stupid hopefulness, but the sigh of having settled on the firm first step that would lead to a way home.

The creeping fog of months is gone. You stir to begin, again.


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

entry arrow10:39 AM | A Pause

I need time to think. To breathe. To pause and consider why people do the things they do. But I haven't been thinking clearly lately, for months now. Yesterday, I tried to understand the cloud -- the fog? -- that exists in my head. It is almost a formless thing, grey-tinged, and it floats right in front of my neocortex in a sluggard funk.

There are too many distractions.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

entry arrow12:53 AM | ...

How can I be so in love this way? It doesn't make sense.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

entry arrow4:23 PM | Party Pooper

Saturday night ended all too abruptly when the club we went to for the weekend’s respite exploded with the sudden brawl led by one ugly white man—a Dutch guy with a history of explosive tantrums. There were broken bottles in the air. Chairs crashing down. A chase through a cramped space that had the rest of El Camino’s habitués scampering to one side, booing the white man, and booing the utter laxity by the management for its feeble attempt to put back everything to order. When the music finally came back on, the place was a virtual desert—strange for 1:30 A.M. on a Sunday dawn. It quickly dawned on me that El Camino Blanco is party central only for the fact that it is the only place to go to on a weekend in Dumaguete that resembles, in a very haphazard manner, the party life of more cosmopolitan cities. The resemblance ends in only ambition; in reality, the place is a huge disappointment. The most demanding partygoer from Cebu or Manila, descending on Dumaguete’s premier party place, will be quick to relegate the entire establishment to kabaduyan—the interior design is bad and confused, the lights are ridiculous, the security laughable, the ventilation is non-existent, and the dancing area too cramped to contain the gyrating bodies that try to dance to the bad music—repetitive RnB hits that are laughed at by people attending Embassy or Encore as falling below contemporary sophistication. And who would put tables and chairs at the sides of a dance floor? Tables and chairs—a no-no for a nightlife that should encourage mingling and dancing—will be the death of the Dumaguete scene.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

entry arrow3:30 AM | From Project Downtown

[photography by clee andro villasor]

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

entry arrow1:40 PM | On Gripes and Criticism

The renowned film critic Roger Ebert once wrote:

When Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times was critical of Rob Schnieder's Deuce Bigelow, European Gigolo, Schneider took out a full-page ads in the paper informing Goldstein was not qualified to review it--what prizes had he won? In my review, I wrote: "As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks." Set and match.

I find this quite fascinating, given that a review of mine regarding a local photography exhibit has been garnering boiling commentary from some of the subjects of my criticism, and has basically echoed Mr. Schneider's words for Mr. Goldstein. To wit:

Whew and I thought I am the only one who felt violated by this so called "critic!" He has no credentials to speak of to be considered a credible critic period! He does not know an iota of photogrpahy so he should just stick to where he is good at (writting "fiction")!

I take that in stride.

But what credentials must one have to be an "art critic"? Must one be a full-time artist or photographer or writer or a filmmaker or dancer to be allowed to critique a painting, a photograph, a book, a film, or a dance? Mr. Ebert has won the Pulitzer for film criticism -- but has not made a single movie in his life, save for the screenplay of Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Is he not a film critic still?

I have had photography exhibitions in Dumaguete and Cebu, although it is an art form I have chosen not to pursue full time simply because I want to devote myself to writing. I've also written about photography countless times in many publications. I write art reviews for national newspapers (including the Philippine Daily Inquirer) as well as local ones. I am the program coordinator of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. I have curated many exhibits, including ones for photography. Credentials, anyone?

To quote an artist friend who's currently doing media studies as a Ford scholar in New York (credentials man kaha!):

Those who question critics are so parochial. They think they can be better being alone or in the company of their exclusive group of photographers patting themselves in the back. But a photograph according to Susan Sontag needs an interpreter because it is a trace of a subject framed by an eye and will be seen through another's eyes.

Ah, Susan Sontag. Wait, do they know Susan Sontag? I bet not. (Come to think of it, Sontag has written the best criticism on photography -- the brilliant On Photography -- and she's not even a photographer!)

Artists, of course, must be allowed to whine about bad notices. I'd gripe, too, if somebody finds my fiction incomprehensible. Or downright bad. But the ones who move on to greatness do two things: (1) ignore the criticism and continue to do their own stuff; or (2) make the critique challenge them more, to make their art, for the lack of a better word, "better."

In the summer of 2008, a renowned fictionist critiqued my stories during a workshop, and described the ones I've written after the Palanca-winning "Old Movies" as a "disappointment." I got picqued, naturally, but was ultimately curious about his assessment.

So, learning all that I knew about good fiction, I wrote a short story shortly after that workshop, submitted it to the Palanca -- and won first place. What was ironic was that he was the chair of the board of judges for the short story.

Criticism. Take it, or leave it. But make it make you grow.

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