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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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Friday, January 27, 2012

entry arrow1:01 AM | A Renaissance

First of Two Parts

These days, you can feel a palpable stirring, culture-wise, in Dumaguete City. Not that the arts are dead here. Of course not. It’s just that—starting more or less about half a decade ago—it has never been this alive. And how it sparkles in the kind of life it has now!

There was a time, especially in the early 1990s, when the cultural well seemed on the verge of going dry relatively speaking. (I play safe here, because there will be others with differing opinions. I can imagine somebody writing to me soon, thundering: “That’s not true!”) But for some reason or other, many of Dumaguete’s resident artists, writers, and cultural workers were answering the outside lure of better jobs and bigger cities. (Some stayed. Many more just faded away.) The National Writers Workshop lost the support of the university it had been part of since its founding in 1962, and it floundered like an orphan until the Tiempos found generous institutions which pledged enough to continue the revered workshop’s existence. Around the same time, the Renaissance Man himself, Albert Louis Faurot, died in Dumaguete. A relative came “to settle his affairs,” so goes one story from Moses Joshua Atega, and gathered pieces of his collection—and proceeded to burn them for reasons we can only speculate over. That bonfire seemed quite metaphorical of the state of things. Faurot’s End House, site of many recitals and poetry readings, fell into disrepair. His book collection and paintings were scattered about—and some of us would occasionally wonder during meetings, “Where are those paintings now? And those books?” I saw some of those books. Vintage hardbound copies of the best of literature—some worn to old age by silverfish and dust. Oh, those were dark days. I came into my youth in those early years of the 1990s, and for me these were wisps of once mighty names I had to get to know because largely forgotten.

And yet, look.

Nothing can be farther than the reverse of all that, these days. Our artists and writers are flocking back to Dumaguete once more, making it—in the words of Carmen del Prado’s documentary on the subject matter—“an artists’ haven.” There’s a budding community of young writers and filmmakers starting to make waves. The older visual artists may still be squabbling with each other—but consider Razceljan Salvarita and Hersley-Ven Casero, the vanguards of the new wave: they hold their heads above the vicious sway, and their art is fresh and revitalizing. We have new filmmakers in the making—Hersley’s Paper and Stephen Abanto’s Suga just made it into the roster of SineRehiyon Film Festival, representing the film scene in Dumaguete. There’s a film club in the city now, also a photography club (under the guidance of master photographer Greg Morales), and a fledgling group of young writers. The National Writers Workshop is also back with Silliman University, which has also been in the process of creating a Creative Writing Center to be named after Edilberto and Edith Tiempo. Last year, the workshop celebrated its fiftieth year with a reverent nod to how it has helped shape contemporary Philippine literature. And Faurot has a lecture series named after him, with some of the world’s top artists, writers, and cultural workers—from Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones to poet Marjorie Evasco, from composer Ryan Cayabyab to sociologist Lorna Makil—coming to the city to share their thoughts on art and culture as well as their process, all under the shadow of Faurot’s name and memory.

I first thought of this for real when I was invited last weekend to a dinner being held at the Silliman President’s House last Saturday. Dr. Ben Malayang III and wife Gladys were hosting, and our guest of honor was the environmentalist Nicanor Perlas who was in the city to launch a book. Chef Andreino—Dumaguete’s Pasta King—had prepared a sumptuous dinner for us, a two-course meal punctuated with great dessert and fantastic wine. And so we came: among us, there were Jojo and Myrish Antonio, Dessa Quesada-Palm, Simon and Virginia Stack, Arlene Delloso-Uypitching, Esther Windler, John Stevenson, Ian Malayang, the master classical guitarist Michael Dadap, and some others. It was a night of conversation, as scintillating as they come, fueled by the red wine. One knows how that goes. And soon enough Mr. Dadap—the brother-in-law of the cellist Yo Yo Ma—gave us a mini-concert cum lecture. “I am going to play for you two Visayan folk songs,” he said. One is happy, he said, but the song itself is really sad; the other one sounds sad, but it really is happy. “I think we do sadness with a dash of happy attitude—to mask that sadness. And we coat our happiness with a sad tone, because we don’t want other people to take away that happiness.” First he played a masterful rendition of “Dandansoy,” plucking away its melancholic tone, but with a knowing wink that this is about a man who feels assured that his love for a woman is secure enough for him to say a temporary farewell. Then he goes on with “Pobreng Alindahaw,” playfully underscoring its upbeat tone with the song’s story of a dragonfly who is swept away by the wind while flying among flowers. Somebody—I think it was Simon—asked about folk music from Luzon, and Mr. Dadap went on to play a kundiman favorite “Jocelynang Baliwag.” When we start asking him questions about the classical guitar, what we got was a brief and inspired “lecture,” with musical excerpts, escorting us to the world of the Egyptian kithara, the Spanish flamenco, and the consummate artistry of guitar giants Andrés Segovia and Agustín Pío Barrios—“whose genius,” Mr. Dadap proclaimed, “is perhaps equal to Mozart.”

I looked around the sala in the President’s House. This was also where some of us—Sir Ben, Ma’am Gladys, John, Simon, Tata, Annabelle Lee-Adriano, Bron Teves, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Myrna Peña-Reyes, Mariglor Arnaiz, and sometimes RV Escatron and Indian scholar Annie Kuraichan—meet every Wednesday night, to talk about literature over food and drinks, and we have gone from John Donne to Robert Frost to Jorge Luis Borges to William Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot to Allen Ginsberg. A literary salon, so to speak. We have a merry time, a once-a-week exercise of our critical abilities as well as our imagination.

It seems fitting that all these stem from this house in Silliman campus. The President’s House as a center of culture, but done in a lovely fit, loose and easy-going. This is art, and its appreciation, with heart. And I am glad I live in this time, with a city buzzing with so many possibilities.

It is a good time to be an artist in Dumaguete. (To be continued…)

[Photo by Arlene Delloso-Uypitching]

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

entry arrow5:10 PM | The Message of the Tsinelas

During last week's Tapok 'Ta, La! gig, Rock Ed Dumaguete volunteer Mars Edding had this idea of asking donors of slippers for Sendong victims in Negros Oriental to write a short message for their recipients. As we sorted out the donations -- 475 pairs of slippers in all! plus clothes and books and other things -- this morning at the Oriental Hall in Silliman University, we proceeded to photo-document some of these...

[Photos by Zon Lee]


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

entry arrow2:10 AM | What the Weekend Was Like

It was a delicate balance. How to divide one’s body on a Friday night when you are part of the organizing teams behind two events happening simultaneously? At the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, for the Cultural Affairs Committee of Silliman University, the young virtuoso Jimmy Tagala Jr. was making his debut as a solo headliner, with mentors—the legendary violinist Gilopez Kabayao and pianist wife Corazon—in tow. At the Amphitheater, for Rock Ed Dumaguete’s Tsinelas for Sendong Drive, Sandwich was amping it with the pure gusto of Pinoy rock.

Two different kinds of music, poles apart. (And yet, by evening’s end, I would find out the heart for both is the same.)

It was a decision I tossed to the fates—“I would follow where my feet would lead,” I told myself. I settled for considering myself, in a way, lucky: what charmed life one must live to have front row seating to two great things. But somehow I managed to attend both, with my body intact. No dividing or cloning required, helped for the most part for the mere few hundreds of meters that divided the wild openness of the amphitheater and the hallowed hall of the Luce. My feet, it seemed, were quick enough to straddle the divide.

It was important to be at the Sandwich gig. We were raising awareness for Sendong relief, and we were inviting people to come and hear the music for free. But we were encouraging them to come and bring new or usable tsinelas for victims of Sendong. And sure enough, they came by the hordes. The boxes of tsinelas we brought over to sell—just in case anyone in the crowd felt “too lazy” to come with a pair to donate—sold out even before Sandwich took to the stage. And people were donating and donating, some in used clothing and some in money—that it was enough to restore faith in humanity. The shower of donations and good will almost brought some of the Rock Ed volunteers to tears. And there were many of them—young people from all over the city and not just Silliman University—coming in with the fullest intentions to help. I remember Gang Badoy telling me once that this was our ultimate mission in Rock Ed, to plant this seed of civic concern among the young. That it can start out small, but it will pay in big dividends in the future. The tsinelas is just a metaphor, a seed. The real goal is to reinvent people.

By 9 PM, the grounds of the amphitheater would be filled to capacity, if that was possible—but it was enough, it would seem, for lead singer Raimund Marasigan to willingly jump into the moshpit, twice. And the crowd went wild.

There are many people to thank for this, of course. The indefatigable Mahogany Rae Bacon, the irrepressible Mars Edding, the amazing Marita Ong, Rena Ochoco, and Yan Vanslembrouck. Then there’s Anna Katrina Espino, and Cole Geconcillo, Babes and Joey Utzurrum, Hersley Ven Casero, Precious Grace Heradura, Silvin Maceren, Jaimee Duran, Fe An and Fob Sy, Robbie Yasi, Ron Calumpang, Sanda and Sande Fuentes, Duds Tecson, Von Cathleen Panot, among many others. These people are the young heart of Rock Ed volunteerism.

While rock music went full blast in the amphitheater, a few meters away at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, Gilopez Kabayao came back to his alma mater to play and to guest support his protégé, the fantastically talented virtuoso Jim-Jim Tagala. We hurried there to catch the concert in time, and to get some video footage of Mr. Kabayao for a planned video project for the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Affairs Committee. The pre-show photo shoot (with Annabelle Lee Adriano) went quite well, and so did the interview we did with the Kabayaos and Jim-Jim.

And when it came to Jim-Jim’s music, we were in for a pleasant shock. How many standing ovations did we give him? Quite a few, and heartily meant, too. For his youth, this violinist managed to wow the Luce crowd with uncommon dexterity and organic connection to the music. His duet with his mentor over Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins was more than worth the price of the ticket, but Jim-Jim’s take on Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 brought down the house. He would bring down the house twice more, with Kabayao’s intricate arrangements of Paganini’s Caprice No. 15 as well as Abelardo’s Mutya ng Pasig and the folk song the folk song Bahay Kubo, and finally with a shattering finale with Bizet’s Carmen. To watch Jim-Jim play the violin was to see music breathing.

What a Friday night that was.

[Photos by Hersley-Ven Casero and Annabelle Lee-Adriano]

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

entry arrow12:48 PM | Making Helping People Easier

There was a reason why that polar bear—a white stuffed toy that oozed with such joy—felt special. There it was in the LBC box just newly arrived from Bacolod, glistening in its furry whiteness, in the midst of other toys (and underwear) sent in by donors from New York as well as from Negros Occidental. That Tuesday afternoon early in January, fresh off the devastations of December, some members of Rock Ed Dumaguete had gathered in Silliman Church, our meeting place before we’d leave for the mountains of Valencia to distribute the relief goods. And we all felt the strange urge to just hold the bear, to hug it.

Rock Ed Dumaguete, along with Silliman University, was collecting stuff for relief efforts, and one of our volunteers—the amazing Greg Morales, photographer par excellence—once said that during one distribution round for victims of Typhoon Sendong, one thing he had noticed was that kids in the evacuation camps he had visited were getting bored. They had lost everything in the flash flood, and they had nothing to play with. Except perhaps dirt and stones and what-not. “Boredom can be deadly,” he said.

And so when Gang Badoy of Rock Ed Philippines forwarded me a message from Jane Uymatiao, which said that she knew of a guy in Bacolod who wanted to donate toys for the relief efforts in Dumaguete, I jumped at the chance. The guy was Bugsy Bongco, and with help from LBC who waived the fee for delivering the goods, we received the boxes. They were crammed full of fantastic toys, as well as clothes and underwear for children.

Joining me that Tuesday were some Rock Ed volunteers aside from Greg—Ron Jacob Calumpang, Robbie Yasi, Mariekhan Edding, and Arlene Delloso-Uypitching who came with her young daughter Hannah. We saw the polar bear, and we all said, “We’re going to give this to somebody special.” How we would know that we left to the universe. We knew we would just know. And so we went to five barangays that afternoon. By nightfall, we found ourselves in our last stop in one Valencia barangay near Palinpinon. It was full of kids. And one of them was this wee girl, perhaps three or four years old. She was being carried by her ate, and when we saw her, something clicked. This is the kid we were waiting for.

Rock Ed Dumaguete volunteers Ron Jacob Calumpang and Hannah Delloso-Uypitching handing out toys and underwear in Valencia. Photo courtesy of Greg Morales.

Hannah quickly took the stuffed toy from the nearly empty box, and gave it to the girl. The sight of those young eyes beholding this huge toy was priceless.

We would tell Bugsy about this of course, and he felt the need to tell this story: “Ian, let me tell you something about the polar bear—and most of the stuffed toys we sent you. They’re from a very good friend of mine who works as a nanny in New York but has not come home in almost ten years. Her papers expired when she was jobless and penniless, so she’s a TNT, there up to this time. Almost everything she earns goes to her nephews and nieces and her old mom here in the Philippines. Despite all her problems, she has managed—through the years—to collect stuffed toys from her employer who allowed her to bring them home with her. She put them in her small rented room in New Jersey—and that polar bear sat at the foot of her bed for a long, long time. She did not have money to put all the toys in a balikbayan box. But finally, God being good, we found the money to have the balikbayan box shipped to me. I intended to give them to orphans and street kids, according to her instructions. But I couldn’t do it sooner because I teach. I waited for Christmas break. Typhoon Sendong came and... God showed us the way to you through Jane of Philippine Beat (whose email add I stumbled on in Twitter). My New York friend said, before she sent the polar bear here, ‘It’s time for you to have another roommate.’ I am sure she will be happy to know it went to a cute little girl in Dumaguete. Thank you again! I am not wishing for another calamity but, should the need arise, please do not hesitate to let me know and I will do my best to be able to help again.”

This just broke my heart, but in a good way. How sometimes we are moved to restore our faith in humanity because there are countless (mostly anonymous) people out there who do feel the need to reach out and help other people—even when they’re also in circumstances that is less than spectacular.

Which is why I’m quite happy to coordinate Rock Ed Dumaguete with its Manila founders—an amazing bunch that includes Gang Badoy, musician Noel Cabangon, rocker and writer Lourd de Veyra, filmmaker Pepe Diokno, publisher Ani Almario, among many, many other private citizens, entrepreneurs, and creative—visual artists, writers, musicians, and others who feel a deep personal need to help out, in fun and creative ways, the people in our country, most of whom have nothing. Part of Rock Ed’s motto is “to help make helping other people easier for most people,” in a sense to slowly create a culture and mindset of civic mindedness especially among the young. Subtlety and rocking it are all part of the package. Rock Ed’s biggest aim, of course, is alternative education beyond the classroom—essentially finding creative ways to teach people young and old about everything, from entrepreneurship to HIV awareness to solving mathematics problems. And most often with the help of music.

And so far, since Rock Ed’s inception in Dumaguete in the wake of Sendong, the response of many young people wanting to do their part—be it environmentalism or gender education or relief efforts for disasters—have been electrifying. I have never seen these many young people energized to do something for the community. I don’t think it’s just them joining in a trend. There’s genuine concern and enthusiasm here.

It is a good sight to behold, and Dumaguete is so much better for it.

Some members of the core group of Rock Ed Dumaguete: Cole Geconcillo, Mahogany Rae Bacon, Precious Grace Heradura, Mariekhan Edding, Anna Katrina Espino, Robbie Yasi, Ian Rosales Casocot, with Gang Badoy. Photo courtesy of Ms. Badoy.

If you want to become a Rock Ed volunteer, or if you have books, clothes, and other things you can donate for our various drives, please email me at ian.casocot(at)gmail.com. Visit the Rock Ed Philippines website at www.rocked.ph. Like us in Facebook (search for RockEdDumaguete), and follow us on Twitter @RockEd_Dgte.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

entry arrow12:20 PM | Today in Culture in Dumaguete: Violinist Jimmy Tagala Jr. in Concert at the Luce and Sandwich in a Benefit Concert at the Amphi

Jimmy Tagala Jr., first-prize winner of the recently concluded 2011 NAMCYA Violin Category C competitions, will be featured in a solo recital at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. The gala concert is set on 13 January 2012, Friday at 8 in the evening with a program of classical violin virtuoso works, including Concerto in D by Tschaikowsky, Caprice No. 15 by Paganini, Sonata in D minor for Violin and Piano by Brahms, Mutya ng Pasig and Bahay Kubo arrangements by Gilopez Kabayao, and Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate.

The unique feature for this concert is the special participation of Filipino violin virtuoso and musical crusader, Gilopez Kabayao, as guest artist in Scherzo Tarantelle by Wieniawski and Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor together with the featured soloist. It is one of the rare occasions when Prof. Kabayao will once again be heard in Silliman University. Corazon Pineda Kabayao will be the assisting artist at the piano.

Mr. Tagala has been under the tutelage of Prof. Kabayao since he was 12. He was first place winner at the 2005 NAMCYA Violin Category B at 14 and at 15, and was the youngest among a hundred young musicians from Asia who were accepted to join the 2006 Asian Youth Orchestra in its concert tour of six Asian countries. At 16, Mr. Tagala gave his solo debut concert with a performance of the Beethoven and Khachaturian concertos to critical acclaim. He joined the Kabayao Family Quintet in their European concerts in 2009.

A matinee lecture-recital will be held at 2:00 in the afternoon of January 13 as part of the cultural-education program for the students. Season tickets honored during the gala show. Gala tickets are available at P200 and P300. Matinee tickets are available at P100. All tickets and season passes for Luce Auditorium shows are available for sale at the College of Performing and Visual Arts Office in Guy Hall, and at the theater lobby before the show begins. For inquiries and ticket reservations, call (035) 422-4365 or 0917-323-5953.

Popular Filipino rock band Sandwich, meanwhile, headlines a concert/donation drive for rubber slippers for the Sendong relief efforts in Negros Oriental. The Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) and Rock Ed Philippines Dumaguete Chapter co-sponsor this event to spread the word about Sendong and the relief efforts still necessary to alleviate conditions in affected areas. The concert for a cause, titled “Tapok ‘Ta, La!—A Tsinelas Drive for Victims of Sendong,” is slated at 7 P.M. at the Amphitheater. More details here.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

entry arrow5:54 AM | Love and Writing

“To know that one does not write for the other, to know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love, to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that is precisely there where you [my beloved] are not—this is the beginning of writing.”

~ ROLAND BARTHES, A Lover’s Discourse

I once dedicated an entire book to declare my love for a boy. Even if he didn't love me back. That much I know, at least now. But oh the pleasures of that heartbreak—and the exquisite knowledge that this book was a singular expression of a distinct passion I would always remember. It didn't matter that he did not love me back, at least not in the way I wanted him to. He led me to words, and somehow that was enough.

I borrow freely from the dictates of Henry Miller, too: that to get over a beloved, one must turn him or her into literature. If I think hard about it, “love me, love me, love me” seems to me the biggest engine of my own writing. And so something like this from Barthes, the guru of pleasure and the text and the beloved, comes to me like a sobering reminder about the sweet and tender futility of it all. But one’s denial of that—well, it keeps me going still in writing.

I write to declare my love.

Love is all.

If I don’t write, I don’t exist.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

entry arrow1:48 PM | Sandwich Headlines RockEd Dumaguete's Sendong Tsinelas Concert for a Cause

A drive for rubber slippers is the target for the latest Sendong relief efforts in Negros Oriental. The Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) and Rock Ed Philippines Dumaguete Chapter are spearheading a concert featuring Sandwich and other bands to spread the word about Sendong and the relief efforts still necessary to alleviate conditions in affected areas. The concert for a cause, titled “Tapok ‘Ta, La!—A Tsinelas Drive for Victims of Sendong,” is slated on Friday, 13 January 2012, at 7 P.M. at the Amphitheater.

“When we scouted around during our previous relief efforts in affected areas around the province, we noted that besides food and water, people needed other important things which we tended to overlook—this includes underwear and slippers,” says Rock Ed Dumaguete Coordinator Ian Rosales Casocot, who is also a faculty member of Silliman University.

According to SUSG President Mahogany Rae Bacon, also a Rock Ed volunteer, the concert is open for free to the public, but encourages everyone to bring donations of new or usable rubber slippers when they come to enjoy the music. “We are particularly interested in people bringing in rubber slippers of all sizes, since usable pairs for kids are usually overlooked in such drives,” Bacon said. Rubber slippers will also be on sale in the concert site to make donations easier.

Rock Ed Philippines was formed in 2005 by Gang Badoy, Noel Cabangon, Lourd de Veyra, and other creatives and private citizens to spearhead—using music and the arts—alternative education campaigns in the country and to coordinate relief efforts during disasters. The Dumaguete chapter includes many of the city’s young artists, musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs.

Local bands such as Motion will also take part in the concert-for-a-cause. The event is also co-sponsored by Globe, Florentina Homes, Bethel Guest House, McDonald’s, and ADS Unlimited.

If you want to become a Rock Ed Dumaguete volunteer, please email us at rocked.dgte@yahoo.com. Or go to our website.


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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

entry arrow10:35 PM | Beginnings

Let's begin this year right. It will be an interesting year, and it will be good.

[Photo by Greg Morales]

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entry arrow1:26 PM | Call for Submission of Manuscripts to the 51st Silliman University National Writers Workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 51st National Writers Workshop to be held April 30 to May 18, 2012 in the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village.

This Writers Workshop is offering fifteen fellowships to promising writers who want to have 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 10 February 2012. All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries):

• Manuscripts should be submitted in hard copy on short-size bond paper, using Times New Roman or Calibri in 12 pt. font type.

• Applicants for Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction fellowships should submit three to five entries. Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit seven to ten poems.

• Applicants for Drama fellowship should submit at least a One-Act Play. For plays beyond the one-act length, a scene accompanied by a synopsis of the entire work should be included.

• Each fiction, non-fiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 50 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 50 pages, since a submission half that length is more than sufficient as a critical gauge.

• Manuscripts should be accompanied by at least one letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer.

Along with the manuscripts and the recommendation letter, the following requirements should also be included: resume, a notarized 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 Dr. Evelyn F. Mascuñana, Chair, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at nwworkshop_su@yahoo.com or call us at 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

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