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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, February 26, 2012

entry arrow8:32 PM | Am I Still Here?

The past few weeks so far have been such a blur. This has been such a strange February. I'm not sure I like it. Am I still here? Just checking in.

[Photo by Urich Calumpang]

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Friday, February 24, 2012

entry arrow3:45 PM | Poem That Had Some Difficulty With

By Mikael de Lara Co

I’ve always wanted to begin a poem

with the line, “I’ve always wanted

to begin.” Now I have. Best to end here,

but then the universe is expanding

back into its black beginnings,

and space, aware of its own looming demise,

is singing of possibilities. I’m almost over, it sings,

it’s almost over and sooner or later we’d be left

with nothing but time. If we live that long.

Sometime before then all our dialects

will have moored on the gray sands of forgetting,

all our sad words will have started

to repeat themselves, as if sound didn’t dissipate

into stillness, as if not everything has been said before.

Here, let me tell you a joke: I am a man of faith.

Or a child, a tree, some living thing

that will someday be a dead thing.

What does faith have to do with it? I know;

it isn’t funny. Nothing funny about mortality,

how movement bleeds into clockwork,

how clockwork succumbs to its own igneous finitude.

How we aid entropy by being born.

See? I only wanted to begin, now I’m humming

the ghost-heavy refrain of imminent endings.

In that song about possibilities, someone

is hurling an empty bottle skyward. I see you:

You’re imagining it slowing towards its peak,

anticipating gravity, its ruthless duty. Stop.

Don’t. Let’s go. Let’s not be around when it shatters.

Let’s not wait for an ending.

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entry arrow2:46 PM | On a Clear Day, One Cannot See Forever

Outside, the blue of the sky — it’s summer azure with none of the sultriness — should promise something grand and wonderful. It doesn’t. I cannot smell adventure in the air that’s burning from the blaze of the sun. I cannot take flight. I am not myself today. Then again I have not been myself the past few weeks. I feel like a piece of trash lost in a garbage dump. I feel like my life’s on hold, for the worse, and there’s nobody else to blame but me.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

entry arrow8:55 AM | The Oscar 2012 Watch List

Every year, I make it a point to watch every single Oscar-nominated films (barring the short subjects) before the telecast itself, just to be in the know with the rest of the film world. Last year was a successful run, and I watched all ten best Picture nominees more than a month before the show itself. This year, I've been a bit remiss. And so, just to make sure I don't miss out on anything, I've made myself this check-list.

Best Picture
☑ The Artist
☑ The Descendants
☑ Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
☑ The Help
☑ Hugo
☑ Midnight in Paris
☑ Moneyball
☑ The Tree of Life
☑ War Horse

My money is on The Artist. I love War Horse, but it's too traditional, and no one's betting on it. I love The Tree of Life as well, but no way's this one's going to win. Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball left me cold, and The Descendants and The Help seem like a trifle. And I hated most of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

☑ A Better Life
☑ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
☑ Albert Nobbs
☑ The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
☑ The Iron Lady
☑ My Week With Marilyn
☑ Warrior
☑ Beginner
☑ Bridesmaids
☑ Margin Call
☑ A Separation
☑ The Ides of March
☑ A Cat in Paris
☑ Chico & Rita
☑ Kung Fu Panda 2
☑ Puss in Boots
☑ Rango
☑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
☑ Anonymous
☑ Jane Eyre
☐ W.E.
☐ Hell and Back Again
☐ If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
☐ Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
☑ Pina
☐ Undefeated
☐ Bullhead
☐ Monsieur Lazhar
☑ Footnote
☐ In Darkness
☑ Drive
☑ The Adventures of Tintin
☑ Rio
☑ The Muppets
☐ Transformers 3
☑ Rise of the Planet of the Apes
☐ Reel Steel

Thirty-six out of 46. Not a bad margin anymore. Still gotta do better. (But will I have the time at all?)

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Friday, February 10, 2012

entry arrow5:26 PM | Love and the Writer

My friend, the young film critic Don Jaucian, posted this not too long in his Tumblr, and I thought it best to share it in the eve of Valentines week: “Writers are straight up, batshit insane people. You should never fall in love with them.”

He means to be cheeky, of course, himself being a writer. I found myself laughing at this because, in all honesty—and I’m probably kissing goodbye to my career as an earnest searcher for true love in Dumaguete—every bit of Don’s pronouncement is true. One can define this “insanity” of writers in so many different ways, but there are aspects to this truthiness, especially in that claim about loving them. When a writer loves you, worry: you will get immortalized as literature. If he doesn’t immortalize you, worry: you don’t move him enough for him to see a poem in you. If there are broken hearts involved, worry: you get immortalized in literature, warts and all. (Emphasis on warts.)

I think film director Marc Webb captured it best when he commandeered a quote attributed to the writer Henry Miller, and gave it to one of the characters in his film 500 Days of Summer as a piece of advice to its lovelorn hero, Tom: “The best way to get over a woman [or a man] is to turn her [or him] into literature.”

Because God know I have.

(And not always successfully.)

Once, many years ago, I had this terrible quarrel with Mark, someone I used to love and live with. We just had dinner with my ex who had decided to come back to Dumaguete to set up a restaurant. The dinner went well, but soon—on the way home—jealousy reared its ugly head. We found ourselves soon parked in a spot along Escaño Boulevard on a Monday night. Inside that green Pajero on that slow night, we had a row that was so dramatic, complete with earth-shattering dialogue, that I couldn’t help but think, in the middle of a fierce rebuttal: “I must remember this night. It sounds like a short story.”

And I did write about it, in a short story titled “Tell Him.”

Why do writers do this? Is it nothing short of airing our dirty laundry in public? Not quite. I guess one just follows the creative writing maxim of “writing what you know”—and sometimes the affairs of the hearts, compounded by its fierceness and more than considerable drama, is too compelling to refuse being set down to writing. I think of the exercise as something of a catharsis: in writing about the loves of our lives, we are somehow trying to find answers to our own unsettled questions. It also helps that in formulating the motivations for every character, especially the one clearly based on the lover, one is compelled to think of the situation from a point of view that is not yours, but theirs. You come to embody them—and in many ways, you see yourself through their eyes. Their pain also becomes your pain, and it helps in the act of moving on. Literature as psychoanalysis, if one must label it.

This may be why in all of my books, I could not seem to stop myself from dedicating each one to someone I’ve once dearly loved. If I may make a confession, in those books, I may have inscribed my own history of loving. They may be attempts to immortalize those fleeting days when love was all that seems real.

A young writer named Mik—and that is all the name I know—once wrote something wonderful in her Tumblr blog about what happens when a writer loves you. What she wrote was the most honest, most damning, most funny revelation in answer to that question. It is something I wish I had written myself. So, what happens when a writer loves you? Mik writes:

Lots of things might happen. That’s the thing about writers. They’re unpredictable. They might bring you eggs in bed for breakfast, or they might all but ignore you for days. They might bring you eggs in bed at three in the morning. Or they might wake you up for sex at three in the morning. Or make love at four in the afternoon. They might not sleep at all. Or they might sleep right through the alarm and forget to get you up for work. Or call you home from work to kill a spider. Or refuse to speak to you after finding out you’ve never seen To Kill a Mockingbird. Or spend the last of the rent money on five kinds of soap. Or sell your textbooks for cash halfway through the semester. Or leave you love notes in your pockets. Or wash you pants with Post-It notes in the pockets so your laundry comes out covered in bits of wet paper. They might cry if the Post-It notes are unread all over your pants. It’s an unpredictable life.

But what happens if a writer falls in love with you?

This is a little more predictable. You will find your hemp necklace with the glass mushroom pendant around the neck of someone at a bus stop in a short story. Your favorite shoes will mysteriously disappear, and show up in a poem. The watch you always wear, the watch you own but never wear, the fact that you’ve never worn a watch: they suddenly belong to characters you’ve never known. And yet they’re you. They’re not you; they’re someone else entirely, but they toss their hair like you. They use the same colloquialisms as you. They scratch their nose when they lie like you. Sometimes they will be narrators; sometimes protagonists, sometimes villains. Sometimes they will be nobodies, an unimportant, static prop. This might amuse you at first. Or confuse you. You might be bewildered when books turn into mirrors. You might try to see yourself how your beloved writer sees you when you read a poem about someone who has your middle name or prose about someone who has never seen To Kill a Mockingbird. These poems and novels and short stories, they will scatter into the wind. You will wonder if you’re wandering through the pages of some story you’ve never even read. There’s no way to know. And no way to erase it. Even if you leave, a part of you will always be left behind.

If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.

Ponder on that. And Happy Valentines to one and all.

[photo still from Shakespeare in Love]

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

entry arrow6:03 PM | An Affair of Culture

Last of two parts. Read part 1 here.

Last weekend, to mark a surge in this art and culture renaissance in Dumaguete City, we did a national media launch for the 50th anniversary of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. This is perhaps the best-organized cultural body in the city today, distinguished by the fact this may be the only university standing committee that takes in the full participation of the community, as well as other sectors—the church, the alumni, the faculty, the staff, the students, aside from kindred spirits from the community of artists in campus.

The media in the Edith Lopez Tiempo Library of Antulang Beach Resort. Photo courtesy of Annabelle Lee-Adriano.

They came from all over to witness the promises of the upcoming 50th Cultural Season, to start June 2012 all the way until May 2013—media representatives from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror, Cebu Pacific’s Smile Magazine, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Magazine, Esquire Philippines, Good Housekeeping, ABS-CBN, Visayan Daily Star, MetroPost, and KillerBee among them. We got the help of Florentina Homes and CocoGrande to house them, and KRI, La Residencia, and Lab-as to give them an idea of the culinary culture of Dumaguete. The Silliman Campus Ambassadors gave them a cultural tour of the campus, while the Province of Negros Oriental, Sidlakang Negros, and the City of Dumaguete gave them a cultural tour around town. By the weekend, Antulang Beach Resort hosted them for a fortnight, complete with a spectacular sunset view of Tambobo Bay off artist Karl Aguila’s residence. By the end of it all, Ballet Philippines artistic director Paul Alexander Morales pronounced it “one of the best weekends” he’s had, which Philippine Opera Company’s Karla Gutierrez and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Raul Sunico readily agreed to.

Taking a bow during curtain call at the Luce Auditorium for Handulantaw. With Yvette Malahay-Kim, co-director Leo Mamicpic, and director Dessa Quesada-Palm. Photo by Aris Ramiro.

We gave them as well a performance of select cultural groups and artists in campus—including young pianist Alexis Pal, the Kahayag Dance Company, Kwerdas, the COPVA Rondalla, the Silliman University Gratitude and Goodwill Ambassadors, the cast of the current Godspell, among many others—in a show at the Luce Auditorium titled Handulantaw. Director Dessa Quesada-Palm wrote of the show in her program notes: “Sensorial hints of an island-terrain. Unearthed pages from decades past. Scattered texts of poetry, songs and dances. Beloved artists and mentors who left an indelible influence. Memories, musings, and insights. Handulantaw constitutes a collective act of remembering. It has fragments of the past fifty years and more, a cultural mosaic of the locale that continues to shape, instruct and inspire this generation of artists and cultural workers in its own being and becoming. It is a necessary conversation that invites retrospection and looking forward. Hence the deliberate connection of handum/handumanan (‘reminisce/keepsake’) and lantaw (‘looking forward’). And that is the grace of a rich history, that in putting together and making sense of its parts, what may seem so disparate, belonging to distant contexts of time and space, are brought together in a narrative that becomes accessible, real and meaningful to the present.”

Dessa continues, with a more somber note: “We asked ourselves whether there is wisdom in organizing the Silliman University’s 50th Cultural Season at the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Sendong in our communities. Disasters bring a raw sensibility that is so urgent, so troubling, so compelling. It was a self-interrogation, which led us to the past again, on periods of strife and suffering, when artists did not succumb to despair and hopelessness, but instead resolutely created arts that healed, that probed, that tamed the chaos, that lifted spirits. This is what we are celebrating. That intractable yearning in each of us to sustain life and creativity come what may. It is, indeed it is, a powerful and irresistible covenant with the Divine.”

What are we celebrating? Since Silliman’s founding in 1901, a very important part of campus life has been its cultural fare. Every week, there is always a concert, a literary workshop or poetry reading, a play, a dance, an exhibit, a film showing, or some other cultural activity taking place in a number of exhibition halls and performance spaces, such as the Luce Auditorium and Foyer Gallery, the Woodward Little Theater, the Guy Hall Music Sala, the Silliman Hall Gallery, the Amphitheater, the Robert and Metta Silliman Main Library, the Gymnasium, the Audio-Visual Theater, the End House Gallery, the Silliman Church Catacombs, and others. Before the Luce’s completion in 1975, Shakespearean plays were regularly presented in the Amphitheater, and prestigious performing companies such as Le Grand Ballet Classique de France and such musical luminaries as pianist Susan Starr have performed in the Gymnasium.

In 1962, the Cultural Affairs Committee was formed under the able chairmanship of Prof. Miriam G. Palmore, who was the former director of the School of Music and Fine Arts (now the College of Performing Arts). Among the famous artists and performers in those early years (before the building of the Luce) included the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance Company, Taipei Children’s Choir, French concert pianist Nicole Delannoy, German violinist Denes Zsigmondy, American soprano Julia Finch, Swiss pianist Nicole Wickihalder, Filipina pianist Cecile Licad, American violinist Stanley Plummer, and popular local singers such as Pilita Corrales who was then a singing superstar in Australia. With the Luce finished by 1975, culture and the arts had a permanent home in Silliman.

Silliman’s own artists and performers also dominated the cultural landscape with unique contributions to the world of arts, including the National Writers Workshop founded by Edilberto and Edith Tiempo the Men’s Glee Club founded by maestro Albert Louis Faurot, Kwerdas and the Silliman University Campus Choristers founded by Priscilla Magdamo-Abraham (the latter co-founded with Emmy Luague and Ruth Imperial-Pfeiffer), the Silliman Young Singers and the Luce Choral Society founded by Isabel Dimaya Vista, the Silliman Dance Troupe (now the Kahayag Dance Company) founded by Lucy Jumawan-Sauer and Shona Mactavish, the Aldecoa Family Ensemble, Musika Sacra founded by Elmo Makil, the Portal Players founded by Amiel Y. Leonardia.

The Cultural Affairs Committee, under the leadership of chairpersons including Prof. Miriam G. Palmore, Prof. Isabel Dimaya-Vista, Prof. Ruth Imperial-Pfeiffer, Mrs. Vienna Silorio-Jumalon, Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez, Dr. Laurie Hutchison-Raymundo, Prof. Eva Rose Repollo-Washburn, Prof. Joseph B. Basa, and Prof. Diomar Abrio has continued its mission to bring to Silliman University and the Dumaguete community various cultural representations aimed at exposing them, especially students, to all the arts—with a subsidized fare, perhaps the most generous of its kind in the country, allowing students and the Dumaguete community to see cultural presentations by such national companies and cultural organizations as Ballet Philippines, Philippine Educational Theater Association, the Manila Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Manila, Dulaang U.P., the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, the Bayanihan National Dance Company, the Ramon Obusan National Dance Company, the New Voice Company, Philippine Opera Company, Little Boy Productions, British Council, Japan Foundation, and others.

It is a heady undertaking—and often rocky, too—but it is a mission. Among us members, this is a responsibility we don’t take lightly, passionate as we are about the need for a sustainable celebration of culture and the arts here in Dumaguete. As we look forward to the Golden Anniversary, we aim higher with the full knowledge that what we are celebrating in fact is the human spirit.

With Little Boy Productions' Hendrison Go, Silliman President Ben S. Malayang III, and Ballet Philippines' Paul Alexander Morales after the Handulantaw show. Photo by Darrell Rosales.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

entry arrow9:51 PM | Screen Caps for Dumaguete Shorts

In 2008, representing Dumaguete for the Cinemalaya Film Congress, I was asked during my panel in the Cultural Center of the Philippines if there was a community of filmmaking in Dumaguete. "Sadly, no," was my reply, but vowed to get things going. So here we are, we just had Dumaguete Shorts: A Festival of Short Films By New Dumaguete Filmmakers last Friday. It was fun, the kids loved it. it's a start.

Ramon del Prado's Libingan [2007]

Eliora Eunice Bernedo's The Bird, The Bees and All the In-Betweens [2009]

Stephen Abanto's Suga [2011]

Karen Grace Yasi's Anniversary [2009]

Brian Rimer, Kim Cuevas, and Mary Aimee Leduna's Amor y Sangre [2011]

Razceljan Salvarita's I Am Patience [2012]

Hersley-Ven Casero's Paper [2010]

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

entry arrow12:48 PM | On Death, Without Exaggeration

By Wislawa Szymborska, 1923-2012

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

The 1996 Nobel Prize-winning Polish-born poet died today. This is the obituary by the Poetry Foundation.


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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

entry arrow8:44 PM | Prayer

Apparently the French has a term for repeating a word continuously it finally loses meaning. They call it "jamais vu.” I think of that, and then I think of repeating your name, endlessly, until the very effort exhausts me. But I'm afraid no meaning will be lost. The act, I'm sure, will only become a kind of prayer.

[Art: Bird's Eye View by Steve Walker]

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