The Center Will Not Hold (2017), Griffin Dunne's fascinating new documentary on the writer Joan Didion, begins with her voice-over, reading from the preface of Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968): "I went to San Francisco because I had not been able to work in some months, had been paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, that the world as I had understood it no longer existed. If I was to work again at all, it would be necessary for me to come to terms with disorder." I felt this kind of paralysis early this year -- but I think most writers do. I'm glad for this film; it is a fascinating portrait of an important literary voice. Who has read "Goodbye to All That" [read here] and not been astounded by that sheer command of language?
Years ago, I had a strange visitation. I had decided to move back to my old apartment in Tubod, where I still live, because campus housing was not for me and my huge library needed proper shelving. It must have been October, during a semestral break, and I had spent the day directing the move from Acacia Cottage to this bachelor's pad hidden away in a corner of a compound with its own entrance.
I loved the dilapidated look of the pad from the outside -- a swirl of vines, an unfinished fence of concrete blocks, a "front gate" of grills, a pile of old lumber in the adjacent backyard -- because it felt like a good illustration for the truism to never judge a book by its cover. Inside the pad were walls of books and paintings and what-not. It's a small pad, a long rectangular box really, with a kitchenette.
That moving day, everything was still in boxes, and my bed had just been installed in, its mattress still naked. I was so exhausted I decided to take a nap, naked. The minute my head fell on the pillows, I was gone. I'm not sure how long I slept. Two hours? Three? But it was almost dark when I woke up -- and I had awakened because even in my deep sleep, I was aware that someone was watching me.
I came to groggily, and towering over me was a woman in dark rags, and she was looking down at me with glaring eyes. For some reason, I didn't panic. Still lying down completely vulnerable in my nakedness, I asked her in genuine confusion, "What are you doing here?" She didn't say anything, just glared at me, and then she gave me a terrible smile. That felt like eternity. After a while, she walked, or glided, slowly to where the door was. I had managed to scramble up from bed. Again, I asked her: "What are you doing here?" She slowly turned to face me; this time her face was a complete blank, completely expressionless, completely unnerving. I scrambled to dress up. But by then she had disappeared. I raced outside, to an evening that was devoid of traffic and people, and looked up and down the street, but she was gone.
A fantasy edit [using Daredevil footage] of a Trump downfall scenario, by YouTuber 1oneclone, to the tuneful sound of Matt Monro singing "From Russia with Love." This is so strangely satisfying, it almost feels like porn. [Not that I would know, you know?] Can we have a similar fantasy edit of...never mind.
It took me years to finish “The Boys From Rizal Street.” My first notes for it were assembled in 2001, if I’m not mistaken. It took many heartbreaks, and many scratches of notes scattered here and there, to finally coalesce to a story, and several others, one summer in 2015. I had just quit being coordinator of the creative writing center after three years of doing a lot of literary stuff without doing any writing at all -- and I was angry and ready to burst. And for several afternoons in a now-defunct cafe called The Venue, I churned out the stories that would now become Don’t Tell Anyone. That’s me and my bleeding heart on those pages, and thank you for sharing the journey with me, Shakira Andrea Sison.
4:41 PM |
Call for Manuscripts to the 2018 Cebu Young Writers’ Studio
The Libulan Queer Collective, a writers’ bloc of queer poets, essayists, fictionists, and playwrights from the southern Philippines, in partnership with Kagis Bisaya and YOUTeacH Philippines-Central Visayas, is now accepting applications to the 2018 Cebu Young Writers’ Studio to be held in January 2018 at the University of Cebu-Banilad at Gov. M. Cuenco Ave., Cebu City.
The Cebu Young Writers’ Studio, an adaptation of the Cagayan de Oro Young Writers’ Studio, is an annual creative writing fellowship for 14 of the most promising emerging poets, fictionists, and essayists born and/or based in Central Visayas — Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor. Fellowships are available per genre — poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. (Applicants may apply for more than one genre.)
To be eligible, an applicant must (1) be born and/or based in any of the provinces of Central Visayas and (2) not have attended any regional and national writers’ workshops organized by reputable creative writing centers and institutes.
Entries (original and unpublished works) in Binisaya and/or English shall be composed of any of the following:
• For a Poetry fellowship: 4 poems (not more than 60 lines each); or
• For a Fiction fellowship: 2 short stories (2000 to 5000 words each) of any genre; or 1 novel chapter (3000 to 6000 words each) with a synopsis; or 3 flash fiction (500 to 1500 words each); or
• For a Creative Nonfiction fellowship: 2 works of creative nonfiction (2000 to 5000 words each) such as nonfiction memoir, personal essays, travel writing, or other hybridized forms; or 3 micro-essays (500 to 1500 words each).
The general theme for works to be submitted this year is on ‘places and placelessness’—literary pieces that discuss homelands, neighborhoods, place-attachment/place-making, diaspora, displacement, and others—but is not confined only to these themes.
This creative writing fellowship will include critiquing sessions, craft lectures, and other parallel activities to be facilitated by writers from the Libulan Queer Collective — poet-fictionist Jessrel E Gilbuena, poet-essayist Adonis Enricuso, and essayist-editor Alton Melvar Dapanas, with fictionist and editor R Joseph Dazo as the workshop director. Other local writers will also serve as guest panelists.
The Cebu Young Writers’ Studio aims to initiate a creative writing culture of mentorship and critiquing in the region and institutionalize an open training platform for beginners of the creative writing craft. It is envisioned to complement with the annual Bathalad-Kagis Creative Writing Workshop.
Accepted fellows will be provided with a certificate, lunch, and snacks. (There is no registration fee but fellows, if accepted, will shoulder their own transportation and accommodation expenses to and from the venue during the whole duration of the workshop.)
Electronic copies, in MS Word format, Garamond font 12, of the manuscript may be emailed to libulanqueercollective [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject Genre_CYWS (example, CNF_CYWS). The author's name should not appear on the manuscript. On the email's body, kindly put your full name, address (within Central Visayas), institutional affiliation (workplace and/or school), mobile number, and a short bio note (150-300 words in the third person).
Deadline for the submission of manuscripts is on 15 December 2017. All inquiries must be addressed to the workshop director through the indicated email address.
Senior high school/college teachers of Literature/Panitikan and Creative Writing/Malikhaing Pagsulat courses who wish to observe the sessions may send a letter of intent to the workshop director through the email.
The Libulan Queer Collective is the writers’ bloc behind the forthcoming Libulan: Binisaya Anthology of Queer Literature and the soon-to-be launched online literary journal Payag Habagatan: New Writings from the South.
Some movies stay with you. You leave the theater pondering perhaps, or your heart perhaps touched. Some are utter vexations to the spirit. Dean Devlin's Geostorm (2017) is the cinematic equivalent of a root canal gone awry. No, that's too kind. Geostorm is cow feces mixed with that hairball clogging your bathroom drainage, tossed together in a lovely salad, with pus dressing.
I have a bad feeling about this rain. It has been pouring for hours now. I just got home, my tricycle slicing through rivers I used to call streets to get me here. Just as I expected, the interiors of my apartment is swamped. But there is no use fussing over things; I tell myself to accept the flood waters calmly. My bed is a boat.
I finally had good, uninterrupted sleep last night after having done away with assessing the stories in my fiction workshop and checking papers in my literature classes. [Today, I start with the last drafts of my playwriting workshop.] It felt great waking up this morning without the feeling of dread. Plus the day's overcast, so that helps. I could take it easy, of course; people keep telling me that. No staged readings, no final anthologies, no research defences, no final papers. But it wouldn't feel right. Plus there’s a design to all these: it’s all about reviving, researching, archiving Negros Oriental writings — my research focus for the past few years. So yeah, The Grading Crunch is heavy, but it feels like it’s worth it.
Crunched through the third and final drafts of three stories of my fiction class the entire day today. Going through their first batch of stories was, well, excruciating -- even after two grueling workshops. [They were basically throwing everything into the mix and forgot what I've been telling them all semester to do: to raise the stakes for their characters, and to make crucial decisions to cull the unnecessary.]
And then, AND THEN: they soon found their footing, their voices, their secret narrative quirks in the second and third batches stories. I found myself delighting at their inventions, things I didn't see in the second drafts of both batches.
This was a tiring day -- but I end it with some satisfaction.
I miss blogging. I miss the length of posts and the ability to imbed images within the body of the post. I miss the sense of ownership and uniqueness - how I would change my layout from time to time to reflect something I thought or felt. I miss the ease of search. I miss reading other blogs, especially the long reads, and learning consistently more about another person or their interests. Once in a while, on Facebook, I'll break the dictum on short status messages and post something long - because sometimes, length is needed, and we all need long reads once in a whlle.
missing the point
If everything is better stated briefly, then I am not long for this world. I inhale to exhale worlds in words.
missing the past
When my eldest daughter was five years old, she offered up the usual challenge.
"It's time to tell stories, Dad," she said. "You tell one and I'll tell one."
"Oh, no," I told her, shaking my head. "I don't have a happy one in mind."
"What kind do you have?"
"Well, it's kind of bittersweet."
She expelled a sigh then looked me in the eye. "I like those too - but they make me cry."
"They make me cry too, you know."
"Is it really, really sad?"
"Well, not really, really sad," I said.
"Ok, then you can tell your story - but mine will be really, really exciting. An adventure, okay?"
"Ok," I agreed. "But you go first."
And she launched into an adventurous romp featuring lost crayons attempting to find their way back home, helped by the objects that shared similar hues.
I applauded when she was done, then cleared my throat and made ready to begin my own story when she raised a hand to stop me.
"Why?" I asked her. "Don't you want to listen to mine?"
"I do, Dad," Sage said as she nuzzled her way into my arms. "But I want to be here right next to you because I know your story is sad."
And so I told the story and my little girl listened. When we got to the really, really sad part, she looked up to me with tears in her eyes, which provoked my own.
"Can't this story be a little bit happy?"
"Wait and see."
And I finished the story, with a little happiness, and held the girl I loved so much, and we shared that moment after a story is told when only perfect silence is acceptable.
"That made me cry, Dad, but I really really liked your story," she told me later. "Now let's tell Mommy and make her cry."
Should I call this "a weekend of cinematic siblings -- a love/hate story"? Because it does feel that way, and with no deliberate design on my part.
But it was interesting to see Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories on a Saturday and then Cathy Garcia-Molina's Seven Sundays on a, well, Sunday -- and see two stories that perfectly parallel each other, and yet be so culturally distinct, be so colored by their own directorial sensibilities. [But let's not talk about the ending of Seven Sundays, a racist miscalculation disguised as a comic bit.] Both films feature adult siblings at odds with each other and yet still remain irrevocably bonded by blood. And then, when forced to be together because of a sick father, their unsaid recriminations boil over but depicted with sly humor and surprising tenderness. Tenderness is important.
From Baumbauch, my take-away was more philosophical, even artistic. From Molina, perhaps because she knows what makes a Filipino moviegoer tick, my take was more visceral, immediate, and emotional. By God, I tried hard to remain above it all, to disregard the conventional manipulations of this Star Cinema confection -- but I was truly a mess when the film was through with me. And I don't think I was alone in that regard: the theater I was in was filled with people suddenly made quiet with contemplation for their own familial misdeeds. (It's Ozu's Tokyo Story with more hope.)
For who among us there in the darkened theater could not identify in ways with the travails of the Bonifacio family onscreen? Who among us do not delude ourselves constantly into thinking we're too busy to see an aging parent at least for the weekend? Who among us do not harbor resentments for being ignored, for being belittled, for being "used" by kin? I finished The Meyerowitz Stories with the pleasure of having my brain stimulated. I finished Seven Sundays emotionally adrift, but in a good way, sending me off on a contemplative mood that made me ask what else I can do to make up for all the "pagkukulang" I have for the family.
Preferably over crispy pata, or Rebisco biscuits, to the soundtrack of Apo Hiking Society singing "Batang-Bata Ka Pa."
The clips we got in our social media feeds were actually cropped, incomplete -- edited to be race-baity. The white woman actually eventually turned into an Asian woman, and so on and so forth, suggesting a theme of fluidity more than anything else. Context changes perception. It's still a campaign that should have been rethought before execution, but the complete story should give us pause. The quick outrage that followed may have harmed more than helped our fight for POC concerns. In this age of click-baits and fake news, it is always wise to verify and research everything, even things that preach to our kind of choir.
3:00 PM |
A Review of 'Don't Tell Anyone' by Doni Oliveros
Local erotica at its best. Erotica aims to arouse your senses. To titillate. Fine. But this book is more than that. This is literary. The writings of Casocot and Sison are flawless. Crisp. Eloquent yet definitely shameless. The stories, the words, hit you in the groin as well as up there in your head. In her introduction of the book, Sison mentioned that this could be the book that you will hide to everyone while reading: “Bury under your bed and wrap its cover with plain paper.” This is unnecessary or even unforgivable. Books like this are no longer smut these days. Gone were the days when porn at home are your father's and it is somewhere in a locked cabinet. Now, porn is just a click away. Hiding this kind of book is making the works of Anais Nin and James Baldwin inaccessible to Filipinos. Based on what I read, in my opinion, Casocot and Sison are in their leagues. Juxtaposition of male and female in the third-sex worlds. For the uninformed or the naive, this book directly answers what gay men and lesbians do in bed to satisfy their carnal desires. No holds barred yet the emotion, could be love, is there. I am not sure if they are true but the writings of Casocot and Sison sound sincere if not sinfully honest. Which one did I like best? Sison writing lesbian F2F stories or Casocot's gay M2M actions? Sison's is more carnal while Casocot is more emotional. There is a world of difference in there but they are both ohhh so goood. Kudos to Anvil for taking the courage of publishing this homo-erotica. This could be a start of something new for us readers and lovers of Philippine literature.
Someone told historian T. Valentino Sitoy that the bit of Dumaguete being the “city of gentle people” is Rizalian lore, a local one—that it’s found, perhaps, on the historical marker on his statue at Quezon Park. Like any good scholar, the good Dr. Sitoy promptly inspected the site and the marker—and found absolutely nothing there about Jose Rizal extolling the virtues of Dumaguete as a place of people of profound gentility.
And yet this has become a famous anecdotal legend that everyone gives, especially tour guides.
No one knows where this bit of “history” comes from. We do know that Jose Rizal disembarked in Dumaguete for a Saturday’s excursion in 1896, after his exile in Dapitan, and he was reported to have noted how particularly engaging the people of the small town were. The word “gentle” is not found in his diary, of his brief chronicle of his Dumaguete stay. The closest thing to it is this observation he scribbled down: “I called at the house of Mrs. Rufina, a beautiful house, where after four years, I heard the piano expertly played. I observed that the people of Dumaguete are fond of decorating their houses with plants and flowers…”
Beautiful music, beautiful houses—beautiful people. And such gentility. Perhaps the aura of the description stuck.
Today, of course, Dumaguete bills itself, in some official capacity, as the City of Gentle People, and attributes it to Rizalian mythology, whether or not it can be proven by recorded history.
I resolved, however, to dig a little deeper, and found this bit from Father Roman Sagun’s translation and extended annotation on Father Mariano Bernad’s history of Dumaguete. Fr. Sagun is one of our underappreciated local historians, the bulk of his passion being local parish history—and he has done extensive work chronicling the Spanish settlement of Oriental Negros. About ten years ago, he embarked on a study of Fr. Bernad’s “Reseña Historia de Dumaguete (A History of Dumaguete in Retrospect)”—an important historical document, published in 1895, considering the fact that Fr. Bernad (1835-1915) was the last Spanish pastor of Dumaguete when the Americans came, had served the town with utmost devotion for most of his life, and was beloved by the locals. He had also expressed the need to tell the history of Dumaguete until 1895, although he had confessed a difficulty: “It is not an easy task to be able to investigate the exact facts and get the reliable information about the origin and beginnings of the town of Dumaguete, having interviewed so many but only finding faint traces about the past.”
Mariano Bernad Sanz
In “Reseña,” we catch a glimpse of a possible origin of Dumaguete as a “gentle” place, and attributes it to native culture nurtured by Spanish civility. Bernad, as translated by Sagun, writes: “The people of the Oriental Coast are most hard-working, perhaps because they were able to adopt the ways and attitudes of their parish priests, mostly Spaniards, like Father [Jose Manuel Fernandez de] Septien, who was so tenacious and enterprising… I was also able to observe that they distinguish themselves as gentle in manners and showing great admiration and respect for their priests. May they be able to keep it up as God wills it. This gentleness (cariño aprecio) and affectionate nature (afecto) must be traceable in the remote past, the people having been nurtured by so many Spanish parish priests, in as much as the town since antiquity was in constant contact with Cebu whose inhabitants used to achieve the fame of being gentle (cariñosos) of which I knew a long while… [Before the 1850s], generally speaking, the pace of life in these towns moved very slowly.”
Could this be the true historical source of the phrase “city of gentle people”? Dumaguete playwright and cultural worker—and now retired University of the Philippines professor—Ludendorffo Decenteceo, however, has another theory, and it points to more contemporary origins.
“The phrase ‘the city of gentle people’ was coined by Philidore Quingco of DYRM,” Lu wrote me. “Quingco also worked at DYSR at one time. DYSR started it all by having the tagline of Dumaguete as the ‘cultural center of the south,’ or words to that effect. The initial effect it had on people was, ‘Yuck!’ But it is the odd word that sticks out and sticks.”
So, was it Bernad? Or Rizal? Or Quingco?
No one can know for sure—but the proof of the puto maya may be in the people themselves, as we are now, gentle faces for a city that’s in constant flux.
10:11 AM |
A Review of 'Don't Tell Anyone' by Anette Fabre of Anette the Wicked
Right off the bat, this book is amazing, I have never read anything like this obviously because this is the first LGBT literature I have read. Really, this is amazing. I have no qualms reading smut because duh, fangirl since 2009. I have long been exposed to smut. Literary smut that is. You know, stories that depict sex as something beautiful almost. Sex is where two people come together, either to fall in love or not. Both authors have tackled writing LGBT sex as beautiful as heterosexual sex. I have been reading gay smut stories since I have been exposed to the world of fan fiction. If I'm not reading books, I'm reading fan fiction. But, gay fan fiction is different from literature. Literature is more raw. It digs through your heart and mind. After that, it fills you up with so much emotion that you kind of overflow. This book is no nonsense, straight up gay and lesbian erotica. This book should be handled with caution yet with an open mind. I mean, come on. the LGBT community have sex just like heterosexuals, albeit it looks different. But yes, they can have sex. They can achieve climax as well. Damn right, they are the sexiest people I have ever come across with. Not only do they have sexy bodies to begin with, but their minds are sexy as hell. This book is literally in your face. Like, really you will devour this in one sitting. Or maybe sitting on top of someone, I don't know. Hah. Innuendo right there. Reading this book didn't change my sexual orientation as a heterosexual. Reading this book made me understand the struggles and hardships of the LGBT community when they fall in and out of love. They suffer so much just like we do. Reading this book makes me want to study about gender and all the difference that there is about it. Just so I could understand that there's more to it than just being called a man or a woman. This is just a beautiful piece of literature that I hope some day a lot of people would get to read more LGBT Lit. I hope this isn't the last from either of these authors. I hope more people follow suit as well. This book is funny, sexy, witty, sad, and just downright amazing. Just buy it now.