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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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Saturday, October 31, 2020

entry arrow11:17 PM | Pass or [Cos]play?

Last year for Halloween, the s.o. and I decided to dress up as Elio and Oliver from Call Me By Your Name. That may have started an end-of-October tradition: this year we decided to dress up as Gavreel and Cairo from #Gameboys. Fun, fun, fun.

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entry arrow9:01 PM | Sean Connery, 1930-2020

My mother loves James Bond with a fever almost equal to her faith, and I think it's because of Sean Connery [1930-2020]. I'm sure it's an attraction to the image he presented with such virile vitality on screen—good looks and roguish charm, danger and class, suaveness and naughtiness all in one package. I don't think the actor himself managed to get out of that stereotype after breaking out of 007: all that we expected of his film persona was still there in abundance in his aging but still legendary and heroic outlaw in Robin and Marian, in his Prohibition era police officer in The Untouchables, even in his mankini-clad adventurer in the post-apocalyptic future of Zardoz. I enjoyed almost every measure of his star turns. He will be missed—by my mother especially.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

entry arrow8:19 PM | A Soundtrack to a Waking World

Most mornings, I wake up before the city stirs. I breathe in the utter quiet and stillness of the early hours, lulling myself into believing that the moment is a womb, and there is no one else in the world.

This is usually around three o’clock. It is a waking hour that has become my life’s new surprising constant—and another evidence of how the pandemic has changed the DNA of our days. In the old life, in my night-owlish existence that had seemed set in stone, 3 AM would have been the time I would grudgingly start succumbing to sleep, fighting the drowsiness until my tired body lost the battle. But the hours and days since March have become floating and empty signifiers, and from that murk of timelessness, I have become a mutant: a morning person.

You know how it is to wake up in the earliest hours of morning? My question springs from the surprise of the ignorant. You see, I never knew until now that the early morning stillness had weight—a sweet embrace that feels like water in a pool—and I’ve since learned to take that in as an invitation to meditate. Or more often: as a repudiation of the craven, virus-filled world. For a few minutes, the silence has me believing nothing else existed beyond the cocoon of my bedroom, which is lit in the warmth of yellowish lamplight. It calms me. But it is a fantasy that does not last—the sound of early plying tricycles soon rips through the quiet, and the light of dawn creeps in through the windows. And then it is another day.

Most mornings, around five-thirty—every other day to be exact and when it does not happen to be drizzling—I’ve taken to another new surprising constant: walking. Who is this early morning waking, early morning walking person I have become? I don’t know. But I’m sure my suddenly useful white sneakers know. I reach for the pair in a ritual that now feels comfortable, and once properly clad—and with my facemask and ear buds on—I step out into the bluish hue of the outside world, and feel my body ease into the gravity of walking.

I have my preferred route for my morning walk, which is really encompassing the familiar and comforting geography of my childhood growing up in several houses along this very route. Was this by design? I’m not sure. From my apartment near Tubod, I go northward along Hibbad Avenue, then turn right on EJ Blanco Drive on the way to Piapi Beach, hopeful that I could catch the sunrise breaking from the horizon. Then I go northwards once more past Escaño and into the enclaves of Bantayan, turning left on Silliman Farm, on to Magbanua Road, turning left on Rovira Road, and then the tail-end of the walk homewards along Hibbard.

Sometimes I vary the route: sometimes I turn right on Rovira from Magbanua, and then take the road through Mango—and suddenly it is 1983 again, and I am a rail-thin first grader taking to this very road in the early morning to catch the flag ceremony at West City Elementary School. We lived for a while in a house a stone’s throw away from the Mormon church—a brief miserable period made happy only for the fact that we lived so close to Silliman Beach. The empty lots along Mango, which were fenceless and overgrown with flowering bushes where I used to chase butterflies or catch damang in matchboxes, are still empty lots today but are now fenced in—and there is the look of rot in their wild vegetation now, no longer paradise to butterfly-chasing children.

I very rarely take this route. It is potholed with vengeful ghosts.

Sometimes, when I feel impossibly adventurous, I go opposite my usual route. From my Hibbard Avenue turning point in Bantayan, I’ll find myself walking the entire southward direction of Flores Avenue, from Silliman Beach to Lo-oc, and then into the bricked walkway along the paseo of Rizal Boulevard, turning right into Burgos Street, and from Quezon Park walk all the way home to Tubod. I will have run out of my usual walking music from my Spotify playlist by the time I behold Rizal in his monument—and that’s when I tune in to the goddesses Sia, Robyn, Madonna, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Icona Pop, Sandra Bernhard, Janet Jackson, and Carly Rae Jepsen, in choice songs meant to add zest and wings to my last stretch home.

I have my preferred soundtrack for walking, of course. In my Spotify, it’s all cued up under a playlist titled “Meditative Zen”—consisting exactly an hour or so of mostly classical music that I love, which feels like the perfect complement to my morning routine. Walking past Harold’s Mansion in Tubod, the sound of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings, Op. 11” feels like a gentle nudge from dreaming to waking, the violin strings reaching out to some unformed hope. It is morning personified in sound.

Tubod—a sitio so named because there is a natural spring here where lavanderas of old used to wash the clothes of their clientele of Silliman students living in nearby dorms [now the spring has been paved over in concrete]—is old stomping ground for me. When I was in third grade until sixth, we lived in the basement of a wooden house somewhere in Tubod’s bowels, and when I close my eyes I can still recall the lavanderas chattering in the spring. Our mailing addresses insisted on calling the place “Springville” though; the sitio was aspirational that way.

By the time I turn right on EJ Blanco Drive in my morning walk, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” kicks in, sometimes with the moon still hanging in the lightening blue of morning sky. And with Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” I am watching the sunrise off Piapi Beach. On good days, the glint of bright sunlight swathes seaside Flores Avenue in golden hue, and the effect is striking. On very cloudy days, I see the shadow of rain pelting Siquijor, the sun peeking shy behind the mass of angry grey. But always—good day or not—in the low tide, and to the sound of Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of Animals,” the sight of distant figures poking in the shallows.

In the Escaño stretch going to Silliman Beach, I see the fishermen going about their boats and nets and fresh catch to the tune of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot. Some of them are shirtless, lazing about on the seawall with a mug of coffee in hand.

This is a long stretch of new road. Some people call this Cheesesticks Avenue. My music segues to Gounod’s “Ave Maria” as I change movement, my legs now going for an ambitious jog. I pass by what used to be the beachfront of old South Seas Resort, now paved over with concrete road. It is hard to believe that I was seven once, and my older brothers and I used to swim in the waters here, which is now a stretch of concrete road. Once we frolicked too long in the waters off South Seas and evening caught us, and as we swam to shore, we spied the hubbub of a party in the grounds of the old resort. I remember the bright lights and the sound of distant chatter and the big band music, and that inchoate wonder of stumbling upon a different world. I am now hearing the strains of Mozart’s “Requiem: Lacrimosa,” and my legs are aching from the effort of running.

When I turn left from the entrance to Silliman Beach, I hear the plaintive longing of Williams’ “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter, and I suddenly break from the run and go back into brisk walking. My breathing is hard, and my shirt is clinging to my skin in alien sweat. Silliman Beach was my Bantayan childhood’s safe haven: I spent countless spirited days browning my skin here, playing in the surf with other kids whose names and faces I now no longer remember. And the tree-covered road along Silliman Farm—what is the name of this road? how do I not know the name of this road?—that leads to the beach will always be tinged in nostalgia for me. [The strains of Dvořák’s “Serenade for Strings in E Major Op.22.”] I love most of the split-level bungalows along this route of Silliman Park. Every morning, I see this middle-aged man going about the grounds of an immaculately kept house, walis tingting in hand, his zest for order and cleanliness gleaming like the house he lives in. Most mornings, I also see Colby Palm in a little veranda off his house, reading a book, sipping his coffee.

By the time I hear the strains of Massenet’s “Méditation” from Thaïs, I’m past the sad-looking houses in the next block of Silliman Park I see. I’m also past the entrance to Silliman Farm, gunning now for Magbanua Road, past the vast empty greens that mark the beginnings of Golden Rule. Why do we call this place “Golden Rule”? Do we still call this stretch of lonely road “Golden Rule”? I run past the sad shadow of what was once the glorious Hikaban, the late Elena Maquiso’s center for traditional arts. I run past the Mamicpic residence, but I never see Leo. [Once I caught Jasmine, his niece, walking the dog.]

Eastwards of Rovira and swerving right into Hibbard, Giacchino’s “Life and Death” from Lost begins. This stretch of place—where Piapi gives way to Bantayan—was my childhood neighborhood thrice, first when I was around six and we lived in a wooden house fronting Silliman Village, which is no longer there; and then from my high school years and we lived in an amakan house fronting ABC Learning Center, which is also no longer there. So many things are no longer there. [And so many of the old places I love have also been paved over with concrete.] After college, we finally moved into a house of our very own beside Silliman Village, where my mother now resides gracefully in her greying years. She is 86. But I don’t live with her, and this is not yet home. I still have a lot of ground to cover before I am home. I stop at the entrance to the little road that leads to the family house, and from my spot along the highway I see in the distance my mother’s bedroom window. I wish her good morning in the truest sense of “social distance.”

This is my last stretch of morning walk, and I take it easy. By the time I hear Saint-Saëns’ “Le Cygne,” I’ve gone past North City Elementary School [where I once spent a grand total of one month trying out first grade before stubbornly dropping out] and I stop by the curbside vendor selling puto maya and tsokolate at the corner of EJ Blanco and Hibbard. The stand is recessed into the ugly concrete embankment that had swallowed the beautiful willow tree garden of old Casa Flores, now gone. The puto maya is ten pesos per cone-pack of banana leaves. I buy twenty pesos worth for breakfast, and ten pesos worth of tsokolate. Tradition is comfort.

I turn when Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”—which is eternally mournful and nostalgic—finally leads me the rest of the way home in Aldecoa Drive. It occurs to me there is more to my morning walk than just a token for fitness. It has become a map of memory, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the heartbreak.

But I also think it has become a quest for moments, and this is the lesson it has to teach me. What is beholding a moment, and remembering what is lost, except basking in the brief beauty of things? There’s the rising sun, and it is beautiful, and it presages another day—and it moves on. It’s effervescence we worship: the futility of stillness, the end of a cycle of music, the past paved over by concrete, and even when we store them in our memories, we know these too will erode, or sink into the cold comforts of forgetting. But we still love waking up early to see the sunrise anyway.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 44.


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Thursday, October 22, 2020

entry arrow6:06 AM | Good Breakfast

My breakfast. Puto maya, tapol, and tsokolate from the vendor at the corner of Hibbard Avenue and EJ Blanco Drive. Which do you prefer? Puto maya or tapol?

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 43.

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entry arrow5:30 AM | Turn Back Time

I really would like to borrow my costume again from our production of Elsa Coscolluella’s In My Father’s House [2013, directed by Amiel Leonardia] and just strut around the city pretending it’s still 1940.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

entry arrow9:32 AM | Killing Your Best Friend in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978)


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Friday, October 16, 2020

entry arrow1:50 PM | The Other Shoe Dropped

To be honest, the “normalcy of the past two months when Dumaguete enjoyed being COVID-19-free felt like a ticking time bomb of complacency for me—although I did enjoy the chance to see friends again and to dine out, albeit things I had to deeply manage considering my hypochondria and general anxiety. But I never trusted the atmosphere of normalcy. It was the proverbial wait for the other shoe to drop. People were already going about without masks on, people were already partying—which astonished me. I knew just one weak link could send everything tumbling down.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 42.


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Monday, October 12, 2020

entry arrow6:44 AM | The Sun Always Rises

It has been a while since I’ve done my early morning walks. [Was July the last? Speaking of time feels funny.] But I felt the need to begin this week with a view of sunrise. So here it is, off Piapi Beach, obscured somewhat by rain clouds but no denying it’s there, its bright orange tendrils evidence enough. The sun always rises.


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entry arrow4:26 AM | The S.O. is Soup Santa

I love soup. Woke up early today and when I open the refrigerator to get water to drink, I spy something inside: the s.o. has surprised me with two tumblers of his “instant noodles” concoction again—vermicelli noodles with meat and vegetables, which comes with his own blend of oil and patis, ready to go just by adding hot water. The s.o. is Soup Santa, stealing in when I'm not home to deposit things in my ref designed to delight. Love someone who makes you surprise soup.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 41.

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Monday, October 05, 2020

entry arrow9:00 AM | The Discomfort of Being Teacher

The year has been very dark and unexpected in its tumult, but also ironically generous with its apportioning of much-needed reckoning and hindsight. I cannot allow myself to celebrate today with full heartedness. In my estimation, I have been both a success and also a failure as a teacher, and the sum that comes out of that is an average fool only trying to make sense of his day and what must be done, trying to do his best, sometimes failing to do so, and often heartened by the discovery that I have done something worthwhile in my teaching to someone. It is not easy being a teacher. I have many students who appreciate what I do, but also just as many who call me a “terror teacher” who demand too much for a minor subject. [Sometimes that gets to me, and I ask, what for all these?] But I am proud of the students who took that as a challenge, and also bothered that for many others I do not—cannot—do enough. It’s World Teachers’ Day, and I can only wish I live up to what is celebrated. I never feel I do.

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Friday, October 02, 2020

entry arrow6:06 PM | White American Academic Calls a Vast Swath of Literature from a Country His Own Country Once Colonized as "Small"

That essay currently circulating around [no links, ewww] rankles because it asserts something about my Silliman writerly education that is untrue, and negates the effort of my mentors.

Can you imagine Timothy Montes, Marjorie Evasco, Merlie Alunan, Leoncio Deriada, Grace Monte de Ramos, Nino de Veyra, Ceres Pioquinto, Elsa Coscolluela, Cesar Aquino, Erlinda Alburo, Anthony Tan, Jaime An Lim, Eva Rose Repollo, and others -- the so-called "Tiempo set" -- being "apolitical, de-historicized, assimilationist, and anti-nationalist"? Like whaaaat? That is not what I was taught. These people went beyond New Criticism, and also argued with each other, especially during workshop [the fun part of SUNWW is the panelists arguing] -- and most of them became pioneers in the cultivation of regional language literature and in the process helped bring about an understanding of local poetics/aesthetics. [They made me start writing and valuing Binisaya literature, for one thing.]

I didn't get taught a monolithic, America-aping idea of literary writing, like we were whores of formalism.

The Tiempos, too, grappled with the issue of language in so many articles, grappled with national issues [you'd know if you actually read their poems and stories], and also fought the Marcos dictatorship in their speeches and writings [EK Tiempo's SEAWrite acceptance speech is a prime example; also Silliman was one of the "notorious five," the last five schools/universities permitted to reopen during Martial Law].

I gather that Doc Ed had very specific views of fiction, for example, but his voice was only one workshop voice, albeit authoritative-sounding and colored in baritone; he is not a synechdoche to understand the fullness of the workshop, and often he was fiercely in loggerheads with Edith over the merits of a poem or story. [In that battleground of ideas, from Aristotle to Derrida, from Marx to Anzaldua, is where I learned literature.]

To quote Alana Narciso's forthcoming essay on the matter: "To claim too that the Tiempos were mere receptacles of English colonial education, mindlessly parroting American standards is to reduce the complex issue of language and the intricate processes of cultural transformations even in post-colonialism into a discourse that is limiting in its simplism."

There's so much more to reveal actually -- especially the assertions about current organizers of the workshop, and our so-called lack of reckoning with our history. WTF. If you only knew...


The more I think about it, the more offensive it becomes: a white American academic diagnosing as "small" a vast swath of literature written by writers in a foreign country his own country had colonized. Offensive, and insulting. The empire striking back once more, and making generalizations over a literature he has probably have not read.

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