Thank you to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, especially to its Cultural Exchange Department headed by Chinggay Bernardo, for this honor of being one of the first recipients of the KSSLAP Award for art and cultural work in the Visayas.
I am being honored for my work in the literary arts, particularly in Dumaguete—but I think of it more as a recognition of what my community can do to forge forward a tradition of excellence in culture and the arts, of which I am only a part of the fabric. That I stand here with three other honorees from Dumaguete and Negros Oriental is proof of that. We have with us Dessa Quesada-Palm and YATTA, who exemplify Dumaguete theater. We have with us Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez who exemplifies Dumaguete music. And we have with us Diomar Abrio and the Silliman University Culture and Arts Council who exemplify Dumaguete cultural work in general.
The truth is, these people who I call my friends and my cultural family—and many others like them in the fields of Dumaguete visual arts, dance, and film—have been a huge part of my life as a writer and as a cultural worker, and I hope that I have also been a huge part in theirs. Our efforts, both as groups and as individuals, have been largely successful because of the collaborative spirit we often take to pursue excellence in what we do in the name of culture and the arts.
In recognizing me and them for this award then, you are also recognizing that bond, that fabric, that inter-connectedness we all have with each other—and I am grateful for getting that chance to share this stage with them right now. This award is a vital reminder of two things for me: first, that while cultural work might often feel lonely, I am truly not alone because of these people, and because there are institutions like the Cultural Center of the Philippines ready to recognize the work of local artists. And second, this is an incentive for us to try to even reach higher ground in the development of culture in our community.
Dumaguete is a legendary city of literature—but we still have a lot of work to accomplish to really make miracles in the name of literary writing. This award is an encouragement to reach for that.
I dedicate this award to the literary giants from Dumaguete that came before me: Edilberto Tiempo, Edith Tiempo, Myrna Pena-Reyes, Bobby Flores Villasis, Ernesto Superal Yee, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Elsa Martinez Coscolluela, Grace Monte de Ramos, and so many others. When I was young and needed mentorship, they showed me the path to attain literary and cultural excellence, for which I am grateful. This award is also for them.
POSTSCRIPT: I didn't get to mention him, but through all this, Renz Torres has been both the wind to my sail and my north star—my energy and my direction in this journey to becoming. Thank you, my love.
3:00 AM |
A Letter to the Writers of the World from Afghan Writer Homeira Qaderi
I'm sharing this open letter from Afghan writer and fellow International Writing Program [IWP] alumnus Homeira Qaderi, who writes about what's happening in Afghanistan right now...
My name is Homeira Qaderi, and I am the author, most recently, of Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son. I met some of you in the International Writing Program, and I know others through your writings. I live in Kabul these bloody days, where as a writer, woman, and mother I see my people being pushed around by the Taliban. We are trapped in a war that was imposed on us: a proxy war in the Global War on Terror, but also a proxy war promoted by our neighboring countries. When the Taliban came to power in 1995, Afghanistan was ravaged by civil war, and then the spirit of our people was destroyed by the Taliban imposing draconian and obsolete laws. The world remained indifferent to our fate, believing it was still a civil war. But the Taliban’s embrace of terror posed a danger to the world, as the events of 9/11 made clear.
I want to say the war on terror does not belong to Afghans alone. This is a war that must be waged by the world. If Afghanistan loses, then the security of the world will be endangered.
Everyone has a weapon in this war. Mine is my pen. This is the pen with which I am writing to ask you, the writers of the world, to be my pen. Our displaced children are sleeping these days on dirt roads, our women give birth in the streets, our old men and women have no way to escape and thus either die in their homes or are killed in the streets where they huddle with thousands of other internal refugees. The catastrophe has reached its peak. We are nearing a painful end.
Please talk about this tragedy in your media. Do not leave Afghan women and children alone.
Please do not forget this human tragedy.
Homeira Qaderi is the author of six books, including the novel Silver Kabul River Girl, published in Iran in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim. An activist for women’s rights and currently a Senior Advisor to the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, she teaches at the University of Kabul. She was a fall resident of the IWP in 2015.
Every time I love a film from the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema [roughly the 1970s to the early 1980s], Sandy Andolong seems to be in it. I love her. Her beautiful face perfectly encapsulates the era. And her acting has always been superb and well-modulated, although she remains underrated compared to her peers of that era, which include Charo Santos, Nora Aunor, Rio Locsin, Amy Austria, Vilma Santos, Hilda Koronel, Laurice Guillen, Alma Moreno, Gina Alajar, Lorna Tolentino, and Cheri Gil. She’s exceptional in Moral and Oro Plata Mata, and a scene stealer in almost everything else she was in [even her cameo in Bad Bananas sa Puting Tabing].
This is why I’m grateful for the current spate of restoring our film heritage, which we were on the verge of losing forever — thanks mostly to ABS-CBN Film Restoration and the efforts of Mike de Leon and other bodies. Now we can truly appreciate the lushness of our cinematic storytelling [and the faces of our movie stars] which for so long remained in the shadows of faded print, mold-eaten copies, and low fidelity bootleg. [That this government endangered that effort by shutting down ABS-CBN is one of biggest crimes against our cultural patrimony.]
With Lockdown , Joel Lamangan continues his streak of godawful cinema with such retrograde sensibilities. He recycles his penchant for sex work stories captured with the pornographic zeal he always mistakes for art film aesthetics, and gives the carcass a new COVID mask. It's only a pretense at social relevance because Lamangan has nothing new to say. [Does not even know that in pandemic times, there is such a thing as onlyfans.]
If you haven’t already, you can read my new speculative fiction piece set in Hinirang, “The Cataloguer of Deceit,” on Strange Horizons! Read the story here.
Hinirang is a shared fantasy world created by Dean Francis Alfar, and many other writers — including Nikki Alfar, Kate Osias, Alexander M. Osias, Andrew Drilon, Vincent Michael Simbulan, Gabriela Lee, and Mavi Cruz — have helped people and chart this world, which is a fantastical, semi-Hispanic version of the Philippines.
Two of them [Dean’s “The Kite of Stars” and my own “The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak”] have gone on to be successfully adapted to Virgin Labfest plays.
[We’re also working on an anthology — so watch out for that soon!]
 An American missionary in Calvary Chapel [my former church] seems to be a COVID conspiracy theorist, and MAGA to boot. [Sigh.] How is this guy a “missionary”? [Worse: some people I know like his posts regularly.]
 Dear God, my poor country. The chaotic scene at SM San Lazaro in Manila early this morning, as people ran to secure vaccine slots. The system is so broken, so heartbreaking.
[Video by Anthony Llegue Norcio]
 I hate feeling like a spy, but when I see establishments breaking COVID protocol, I report. Even my favorite establishments, I report. I am concerned about COVID above all. The staff usually gets reprimanded when these things get reported. Which is why I feel guilty — but it also feels like a barbed necessity. Because I know a lot of these staff people, and they’re nice. But they’re also steeped in a cultural fix that makes them timid in front of intimidating and demanding customers they see as “important,” especially foreigners. There are class issues at play here.
 The Olympic athletes this year have been so amazing and inspiring. [Except you, Novak Djokovic.]
 Listening to opera singer Zofia Kilanowicz sing “Symfonia piesni zalosnych” from Henryk Górecki’s ̄Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 while on Ritalin rush is absolute mental orgasm.
I’m going back to my normal headspace now after spending more than a week trying to finish a manuscript. [I finished it, and then treated myself to a long overdue massage.] Hello, August, birthday month!