At the present age, Filipinos would usually seek to involve themselves in more lucrative preoccupations. It is a need. Not all of us are privileged to just travel, enjoy the scenes, watch sunsets. Not all of us are given the time to reflect around us and create. Yes, all of us are battered by unwanted stimuli everyday but not all of us can create something out of it—at least in one of the accepted art forms. Many would start at an early age but would abandon the habit altogether. Perhaps after seeing that there’s no place for it in the current sphere. They just forget and go through life as it is.

The poor would say: “You can’t eat art nor can it bring food on the table.” How can you read or write when your stomach is eating you? How can you look at art when you can’t even get inside a museum or gallery for want of proper attire?

There’s also familial pressure: “Fine Arts is a course for rich people!” or “You will gain nothing from your pen, enter maritime or nursing school instead!”

You hear this all the time. And the government, alas! The government, despite Constitutional mandate to promote culture and the arts, seems to treat it as second thought. The CHED has not mandated that national fellowships or literary prizes be commensurate to an MA or at least MA units. For some measure, writing or reading is taught by example (as National Artist Edith Tiempo used to say), and writers are voracious readers—and writers. For this reason alone, they ought to be the one teaching literature subjects. Passion for literature is a contagious malady. If you don’t have it, you can’t inoculate it.

Admit it or not, there are only two factors that serve as impetus for literary culture: 1. An inquisitive mind, and however sophomoric it may sound, 2. Peer pressure. Why is it that I did not say “an inquisitive literate mind”? This is because literary culture is primordially performance-based. For instance, poetry is drama, is theater—is performance. We all have this in us—an inquisitive mind, only that in an effort to civilize us, society trained us not to “stare” too much or “ask to many questions.” It is however inherent, if not native to us, to be curious, to observe, to read. The world is a text and is something to be read. And this culture of reading and observing is better shaped by peer pressure.

Hence it is nothing new for us to hear about the Beat Poets or the Nuyorican Poets in the US during the 40’s and 60′s, or The Ravens and the Veronicans in the Philippines during WWII or just right after. The literary flame is somewhat kept alive by these groups. They influence people to write, and they likewise encourage people to read. Ironically, their passion could even lead to a book burning incident as in the case of the Balagtasistas and the Modernistas during the 60s. The result of the Talaang Ginto being dominated by the Balagtasistas so much infuriated the younger generation of Tagalog writers that they ended up tossing to the fire not only their plaques from said contest but also books by the old vanguards or “matatandang tanod.” Not to mention that earlier, the parties almost ended up in a knife fight in some nearby beerhouse. The book burning infront of the National Library proved to be a more peaceful way of expressing literary disgust during those times.

Yet there could also be factions. We all are familiar with this story: Poet starts a writers group, but later, ideologies come in the way, forcing him to leave and start anew—with a new group. Yes, it is true that the practice of literary arts is a political act. The choice of what language to use is a political choice. Poetics in fact, much as it could get so technical, is still a political animal as culture is always politics.

But my take on the matter is this—the same is a political question and not a justiciable or scientific one. It lies on prerogative, on personal freedom of choice. And nobody can tamper with that and no one would want that theirs be tampered with. More so that of artists and creatives.

It is safe to say that these writing groups, no matter how we argue that one does not need a group to be able to write, kept literary culture alive within and without the academe. Heck, it even caused career shifts for some. It is not uncommon for a pre-med student to end up shifting to a creative writing or literature course after being “brainwashed” by a group of poets wont on doing guerilla tactics on campus—starting up poetry readings just about anywhere and anytime, and then disappearing just as fast as they assembled.

And so we have groups like UP Quill, UP Writers Club, Heights, Malate, Thomasian Writers Guild and FEU Writers Guild to name a few. Outside of the campus, we have KM64, Kamakathaan, Guniguni and so many more. And with the advent of social media, they are now manifold—poetry slam groups, Facebook poetry, haiku poets, you name them, you got them.

And in the provinces, these groups also continue to thrive. Just in the Bicol Region, we have Kabulig-Bikol, ABKAT and Parasurat-Bikolnon. These groups are active within and without the academe. And just lately, we hear of campus-based group Ateneo Literary Association (ALA) doing small poetry workshops and readings here and there. Their presence could very well have caused some career shifts as mentioned earlier, but they push on.

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This month of April, where summer heat is just as fiery as the creative writing workshop season, ALA is holding the very first TALA Poetry Workshop. To be held on April 11-12, the workshop will utilize the so-called “writeshop method” or “praxis method” where theory is followed by practice. Lecturers will give inputs on poetic forms, voice and tone, and metaphor, and then the writing fellows, true to their name, will write. They will write according to the lesson of the day. Later, their output will be critiqued, placed under astringent scrutiny by the panelists and the fellows themselves. The workshop will be held at the Ateneo de Naga University, at the 3rd floor of the Fr. O’Brien Library (Multipurpose Room).

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With Jusan Misolas as workshop director, this writer has been invited as one of the lecturer-panelists this year, along with Frank Peñones, Jerome Hipolito and Jeff Regullano. And this year’s fellows are: Joy San Jose Agor, Anthony Diaz, Ken Brian Esperanza, John Leir Castro, Rea Robles, Elmer Guarin Ramos, Shellah Farina Chan, Stephen Prestado, Ma. Leonora Cervas-Bregala, Cherry Ann Largo, Jeffrey Almazan and Love Leir Arcelie Castro.

WRITER FOR OTHERS

April 7, 2014

Pertinent to my application for a travel grant with the Harong kan Literaturang Bikolnon (Naga City-LGU) as per my Dumaguete fellowship (for poetry), I was asked to prepare a letter showing the benefits that the Nagueno would get from my travel. In this regard, I started to look into myself. What have I done for my people? Am I just a writer for myself? An ego writer who has self- aggrandizement as primordial motivation? I had to ask myself these questions and introspect.

Looking back–I do remember that 2003 was my homing year. It was the year that I started to feel like going home. I was determined to further my academic life in this locality, find work here and perhaps start a family–and of course, practice literary arts here. I wanted to start a writing group, a critique group to be exact. At that time, I was already a LIRA member and had attended the Ateneo and UST National Writers Workshops. I wanted to look back though, to dream the dreams of my youth. I thought that Bicol itself is already a rich material. I can make it here, and in Manila, and in the world literary arena as well. No need to locate myself in the Center.

But before taking any more steps, I figured if there was already an existing writing group here in Bicol. And there was. The late Rudy Alano was then the ring leader for Kabulig-Bikol. I joined them.

But Kabulig-Bikol was taking too much time. I wanted the group to have more fire.

I continued to associate with them through. Writing is a lonely vocation, and they were good beer buddies. But I persisted in attending national workshops, sending my works to publications and joining some contests. Technically, I was on my own. But I found real good company in Tomas Navarro, a fellow Atenean who was as good as a strategist as a prose writer. I also loved the company of the ABKAT people from Tabaco, Albay for they were so project oriented. They could get things done.

But deep inside, what I really wanted was to do research on Bikol poetics and write a book about it. I also wanted to share my poetics to young Bikol writers. Hence I organized the Tarusan Bloc and I gave free lectures and workshops. Thanks to my teachers Rio Alma, Cirilo Bautista, Ricardo Lee, Marjorie Evasco, and Cyril Conde, I had a firm ground when it comes to comparative literature. And so I did my thing–monthly poetry critique sessions.

But it wasn’t enough for me. Bikol poetics dictates that poetry is drama–is theater, is performance! I wanted to go out and make Naga City a city of literature by organizing poetry gigs from time to time. Said gigs would be open to the public, and for the benefit of the public. Poetry in public places–this was my battle cry and it still is.

Now I realized that I have published three articles regarding these gigs. Let me post their pictures here.

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This appears in the August 1, 2012 issue of The Daily Tribune. And it is about the Writers Gig and VerSosimo projects. Now I was not able to take a photo of my article “Not Your Usual Writers Trip” which was also published in the same newspaper on January 3, 2013. But as you all know, I took a picture and posted my article ” Come as You Are: Naga City’s Poetry Reading Culture” which appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of the Philippines Graphic.

Well, man. If you want to be a writer for others. Organize occasional poetry gigs in your locality. Do it for the people. They deserve more than what popular culture offers them.

I was invited by the Ateneo Literary Association for their first Tala Poetry Workshop, a campus based workshop. It will be held at Ateneo de Naga University on Friday. The workshop approach is the so-called “writeshop,” and the methodology is: 1. Lecture, 2. Writing activity, and 3. Critiquing. My topic is poetic form, actually, one of the toughest. I will make it as simple as possible. I also plan to assign a simple poetic form during the writing activity. There will also be poetry readings and other intermission numbers. The group even invited my band The Super Poet Genome Project. We will figure.

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The deadline for fellowship application is today, April 7. If you are an Atenista, a Bicolano Atenista who is somehow connected or was connected to AdNU, and you are serious in pursuing a career in creative writing, give this a try. It is wise to attend regional workshops first before applying for national ones. And read my book too, “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” (NCCA, 2008). Copies are running out!

COME AS YOU ARE

April 3, 2014

A few weeks ago, we had a Cirilo Bautista tribute as part of the Naga City Public Poetry Project. Only a few was able to attend as readers. There were only five of us there. But still, we pushed through. Afterwards, we had a meeting. You see, we are planning to apply for grants. I made a video of the event and started sending the YouTube link to FB friends. I wanted to involve as many people as possible, even those who failed to attend. The result was amazing. People did show interest and watched the video. Joel Pablo Salud, the editor-in-chief of Philippines Graphic even wanted me to write an article on the poetry gigs that I have been organizing in Naga City. So I did. And now the article is out, printed in Page 36-37 of the April 7, 2014 issue of said magazine. Please do buy (and grab) a copy at your nearest news stands, National Bookstore and 711 outlets. Here’s the picture of the pages. Nice lay-out!

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The next session is going to happen on April 25, 2014, again at the Raul Roco Public Library. I hope we could replicate the WG/VerSosimo/Bikol Slam projects as per attendance. Summer, summer, poems of summer. More updates coming!

BIKOL SLAM 2012 VIDEO

April 2, 2014

In 2012, something great happened in the literary landscape of Naga City, the Bikol Poetry Slam. Watch the complete video here.

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The Raul Roco Library will host a monthly poetry event dubbed as Naga City Library Public Poetry Project (NCLPPP) which will feature lectures, poetry readings, performances and books, among others. Main organizers include Naga-based writer Jose Jason L. Chancoco, AdNU-POEM moderator Elsie Albis and City Librarian Riko Vinluan. The first installment, a lecture by Chancoco on Bikol poetics, was held on February 28, just in time for the closing of the National Arts Month.

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

Chancoco, a known organizer of literary events in the city, is the person behind the WG and VerSosimo. Said poetry projects were held monthly at the now defunct Wharf Galley Rock Café until it moved to Sosimo Bar. The Public Poetry Project will have almost the same format as the previous poetry gigs, featuring multimedia and performance poetry, but this time there is a lecture-workshop element.

For the month of March, the NCLPPP will be a Cirilo F. Bautista Tribute. Poems by the incoming National Artist for Literature will be read on March 14 at 4-6pm. An open-mic segment will also follow. Interested parties may contact the organizers at hagbayon(at)gmail(dot)com.

PPP

Last February 28, 2014. I did a lecture on Bikol poetics (Pagsasatubuanan) before a small group of interested youngsters (AdNU-POEM members). On March 14, 4-6PM, we will do a Cirilo Bautista tribute. We will read his poems, and then what-not, open-mic!

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

GOING TO DUMAGUETE

March 7, 2014

Mr. Good News came by last Wednesday. I got a slot as English poetry fellow for the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop this year! Earlier, I responded to their call for manuscripts which went this way:

Call for Manuscripts to the 53rd Silliman National Writers Workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 53rd National Writers Workshop to be held 5—23 May 2014 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village.

This Writers Workshop is offering twelve fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines 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 15 January 2014. All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries).

Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries. Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowships should submit at least one (1) One-Act Play.

Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 30 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 30 pages.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 13.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts.

Manuscripts should be accompanied by the official application form, a notarized certification of originality of works, and at least one letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer.  All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to Department of English and Literature, attention Prof. Ian Rosales Casocot, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at silliman.cwc@gmail.com or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

There. It’s been years since I applied for a national workshop, the last being the Iligan National Writers Workshop in 2005. And so I gathered my material and ended up sending poems in English. Now the result:

53rd Silliman University National Writers Workshop Slated for May 5—23

The 53rd edition of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop is slated to start on 5 May 2014 at the Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village in Camp Look-out, Valencia, Negros Oriental. 

Twelve writers from all over the Philippines have been accepted as workshop fellows. They are Jose Jason Chancoco (Ateneo de Naga), Daniel Hao Chua Olivan Jr. (Ateneo de Manila), Maria Camille Rivera (UP Diliman), and Roberto Klemente Timonera (Silliman University) for poetry; Jovy Almero (UP Diliman), Prescilla Dorado (UP Mindanao), Jose Renato Evangelista (DLSU Manila), Rolly Jude Ortega (Silliman University), and Erlinda Mae Young (UP Diliman) for fiction; and Johanna Michelle Barot Lim (University of San Carlos), Jan Kevin Rivera (UP Diliman), and Gracielle Deanne Tubera (Ateneo de Davao) for creative nonfiction. 

The panel of writers/critics for this year includes Director-in-Residence Susan S. Lara; Dumaguete-based writer César Ruìz Aquino; and guest panelists Gémino H. Abad, Dean Francis Alfar, Merlie Alunan, Ricardo de Ungria, Marjorie Evasco, Grace Monte de Ramos, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, DM Reyes, John Jack Wigley, Alfred Yuson. They will be joined by two foreign panelists whose names will be announced later.

The workshop, which traditionally lasts for three weeks, is the oldest creative writing workshop of its kind in Asia. It was founded in 1962 by S.E.A. Write Awardee Edilberto K. Tiempo and National Artist Edith L. Tiempo, and was recently given the Tanging Parangal in the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

This year, the workshop is co-sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. 

For more information about forthcoming events during the workshop, please email Workshop Coordinator Ian Rosales Casocot at silliman.cwc@gmail.com or call the Department of English and Literature at (035) 422-6002 loc. 520. (Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center)

There. I am excited to travel again and meet new people. Dumaguete, Hagbayon is on the way!

Carl Jung’s Theory on Collective Unconsciousness and formation of archetypes, ‘natural attitudes’ (in phenomenology) or in layman’s term, ‘notion’ of things concrete or abstract, living or non-living, presents itself as a ‘nativist’ theory. He says Collective Unconsciousness is a theoretical pool of memories or reservoir of experiences that we are born with as species but we are not directly conscious of it.

However, I think by mention of ‘experiences’ his theory then leans on its ‘cognitivist’ side. Because even if we are born with what I will call (in Chomsky’s mold) as AAD or ‘archetype acquisition device’ there is still a need for meaningful human experiences for one’s consciousness to flow into the sphere of Collective Unconsciousness.

Cross-cultural analysis of myths, epics and legends will reveal evidences of these archetypes. But I think the great Carl Jung should have read an unusual archetype in Oryol, a cunning and deceptive nymph from the Ibalong epic fragment. She knew how to project naïveté only to lure unsuspecting macho guys like Handyong. And the latter would end up in a compromise partnership with her in fighting unattractive and devilish monsters (and crocodiles) in Bicolandia.

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It appears that these common notions articulate themselves not only in ancient oral traditions but also in other artistic pursuits and preoccupations. They are so much into our lives that they even influence our judgment and some of our decisions. However, I should say that Jung’s theory is also structuralist in orientation. It tends to linearize human notions oblivious of cultural boundaries. But this is not to say that his attempt is failing, but rather perhaps it needs some culturally determined extensions. For example in Bicol, we have the archetype and embodiment of machismo in the persona of Kulakog, a mythical creature with a huge penis. Archetypal formation then is really a culturally bounded phenomenon.

In the poem “Not My Best Side (Uccello: S. George and the Dragon, the National Gallery)” by English poetess U. A. Fanthorpe, we see the seeping in of three main archetypes; the Monster or Dragon, the Maiden and the Hero or the Knight, into an artistic pursuit other than literature, in this case, the visual arts. However the archetypal articulation by Italian painter Paolo Uccelo in his St. George and the Dragon is interrogated by Fanthorpe’s poetic discourse resulting to a deconstruction.

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by Paolo Uccello

The poem is divided into three parts according to voice. The first part has the monster or the Dragon talking to the reader. The second part has the Maiden talking to the reader. And the last part has the hero or the Knight talking to the Dragon.

The approach of the poet is neither narration, imagism nor lyricism but rather expository, or in Filipino, ‘tulang patanghal’. In this case, the line-cascade and poetic utterance is pre-determined according to the persona and are conveniently subdivided into three parts. The main merits of the poem are in its consistency in voice, tone, language and form in effecting a deconstruction. Throughout the text the voice, tone and language of the poem will interrogate the archetypal articulation of the painting by being the poetic discourse themselves unaided by imagistic/metaphorical manipulations and acrobatics but supported by phenomenological methodology.

What if we remove all our ‘natural attitudes’ on archetypal figures and re-examine the roots of this notion in order to come back to the essence of things. After much introspection, how can we apply them to current human preoccupations?

As a product of the interrogative pattern of the poetic discourse we come to know a monster that has the attitude of an image model. It says: “The artist didn’t give me a chance to pose well properly.” It is also concerned, like a movie-star or politician, with bad publicity. It says: “But afterwards, I was sorry for the bad publicity.” It also comments and interrogates the human archetype of a prim and proper, well-groomed hero when it says: “Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror/ Be so ostentatiously beardless..?” It also reacts on the artist’s perspective: “Why should my victim be so/ Unattractive as to be inedible”. Here the monster ceases to be the manifestation of human primal fear, but the poet fills it up with very human actuations and impressions.

In the second part, we are confronted with a highly hormonal and calculating maiden concerned both with pleasure and financial security. She is very much a delineation from our notion of a damsel in distress. She says of the Dragon: “He was/ So nicely physical, with his claws/ And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail, / And the way he looked at me, / He made me feel he was all ready to/ Eat me.”

In deconstruction, previously established definitions take on a different meaning, and ‘To eat me’ has come to articulate female prerogative. It also humanizes the maiden, expressing her repressed preferences (personal unconsciousness): form follows function, effect and performance is superior to propriety. And of course the future has to be secured first and indulgence in provisional pleasure should be momentary: “what could I do? / The dragon got himself beaten by the boy, / And a girl’s got to think of her future.” Yet she comments on the insecurity of those who live by the books, follow the rules and hide behind the armor of the system. She says of the Knight: “So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery, / On a really dangerous horse, to be honest/ I didn’t much fancy him. I mean, / What was he like underneath the hardware? / He might have acne, blackheads or even/ Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–/ Well, you could see all his equipment/ At a
glance.”

In the third part, we hear the Knight (St. George) and we gather some things about knighthood and the hero job: “I have diplomas in Dragon/ Management and Virgin Reclamation.” Being a knight was partly legalese and determined by familial and financial origins. It was part of the political system and therefore a machinery of political discourse or repressive state apparatus. And of course it was often used in warfare and political subjugation: “My spear is custom-built,/ And my prototype armour/ Still on the secret list. You can’t/ Do better than me at the moment. / I’m qualified and equipped to the/ Eyebrow. So why be difficult?”

More importantly, it was also a trade: “Don’t you realize that, by being choosy, / You are endangering job prospects/ In the spear- and horse-building industries?” The Knight is the coercive structural force and the Dragon, the liberal rogue. The former is the brute and the latter, the lover. Together they form the thesis and anti-thesis, and in war there is no synthesis but profit.

(This article also appears at Global Press.Org)

FRIENDLY FIRE

January 2, 2014

I was going to prove that you need not got to Manila to get to Iligan City. And so there I was, almost a month after I received a call from Cherly Adlawan of MSU-IIT that I made it as fellow for the 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop, waiting for the only Cagayan de Oro bound bus in the Naga City Central Terminal. It was ten in the evening of April 27 and I was not going to get a ride until four the next morning. Call it the preliminary rites to the bloodletting that was to happen in the writers’ workshop.

Why take a bus from Southern Luzon to Northern Mindanao? Of course aside from my mild regionalist sentiments, I wanted to see the countryside. I don’t get to travel this far, so why spoil it with a plane ride? Anyway our bus will be on board a barge twice, from Matnog, Sorsogon to Samar, and from Liluan, Leyte to Surigao del Norte. So it’s pretty much the same as taking a bus to Manila, a ferry to Cagayan de Oro and another bus to Iligan. Besides, this route is cheaper and faster.

I brought with me a map and everytime I would spread it out to pinpoint our location, my fellow passengers would peer. We would be traveling for a day and a half so why not try to win some friends along the way? They could also be useful in giving more specific directions when I get to CDO.

One thing you will notice (if by chance you are an alien) with Filipinos is that they are still much rooted to their regional past. During the trip, it was easy for the Mindanaoans to gel. Of course we began to smell the same due to the long trip, but their having their own language lost the need for cultural translations. And so they felt comfortable with each other, up to the point of even sharing their life stories. They also were partners in crime, abolishing the ‘single file’ rule whenever it was time to get our ferry tickets from those poorly manned Ro-Ro terminals. And we were quite happy about it too, with the chaotic queue, smell and all.

It was during the trip when somebody with the typical Maranao goatee told me to take caution when I get to Iligan. “They kidnap people there,” he says. And with my semi-samurai and (they say) Carlo of ‘Lovers in Paris’ look, I had enough reason to worry. But as they say, you never really know until you get there. A semester of Philosophy of Man and phenomenology of this and that turned me into a recycle bin of ‘natural attitudes’.

CDO Soiree with Michael Coroza’s Doppelganger

A cousin of mine works for the Philtranco and he said Naga-CDO trips usually take two days. I was expecting to arrive Saturday, but it was Friday morning when I got to the “City of Golden Friendships.”

“Yes, Cagayan de Oro is a big city!” says Raul Moldez in an SMS. I was asking him to pick me up at the terminal, and to be sure that he would be around when I get there, I announced my arrival as soon as I saw the ‘Welcome to CDO’ sign. He then told me to text him when I get to the terminal.

I had not really met the poet Raul Moldez before. But perhaps being like-minded writers, our paths crossed inside the cyberspace. The internet has caused quite a stir in the literary world that more and more writers are into it.

A man who looked very much like Michael Coroza approached me. Then I knew it was Raul Moldez, unaware of his striking resemblance to the poet from Taguig who writes in Filipino. He smiled, only to confirm the resemblance.

Cagayan de Oro is rich with factories. I learned that electricity there costs pretty much the same as it is in Bicol (where we have an abundant source of energy in Tiwi), but perhaps due to its distance from the center, which is Manila, it encouraged industry and self-sustenance. No wonder Raul refers to the country’s capital as ‘imperial Manila’, a place he says he has never been to and has no plans of visiting for he has no affection for it.

Bit I had the urge to tell or perhaps remind my friend that his city is beginning to look like Manila, and therefore, apparently has not escaped its ‘imperial claws’. With all the malls, taxicabs and the traffic, there is no mistaking it for Nick Joaquin’s city of affections.

That is why Raul says; the city government is trying to restore the glory of the city park right in the middle of Tirso Neri St. and R.N. Abejuela St., West-bound Hotel Ramon and East-bound Xavier University. There is the so-called Nite Café every Friday and Saturday and also a night market. Before the malls came, the people of CDO were park goers, using the place as a cultural melting pot, and even as venue for family outings and picnics.

It was there in the Nite Café where I met Mario Batausa. I was to partake with the genesis of a CDO-based writers group. Raul, editor of Verses, cannot help but feel like a voice in the wilderness in the city of his affections. Thus the need to form a network of writers in the community. I suggested that they meet regularly and do informal creative writing workshops. I also do the same with the help of some young poets in Bicol. But my network is quite large, and there is a need to always classify them as to language and geography. And that network is about to be widened even more with the 12th INWW.

To the Muslim Country

Just like the others, I almost got lost. The bus was supposed to pass by MSU-IIT but when I got to Iligan, I was told to go catch a jeepney. It was a good thing that a woman helped me around for it was a common observation among us that some Iligan folks are not your usual tour guide type.

And so for some nebulous turn of events my Luzon to Mindanao inter-island adventure came to an end with a simple “Hi Jason!” from co-fellow Jennibeth Loro who arrived in Elena Tower Inn a few minutes ahead of me. I was still in Iriga City when I looked up various eating-places and so I was looking forward for a taste of Sun Burst Chicken. So there I was, together with Jenni and Ma’am Merlie Alunan, enjoying lunch while discussing something heavy, like the politics of language or culture. I stressed that it is important for young writers to create with respect to their regional roots. Ma’am Merlie could only muse that things are hard in Tacloban, and she says it is perhaps because she scares young writers away, being one of the grand dames of Philippine literature.

LuzViMinda Well Represented

I was the only fellow for poetry in Filipino. With this, you can deduce two things: 1.) Congrats, you topped the poetry in Filipino division. 2.) They are not into it anyway, I mean, theirs is a Cebuano country right?

One glance at the folio confirmed everything else: it was a workshop heavy with regional literature. And being a Bikol writer myself, I found the situation very healthy. Philippine literature is more importantly the ones written in various other Philippine languages other than Tagalog/Filipino. So it follows that Philippine literature is not only Manila-literature. It is true that we miss a lot of things when we are in the Big City.

We can say that with all the national writers workshops, it is only in the INWW where Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao writers are well represented. They get five fellows from each region, and the opening ceremonies would remind you of a national beauty contest where the emcee would say: “And now, from Mindanao…!” And you stand in the middle of the stage pretending to look writerly—but oftentimes some of your co-fellows would really take the chance to look more like, of course, beauty queens.

Held on May 2-5, the workshop fellows for Luzon are Rosandrei M. Ladignon of Cubao, Quezon City (UP-Manila), Maria Abigael M. Malonzo of San Fernando, Pampanga (UP-Diliman), Jose Jason L. Chancoco of San Francisco, Iriga City (Ateneo de Naga University), Vladimeir B. Gonzales of Novaliches, Quezon City (UP-Diliman), and Virgilio A. Rivas of Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City (Polytechnic University of the Philippines). Fellows for the Visayas are Roger B. Rueda of West Visayas State University, Bryan Mari Argos of Roxas City, Capiz (St. Anthony College of Roxas City), Marcel L. Milliam of Roxas city, Capiz, Jennibeth R. Loro of Green Heights, Merida, Leyte (UP-Visayas Tacloban College), Dennis M. Ravas of Tacloban City (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross). Fellows for Mindanao are Jamila Ruth A. Hojas of Suarez, Iligan City (Ateneo de Manila University), Charisse Mae T. Ampo of Tabon, Bislig City (UP-Mindanao), Jose Ma. Y. Tomacruz of Davao City (Ateneo de Davao), Telesforo Sungkit, Jr. of Sumilao, Bukidnon (UP-Los Baños) and Grace S. Uddin of Tagum City (UP-Mindanao).

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Panelists this year are Rosario Cruz Lucero, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Jaime An Lim, Leoncio P. Deriada, Merlie M. Alunan, German V. Gervacio, Tim R. Montes, Steven Patrick Fernandez and this year’s keynote speaker, the fictionist and Director of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center, Vicente G. Groyon. The workshop is sponsored by The Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Iligan Institute of Technology and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and is under the directorship of the venerable Christine Godinez-Ortega.

Much as I went slow in critiquing works in Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray, for we were dealing with translations; I also had to take the pains of being asked to explain my works right after critiquing. We can say that there was a language barrier, more so, an aesthetic and cultural barrier. My being a writer in Bikol did not help either. I can no longer clearly assume that our nearness to the capital is to our advantage. Perhaps it simply made things a bit more interesting for us—with Bikol poetics more closely affected by the hybridization of Philippine culture. Shall we say that it is to the Cebuano writers’ advantage that they are far from the center? I should say so, for they can easily create their own center—as they are bent on doing.

12th INWW Literary Folio

Now we need only to wait for the publication of the batch literary folio due next year. The folio will include all of the comments form panelists and fellows alike on the manuscripts. This, aside from the fact that our video cam armed co-fellow, Vlad Gonzales ‘threatened’ to come up with his version of the ‘12th INWW: The Real Score’, with our talk shows and documentaries of poetic outbursts.

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A Leoncio Deriada sponsored game also helped reveal the macho dancer instinct of the fellow with the “pinakamagandang itlog sa balat ng lupa.” This proves that there can be no legitimate writers workshop without nudity—as in the Silliman beach. The last time I heard of the fellow, he was still doing teacherly activities, checking papers and the like. Way to go.

Surely, a workshop cannot be legitimate without drinking sprees either. Alcohol enhanced conversations on the human genome, courtesy of this writer, did not at first sound like a topic that like-minded poets would indulge into, same with the medical and scientific truth on the aswang folklore, courtesy of Bryan and Marcel of Capiz. But believe me they were and it did not make me forget about my kris, the sword that I was supposed to buy in Iligan as souvenir. Next time around, I will get the longer one.

Might as well bring my katana too.

(I am posting this old article because soon it will be national writer’s workhop season in the Philippines. I wrote this in May 2005 after I attended the 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop)

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