December 28, 2006

To all credit card holders who would like to visit The Coffee Beanery in Avenue Square, Naga City: You will have to make a minimum purchase of PhP300.

Keep this in mind otherwise just bring cash. We went to the place yesterday and asked an attendant if they allow credit card transactions. The answer was yes, but we were not forewarned about this policy and there was also no poster nor sign that said: PhP300 minimum purchase for credit card users. Worse, we were told by the cashier that they were simply upholding a directive from the credit card company. We asked for proper paper trail/document that would affirm his assertion but he could not provide any. He forwarded the matter to the store owner. We soon received a call from the proprietor (and this was admirable). But she refuted the stand of her own cashier and said it was their own policy not a directive from the credit card company. She also saw it unnecessary to post a reminder of any kind for credit card holders.

Of course we disagree with this notion. Since it was not a directive from the credit card company and only a policy by the store there would be no other way for the holder to know about it except from the store itself. They must device some means to forewarn the card users. In our case, we had to buy another product just so that we could finish the transaction. This caught us offguard and it was quite inconvenient. We were not planning to order another item but we were compelled to.

Naga City is becoming ultra-modern just like Makati. Avenue Square is a cool addition to this trend. Bank to bank transactions are common in a metropolis and establishments such as Coffee Beanery are expected to effect proper measures. In this case, CB attendants should have given the costumers adequate information with regard to this self-crafted policy for card holders. Otherwise it would be tantamount to misrepresentation and deception. The costumer has the right to decide how much to spend. In our case, had we known about the policy, we could have walked out of the place and looked for an ATM or another cafe without the aforementioned policy.

Now what came into our minds, why did we go to The Coffee Beanery? First, we were looking for a place with wi-fi internet. We had to send an important document to a company. Second, I recommended the Avenue Square and of course, The Coffee Beanery.

Truly, this new place is becoming a preferred destination. But as costumers we can still give feedback and suggestions so that it can serve as better in the future. For a high-end place we expect premium service. And this applies both for cash and card holders because the latter is not necessarily inferior to the former.



December 23, 2006

And so I’m back from Manila after a rigorous research schedule. I found out that our National Library pulls out theses and dissertations submitted from 1989 earlier. They are now listed simply for record purposes. Now I had to visit the FEU Library for Azucena-Graco Uranza’s study of Bikol riddles from Sorsogon. I also was able to study Susana Cabredo’s study of the tigsik in the Ateneo de Manila Library.

I have to mention here that I had a positive impression on the staff (even the guards) of Ateneo de Manila, particularly the Rizal Library. Due to my stupor after finding out that some of the things I needed to look up in the National Library have been pulled out, I left my ID in there. Good thing that AdeMU people knew how to listen to explanations. I found what I was looking for in no time (for free).

In FEU, there was much delay. I had to pay P40 along with other FEU students (who were paying their tuition) and stand in line for more than 30 minutes. But then again, it was quite considerate of them to allow me do research in their library.

I want to take note how aesthetically endowed the FEU campus is, green and gold harmonizing with art deco architecture. It was such a feast to the eye. The school is still home for artists and writers. They still have regular theater productions in their auditorium and an active publishing outfit coming out regularly with journals, textbooks and literary titles.

Above all, it was great to be back in Sampaloc, Manila. I went back to the places where I used to stay. Sadly, most of them were no longer there. Gastambide has morphed into a highly-urbanized area, and now it looks like a street in Makati. I remember when I was there as a young premed student. It was a very poetic place.


December 16, 2006

She liked the word ‘ayoko!’ and it was the first word she taught her baby daughter how to say. Janet Hope Tauro-Batuigas always had the mind of a rebel. She had it in her even before she learned how to speak. Thus her tormentors (siblings and parents) had an early dash of advantage. They would dismiss her infantile goobledygook as ‘pangungulit’. This was until she learned how to say ‘ayoko’.

Later, Janet became an activist, as I came to know after consuming the rest of her essay in Ani 31: The Love Issue. She grew up with words it seemed. But mine is a different story.

When I was a small boy, I thought the president controlled everything—the prices of commodities, fare, TV and radio programs, even the weather. I thought Marcos dictated the day’s weather. If he liked rain, there would be rain. If he liked sun, there would be sunlight. If he liked winds, there would be storms.

Every now and then, his head would pop-out right in the middle of John and Marsha, interrupting the show. Then he would talk. His voice sounded cool and confident. Then choppers would fly atop of our heads. He seemed to control all the soldiers too. When Lola would relate that Marcos said more of them ‘soldados’ will come, they really would come around the neighborhood.

I wanted to become like Marcos. So I gathered all my toy guns and let my friends borrow them. Soon, I had an ‘army’ of my own. My mother hated it. My friends would mess up our place and we would all be sweaty and powdered with dust after the ‘wars’. My Lola would say, “Tama sana iton, arug kan a pag-iisip ka puwedeng magin leader.”

But then my Lola would also call me Hitler. I was cruel. I liked to beat the daylights out of our ‘enemies’. I wanted to become like Marcos, the man who controlled the weather. And Hitler sounded cool too.

Later, I heard Marcos got ousted. He was corrupt they said. My Lola, being a loyalist, declared out of commission all our media appliances for sometime. Cory Aquino will interrupt the programs with her nonsense anyway, she would say.

And so I took interest in scanning my grandfather’s books. He was a lieutenant during the Second World War. He had lots of reading materials–from war history books to Homer. I did not like the looks of the man who did his hair and mustache like Charlie Chaplin.

It was painful to look at words, not being able to read nor understand them. My mother hired a pretty coed, a consistent topnotcher in her Education classes to act as my mentor. It was cool, she could put up with my pranks. We played a lot and learned.

By this time Marcos had long been demystified in my eyes, even Hitler. I read about the ironic death of mythical Achilles, and of Alexander the Great’s premature passing. I read about Hitler burning and Marcos dying of systemic lupus erythematosus.

Yes, politics can turn people into legends and mythological figures, until humanity catches up on them, early or late. Even empires die, but it is still the same fight. Alexander the Great of Macedon and Darius of the great Persian Empire had fought over Babylon (Iraq) before. And my friend George Bush is still interested to join in.

Truly, I knew it was not Erap who controlled the rain during the EDSA II march. I was not wearing black but I was there. And I think Janet was there too.

No, it is not true that the Cagsawa Ruin is forever buried by mud into oblivion. It is not true that there will be a tsunami so do not run for your life and start a stampede.

According to Jiggs Daza in his report to RMN-Naga, words about the Cagsawa Ruin being erased from the face of the map is untrue. Right now, it is in the middle of two raging waters, tucked safely in an island. It is attracting people who came over from distant places to check if it is still there. Yes, it is still an existing tourist spot even after the news of its disappearance.

We have a hyperbolic temperament it seems, exaggerating matters for the art of it. In fact some postcolonial critics would say that it is for preservation of memory, a way to assert the self in the midde of massive foreign domination. However, we must observe how hyperbolic the Bikol language already is. We just do not say ‘tired’ or ‘pagal’, we say ‘hakrang’ or ‘very tired’. We just don’t say ‘hungry’ or ‘alup’, we say ‘gulpa’ or ‘very hungry.”

It is a linguistic device, a necessity brought about by its oral nature. Bikol until now is rarely published. A big bulk of Bikol literary arts is still chanted or recited/said. In this mode, there is much reliance on the register, that is why it is presented in the nth power. Perhaps colonial discourse has a hand on it, but I say that language being the repository of history is telling us of who we are.

Apparently, power writing as literary aesthetics is no match to Bikol hyperbolics.

We came across a piece of Bikol literature just recently. It is published by the Cecilio Press and is called ‘An Maromansang Buhay ni Inday asin Raha Lakatuna’ (Ang Maromansang Buhay nina Inday at Raha Lakatuna). Further perusal revealed that it is a legend of some sort although the title would not give it away. Also the sample has no by-line and date of publication although the paper looked old. We acquired the retyped copy from the Raul S. Roco Library in Naga and we noticed that it is a narrative verse printed in paragraph form. And although written in Bikol-Naga, it is a story set in Sugbu, a place we now call as Cebu.

And so we went to the Cecilio Press and interviewed its manager, Manuel Cecilio. And there we would learn that he inherited the press from his late father, Gaudincio Cecilio who used to own a newspaper widely circulated in the Bicol region. They went on operation in 1947 after the Liberation. During those times they had no electricity and had only monotype printing machines. And in 1969, their office/plant at Padian was destroyed by fire and they had to transfer to Sabang, also in Naga City. Nowadays they print receipts, prayer books, novenas and the popular fortune-telling chapbook Orakulo, but before, they used to publish Bikol komiks, novels, and bersos—the purpose of our vist.

We also found out from Manoy Manuel that a prominent author of these bersos was the late Rosalio ‘Sali’ Imperial born on Sept 4, 1902 in Pili, Camarines Sur. And in an unpublished interview conducted by Bicolista Ramon Olaño on September 30, 1976, we would learn that Sali was an academician, orator, writer and statesman. He helped put up the Camarines Sur Catholic Academy in 1927 which later became the Ateneo de Naga when the Jesuits bought it in 1935. It was in 1940, when he became mayor of Naga City, winning over Jose Ojeda IV by a margin of 1,086 votes. But prior to this, he was editor of Bicolandia, a weekly trilingual newspaper in Naga owned by Mariano Villafuerte.

Now looking at this particular berso, it may reassert that during pre-colonial times, Sugbu was the trading center and Bikolnons had political, cultural and mercantile relations with the Sugbuanons. Even that in the story we see a reference to the osipon (Bikol oral lore) and its transmitters, the camagurangan, only with some iota of Christo-hispanic discourse. In the manuscript retyped by Public Library interns, it appears this way:

Mga sabi-sabi nin camagurangan sa Islang sadit duman guminikan Sugbu an pangaran sa tahaw cadagatan Islang Encantado panong nangangalasan.”

Observe that the paragraph may also be written this way (translation mine):

Mga sabi sabi nin camagurangan Mga savi-sabi nilang matatanda

Sa Islang sadit duman guminikan Sa Islang maliit doon daw nagmula

Sugbu an pangaran sa tahaw cadagatan Sugbu ang pangalan sa dagat ay gitna

Islang Encantado panong kangangalasan. Islang Encantadong puspos ng himala

Evidently, in its stanza form the rhyming scheme is almost of the highest level, the tugmang dalisay, if not for the end-word ‘guminikan’ in the second line, which makes it a tugmang tudlikan. It may also be classified as tugmang katinig na maluya. However, as for metric syllabication, it has some inconsistencies. Whereas the penultimate and final lines have an awkward meter of 13, the second line has 11, and only the first line has a caesura and meter of 12.


Just as there is reference to the osipon and its spontaneity there is also an articulation of a hybrid between the native oral folklorist and the William Caxton assisted European poetry reader. Reconstructing the paragraph, we arrive at this:

Pasangtabi aco lector n(a) mabasa Pasintabi’t ako’y lektor na babasa

Caining awit co paghorophoropa Nitong aking awit, pag-isipan sana

Caidtong panahon, mga suanoy pa Nang mga panahong sadyang sinauna

Duman guminikan, mga suanoy pa. Lahat nang narito’y doon nagmula pa.


The term ‘lector’ is reminiscent of a priest reading the Bible or any other ecclesiastical document. This problematizes the osipon as apparently, it is now being practiced in print, considering that it is primordially an oral art. Supposing Inday’s lore is indeed derived from verbal literature, we can say that there is a transmutation with regard to form.

Hale sa osipon nin camagurangan Mulang salin-kuwento ng kamagulangan

Dacul na osipon na pinag heredar Isipa’y nahitik sa harayang yaman

Sa mga na enot na caapo-apoan At ang unang sibol ng kamag-anakan

Saindang minana historia ni Inday. Ang siyang nagmana ng saysay ni Inday.

Evidently, our material is projecting an oral to print retelling of a story inherited from the narrative tradition. It is also just one among the many osipons which could very well be of diverse geographical definitions. However, as we have said, the discourse of the printing press problematized it. It is no longer out of the organic experience of the oral osipon but it may even be an inauthentic derivative of tales from the South learned from books.


Going back to the story itself, we shall see that the narrative and poetic approach are in the mold of the awit and korido, exaggerated and somewhat repetitive. These elements maybe observed along with the narrative formula. Before the action, comes the lengthy introduction of the bard, the narrative source, the characters and the milieu.


Yet the story is simple. Inday, a beautiful maiden, lives in this paradise called Sugbu. She is alone but quite happy for she has friendly animals to accompany her. One day, there is an earthquake. The skies darken and a thunderstorm ensues. Out of a hill, a cave opens up and from it comes the Encantado Raha Lakandula. He proposes love for her and she accepts it. But later he reveals that he has to leave and go back to his world by daybreak. Inday is greatly saddened by this and wished to join the Raha even if it will cause her death. When darkness falls, the Raha indeed leaves for the cave but Inday, in trying to keep him from departing, grabs his arm causing it to be severed off from his body when the cave’s opening and closing once again shut their worlds apart. In memory of her lost love, she buries his arm. One day a plant sprouts from the mound giving way to a banana tree. It produces heart-shaped, fleshy and ‘muscular’ fruits and she calls it Lakatan named after her beloved, Raha Lakatuna.

With Inday, we are given reprisive descriptions of all her physical attributes, from her eyes, hair, and teeth, down to her fingernails. This is comparative with the folk poetic tradition and the Balagtasismo of the Tagalogs. Here is an example taken from p. 32 of Bulaklak ng Lahi by Virgilio S. Almario and printed in his Taludtod at Talinghaga:

Ang ale kong Neneng

Maganda’t marikit

May tala sa ulo

May buwan sa dibdib

Ang sinasaksi ko’y

Ang Diyos sa langit;

Kung dayap ka lamang

Kita’y isusukbit.

And here is a stanza from our Bikol material:

An saiyang ngipon cabaing sa marfil Kanyang mga ngipin ay wangis sa marfil

Sa sirang nin aldaw iyo an cabaing Sinag din ng araw na maituturing

Ta cun mapadale an simong paghiling Anupa’t kung dagling ika’y napatingin

Biong mina siliab na dae nin siring. Ito’y may liwanag na walang kahambing.

Evidently, both Bikol and Tagalog traditions employ flowery, even hyperbolic language and imagery in order to make one thing straight: the maiden is indeed beautiful, and the poet will not run out of metaphors to describe her. So much that in some instances, the same level of embellishment is given no matter how ugly the actual subject is, as observed in some pagpuputong or coronations among barrio lasses in the Tagalog region.

Raha Lakatuna is also not devoid of descriptions, all of them favorable and helps in painting a picture of him as a gallant hunk of a man. No wonder our maiden falls for him at first sight. The same is given to Albanian Prince Florante, the protagonist of Francisco Balagtas’ Florante at Laura (1861 edition republished by Carlos Ronquillo in 1921).

Bagong tauong basal, na ang anyo,t, tindig

Cahit natatali camay, paa,t, liig

Cundi si Narciso,i, tunay na Adonis

Muc-ha,i, sumisilang sa guitna ng saquit

Maquinis ang balat at anaqui buroc

Pilicmata,t, quilay mistulang balantok

Bagong sapong guinto ang culay ng buhoc

Sangcap ng cataua,i, pauang magca-ayos.

And here’s one for Raha Lakatuna:


Magayon an tindog an hawac siring man Tindig ay matikas, katawa’y makisig.

Maitom an buhoc cublit maputi man Maitim ang buhok, maputi ang kutis

An saiyang puso garong sinamaan At ang puso niyang nawalan ng bait

Pana ni Cupido, siya tinamaan. Pana ni Cupido ang siyang humagip.

Of course we see a European aesthetic leaning, ‘maputi’ and the allusion on Cupid. Our maiden is also described as such and with some tinge of sino-hispanic-native hybridity as she is also lynx-eyed. But what is remarkable is their courtship. Again there is the ‘under the tree’ prolonged dialogue typical of traditional love affair.


Here Lakatuna has already informed Inday that he is to leave by daybreak and she insists that he takes her with him. He says.:

“Cun ipag iba sa irarom nin cueva na sacong erocan can ako pang saday sa lugar nin encanto di ca mabubuhay nin huli ta iba samong camogtacan.” (Kung kita’y isama sa lalim ng kweba/Na aking tirahan mulang maliit pa/Sa aking daigdig—na buhay ay iba/Sa mundong engkanto, papanaw ka, sinta)

And expectedly, she replies:

An olay co baga caogmahan co na Buo kong akala, ako’y mahal mo nga

Dinolot mo sacong pagcamoot baga At piling mo lamang ang ikatutuwa.

Sarong aldao lamang an caogmahan ta Isang araw lamang at ika’y nawala

Paraisong dolot mawawara sana. At paraiso mo’y natigib sa luha.

Parting words ensue, both characters lamenting their odd fates but only to arrive at a certain conclusion: their separation. But for this writer, this is not a story of separation and divorce, but of cultural hybridity. Perhaps related with the Bikol comedias in the genre of theater, the Bikol bersos of Sali Imperial’s generation may show that a literary trend resembling the Tagalog Balagtasismo occurred in Bikol literary history.


December 4, 2006

Sometimes, I do have ‘literary dreams’ and they come true. By this I mean clairvoyance. When I applied for a writing fellowship, I would dream of being there and next thing I knew I would receive a call that I qualified. Whenever my works get published, I would dream about it beforehand–I would see the printed page, the exact lay-out of my poem or article. I would dream of an awards night and sooner or later, I would attend one as an awardee. It’s really odd, I tell you. It’s only for literary stuffs. But I am not claiming that this is not foolproof. I hope to dream of the plot of my Nobel-prize winning novel and then write it, hehe.

Last Saturday night, I dreamt of my article ‘The Bikol Berso and Balagtasismo’ getting printed in Tribune. Today, it came true. Wow.


December 3, 2006

I did not know what hit my apartment until the girls room was all but a mess. The windows got broken when our gutter was torn like paper by Rening’s angry winds. A few minutes ago, I was relaxing in my room, reading and critiquing Alvin Yapan’s essay on the Bikol Short-Story as a Site of Struggle. Never did I consider that we would be the ones struggling in a little while. Yes, it was stranger than fiction.

Now power is out and the internet rental is heaven. Some parts of Albay are erased from the map, never to be seen again. Nature it seems, is an erratic writer still reworking the names and places of its geography.

But life is simpler without CASURECO’s meter running. People come together in the streets, tell stories, sing songs. Once again we become narrators and chanters, dancing in the shadows.