February 28, 2007

We were supposed to read one of our poems during the 2nd part of ‘Ratsada 2007’ held at the IMC of University of Nueva Caceres, 3 p.m., Feb. 28. Previously some students and members of the UNC faculty rendered Bikol translations of classic poems by foreign writers like William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Basho, John Milton, Ben Johnson, etc. Noted translators were Gode Calleja, Luis Cabalquinto, Rita Lladoc, JR Sanchez and others.

It was such a bonus when the girl who was to do the interpretative dance for one of the poems happened to be my neighbor, occupying the apartment unit next to mine. So now I know I have a dancer for a blockmate. Now listening to the translated poems, I found some to be very much different from the original. As they say, poetry is lost in translation—but then it depends upon the skill of the translator. With this we mean, he/she must have a full grasp and mastery of both English and Bikol language.

When it was my turn I grabbed an old poem, an elegy written for a beauty queen who died in mid-2005. My companion Tomas Navarro also showed his wares (a Bikol poem at that, silencing the veterans) during the open-mic. Right after the event, we met up with writers Elmo Ramos and Djai Tanji (who was with her friend Tanya) and had some chat in my apartment. Now, Djai knew the object of my elegy personally, as they used to be barkadas in campus. She told us some things about how the girl died, how tragic it was. That is why Tomas and I chorused that we hate motorbikers who devilride. To hell with them.

Now I first met this girl in the very spot where we had ‘Ratsada 2007’. It was the awarding ceremony of a campus-based literary contest. She was the emcee and I found her to be stunningly pretty and articulate. It turned out that she was also one of the awardees for English poetry. Too bad, she died too early. We could have invited her to our little poetry group. Anyway, let me reprint the poem here:


Birtud sa puso
Sa batag su gayon mo,
Di ko nasalo.

Dipisil Moira,
Kin kagranan a asbu
Na kaaguw ko.

Gab-ing mangitngit,
Ika nagin santelmo,
Diri masulud.

Ika sakura
Mala ta ading raga,
Nagkolor pula.

Ika baliana,
Nagpalupad sa aruk,
Pagruta, abo.

(Bikol Reporter, Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2005)











It was 4 a.m., the aftermath of super-typhoon Reming when young couple Mr. and Mrs. Nelson and Sonia Verdejo left their evacuation hideaway, their grandmother’s place, to check on their rented house in Sta. Cruz Poro, Naga City. They came across a group of baranggay operatives doing early rounds and got the news that their abode for four years was now a total wreck. It was a good thing that they were able to leave the place, saving their two daughters and their few appliances from devastation.

Right after, it was work as usual for Nelson, 34, a utility personnel assigned at the Four Pillars and Nursing Department of Ateneo de Naga University. He went about his business fixing the ravaged campus, unaware that he qualified for the Bahay Atenista program until a co-worker who saw the list of recipients was all too happy to tell him about it. He did verify but found out that there was a slight problem—he had no land ready where they could build the house.

Good thing that earlier, they had availed of the city government’s urban poor housing project; only that when ADNU people went for inspection they found it wanting of landfill. And so they asked for help from Mayor Robredo, begging for a viable relocation. After three days, they were given a small lot in Pacol, they paid six thousand pesos for equity and that was it. Pretty soon enlisted graduating students and volunteers for the College Outreach Program (COP) were all over the place, doing basic carpentry, mixing cement and paint.

This was a welcome occurrence for Sonia, 32, an AB Education graduate of ADNU. She is yet to find a more stable teaching job to help Nelson produce income for the family. In 1995-96, she worked contractual with the Bureau of Lands and since then, dabbled in tutorials with elementary and highschool kids as tutees.

Industrious but hard-up families like the Verdejos are the main beneficiaries of the Bahay Atenista program, a communal project by the different organizations (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) of the Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU) with the leadership of Tabang-Atenista and under the guidance and supervision of the Center for Community Development (CCD). It aims to establish a strong partnership that integrates the diverse skills and talents of the participating organizations in planning, organizing and building indigenous simple houses in the selected communities in Bicol. In the long run the project will serve as the grounds for exchanging goodwill between the underprivileged and the privileged communities.

It has a dynamic organizational structure composed of the following: 1.) Council of Advisers and Consultants (BACAC) with moderators, faculty members, staff and offices that will: (a) Monitor the development of the Bahay Atenista project; (b) Suggest new ideas and strategies for the project; (c) Serve as mediator for any disputes or misunderstanding among the participating organizations; (d) facilitate foreign volunteers and (e) Facilitate reflection session among the volunteers; 2.) Working Committee (BAWC) made up of the different student organizations president or representative (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) that will: (a) Decide on the division of labor, planning and implementation; (b) Sourcing of funds; and (c) Design of program; and 3.) Volunteer Corps (BAVC) of students and members of the different organizations (co-curricular, extra-curricular and religious) who will build the house and serve as the work force for the activity. At the same time, the program welcomes volunteers from respective donor organizations and partner groups outside the university or even from outside the country.

Truly, as microcosm of society, all families deserve a home where cultural customs and proper values are inculcated to the minds and hearts of the young. It is also a way to preserve the dignity of humans as sons and daughters of God. The Verdejo sisters, only in grade 1 and 3, saw this after their simple Bahay Atenista house was constructed. They mused: “Ay, mayaman na kita, dakula na an harong ta! (Ay, we are now rich for we have such a big house!)”

For more information regarding the program, please contact: Mr. Leo Borras, Project Coordinator, Bahay Atenista Program, Center for Community Development, Ateneo de Naga University, Ateneo Avenue, 4400 Naga City.


I rarely watch TV except when I would like to be updated on the latest news or a crafty documentary caught my fancy. You see, once I start deskwork (this includes lots of writing but mostly readings), I hate to part from my desktop. But if there’s a program that I would like to watch, I make sure that I set my alarm.

Last Saturday, just before our informal poetry discussion, prize-winning writer Christine Bellen sent an SMS telling me that her ‘Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang’ published by Anvil is being serialized in GMA-7 every Sunday right after ‘S-Files’. Now I am sure I did not tune in so just I could take a peek on Hope, the third-party in the recent Kris Aquino love triangle issue.

Today’s episode was ‘Ang Binibining Tumalo sa Mahal na Hari’, about how a young girl’s wit and self-confidence earned her the right to royalty, becoming the bride of a prince. This was after the King, disgusted with the idea that his son was intending to marry a woman of lowly birth, sought for the poor girl and gave her impossible tasks. Should she fail, it was the end of her. But of course, she was able to outwit him each time.

I find the story moving and inspiring. In fact if ever I will have a daughter, I might as well name her after the protagonist, Sharay.

Sharay Chancoco, cool sound eh? Sharp and yet sweet, like a Samurai.

I pray TV programs like ‘Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang’ will increase. Children’s Literature, penned by esteemed Filipino writers like Christine Bellen ought to have a place in mainstream Philippine media. Years ago, poet Jerry Gracio was the scriptwriter of ABS-CBN’s ‘Pahina’. I remember, I would wake up early during Saturdays just to catch it before proceeding to our LIRA workshops. It sort of inspired me to brave the clean cut critiques of my fellows and mentors there. And so I survived.

I heard some people are toying or working on the idea of making Ibalong into a full-length animated film. I think this will work because we have so many talented animators and competent writers here in Bicol. If given proper support and funding, I think this project will succeed.

One thing more, on March 1, 9 a.m., multi-awarded film ‘Kubrador’ will be shown in Bichara Theater. I saw my writer-friend and co-film orgy Meyor Sanchez during the Mundag Literary Awards. He was arranging with the Media Studies Department of Ateneo de Naga for the project. Now I think there should be more of this in the future, with more films and not just one.




February 25, 2007


Tumatawag na noon ang buwan.
Ngunit kung kailan umaapaw
sa yaman ang laot at wari ko’y

marahang hinahagkan ang alon
ang aking mga paa; saka ko
naman nadama itong pagsuway:

Naaninag kitang papalapit,
bitbit ay gasera at naiwan
kong tuwalya. Di ka na umabot

sa bangka. Tayo ay nagniig at
gumulong-gulong sa buhanginan
ang mga ungol. Nagkahugis sa

iyong pag-alon ang di-maukit
sa tubig ng aking sagwan: Mahal,
ikaw ang pumupuno sa lambat,

hindi ang dagat na bawat araw,
iyong dinadasalan na sana
ako ay payagang makauwi.

–Jose Jason L. Chancoco
(Sunday Inquirer Magazine, October 13, 2002)

Artwork by Djoanna B. Tanji


February 24, 2007

Writers cannot produce without an audience, much less without peers. They need gatherings, drinking sessions with other like-minded pen-pushers where they can share their insights, latest works and activities.

And so yesterday, we had a palihan right here at the backyard of my Bagong Lipunan aparment. I started by talking about basic stuffs with regard to the writing life: writer’s groups, creative writing workshops, publications, awards and contests, and public readings and lectures. We hope to have another lecturer next time.

Present were some young Bicol-based writers and artists: Anching Manrique, Tom Navarro, Elmer Ramos, Jan Rev Davilla, Raymond Del Rosario, Djoanna B. Tanji, Jonjie San Vicente, Duke Thomas Dolorical and Lance Gulim.

We put our works under careful scrutiny and found them bordering on love—wholesom to ‘obscene’. We also saw the need to read more and more, that is why I lent two of the writers some of my books. Poetry is like music, the more you listen to it, the more you get attuned to its various creative dimensions. Also, we figured that the voice, tone, and specific reality of the poem have to cohere in order to impart fresh poetic message and effect maximum impact.

Later during the drinking binge, we had poetry readings and songs. I brought out my electric guitar, amps and effects. And in jest, we later called ourselves the Backyard Poets Group—yes, it sounds like the Backstreet Boys. I did share one of my published poems in Tagalog ‘Pananatili’ which came out in October 2002 when Sunday Inquirer Magazine still had much space to spare for poetry. Djoanna seemed to have been inspired and so made visual art out of it.

We hope to make this a bi-monthly activity, wishing that there would be more female writers.

Last February 21, I attended a lecture by Dr. Cyril Conde entitled ‘Asog Culture in the Ibalong’. In the main it was a deconstruction of Worlding, careful of language as colonial discourse. It asserted that the Ibalong still articulates Bicol culture, particularly the Asog and Baliana culture.

It talked of male flexibility toward the female form as the Asog would act and dress like a woman in order to partake of spirituality, a sphere where women of old took the lead. Such that the only way to enter spiritual world was to imitate women. In the legend of the Hablon Dawani, dead gallant warriors were said to pass by Hablon Dawani’s gate in order to enter heaven. In Ibalong, Handyong was flexible enough to recognize Oriol’s power and together, they fought the crocodiles and monsters in Bicolandia. Indeed, Conde’s lecture opened up a new perspective on gender relations.

One thing that could have been discussed also is the authenticity of the ‘epic’. There are critics denying that the Ibalong is a real Bicol folklore, and thus a fakelore. But then the baliana and asog as terms were picked out of the Vocabulario dela Lengua Bicol by Lisboa. The critic seemed to have been looking only at its articulation in the Ibalong, irregardless of the epic’s authenticity.

On February 28, Wednesday, 3pm, there will be a poetry reading in University of Nueva Caceres-IMC. Dubbed as ‘Ratsada ‘07’, it is organized by Estelito Jacob and features readings of some classic poems written in the foreign language translated in Bikolnon. Some of the Bikol writers will also do readings of their own works. An open-mike poetry session will follow.




February 18, 2007


I was invited as guest writer during the Mundag Literary Awards last night, February 17 in Ateneo de Naga University. I shared a couple of poems to an audience of student writers, artists, computer experts even (it was also the soft launch of The Pillars Web site).

Keynote speaker was writer and cultural worker Carlo A. Arejola. For his part, he invited the student writers to join the Juliana Arejola-Fajardo Workshop for Bikol Writing slated this summer. As you know, I was the director of last year’s workshop and it really would be great to have all those who participated in the contest as fellows in the coming literary communion in Pili.

I was seated beside fellow guest writer Kristian Cordero and we talked about the situation of Bikol literature or literature in general in the academe. We saw that there is still a need for a more active participation on the part of the academe in the rebirth of Bikol literature. Not that we Bikol writers rely on the bureaucracy of the academic setting, we have seen ourselves succeed in projects with our own initiative.

During the awards night, Ateneo teachers were not visible. With this, Kristian and I commented that there is really a need to have writer-teachers who have much passion for literature. Literary art is somewhat contagious and having a writer for a teacher will help produce more writers, if not, people who have literary sensibility. Also it will bring literature out of the classroom toward its organic reality and not reduce it to mere academic units or schedule.

We have heard of competent and charismatic writers who failed to qualify for a teaching job just because he/she does not have an MA. I think we should not be too strict with regard to this rule. There are things about creativity and teaching that cannot be measured by a master’s thesis.

Again, I say congratulations to all those who participated in the Mundag project.


It is wise to reclaim our oral poetic traditions to enrich our contemporary literature. It will give cultural identity to our literary outputs. Just today, in my reaction to Dr. Cyril Conde’s lecture entitled: “The Archive of Kadunong: Exploring the Oral Narrative Literature of the Bikol Region in the Philippines, I focused on the relationship between oral and printed poetic tradition in the Bikol context. Poetry is primordially an oral language art and so it is necessary to look back to this reality.

There are a lot of things to consider in this enterprise including our colonial past, ‘neo-colonial’ present situation and the discourse of the printing press.

Our emcee for the program was Mr. Tomas Honrado Navarro. Eugene Eclar also gave a rendition of an oral narrative with regard the Our Lady of Angustia. My fellow reactor was Ms. Sarah Balane, an insructor of literature in Ateneo de Naga University.

Truly, Dr. Conde’s lecture deserved the attention it had. We all must develop the habit of attending this kind of lectures.

We are often led to think that language art is always in writing or in the written form. And worse, that Philippine literature is only English (plus other Western languages) and Tagalog. This could be a manifestation of our cultural disorientation brought by our colonial past. Now, there are movements aiming to reclaim native literary practices for a more significant and grounded study of literature. This means, we also ought to examine works written in the other Philippine languages besides Tagalog/Filipino including existing oral traditions.

I should like to say that oral traditions are an integral part of contemporary literature albeit with colonial infusions. They may come as prose, poetic and dramatic or a combination of all these. Examples are the Chanters of Baao and the Pasyon experts. We can also include the tigsikeros and the riddlers (patood).

In this light, I would like to invite you to a lecture by Dr. Cyril Conde entitled “Bikol Oral Narratives” to be held on February 15, 1:30-4:30 pm, Thursday at the Ateneo de Naga University (OB112). I will serve as reactor and will also share a lecture called “Oral Traditions and Bikol Printed Poetry.”

See you there!


February 6, 2007


It pays to drink and be merry. There is a certain plane of reality we enter only with a bottle in hand. The reality we are in may be okay or not, but just the same, sad or happy, we drink. I have Chinese blood (though arguably, I look Japanese). My great grandfather was a merchant-sailor from Amoy, China. The same as the Chinaman who brought sioktong here in our shores more than a century ago. That man started up what could have been the very first distillery in the country.

Old Nick digged beer and would consume more than ten bottles in one sitting. And yes, he was not fat. In 2004, shortly before he passed away, I saw him at CCP (it would be his last book launch). He was so thin, no sign of the beer. But we can’t all have the same cosmic beer power. Sometimes we have to take it hard.

Taking a shot each night before I sleep, I made sioktong the replacement for my Milo. After-all, I like to think of myself as a writer and not a basketball player. My hardcourt is the blank page. And it’s quite tough to manage a score really for it’s full of demons trying to steal my balls: non-readers, bureaucratic academe, antagonistic pedagogues and apathetic beings. Now just look at the drink and the macho man in it. Not a running red horse, but a muscular, ‘don’t mess with me’, version of me. Althusser was right–just hit the right buttons and you will start the apparatus of machismo.

But don’t get me wrong, Red Horse is still my beer brand since highschool. And back in Baguio City, during the 3rd UST Writers Workshop, we took a truckload, divesting Hotel Veneracion of all its supplies. The thing with this beer is that it hits you real hard but after taking a nap for a few hours you’ll be okay.

Since I don’t have P45 pesos to spare all the time, why not try sioktong and go back to history, back in Amoy where my great old man came from.

February 5, 2007

14th Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW)

The National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), the Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Inc., and the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Reseach and Extension (OVCRE) are accepting applications from writers to the 14th Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) to be held on May 21-24, 2007 in Iligan City.

Panelists this year are Rosario Cruz Lucero, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Jaime An Lim, Leoncio P. Deriada, Merlie M. Alunan, German V. Gervacio, Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, Victor N. Sugbo and this year’s keynote speaker, the poet Rebecca Añonuevo, 3rd INWW Fellow (1996).

Fifteen (15) slots, five each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are available for writing fellowships to the INWW. Applicants are required to submit five poems, or, one short story, or, a one-act play in Filipino, English or in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, Waray (with English or Filipino translations) along with the applicant’s biodata, two 2X2 photos and a certification that his/her work is original. For short stories or plays, please submit a hard copy and a CD with the manuscripts encoded in MS Word Unpublished works are preferred.

Writing fellows will be given free board and lodging and a travel allowance. Applications must be postmarked on or before March 30,2007. No applications or manuscripts will be accepted if sent by fax or e-mail. Applicants are also advised to keep copies of their manuscripts since these will not be returned.

Send all applications to the 14th INWW Director, Christine Godinez-Ortega c/o OVCRE, MSU-IIT, Iligan City. For more information call Pat Cruz tels. (063) 3516131; or e-mail: /

Dalityapi Unpoemed February 2007

Greetings Bard-Brothers & Sisters:

Check out the latest issue of the Makata at


Makata Issue No.2, February 2007 is now available online featuring the
works of our home-grown and international poets.

by Aurora Antonovic, Christopher Barnes, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal,
Niña Catherine Calleja, Janet Lynn Davis, Zig Madamba Dulay, Dennis
Espada, CW Hawes, KenMikaze, Phillip Kimpo Jr., Anthony Pabon and Rey
Tamayo Jr.

Send all submissions / contributions for Volume 8 February 2007 issue
to svillafania at yahoo [dot] com and to Jason Chancoco at tarusan22 at
yahoo [dot] com (for Tagalog/Filipino & Bikol poetry). Also accepting
poems written in other Philippine languages: Cebuano, Iluko, Hiligaynon,
Waray,  Kapampangan, Pangasinan, etc.