July 31, 2007


Just arrived from a visit to Cavite and Metro-Manila. I came to check on my uncle and cousin in Imus and send-off my cousin Tots, a seafarer, to his ship in Europe. I also visited writer-friends, and more importantly, my Esmi. It was also a chance for me to check out the Cinemalaya 2007 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I was also there to buy new DVD for our videoke and battery for our Sharp camera phone and open the line of the LG camera phone of my aunt.

Although I have stayed for a long time in Manila, it is still easy for me to get disoriented in its complicated gridlock of traffic and pollution. I have been living here in Bicol for quite sometime. And here, almost always, I just walk my way and get to places. There, moving about can get really expensive. You will need food and transportation allowance. And soon enough, there is a risk that a friend might just stick a knife or gun unto you and ask for money.

Thankfully, I was able to negotiate my way around the place. First stop was the Mall of Asia where we ate and roamed around. It was there where I was able to open the line of my aunt’s LG camera phone. You see, it was sent to us (along with my Nokia) by my cousin Anne from the United States. I could not find an able technician here in Bicol but there, it took them only about 15 minutes to finish the job.

I also attended a lecture on digital engineering by George Palmer, an American, right there at the CCP as part of the Cinemalaya festival. He focused on the duties of a digital engineer as tech support during filmmaking. It was well-attended by cinematographers, writers and producers. By the look of things, digital films will not only be the way to go for indie filmmakers, I think it’s also the way of the future. The lecture was made possible by Sony.

Afterwards, I went to my girlfriend’s office in Makati. While waiting for her, I found this decent but cheap restaurant where they serve beer. It was just in front of their building. Next thing I knew, I was already gulping a couple of San Mig light. I was thirsty, Makati disoriented me again that I almost got lost. The smell of beer annoyed her to no end as we were to watch Harry Potter in a nearby cinema. Lesson learned: Esmi first before beer.

Meeting with poet Cirilo F. Bautista has been part of my Manila tradition. And so there I was, along with Pangasinense writer-friend Sonny Villafania at Burger King-Kanlaon waiting for the Master. He did arrive shortly with his usual blue Honda CRV and treated us for merienda, big burgers and coffee. We talked about our projects and the writing life. It was cool that he shared anecdotes about himself and other writers. Did you know that he keeps his trophies and awards in their upper and lower comfort rooms? And that he is allergic to beer? His father used to scold him thinking that the he was drunk just because the allergic reaction caused skin rashes and redness.

As usual, the Master gave us lots of books. Perhaps those stuffs were sent to him as complimentary copies from publishers so that he can write about it in his Breaking Signs column in Philippine Panorama. Too bad I forgot Pili nuts, he wanted some. He also expressed disappointment because I forgot to greet him on his birthday. He never fails to greet me whenever I celebrate mine.

We stayed in there for about three hours, just talking about literature. It is no secret that our group nominated him for National Artist, and we will repeat the process. Far from being a recluse, Cirilo F. Bautista loves to talk about writing in front of younger writers. He also goes out often, perhaps observing people at the marketplace. It is a known fact that he is the household cook and gardener.

But above all, it was my Esmi that I missed the most. And so I spent more time with her. A writer cannot live without a muse, and I have found mine.






The night’s poetic inertia could not be carried by fleeting words alone. It was during 4K Barrel’s set, just after the open-mic, when writers and audience alike hit the dance floor, fleshing-out metaphors and rhymes into upbeat swings, turns and gyrations. And so they did strut their wares.

But the OragonRepublic.Com Writers’ Night last July 19 started rather nice and serene. Webmaster/owner Fer Basbas gave the usual welcome address with Literary Editor Jose Jason L. Chancoco as host. The guest writers/readers were Ford Scholar Frank Peñones, Kabulig Auditor Marissa Casillan, Kabulig President Estelito Jacob, Salakab ringleader Jo Bisuña,  Medtech-Poet Sonny Sendon, Kabulig Treasurer Dr. Judith Salamat, Vox Bikol columnist Vic Nierva, Catanduanes writer Gerry Rubio, ‘Tigsik Queen’ Aida Cirujales, The Pillars staffer Elmer Ramos, and love poets Lance Gulim and Tess Rey. The 4K Barrel also rendered Bikol songs during the intermission

Also in attendance were Bikolista and entrepreneur Ramon ‘Ringer’ Olaño, Bikol Reporter columnist Rizaldy Manrique, writer/artist Djoanna Tanji and Webmaster/Events Organizer Sheila Basbas.

Invited or listed poets were the first to perform, although everybody could come up the stage later during the open-mic. Free drinks and certificates were provided and awarded to the participants by Andy Belmonte of Lolo’s Bar and Fer Basbas of ORC.

The OragonRepublic.Com and Lolo’s Bar aim to hold regular poetry readings in support of Bikol literature. For more information log on to and





Tinkling rimes and syllables will resound with staccato beats of rain as the Lolo’s Bar hosts this month’s OragonRepublic.Com Writer’s Night on Thursday, July 19 at 6pm. Bikol poets reeking with alcoholic tigsik and rawitdawit will once again strut their wares, claiming their rightful place at the center of Naga City’s club scene, the Avenue Square, along Magsaysay Road.

Set to perform are among the finest voices of Bikol literature such as Frank Peñones Jr., Kristian Cordero, Rizaldy Manrique, Sonny Sendon, Jocelyn Bisuña, Carlo Arejola, Honesto Pesimo, Estelito Jacob, Araceli Delgado, Dennis Gonzaga, Edgar Ramores, Aida Cirujales, Issa Casillan, Ramon Olaño and Gerry Rubio. Walk-in participants are also encouraged to come up and share their poems or music during the open-mike portion.

The rawitdawit is primordially an oral art and must be delivered in ether. We know this even from the ‘Sompongan’ days of the earlier Bikol poets. That is why OragonRepublic.Com is seeking to bring back the poet-audience dialectic as an important modality in espousing literary culture in the region.

The event is organized by Fer Basbas, Sheila Basbas and Jose Jason L. Chancoco. For more information please visit


Just came from ‘Rock to School’, a gig right there at the Kambingan in Magsaysay Road, Naga City. Sponsored by the Beat FM, San Miguel Beer and Pulp Magazine, the concert manifested that the rock scene here in Bicol is alive in kicking. Our local bands are just as cool as the Manila-based ones. And they are of diverse influences, from metal to ska to pop. We all should attend their gigs.

Now I should better promote my home-made poetry podcast again. I do the music bed for my entries, I am also a guitarist. So please check

I also attended a forum on the proposed new orthography by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino last Tuesday, July 10 at the RELC-DepEd in Rawis, Legaspi City. Dr. Elvira B. Estravo and Dr. Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco led the lectures. With the help of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Education (DepEd), it was well-attended by academicians coming from different parts of the region from Camarines Norte to Sorsogon.

The proposal was open for suggestions and revisions from the forum. In the main, they introduced a new local version of the alphabet, subscribing to the phonetics of English, Spanish and the various Philippine languages. They espouse that we use linguistic symbols for the stress and glottal sounds in spelling our words. And that we should be careful in re-spelling English lexicons. When in doubt, do not re-spell, lest you might add up to the atrocities committed by Filipinos on English graphemes. As for the words borrowed from Spanish, it is okay to re-spell, anyway we do not have much Spanish-speaking groups in our population.

My concern was on how the new orthography can benefit the various Bikol languages. We all know that the KWF had its eyes focused on the National Language as based on Tagalog and so the local languages from the regions were not included in standardization with respect to orthography. After much perusal, I think we can gain wisdom from the proposal. Using the various linguistic symbols for the stress and glottal stops will give non-Bikol speaking regions an idea on how to enounce and articulate our words.

But then there is the need to re-orient people on how to use the aforementioned linguistic symbols specially the items on stresses and glottal stops. There is also the need to introduce the proposed orthography to the writers, the Bicol-based ones.

The largest marketplace in Asia–so they say. The Naga City Public Market is just bordering a portion of the Bicol River. Giving us a trace of history when city-states used to thrive near bodies of water. The rationale was of course trade and barter. That is why the Market offers almost everything for the wise and enterprising costumer. And this includes second-hand books from prominent authors such as Dan Brown and Arthur Miller, even cut-out poetry sections from reputable magazines such as the Sunday Inquirer and Philippine Panorama.

I spent time perusing the materials, all the while thinking to myself, these simple and unassuming merchants have no idea that they are contributing greatly to the Bicol literary scene. While it is good that we now have a branch of National Bookstore right there at the Pacific Mall in Legaspi, I think we still need more bookstores here. I am sure it will be a lucrative business.

Aside from bookstores, regional writers need to be more visible. And I remember, I once attended a poetry reading at the now defunct PowerBooks-Pasay Road. Perhaps owners of these stores would be able to attract more bibliophiles by organizing public readings.

But there is just so much with proprietary efforts. Writers themselves can make their move. However, government funding is possible if and only if a certain writer’s group has legal identity. Else, the group has to find a viable conduit. That is why the Kabulig-Bikol, an association of creative writers and cultural workers in the region will have its Constitutional Convention on July 15, 9am at La Medalla, Baao, Camarines Sur. There will also be elections and sessions regarding future projects by the group.

Surely, this will make registering the group with the SEC possible. With proper legal identity, the group can now apply for grants from the NCCA and other government agencies. This was one of the problems before when I wrote a project proposal to the aforementioned agency. It was approved but I had to withdraw due to legal troubleshoots.


July 6, 2007

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino announced today, June 12, the holding of GAWAD KOMISYON 2007, a nationwide yearly literary contest in celebration of National Language Month in August. This year’s theme is: “Maraming wika, Matatag na bansa” (Free translation: A gift of tongues for a strong nation).

Aside from the traditional Gawad Collantes for Tagalog essay, this year’s categories include essay, poetry and short story in ten other major languages of the Philippines. These languages are Tagalog-Filipino (children’s short story), Cebuano (poetry and short story), Iloko (poetry and short story), Hiligaynon (poetry and short story), Bikol (short story and essay), Kapampangan (poetry), Pangasinan (poetry and short-story), Samar-Leyte (poetry and short story), Meranao (essay), Maguindanao (essay) and Tausug (essay).

The cash prizes for each category are: 1st – Php 15,000.00, 2nd – P10,000.00, 3rd – 8,000.00, and three consolation prizes of P 2,000.00 each. Interested parties may download the contest forms and rules from the KWF website at or contact the KWF Secretariat at 736-38-32.

Entries may be submitted to the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, G/F Watson Bldg., 1610 J.P. Laurel St., Malacañang Palace Complex, San Miguel, Manila or through the e-mail address


July 1, 2007

Our words are weapon: This is an adage that every writer has to forge with fire, leaving an imprint right into his or her heart. It is a primal wisdom inherited from the earliest scribes, even from the most honorable of minstrels and bards. It is one thing to cast words into stone, but mouthing the language of the eternal wind is quite another. It is like co-writing the story of the universe. That is why languages, regardless of race, faithfully capture the sound of its geography, recording the memory of its culture and people. In essence, every word is simply a human attempt to encasque meaning into the limited modality of syllables and phonetics. All language therefore is poetic.

The poet then is the legislator of the human experience. He must be honorable, honest and incorruptible. He says what cannot be said and unsays what is deemed commonplace in the everyday interrogative relation between self and other, self and nature. Some say that being called to be a poet is a malady and that one must avoid it at all cost. This is not because poetry is filled with suffering, no, but because its practitioners have great and irreversible responsibility. A real poet cannot, in good conscience just stop responding to the call of the muse or be absorbed by bureaucracy and sell his or her honor and art.

When a poet becomes a liar, he/she digs his/her own grave. He/she ceases to become immortal and joins the lineage of the damned.