September 20, 2007


Was away during the Peñafrancia Fiesta. Here I am claiming to be a Bikol writer and I can’t even be there for Ina on her feast day. Not to mention that I made a promise back in ‘O3 that I would never again miss it. I wanted to personally ask for permission, to visit her before I leave. But next thing I knew, I was already on a bus. I forgot

And I got sick in Manila. And believe me, it’s a place you can’t afford to get sick in. Complaining of runny-nose with watery mucous and fever, I was diagnosed of a viral infection. Manila Doctors Hospital is high-tech and topnotch but comes with a price tag.

I went on a soiree with Esmi that day. Checked on the National Museum and went for a stroll in Intramuros. We heard mass at the San Agustin Church, it was a wedding too. Come sleeping time, I was burning with fever and trembling with chill.

Cause and effect?

Part of my soiree gave me the chance to look into the exhibits at the CCP just before the Ani 33 launch last Friday, September 14. I also spent some time at the library. The program for Ani 33 allowed for public readings of some excerpts from Luis Gatmaitan, Nestor Lucena, Santiago Villafania and Raul Funilas. Bayang Barrios also rendered us one of her environmental songs. Too bad that the open-mic portion came in time with the cocktails. I was the first one called-up to read but had second thoughts because almost everybody left their seats for some food, ensconcing themselves in different areas and corners of the wide spaced CCP Ramp. I was afraid that nobody would listen to the readers and as the first one in line; I would get the first taste. I was right. And so for my next poem, I read aloud a Bikol work—without translation.

I also spent some time in Imus, trying to recuperate from fever. I actually celebrated my birthday there, my Esmi coming over for a visit. We went to Pizza Hut in Robinson’s Imus. Earlier during my visit, we went to Delicious Restaurant in Binondo and indulged in authentic Chinese cuisine. What a way to compensate for the feast I missed here in Naga!

I was also one of the judges for this year’s Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon. Too bad I missed the awards night last Wednesday, September 19. It was held at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, and I heard, was well-attended by government officials, civil society, artists, writers and cultural workers. Congratulations to all the category winners and finalists.

Cited in the essay category are: “Ringgaw nin Imahinasyon, Kawat sa Pagtukdo” by Judith Balares-Salamat of Pili, Camarines Sur” and “An Dalan nin Pakikisumaro” by Adrian V. Remodo of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur. The category grand prize went to Judith Balares-Salamat.

The finalists for the fiction category are: “Abaniko” by Marissa Reorizo-Casillan of Naga City and “An Kris” by Irene L. Taniegra of Pili, Camarines Sur. No category grand prize for fiction.

The ten poetry collections cited this year are as follows: “Ini, an mga buhay ta” by Jaime Jesus Borlagdan of Tabaco City; “Tinalbong ko su Tibabong” by Ryan B. de los Reyes of Baao, Camarines Sur; “Mga Tigsik” by Aida B. Cirujales of Naga City; “Agbay a Oras Sana” by Eurely P. Arroyo of Buhi, Camarines Sur; “Paradakop kan Pangiturugan” by Marissa Reorizo-Casillan of Naga City; “Hapiyap kan Kalangitan” by Jerico Rebadeo of Calabanga, Camarines Sur; “Rawitdawit Haleng Camaligan” by Jhonald A. Caballero of Camaligan, Camarines Sur; “Sa Banal asin sa Mga Tampalasan” by Adrian V. Remodo of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur: “Lagatak sa Riles kan Tren”by Christine P. Cordez of Milaor, Camarines Sur; and “Antisipasyon asin iba pang mga rawitdawit” by Victor Dennis T. Nierva of San Fernando, Camarines Sur.

Jaime Jesus Borlagdan and Victor Dennis Nierva tied for the grand prize, poetry category. Honorable mention went to Marissa Reorizzo-Casilan.

The title of Writer of the Year went to Judith Balares-Salamat. And writer Abdon M. Balde, Jr. and culural advocate Leonor Dy-Liaco are this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awardees.

Congrats also to the other members of the Board of Judges, Kristian Cordero and Jo Bisuña, for pulling off the difficult task of coming up with category winners and Writer of the Year after much deliberation.

Congrats also to the Arejola Foundaion for getting the judges’ nod for Naga City’s Mayoral Awards for Literature. Way to go!




September 3, 2007


Although I write in English and Tagalog/Filipino, I consider myself a regional writer not only because I also write in Bikol-Naga and Iriganon, but because I am based in Bicol. Staying here was a choice I earlier made even if there are more opportunities in Metro-Manila, where the national government seems to center its developmental projects. This is also true for literary activities. Being a melting pot of Philippine cultures, it pays to visit the NCR from time to time and meet with Manila-based and other visiting regional writers. This way, we can enter into some kind of a dialogue and avoid cultural and intellectual stagnation.

One opportunity to mingle with other writers was during the launch of ‘Latay sa Isipan: Mga Bagong Tulang Filipino’ published by the UST Press. It was released along with other titles produced by the UST Press in its aim to catch up with its quota of 40 titles a year, making up at least 400 titles by 2011. Now they ought to be lauded for this enterprise since the Press is also open for literary titles.

Being included in the ‘Latay sa Isipan’ anthology was great only that Bicol-based writers seemed to have failed to take-up much space in the collection contrary to my earlier presumption. Poets Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Jose Jason L. Chancoco and Kristian S. Cordero only had one representative poem each to their name while the others have at most five. And Carlo A. Arejola was removed from the anthology due to age disqualification (after being told that he was included in the roster). I was also expecting more from the young poets that frequent the poetry pages of the Philippine Panorama. But then later on, we learned that it was Allan Popa who actually picked the poems in the collection and not Cirilo F. Bautista himself.

As if to complement the irony of the previous event, I found a copy of ‘Sawi: Funny Essays, Stories and Poems on All Kinds of Heartbreaks’ at the UP Press booth for Milflores Publishing, Inc. I am included in the said anthology and still waiting for my complimentary copy. I have already written the editors and I hope to receive it soon. You see, it is heartbreaking to be buying your own printed poem when in fact you ought to be paid for it. If not for KWF Chief Dr. Ricardo Nolasco who bought it for me (I was not so liquid), I would not have a copy of the collection.

But then again, brokenhearted or not, every reader should buy a copy of ‘Sawi’ as edited by Ada J. Loredo, BJ A. Patino and Rica Bolipata-Santos. Writers of note are Gemino H. Abad, Christine S. Bellen, Nikki Alfar, Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Catherine Candano, Libay Linsangan Cantor, Ian Rosales Casocot, Jaime Dasca Doble, Luisa A. Igloria, Arvin Abejo Mangohig, Bernice Roldan, Elyrah Loyola Salanga, Joseph Salazar, Enrico C. Torralba, Edgar Calabia Samar, Naya S. Valdellon and many more.

The awarding rites for the Gawad Komisyon 2007 pushed through for all the other divisions except Pangasinense and Bikol. As Santiago Villafania would lament, the Pangasinan writers are on the verge of extinction. That is why they just held a conference on Pangasinan Cultural Studies and the same project will be held in Legaspi come December, this time for Bikol studies. The KWF will announce a call for papers for the conference. All of the essays submitted for the Gawad Komisyon Bikol will automatically be considered and the awards for the short-fiction category will be given during the said symposium.

I also attended ‘Pistang Panitik’, a lecture-forum on the body of works of our living National Artists for Literature. The lectures will serve as guide in reading and gauging the significance of the writings of Bienvenido L. Lumbera, F. Sionil Jose, Virgilio S. Almario, Alejandro R. Roces and Edith L. Tiempo. I was only able to attend Lumbera and Sionil’s day but it was worth my visit. J. Neil Garcia’s reading of Sionil’s ambivalent stand on Americanization and Nationalism further made the latter a more interesting postcolonial writer. As expected, the same postmodern and hybridist criticism were employed by Garcia (as he used it for Rio Alma). One important note was Sionil’s clear perception of nationalism as somewhat dangerous because of its romanticized state—being that it was still a case of a dominant upper-class joining in for the revolution at the last hour. As Franz Fanon once warned us, nationalism only breeds imperialism.

Truly, it was a feast of the written word. Not to mention that I also chanced upon the National Book Awards at the World Trade Center. And I know that soon, we will have local versions of the award—or better yet, the Manila Critics Circle should better open its roster for critics in the regional languages.