November 20, 2007

Call it literary ESP. I knew I would surely have a poem published in the November issue of HomeLife Magazine, so there I was buying two copies from St. Paul’s Bookshop. And indeed a work of mine was there, conveniently printed in the poetry page. As usual, I had a short chat with the Sisters and they were egging me to contribute for the Paulines Magazine. ‘Why not Sistah,’ I replied.

I have written about this before, my mild clairvoyance of anything literary. Like seeing Hotel Veneracion in a dream before I actually got to attend the UST National Writers Workshop; or having a sort of an ‘advance proofreader’s copy’ of my work, seeing the page in a dream before it reaches the stands. This time, I saw this plaque. Nothing else more, just a plaque.

So when I texted Dulce Deriada saying ‘hi and ‘thanks’ to his father for using ‘Elehiya’ this month, HomeLife’s poetry editor, Dr. Leoncio Deriada could only blurt out: ‘May ESP ka ano? You had an inkling that you won?’ It turned out that my poem in Tagalog/Filipino ‘Isang Gabing Ganito’, yes, that one with a typo when it got printed, won first place in this year’s contest. I thought I was dreaming, like the clairvoyance thing again, but this time I did not have to wake up.

Maybe five months of isolation and concentrated literary thought when I was in Imus, Cavite back in 2000 (just finishing off my ROTC) developed this ‘clairvoyance thing’ in me. It was the time when I could sit the whole day just thinking of my literary plans. I loved those moments as flavored by my endless readings and writers’ dates. It was just me and God signing a contract.

Now Home Life Magazine’s poetry contest just like when it started in 1992, considers as entries only those poems that got printed in its poetry page for the year. Dr. Leoncio Deriada serves as its editor and at the same time ex-officio judge during deliberations in November. Judges would come from different parts of the country, and thankfully, I am in no way connected to this year’s judges (except Dr. Deriada who was a panelist during the Iyas and 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop). This makes a clear-cut win, methinks, considering that my co-winners are good company (Kristian Cordero of Iriga City-2nd and Estelito Jacob of Camaligan-3rd prize). Also, New York-based poet Luis Cabalquinto of Magarao won first place for the English Division.

But not without heavy competition. According to Dr. Deriada, it was the Filipino Division that gave the judges a hard time. Poets from the NCR, Central and Northern Luzon also contended for the top spot against their Bikolnon opponents. But not much luck this time, for even the fourth place was occupied by another Bikol poet, Carlo Arejola, almost displacing Esting Jacob by an inch. A Bicol sweep indeed.

Here’s the complete list of winners and judges as sent via SMS by Dulce Deriada on November 20, 2007:

Filipino Category—1st Prize: “Isang Gabing Ganito” by Jose Jason L. Chancoco of Iriga City; 2nd Prize: “Sa Paglubog ng Araw” by Kristian S. Cordero of Iriga City; and 3rd Prize: “Sa Muling Pagputok ng Mayon” by Estelito B. Jacob of Camaligan, Camarines Sur.

English Category—1st Prize: “Quotidian” by Luis Cabalquinto of Magarao, Camarines
Sur (now based in New York); 2nd Prize: “Confrontation at the Café” by Michael U. Obenieta of Cebu City; and 3rd Prize: “A House Full of a Keeper’s Absence” by Tem M. Adlawan of Naga, Cebu.

Members of the Board of Judges are: Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada (ex-officio chairperson and poetry editor of Home Life), Prof. Jonathan P. Jurilla and Prof. John E. Barrios.



November 17, 2007

Being a lone voice does not make one weak, but rather, it makes one destined to be echoed. This is what fuels Santiago B. Villafania as Pangasinan’s poet of the first water. And Book after book, he pummels on the chests of the Pangasinense poet-warriors of old—resurrecting them. It is not enough for him that he edits the country’s premiere literary E-zine at present, the Dalityapi.Com, he would also turn it into a portal of sorts for anything literary; news from around the world about workshops, publications, awards, conferences, festivals, about writers in general. He would also come up with a monthly poetry Webpage, the Makata, where voices by poets from various places would reverberate in its URL through every tcp/ip.

Though he never attended any of the national writers’ workshops (which could make one enmeshed in the country’s UAAP literary politics), he is well-respected by a new generation of poetry practitioners ensconced in the E-group system and the blogosphere. Needless to say it is his tireless zeal and abilities and not his connections that propel him up in the literary ladder. Silently publishing the Makata every month and targeting the literary pages of national magazines; he soon began to come up with his own books, one of which was sponsored by the NCCA, and his latest the ‘Malagilion’, published by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino through Central Books.

The book was launched during the recent literary conference in Pangasinan and is due for re-launch next month (December 3) in UP-Diliman. Lovers of regional literature ought to attend this event.


November 4, 2007

I took this picture as my family hit the campaign trail during the recent Baranggay Elections in San Francisco, Iriga City. I saw something in that little girl’s shy temperament. Poverty might just take-over it, and how would the baranggay be of help to her?

So we did not just vote, we had a candidate, my father. We thought his credentials and experience would qualify him for grassroots legislation. He is a college professor and finished the undergrad and master’s for business administration, and being an LLB, he also served for the Baranggay San Francisco Lupon. My father does not drink or smoke and has no vice except UFC and boxing. Like me, he likes war films but it is me who is into different kinds of swords and firearms. So peace-loving, he’s never been in a fistfight.

We figured that the baranggay is of utmost importance to the country. For one, it is the government’s frontline, acting as executive, legislative and judicial body. Nothing beats proximity in effecting significant projects and laws. If governance is honest, credible and efficient at the baranggay level, we have a fighting chance for national progress.

However, I observed that ability and credibility are not enough for a candidate to win a seat as a baranggay councilor. He must have a campaign strategy for the following kinds of voters:


  1. Apathetic Voters. They don’t vote. They think the baranggay is so insignificant to national progress. The candidate needs to visit the residence of this voter and convince him/her to vote. It would be better if the candidate would do some homework and provide him/her the precinct number. Some candidates would leave a letter with platform of government, sample ballot (and cash).
  2. Just for Kicks Voters. They go to the precinct unprepared. They don’t know the candidates and rely on the pamphlets given by supporters near the precinct. It would be better if the candidate would be at the roadside to flash ‘pogi’ smiles for these voters.
  3. Partisan Voters. They will give solid votes for their neighbor, family member, classmate/batchmate, drinking buddy or barkada regardless of ability and qualifications. They smirk at other candidates and would ignore their campaigns. But most of them would still accept cash.
  4. Voters for Sale. They always expect dole-outs from a candidate in cash or in kind. And they would really vote for the candidate.
  5. Transcendental Voters. They look forward to the electoral process as if it’s going to the Sunday Mass. They do research on the candidates and keep a list ready come election day. They look into the candidate’s track record and ability. There is a chance that they would accept cash but only to punish the candidate because they certainly will not vote for him/her. They may even keep the cash as evidence (among others) if ever they decide to file a complaint. A good candidate does not even have to spend much on a campaign if there is a high number of ‘transcendental voters’ in the population.

Also, a candidate must have the following in order to win a slot:

  1. Balwarte. The candidate’s zone must give him/her a solid vote. Meaning, they have to leave the six more slots blank. This is for the partisan vote.
  2. Funds. The Baranggay Elections ought to be non-partisan but some political parties would meddle anyway. It would usually come from the mayor, perhaps ensuring that he/she has control over the baranggays. This would be a great help if the mayor would like to seek reelection for the same or higher office. A rich candidate would appeal to the ‘for sale’ and ‘apathetic voters’.
  3. Lots of Relatives. With this, a candidate can expect solid votes from partisan voters.
  4. Credentials and Excellent Track Record. You will never know how many transcendental voters there are. Besides, it is hard to be a councilor if you can’t read.
  5. Doable and Significant Platform of Government. Again, for the transcendental voters, for the baranggay—and the country. Without this, please don’t run.

So far, this is what I have observed with regard our baranggay politics. And it is not so unlike Philippine politics in general. This is because even though we have different cultures, the baranggay is a miniature of the Philippines.

What do I recommend? I should say lots of literature. If more of us would read and read, we would easily become transcendental voters. Reading enhances mental discipline, critical thinking and helps develop the conscience.

And so please read my poem printed in Home Life’s October 2007 issue (albeit with the usual typographical errors). Let me reprint the correct version here:



Kagagapas na parang
ang maitim na langit.

Patid na gintong kuwintas
ang mga bituin.

Nakatarak na yatab
ang buwan sa punit

na ulap na may bumalong
na dagta ng pulang tala

at gumuhit na bahid
ng pulang bulalakaw.

Hindi ko pa antipara
ang rehas.

I also got info that three of my poems in English will be printed in the book ‘Crowns and Oranges: An Anthology of New Voices in Philippine Poetry’ edited by Cirilo F. Bautista and published by Anvil. This is definitely something to look forward to.