January 31, 2011

Ever since I took my writings seriously the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (SIM) has always been part of my writer’s date. The year was 1999, and I was a college student staying at the now defunct and demolished 1940’s apartment 517-A Gastambide, Sampaloc, Manila. I was writing for FEU Advocate and just won a Transition literary prize. I was inspired. I would read poetry in my room while eating Japanese-made chocolates that I would buy from a robbery prone and bullet-riddled 711 nearby. I would read poetry from earlier volumes of the Transition, I would read Nick Joaquin’s Joaquinesque, Jose Garcia Villa commas, Shakespearean sonnets and weekly magazines with literary section: Panorama, Free Press, Graphic, Pilosopong Tasyo, Liwayway, Homelife. I would read them before I would take on my science-oriented academics that would keep me awake till dawn. Poetry was sort of an energizer for me.

Pilosopong Tasyo was then edited by veteran makatang modernista Lamberto Antonio. I also wrote in Filipino, so I sent some poems. The first time I got printed nationally was with Pilosopong Tasyo and it was a set of surrealist poems in Filipino or Tagalog. This first taste of getting printed made me want to write and send some more. So I kept track of the weeklies.

Sunday was Inquirer and Bulletin day, with Sunday Inquirer Magazine and Panorama for dessert. It was also ROTC and writer’s date day. So I would wake up at 5am (ROTC would start at 600 hours), and grab the newspapers on my way to the campus. After the marching and rifle training (we used real rifles because FEU was a WWII arsenal), the tactical lectures would follow and we were required to sit under the shades and listen. Not quite tough because I would take out my newspapers and read behind the broad backs of my co-cadets. Then after the training day, I would proceed to my writer’s date, sometimes still in combat shoes. I would go to different poetic places in Metro-Manila like the National Museum, Luneta Orchidarium, Intramuros, Paco Park, CCP, Malate, Makati (Filipinas Heritage Museum, Greenbelt area, Ayala Museum etc.), Katipunan, UP Diliman, Quezon Memorial Circle, Visayas Ave, Libis, SM North (yes, poetic for me), Scout Limbaga, Antipolo, Binondo, etc. Even Gastambide was very poetic, even the FEU campus and the Recto area.

Needles to say I would see these places in the light of the poems I read in the Inquirer. And it inspired me to also write. It is safe to say the one of my motivations for writing was to get printed in the Inquirer, in the poetry section of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. Not for any other reason, but as underpinning for the poetic vision given me by my writer’s dates while entranced by the poems I read in the pages of said magazine. It made me feel the pulse of the city—the city of my birth, its life and perplexities.

So I would bring a map, take a few rides and then walk. I had with me some provisions: water, food, and some money. I had no camera yet, no laptop, just my memory and my senses. I would stroll the streets, look at the sights, examine the culture of the place, talk to people, eat street foods. Later, I would ensconce myself in a secure area to rest, read and write. At times I would head for theaters and watch plays. Or film festivals and watch art films, or really odd places with great culture and exotic food. And yes, the magazines were with me. Some books too. All in a day’s walk with the poet in me.

I still keep my old Jansport backpack until now.




    is what you are breathing today,
    right to speak, right to privacy,
    free election, rhetoric against rhetoric,
    food for FILIPINOS, work for FILIPINOS,
    so, why ostracize him?
    if the man is evil,
    then democracy itself is also evil!

    Marlon M. Villegas
    CP # 09124760891

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