I have long resolved that my writing life would be limited to the writing process per se and sending my works for publication or validation. No more of writing groups and gatherings. Reason: No time. My other preoccupations are more primordial, more practical, that I would rather spend more time there. Anyway, really, gone are the days when literature was more of a communal activity. These days, it is better practiced alone. Better to limit human contact, the contract being only between the writer and the publisher/editor/contest directors. The readers are presumed to be just everywhere. No need for extra-effort to reach for them. Life is hard and we can only bear so much.

There is also something about spending long hours with the law and jurisprudence, right after scribbling some stanzas and reading something artistic. I have come to reconcile the two: Law and Poetry. They complement each other, and as I earlier argued, poetry is custom, and custom is law. And law is language.

First I would read the Bible, then the newspapers. Then I would write, and if nothing comes out, I’d reach for a poetry book and read. After half an hour or so, I would read my SCRA. I read the plot of jurisprudence like I read fiction, and I dissect it like I would dissect poetry. Otherwise, I would not enjoy it. And my limited knowledge of the law would not be remedied.

I attended Su’pay because it was there. I attended it because I wanted to deviate from my routine. Little did I know that I would end up with the gatherings that I have been avoiding. I stayed over at Gode Calleja’s place and saw the Kalikasan Press books for sale. He owned said publishing outfit and only had to stop due to health reasons. But then he still keeps copies in his Legazpi house for sale. I even acquired some new titles for my library: Herminio Beltran’s Bayambang, Galian 8 (Santiago, Santos, Zarate, eds.), Jun Cruz Reyes’ Negros, Parikala (Almario, ed.), Caracoa 25 silver Edition (Yuson, Abad, eds.), Ricardo de Ungria’s R+A+D+I+O, Gemino H. Abad’s Poems and Parables, Alex Magno’s Power Without Form, Alfred Yuson’s Dream of Knives, GB Calleja’s Hand to Hand (Mga Buwaya sa Paligid), Cirilo F. Bautista’s Boneyard Breaking, STR Mga Tula ng Digmang Bayan sa Pilipinas, Heartland: Poems from All and Sundry: Poems  (Arnold Molina-Azurin, ed.), and Sa Mga Burak, naglalayaw-layaw (Gode Calleja, ed.).

Now I figured, a once-a-month poetry night would not be too much to ask. Say, every last Saturday of the month from 9-10PM at Wharf Galley here in Naga City. There will be poetry readings, music and what-not. The featured poets will open for the first 30 minutes, then open-mic. We could call it Verses: Writers Galore at Wharf Galley.

I was standing outside of the Wharf Galley bar last night when Jonjie indulged me the idea. There is nothing wrong with a once-a-month poetry night at a nearby bar to compensate for my reclusive self, nothing wrong at all.

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Some writers work as columnist for newspapers and magazines. They write about their area of expertise, in fact most of them can be better categorized as field experts than writers. There are doctors who write about healthcare, lawyers about law and jurisprudence, literary critics about comparative literature and literary culture, and so on. We readers serially follow their works. We even associate them with the magazine or newspaper where they write. We think they work for them, or are employees of the said publications.

The case of Orozco v. CA (August 13, 2008) sheds light on this issue. It is about Wilhelmina Orozco who was a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She had been columnist for the lifestyle section for three years until she was informed that the newspaper was terminating her column for the reason that said section already had too many columnists and her writing was not getting any better. She filed complaint for illegal dismissal and argued that indeed she was an employee of said newspaper. She said that in fact, the PDI had control over the means and methods of her work (the control test is the most important determinant of an employer-employee relationship) because it had prerogative to reject any article submitted by her. She also had to adapt her subjects and writing style to suit the editorial taste of the editor else her articles would be rejected. Even the length of her articles was set by the PDI. She was obligated to produce an article per week and her articles appeared in said broadsheet regularly.

For its part the PDI argued that she could not be an employee because there was no employment contract in the first place. She was not required to report eight hours a day. She could even go abroad without their permission and suffer no disciplinary action. It explained that the length of the articles was delimited to accommodate others. And since it was lifestyle section she naturally had to adjust her topics to suit the section, but still, the topics were of her own choice. PDI only controlled the end-result and not the means by which said articles were written.

Our Supreme Court ruled that not every form of control could be construed as having the effect of establishing employer-employee relationship. Such control must not be merely guidelines towards the achievement of the mutually desired result without dictating the means and methods to be employed in attaining it. The Inquirer is a widely-read broadsheet so it has to set standards for the sake of public interest. The control as to which article shall appear in its pages pertains only to the end result—the submitted articles. The PDI has no control as to the means and methods of the columnist in writing or producing articles. In this case, there were no restraints on her creativity for she only had to fit her works to the theme of the lifestyle section. The prerogative to reject is not legal control. It is control merely on the end result and not on the process.

Also, as per the Economic Reality Test, Orozco was found to be not dependent on PDI for her livelihood. Being a columnist was not her main preoccupation. She was a woman’s right advocate working in various women’s organizations. She was not an employee of PDI but an independent contractor. She was engaged as a columnist for her talent, skill and experience, and her unique voice as a feminist. Besides, the PDI did not supply the tools and instrumentalities for her work. She merely needed her talent and skill.