ENTER THE 13TH

December 26, 2012

This is another year-ender essay. So, WTF happened this year anyway?

Well for sure, I am still in this country. I am still in Bicol even if there are more reasons to consider leaving. I need not enumerate them for it will surely spoil our New Year’s celebration. But this coming year, I am getting closer and closer to a Bachelor of Laws diploma. Never thought I would get this far, to think that I tend to be on the creative rather than the legalistic side. I have to admit that studying the law made me more humble and mature. It helped me to think straight and precise, using objectivity rather than ego and niceties. It inculcated in me an almost monastic reading lifestyle. Thanks to my “killjoy” law professors.

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My legal internship with SALIGAN-Bikol had its peak last summer during the immersion program. We had to go and live with our clientele, the marginalized and the oppressed—particularly the peasant-folk. I got exposed to their plight and problems, and the state of the land reform program in the country. Even wrote an article about the experience which I printed in this blog and the Bicol Mail (The Social Function Doctrine, June 8, 2012). I still drop by the Banasi farm to visit my host family from time to time. I might continue to do so if work does not bring me farther away.

2. Nightfall at the Kamalig

I revived the T-Bloc Workshop late this year, and named it Tarusan Bloc Poetry Class. We have had two sessions so far. It’s a way for me to share with like-minded Bicol-based young writers what I know about poetics. Things I learned along the way: From oral prose and poetic traditions and from writers’ workshops. We are using my book “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” as main source. Our vantage point therefore in learning various aesthetics is Bikol poetics. The workshop is for free and is held every month usually in my apartment. It’s a chance for me to interact with young writers, know their problems and issues, to be a friend to them. I also learn a lot from during the exchanges.

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I also noticed that there are various writing groups here in Bicol. There’s the Kabulig-Bikol which is currently doing some revival efforts after being silent for quite some time. The Tabaco-based ABKAT is still so active, holding the Albay Writing Workshop every summer plus other arts event. There is the campus-based Ateneo Literary Association (ALA), and of course the Tilad group. I just hope that said groups would continue to thrive and be more project-oriented. It would also be wise for them to adopt an attitude of non-exclusiveness. New talents must be nurtured and welcomed. Failure to do this would spell doomsday for any group. But of course different groups and factions are very much normal, and even healthy for any literary arts culture. It’s always fun to have different groups who are adverse to each other, each following a literary school of thought. It ensures competition and quality production.

And of course, the publications. Let me again list my printed works this year, just so we have it on record:

1. After “100” (Poetry, Philippines Graphic, May 7, 2012)
2. And Home is Not What I Find Each Christmas (Poetry, FEU English and Literature Journal, Volume 5)
3. Ang Hula (Tula, Paper Monster Press, Asuang Issue, August 2012)
4. Fiat Lux (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
5. Fiat Lux (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
6. Getting Paid (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
7. Hagbayon (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 2007-2010)
8. I Love You But We Have No Divorce Law Here (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, March 11, 2012)
9. Not Your Usual Writer’s Trip (Essay, Bicol Mail, December 20, 2012)
10. Opera (Rawitdawit, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
11. Opera (Tula, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
12. Pagsilung (Rawitdawit, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
13. Panonood (Tula, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
14. Passing by Baao (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, March 11, 2012)
15. Passing by Baao (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
16. Some Beer and Planet Niburu (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
17. Supermaids (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 2007-2010)
18. The Price of (Dis)Trust (Poetry, Philippine Panorama, March 25, 2012)
19. The Reunion (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
20. The Social Function Doctrine (Essay, Bicol Mail, June 8, 2012)
21. The Walk (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
22. The Walk (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
23. This is a Dream (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, October 28, 2012)
24. Uniberso (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 1999-2006)
25. Versosimo: Where the Word Binds Them All (Essay, Bicol Mail, April 26, 2012)
26. Versosimo: Where the Word Binds Them All (Essay, The Daily Tribune, August 1, 2012)
27. Wanting to Write a Poem (Poetry, Philippines Graphic, May 7, 2012)

I also discovered just this year that the poems “Opera” and “Pagtatanghal” were printed in the Philippines Graphic on March 12, 2007. And that my essay “The Bikol Berso and Balagtasismo” appeared in the Volume 1 Number 1 2008 issue of the Mabini Review, the philosophical journal of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I hope to get complimentary copies soon.
I think that a writer must publish or perish. Hence my propensity for continually sending works to various publications. Still there is dearth of literary outlets in this country. The Sunday Inquirer Magazine still has not revived its poetry section. Good thing that we still have The Sunday Times Magazine as edited by Elmer Ordoňez. The literary section of Philippines Graphic is still there as edited by Alma Anonas-Carpio. And for writers in Filipino and Tagalog, we still have Liwayway.

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Panitikan is still the portal for Philippine literature online. And the Makata as edited by Santiago Villafania is still publishing poetry with international magnitude.

Winning awards is the least of my priorities of course. I see it as mere icing on the cake, a mere stroke of luck or accident. But it is a duty of every writer to join contests if he has the proper material. And this year, I still got lucky and got an ego-boost by winning prizes. My poem in Tagalog/Filipino “Sa Naninibago” managed to win Karangalang-Banggit (Honorable Mention) in the prestigious Talaang Ginto contest sponsored by the Philippine government via Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), a Constitutionally mandated institution. Two of my entries also managed to squeeze themselves in the recent Dionatext Kontra Depresyon contest, winning Honorable Mention (as usual). Let me print them again here:

Pagkatapos gumapang
Ng uod, kaibigan.
Nagiging alibangbang.

Unos ma’y rumagasa
At bumaha ng luha,
Palad ko’y iyong bangka.

The theme for the contest revolved on depression and how to combat and triumph against it. And the recent knock-out loss of Manny Pacquiao in the hands of his Mexican rival, Juan Manuel Marquez sure placed the entire country in manic depressive mode. So here’s something for Manny:

Huwag mababagabag
Dahil lang napabagsak.
Pacquiao, bilog ang bukas,
Di ring na parisukat.

By the way, I am still wondering why the organizers for the 2011 1st Annual Bicol Bloggy Awards were not able to send me my citation for the “Best Literature Blog” award. They must realize that I am entitled to it as a matter of right and they are legally obligated to send the same to me. I have demanded for it so many times, and they have in fact incurred legal delay.

This year, I still found time to attend some literary events. On January 31, 2012, my band The Super Poet Genome Project performed during the Su’pay at Aquinas University. I noticed that poetry readings must really adopt a proper program more so when it comes to the open-mic. The same must be on a first to come-first to read basis. During said event, some writers were not able to perform when the AdNU contingent arrived much later than our group but was allowed to read first. The host merely wanted the leader of the group to introduce his companions but he proceeded in hosting the ‘Ateneo Segment’ and made them read. And after said ‘segment’ they hurriedly left, leaving us there with my band in mid-performance. So much that it looked like a walk-out. After we listened to them, they did not listen to us. They left as a group so the venue was almost empty and the main host did not bother to call the other writer-readers anymore and proceeded in ending the program. In the WG, we strictly observe a first to come-first to read serve rule except for the featured writer. So that error by the organizers was so obvious for us.

I heard that they were in a hurry to go back to Naga because of some permit constraints. We understand that but the funny thing is we arrived in Naga first. They could have waited for the program to finish because it was about to end anyway. If they were planning to leave early, then they should have arrived early, and not barge in the middle of the program, perform, and leave like some wannabe rockstars. My companions were really hurt by that.

Another literary event I went into was a blogging seminar at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture-Calabanga College of Education on Oct. 5, 2012. I was asked to discuss the use of the internet in literary practice. I made it a point to share my research on the history of publishing in the Bicol region. I also shared the use of e-mail, e-groups, message boards, web sites, blogs and social-networking in my writing activities.

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Most of the WG was held at Sosimo Bar so we dubbed it as VerSosimo. We had a gig on February 21, March 4 (Anniversary Gig), March 25, and we supported the April-May Bikol Slam as organized by my writer-friend Ronel Amata. We also had a WG in June, but after it we have not scheduled a new gig as of late due to the decline in attendance.The usual reason is that they are busy. I think that a real writer is never too busy. But if busyness is the business, then so be it.

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But busy or not, I was excited to attend the ANI 37 launch on November 29, 2012. Just wrote an article about it. Just read it here. We sure loved the experience and the adventure.

Happy new year everyone! Please don’t fire guns.

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Getting there. This is always an issue for provincial writers who must attend a Manila literary event. Aside from schedule, budget is always a problem, and all the more made complicated by the fact that I wouldl not be attending by myself. I would be bringing a rock band with me. And we would be playing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the Ani 37 launch.

It was the first week of September when I received word from Ani editor Herminio Beltran that my poems were accepted for the CCP literary yearbook. Though it was not my first time, my last appearance on its pages was in Ani 34 (Spirituality and Healing) back in 2008. For said issue, I printed the poems “Elehiya” (Bikol, with Tagalog translation), “Uniberso” and “Siklo ng Laman.” I was even asked to read one of the poems during the launch which was held at the CCP Ramp. Now for this year, my Bikol poems “Opera” and “Pagsilung,” along with their Tagalog translations were chosen for Ani 37, the silver-anniversary edition, with the theme “Cleansing and Renewal.” The launching of the anthology will also mark Ani’s 25th anniversary.

7. Ani editor Herminio Beltran                                                     Ani editor Hermie Beltran

All in all, Ani 37 consists of 122 selections by 66 authors of prose and poetry written in English, Filipino, Aklanon, Bikol, Chabacano, Ilokano, Iluko, Kankanaey and Pangasinan. Noted authors include: Mark Angeles, Alma Anonas-Carpio, Ronald Baytan, Herminio S. Beltran, Kristoffer Berse, April Mae M. Berza, Luis Gatmaitan, Genaro Gojo Cruz, Nestor C. Lucena, Elynia S. Mabanglo, Francis C. Macansantos, Wilhelmina S. Orozco, Christopher S. Rosales, Louie Jon A. Sanchez, E. San Juan, Ariel S. Tabag, and Santiago B. Villafania, among others.

1. Ani 37 Contributors                                                          Ani 37 Contributors

Solicitations

When I informed my bandmates about the event, our then bassist muttered something like “solicitation”. We figured that a good way to provide for the transportation expenses is by solicitation. So I sent letters to government officials, academicians, and like-minded artists. Naga City Mayor John Bongat, Vice-Mayor Gabriel Bordado and Councilor Nathan Sergio responded ora mismo. Visual artist/writer/Calaguas resort manager Giovhanni Buen also obliged. Editor Hermie Beltran also requested from the CCP budget for our transpo. My bandmates were also allowed to solicit to ensure that everybody’s funds would be filled-out. But still, our bassist had to back-out the night before the trip.

Launch date was on November 29, 2012 to be held at CCP Promenade. I wanted to make the most of the trip so I gathered like-minded Bikol writers who would support the nomination of Cirilo F. Bautista for National Artist. Ateneo Literary Association (ALA), a group of young writers based in Ateneo de Naga University, went around among its ranks to gather signatures and had the nomination ready just before our night trip.

We were to stay in Cavite so we took a Bacoor-bound Philtranco bus. And since our bassist had to back-out the last minute, The Super Poet Genome Project was only me (voice and guitar) and Kevin de Quiroz (drums/beatbox). But we were making arrangements for a Manila-bassist to session for us.

Perhaps there was some road project going on at Maharlika highway so our bus took the Camarines Norte route. We noticed that we were going too fast. We were swerving left-and right like some drunk and missing trucks and other buses by inches. The driver’s daredevil antics, made us suspect that he was actually an under-employed accounting graduate who did not pass the CPA exam (He looked corporate enough. Clean cut and prim and proper). But maybe, just maybe, he was just trying to beat the long detour of that Daet route. Needless to say, we got to Imus in one piece at dawn and immediately turned to classical radio station DZFE and dozed off.

Manila siege and Ani 37 launch

First stop was Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center at De La Salle University. We met and had coffee with Director Shirley O. Lua and handed to her the duly-accomplished nomination form for Cirilo F. Bautista. Second stop was The Daily Tribune office where we got complimentary copies of the August 1, 2012 issue where the VersoSimo article got printed. We also met with Tribune’s gorgeous lifestyle section editor Dinah Ventura, who is from Albay. Third stop was Intramuros for our Manila Bulletin and Manila Times visit. Fourth stop was University of Santo Tomas. And our fifth stop was Far Eastern University where we met with writer Ariel Valeza, who is from Catanduanes.

8. Visiting Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Director Shirley Lua                     Visiting Ms. Shirley Lua at Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center

The next day was November 29, launch-date for Ani 37. Call time for rehearsals and set up was at 1PM and program proper was at 5PM. We came in early for the soundcheck, but the technicians had to dismantle our audio set-up so we had to do it again just before the gig barring unwanted amp feedbacks and guitar gadget signal interference (which happened during our set, to our dismay). To while away our time, we checked the exhibits at the various CCP galleries. We also dropped by Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theatre) to check out the CCP World Cinema Series. On-screen was Angel Exterminador (1962) by Luis Buňuel. We went back to the Promenade at 5PM just in time for the launch.

Our band, The Super Poet Genome Project was first to go onstage. We played “Di Kami Papayag na Walang Makata sa Lipunan” and tweaked the lyrics a little just to say: “Wala nang makata sa ating lipunan/Ngunit merong tula sa Ani 37!” Believe it or yes, we were asked to play “Lupang Hinirang.” We made our rendition using the electric guitar and the beatbox, wary at all times of the NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines) rules, lest we get sued for rockin’ up the National Anthem beyond recognition. After our short set came the writers. And since I am one of them, I proceeded with a reading of my Bikol poem “Pagsilung” followed by the Tagalog translation “Panonood” in the form of a poetic short film which I produced, directed and appeared in. Had my hands full that night, and as if my over-exposure was not enough, actor Michael Ian Lomongo even rendered a performance of my poem “Opera”.

2. Ani 37 Copies                          Ani 37 copies were sold at discounted prices during the launch

The writer-performers during the launch were: Wilhelmina Orozco, Junley Lazaga, Scott Saboy, Nonon Carandang, Io Mones Jularbal, Melchor F. Cichon, Santiago B. Villafania, Mark Angeles with Jenny Logico-Cruz and Sining Tanghalan, April Mae Berza, John Enrico Torralba, Francisco A. Montesena, Vicente R. Raras, Conviron Altatis, Francis Macansantos, and Genaro Gojo Cruz with Sining Tanghalan.

4. TSPGP Performing                                        The Super Poet Genome Project performing

Film showing of a 7-minute video documentary by Denize Manalo followed suit. It featured previous Ani editors Reuel Aguila and Malou Jacob, and current editor Herminio Beltran, talking about the inception of Ani as CCP’s literary journal. It was after-all the Silver Anniversary of Ani and an opportune time to retrace the 37 tomes that came out.

6. SiningTanghalan doing performance poetry                                      SiningTanghalan doing performance poetry

And of course the food. After getting our complimentary copies and writer/performer’s checks, we assaulted the cocktails, specially the savory chicken rice meal they prepared for the performers. The beer had to come later as writer-friends Santiago Villafania and Mimi Lacambra decided to join us to our Imus hide-out for an after-party. Literary talks about regional literature and Pangasinense wife abductions courtesy of ancient oragons came to no end until we conked out at around 4AM. And as soon as we recovered, we invaded music stores and bookstores at that super colossal, public domain defying continental mall at Roxas Blvd. which could very well be a doomsday ark.

True, we are all busy with pragmatic existence. But why divert from monobloc schedules and attend a literary arts event? Answer: Poetry is now multimedia. And how often do you get a frustrated accountant for a bus driver, National Artist nomination expedition, a gorgeous Bikolana lifestyle section editor, fetish-oriented Spanish film with no subtitles, National Anthem escapade at CCP, poetry readings with music, dance, theater and poetic short films, ancient Bikolano wife-kidnappers, complimentary copies of journals and anthologies, writers’ check, and an Ibanez Joe Satriani Signature electric guitar sold for PhP222,000.00 at discounted price in one trip? Not often enough.