NOT YOUR USUAL WRITER’S TRIP
December 14, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.