At the present age, Filipinos would usually seek to involve themselves in more lucrative preoccupations. It is a need. Not all of us are privileged to just travel, enjoy the scenes, watch sunsets. Not all of us are given the time to reflect around us and create. Yes, all of us are battered by unwanted stimuli everyday but not all of us can create something out of it—at least in one of the accepted art forms. Many would start at an early age but would abandon the habit altogether. Perhaps after seeing that there’s no place for it in the current sphere. They just forget and go through life as it is.

The poor would say: “You can’t eat art nor can it bring food on the table.” How can you read or write when your stomach is eating you? How can you look at art when you can’t even get inside a museum or gallery for want of proper attire?

There’s also familial pressure: “Fine Arts is a course for rich people!” or “You will gain nothing from your pen, enter maritime or nursing school instead!”

You hear this all the time. And the government, alas! The government, despite Constitutional mandate to promote culture and the arts, seems to treat it as second thought. The CHED has not mandated that national fellowships or literary prizes be commensurate to an MA or at least MA units. For some measure, writing or reading is taught by example (as National Artist Edith Tiempo used to say), and writers are voracious readers—and writers. For this reason alone, they ought to be the one teaching literature subjects. Passion for literature is a contagious malady. If you don’t have it, you can’t inoculate it.

Admit it or not, there are only two factors that serve as impetus for literary culture: 1. An inquisitive mind, and however sophomoric it may sound, 2. Peer pressure. Why is it that I did not say “an inquisitive literate mind”? This is because literary culture is primordially performance-based. For instance, poetry is drama, is theater—is performance. We all have this in us—an inquisitive mind, only that in an effort to civilize us, society trained us not to “stare” too much or “ask to many questions.” It is however inherent, if not native to us, to be curious, to observe, to read. The world is a text and is something to be read. And this culture of reading and observing is better shaped by peer pressure.

Hence it is nothing new for us to hear about the Beat Poets or the Nuyorican Poets in the US during the 40’s and 60’s, or The Ravens and the Veronicans in the Philippines during WWII or just right after. The literary flame is somewhat kept alive by these groups. They influence people to write, and they likewise encourage people to read. Ironically, their passion could even lead to a book burning incident as in the case of the Balagtasistas and the Modernistas during the 60s. The result of the Talaang Ginto being dominated by the Balagtasistas so much infuriated the younger generation of Tagalog writers that they ended up tossing to the fire not only their plaques from said contest but also books by the old vanguards or “matatandang tanod.” Not to mention that earlier, the parties almost ended up in a knife fight in some nearby beerhouse. The book burning infront of the National Library proved to be a more peaceful way of expressing literary disgust during those times.

Yet there could also be factions. We all are familiar with this story: Poet starts a writers group, but later, ideologies come in the way, forcing him to leave and start anew—with a new group. Yes, it is true that the practice of literary arts is a political act. The choice of what language to use is a political choice. Poetics in fact, much as it could get so technical, is still a political animal as culture is always politics.

But my take on the matter is this—the same is a political question and not a justiciable or scientific one. It lies on prerogative, on personal freedom of choice. And nobody can tamper with that and no one would want that theirs be tampered with. More so that of artists and creatives.

It is safe to say that these writing groups, no matter how we argue that one does not need a group to be able to write, kept literary culture alive within and without the academe. Heck, it even caused career shifts for some. It is not uncommon for a pre-med student to end up shifting to a creative writing or literature course after being “brainwashed” by a group of poets wont on doing guerilla tactics on campus—starting up poetry readings just about anywhere and anytime, and then disappearing just as fast as they assembled.

And so we have groups like UP Quill, UP Writers Club, Heights, Malate, Thomasian Writers Guild and FEU Writers Guild to name a few. Outside of the campus, we have KM64, Kamakathaan, Guniguni and so many more. And with the advent of social media, they are now manifold—poetry slam groups, Facebook poetry, haiku poets, you name them, you got them.

And in the provinces, these groups also continue to thrive. Just in the Bicol Region, we have Kabulig-Bikol, ABKAT and Parasurat-Bikolnon. These groups are active within and without the academe. And just lately, we hear of campus-based group Ateneo Literary Association (ALA) doing small poetry workshops and readings here and there. Their presence could very well have caused some career shifts as mentioned earlier, but they push on.

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This month of April, where summer heat is just as fiery as the creative writing workshop season, ALA is holding the very first TALA Poetry Workshop. To be held on April 11-12, the workshop will utilize the so-called “writeshop method” or “praxis method” where theory is followed by practice. Lecturers will give inputs on poetic forms, voice and tone, and metaphor, and then the writing fellows, true to their name, will write. They will write according to the lesson of the day. Later, their output will be critiqued, placed under astringent scrutiny by the panelists and the fellows themselves. The workshop will be held at the Ateneo de Naga University, at the 3rd floor of the Fr. O’Brien Library (Multipurpose Room).

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With Jusan Misolas as workshop director, this writer has been invited as one of the lecturer-panelists this year, along with Frank Peñones, Jerome Hipolito and Jeff Regullano. And this year’s fellows are: Joy San Jose Agor, Anthony Diaz, Ken Brian Esperanza, John Leir Castro, Rea Robles, Elmer Guarin Ramos, Shellah Farina Chan, Stephen Prestado, Ma. Leonora Cervas-Bregala, Cherry Ann Largo, Jeffrey Almazan and Love Leir Arcelie Castro.

WRITER FOR OTHERS

April 7, 2014

Pertinent to my application for a travel grant with the Harong kan Literaturang Bikolnon (Naga City-LGU) as per my Dumaguete fellowship (for poetry), I was asked to prepare a letter showing the benefits that the Nagueno would get from my travel. In this regard, I started to look into myself. What have I done for my people? Am I just a writer for myself? An ego writer who has self- aggrandizement as primordial motivation? I had to ask myself these questions and introspect.

Looking back–I do remember that 2003 was my homing year. It was the year that I started to feel like going home. I was determined to further my academic life in this locality, find work here and perhaps start a family–and of course, practice literary arts here. I wanted to start a writing group, a critique group to be exact. At that time, I was already a LIRA member and had attended the Ateneo and UST National Writers Workshops. I wanted to look back though, to dream the dreams of my youth. I thought that Bicol itself is already a rich material. I can make it here, and in Manila, and in the world literary arena as well. No need to locate myself in the Center.

But before taking any more steps, I figured if there was already an existing writing group here in Bicol. And there was. The late Rudy Alano was then the ring leader for Kabulig-Bikol. I joined them.

But Kabulig-Bikol was taking too much time. I wanted the group to have more fire.

I continued to associate with them through. Writing is a lonely vocation, and they were good beer buddies. But I persisted in attending national workshops, sending my works to publications and joining some contests. Technically, I was on my own. But I found real good company in Tomas Navarro, a fellow Atenean who was as good as a strategist as a prose writer. I also loved the company of the ABKAT people from Tabaco, Albay for they were so project oriented. They could get things done.

But deep inside, what I really wanted was to do research on Bikol poetics and write a book about it. I also wanted to share my poetics to young Bikol writers. Hence I organized the Tarusan Bloc and I gave free lectures and workshops. Thanks to my teachers Rio Alma, Cirilo Bautista, Ricardo Lee, Marjorie Evasco, and Cyril Conde, I had a firm ground when it comes to comparative literature. And so I did my thing–monthly poetry critique sessions.

But it wasn’t enough for me. Bikol poetics dictates that poetry is drama–is theater, is performance! I wanted to go out and make Naga City a city of literature by organizing poetry gigs from time to time. Said gigs would be open to the public, and for the benefit of the public. Poetry in public places–this was my battle cry and it still is.

Now I realized that I have published three articles regarding these gigs. Let me post their pictures here.

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This appears in the August 1, 2012 issue of The Daily Tribune. And it is about the Writers Gig and VerSosimo projects. Now I was not able to take a photo of my article “Not Your Usual Writers Trip” which was also published in the same newspaper on January 3, 2013. But as you all know, I took a picture and posted my article ” Come as You Are: Naga City’s Poetry Reading Culture” which appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of the Philippines Graphic.

Well, man. If you want to be a writer for others. Organize occasional poetry gigs in your locality. Do it for the people. They deserve more than what popular culture offers them.

I was invited by the Ateneo Literary Association for their first Tala Poetry Workshop, a campus based workshop. It will be held at Ateneo de Naga University on Friday. The workshop approach is the so-called “writeshop,” and the methodology is: 1. Lecture, 2. Writing activity, and 3. Critiquing. My topic is poetic form, actually, one of the toughest. I will make it as simple as possible. I also plan to assign a simple poetic form during the writing activity. There will also be poetry readings and other intermission numbers. The group even invited my band The Super Poet Genome Project. We will figure.

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The deadline for fellowship application is today, April 7. If you are an Atenista, a Bicolano Atenista who is somehow connected or was connected to AdNU, and you are serious in pursuing a career in creative writing, give this a try. It is wise to attend regional workshops first before applying for national ones. And read my book too, “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” (NCCA, 2008). Copies are running out!

Carl Jung’s Theory on Collective Unconsciousness and formation of archetypes, ‘natural attitudes’ (in phenomenology) or in layman’s term, ‘notion’ of things concrete or abstract, living or non-living, presents itself as a ‘nativist’ theory. He says Collective Unconsciousness is a theoretical pool of memories or reservoir of experiences that we are born with as species but we are not directly conscious of it.

However, I think by mention of ‘experiences’ his theory then leans on its ‘cognitivist’ side. Because even if we are born with what I will call (in Chomsky’s mold) as AAD or ‘archetype acquisition device’ there is still a need for meaningful human experiences for one’s consciousness to flow into the sphere of Collective Unconsciousness.

Cross-cultural analysis of myths, epics and legends will reveal evidences of these archetypes. But I think the great Carl Jung should have read an unusual archetype in Oryol, a cunning and deceptive nymph from the Ibalong epic fragment. She knew how to project naïveté only to lure unsuspecting macho guys like Handyong. And the latter would end up in a compromise partnership with her in fighting unattractive and devilish monsters (and crocodiles) in Bicolandia.

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It appears that these common notions articulate themselves not only in ancient oral traditions but also in other artistic pursuits and preoccupations. They are so much into our lives that they even influence our judgment and some of our decisions. However, I should say that Jung’s theory is also structuralist in orientation. It tends to linearize human notions oblivious of cultural boundaries. But this is not to say that his attempt is failing, but rather perhaps it needs some culturally determined extensions. For example in Bicol, we have the archetype and embodiment of machismo in the persona of Kulakog, a mythical creature with a huge penis. Archetypal formation then is really a culturally bounded phenomenon.

In the poem “Not My Best Side (Uccello: S. George and the Dragon, the National Gallery)” by English poetess U. A. Fanthorpe, we see the seeping in of three main archetypes; the Monster or Dragon, the Maiden and the Hero or the Knight, into an artistic pursuit other than literature, in this case, the visual arts. However the archetypal articulation by Italian painter Paolo Uccelo in his St. George and the Dragon is interrogated by Fanthorpe’s poetic discourse resulting to a deconstruction.

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by Paolo Uccello

The poem is divided into three parts according to voice. The first part has the monster or the Dragon talking to the reader. The second part has the Maiden talking to the reader. And the last part has the hero or the Knight talking to the Dragon.

The approach of the poet is neither narration, imagism nor lyricism but rather expository, or in Filipino, ‘tulang patanghal’. In this case, the line-cascade and poetic utterance is pre-determined according to the persona and are conveniently subdivided into three parts. The main merits of the poem are in its consistency in voice, tone, language and form in effecting a deconstruction. Throughout the text the voice, tone and language of the poem will interrogate the archetypal articulation of the painting by being the poetic discourse themselves unaided by imagistic/metaphorical manipulations and acrobatics but supported by phenomenological methodology.

What if we remove all our ‘natural attitudes’ on archetypal figures and re-examine the roots of this notion in order to come back to the essence of things. After much introspection, how can we apply them to current human preoccupations?

As a product of the interrogative pattern of the poetic discourse we come to know a monster that has the attitude of an image model. It says: “The artist didn’t give me a chance to pose well properly.” It is also concerned, like a movie-star or politician, with bad publicity. It says: “But afterwards, I was sorry for the bad publicity.” It also comments and interrogates the human archetype of a prim and proper, well-groomed hero when it says: “Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror/ Be so ostentatiously beardless..?” It also reacts on the artist’s perspective: “Why should my victim be so/ Unattractive as to be inedible”. Here the monster ceases to be the manifestation of human primal fear, but the poet fills it up with very human actuations and impressions.

In the second part, we are confronted with a highly hormonal and calculating maiden concerned both with pleasure and financial security. She is very much a delineation from our notion of a damsel in distress. She says of the Dragon: “He was/ So nicely physical, with his claws/ And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail, / And the way he looked at me, / He made me feel he was all ready to/ Eat me.”

In deconstruction, previously established definitions take on a different meaning, and ‘To eat me’ has come to articulate female prerogative. It also humanizes the maiden, expressing her repressed preferences (personal unconsciousness): form follows function, effect and performance is superior to propriety. And of course the future has to be secured first and indulgence in provisional pleasure should be momentary: “what could I do? / The dragon got himself beaten by the boy, / And a girl’s got to think of her future.” Yet she comments on the insecurity of those who live by the books, follow the rules and hide behind the armor of the system. She says of the Knight: “So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery, / On a really dangerous horse, to be honest/ I didn’t much fancy him. I mean, / What was he like underneath the hardware? / He might have acne, blackheads or even/ Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–/ Well, you could see all his equipment/ At a
glance.”

In the third part, we hear the Knight (St. George) and we gather some things about knighthood and the hero job: “I have diplomas in Dragon/ Management and Virgin Reclamation.” Being a knight was partly legalese and determined by familial and financial origins. It was part of the political system and therefore a machinery of political discourse or repressive state apparatus. And of course it was often used in warfare and political subjugation: “My spear is custom-built,/ And my prototype armour/ Still on the secret list. You can’t/ Do better than me at the moment. / I’m qualified and equipped to the/ Eyebrow. So why be difficult?”

More importantly, it was also a trade: “Don’t you realize that, by being choosy, / You are endangering job prospects/ In the spear- and horse-building industries?” The Knight is the coercive structural force and the Dragon, the liberal rogue. The former is the brute and the latter, the lover. Together they form the thesis and anti-thesis, and in war there is no synthesis but profit.

(This article also appears at Global Press.Org)

FRIENDLY FIRE

January 2, 2014

I was going to prove that you need not got to Manila to get to Iligan City. And so there I was, almost a month after I received a call from Cherly Adlawan of MSU-IIT that I made it as fellow for the 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop, waiting for the only Cagayan de Oro bound bus in the Naga City Central Terminal. It was ten in the evening of April 27 and I was not going to get a ride until four the next morning. Call it the preliminary rites to the bloodletting that was to happen in the writers’ workshop.

Why take a bus from Southern Luzon to Northern Mindanao? Of course aside from my mild regionalist sentiments, I wanted to see the countryside. I don’t get to travel this far, so why spoil it with a plane ride? Anyway our bus will be on board a barge twice, from Matnog, Sorsogon to Samar, and from Liluan, Leyte to Surigao del Norte. So it’s pretty much the same as taking a bus to Manila, a ferry to Cagayan de Oro and another bus to Iligan. Besides, this route is cheaper and faster.

I brought with me a map and everytime I would spread it out to pinpoint our location, my fellow passengers would peer. We would be traveling for a day and a half so why not try to win some friends along the way? They could also be useful in giving more specific directions when I get to CDO.

One thing you will notice (if by chance you are an alien) with Filipinos is that they are still much rooted to their regional past. During the trip, it was easy for the Mindanaoans to gel. Of course we began to smell the same due to the long trip, but their having their own language lost the need for cultural translations. And so they felt comfortable with each other, up to the point of even sharing their life stories. They also were partners in crime, abolishing the ‘single file’ rule whenever it was time to get our ferry tickets from those poorly manned Ro-Ro terminals. And we were quite happy about it too, with the chaotic queue, smell and all.

It was during the trip when somebody with the typical Maranao goatee told me to take caution when I get to Iligan. “They kidnap people there,” he says. And with my semi-samurai and (they say) Carlo of ‘Lovers in Paris’ look, I had enough reason to worry. But as they say, you never really know until you get there. A semester of Philosophy of Man and phenomenology of this and that turned me into a recycle bin of ‘natural attitudes’.

CDO Soiree with Michael Coroza’s Doppelganger

A cousin of mine works for the Philtranco and he said Naga-CDO trips usually take two days. I was expecting to arrive Saturday, but it was Friday morning when I got to the “City of Golden Friendships.”

“Yes, Cagayan de Oro is a big city!” says Raul Moldez in an SMS. I was asking him to pick me up at the terminal, and to be sure that he would be around when I get there, I announced my arrival as soon as I saw the ‘Welcome to CDO’ sign. He then told me to text him when I get to the terminal.

I had not really met the poet Raul Moldez before. But perhaps being like-minded writers, our paths crossed inside the cyberspace. The internet has caused quite a stir in the literary world that more and more writers are into it.

A man who looked very much like Michael Coroza approached me. Then I knew it was Raul Moldez, unaware of his striking resemblance to the poet from Taguig who writes in Filipino. He smiled, only to confirm the resemblance.

Cagayan de Oro is rich with factories. I learned that electricity there costs pretty much the same as it is in Bicol (where we have an abundant source of energy in Tiwi), but perhaps due to its distance from the center, which is Manila, it encouraged industry and self-sustenance. No wonder Raul refers to the country’s capital as ‘imperial Manila’, a place he says he has never been to and has no plans of visiting for he has no affection for it.

Bit I had the urge to tell or perhaps remind my friend that his city is beginning to look like Manila, and therefore, apparently has not escaped its ‘imperial claws’. With all the malls, taxicabs and the traffic, there is no mistaking it for Nick Joaquin’s city of affections.

That is why Raul says; the city government is trying to restore the glory of the city park right in the middle of Tirso Neri St. and R.N. Abejuela St., West-bound Hotel Ramon and East-bound Xavier University. There is the so-called Nite Café every Friday and Saturday and also a night market. Before the malls came, the people of CDO were park goers, using the place as a cultural melting pot, and even as venue for family outings and picnics.

It was there in the Nite Café where I met Mario Batausa. I was to partake with the genesis of a CDO-based writers group. Raul, editor of Verses, cannot help but feel like a voice in the wilderness in the city of his affections. Thus the need to form a network of writers in the community. I suggested that they meet regularly and do informal creative writing workshops. I also do the same with the help of some young poets in Bicol. But my network is quite large, and there is a need to always classify them as to language and geography. And that network is about to be widened even more with the 12th INWW.

To the Muslim Country

Just like the others, I almost got lost. The bus was supposed to pass by MSU-IIT but when I got to Iligan, I was told to go catch a jeepney. It was a good thing that a woman helped me around for it was a common observation among us that some Iligan folks are not your usual tour guide type.

And so for some nebulous turn of events my Luzon to Mindanao inter-island adventure came to an end with a simple “Hi Jason!” from co-fellow Jennibeth Loro who arrived in Elena Tower Inn a few minutes ahead of me. I was still in Iriga City when I looked up various eating-places and so I was looking forward for a taste of Sun Burst Chicken. So there I was, together with Jenni and Ma’am Merlie Alunan, enjoying lunch while discussing something heavy, like the politics of language or culture. I stressed that it is important for young writers to create with respect to their regional roots. Ma’am Merlie could only muse that things are hard in Tacloban, and she says it is perhaps because she scares young writers away, being one of the grand dames of Philippine literature.

LuzViMinda Well Represented

I was the only fellow for poetry in Filipino. With this, you can deduce two things: 1.) Congrats, you topped the poetry in Filipino division. 2.) They are not into it anyway, I mean, theirs is a Cebuano country right?

One glance at the folio confirmed everything else: it was a workshop heavy with regional literature. And being a Bikol writer myself, I found the situation very healthy. Philippine literature is more importantly the ones written in various other Philippine languages other than Tagalog/Filipino. So it follows that Philippine literature is not only Manila-literature. It is true that we miss a lot of things when we are in the Big City.

We can say that with all the national writers workshops, it is only in the INWW where Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao writers are well represented. They get five fellows from each region, and the opening ceremonies would remind you of a national beauty contest where the emcee would say: “And now, from Mindanao…!” And you stand in the middle of the stage pretending to look writerly—but oftentimes some of your co-fellows would really take the chance to look more like, of course, beauty queens.

Held on May 2-5, the workshop fellows for Luzon are Rosandrei M. Ladignon of Cubao, Quezon City (UP-Manila), Maria Abigael M. Malonzo of San Fernando, Pampanga (UP-Diliman), Jose Jason L. Chancoco of San Francisco, Iriga City (Ateneo de Naga University), Vladimeir B. Gonzales of Novaliches, Quezon City (UP-Diliman), and Virgilio A. Rivas of Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City (Polytechnic University of the Philippines). Fellows for the Visayas are Roger B. Rueda of West Visayas State University, Bryan Mari Argos of Roxas City, Capiz (St. Anthony College of Roxas City), Marcel L. Milliam of Roxas city, Capiz, Jennibeth R. Loro of Green Heights, Merida, Leyte (UP-Visayas Tacloban College), Dennis M. Ravas of Tacloban City (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross). Fellows for Mindanao are Jamila Ruth A. Hojas of Suarez, Iligan City (Ateneo de Manila University), Charisse Mae T. Ampo of Tabon, Bislig City (UP-Mindanao), Jose Ma. Y. Tomacruz of Davao City (Ateneo de Davao), Telesforo Sungkit, Jr. of Sumilao, Bukidnon (UP-Los Baños) and Grace S. Uddin of Tagum City (UP-Mindanao).

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Panelists this year are Rosario Cruz Lucero, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Jaime An Lim, Leoncio P. Deriada, Merlie M. Alunan, German V. Gervacio, Tim R. Montes, Steven Patrick Fernandez and this year’s keynote speaker, the fictionist and Director of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center, Vicente G. Groyon. The workshop is sponsored by The Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Iligan Institute of Technology and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and is under the directorship of the venerable Christine Godinez-Ortega.

Much as I went slow in critiquing works in Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray, for we were dealing with translations; I also had to take the pains of being asked to explain my works right after critiquing. We can say that there was a language barrier, more so, an aesthetic and cultural barrier. My being a writer in Bikol did not help either. I can no longer clearly assume that our nearness to the capital is to our advantage. Perhaps it simply made things a bit more interesting for us—with Bikol poetics more closely affected by the hybridization of Philippine culture. Shall we say that it is to the Cebuano writers’ advantage that they are far from the center? I should say so, for they can easily create their own center—as they are bent on doing.

12th INWW Literary Folio

Now we need only to wait for the publication of the batch literary folio due next year. The folio will include all of the comments form panelists and fellows alike on the manuscripts. This, aside from the fact that our video cam armed co-fellow, Vlad Gonzales ‘threatened’ to come up with his version of the ‘12th INWW: The Real Score’, with our talk shows and documentaries of poetic outbursts.

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A Leoncio Deriada sponsored game also helped reveal the macho dancer instinct of the fellow with the “pinakamagandang itlog sa balat ng lupa.” This proves that there can be no legitimate writers workshop without nudity—as in the Silliman beach. The last time I heard of the fellow, he was still doing teacherly activities, checking papers and the like. Way to go.

Surely, a workshop cannot be legitimate without drinking sprees either. Alcohol enhanced conversations on the human genome, courtesy of this writer, did not at first sound like a topic that like-minded poets would indulge into, same with the medical and scientific truth on the aswang folklore, courtesy of Bryan and Marcel of Capiz. But believe me they were and it did not make me forget about my kris, the sword that I was supposed to buy in Iligan as souvenir. Next time around, I will get the longer one.

Might as well bring my katana too.

(I am posting this old article because soon it will be national writer’s workhop season in the Philippines. I wrote this in May 2005 after I attended the 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop)

LLB=MA AND THE TWILIGHT ZONE

December 16, 2013

It’s kinda weird when people don’t know that a Bachelor of Laws degree is equivalent to a Master’s degree. You see, it is a post-graduate course. One can get to law school only after finishing a four-year baccalaureate course. And it takes at least four years to finish a law course. The subjects are also definitely more demanding!

It’s good that I came across CHED Resolution 038 Series of 2001. It places the issue to rest. We now consider an LLB to be also a Master’s degree holder.

I have been hooked to the classic TV series The Twilight Zone. Thanks to YouTube, I can now access even the earliest episodes during the 1960s. Rod Serling is just brilliant. It’s also great to know that he was a Literature major. The early episodes were just so great. They are truly classics!

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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.

MANILA BOY

November 28, 2012

Been doing patintero with Manila traffic. Kevin de Quiroz in tow, we visited Ms. Dinah Ventura (The Daily Tribune), Ms. Shirley Lua (Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center), Manila Times, UST and FEU.

I finally have copies of the August 1 issue of The Daily Tribune where my VerSosimo article appears. I also have copies of the Sunday Times Magazine issues where my poems appeared. Said magazine is not able to reach my locality every Sunday. I was also able to hand over to Ms. Lua the nomination letter (National Artist) for Cirilo F. Bautista by young Bikol writers, all members of Ateneo Literary Asosciation (ALA, Ateneo de Naga University). And of course, the expedition is not purely pleasure but also business. Also looked for a dormitory.

Tomorrow will be the much awaited Ani 37 launch where we will play the National Anthem and other poetry music. Incidentally, we will also play the WG anthem song entitled “Hindi Kami Papayag na Walang Makata sa Lipunan.” The lyrics goes like this:

Hindi kami papayag na walang makata sa lipunan (2x)

Hinding-hinding-hinding-hinding hindi

Di kami makakapayag.

Wala na namang tula sa Inquirer magazine (2x)

Wala-wala-wala-wala-wala

Walang tula sa’ting balita.

(Guitar Solo, repeat stanza then guitar solo till end).

Been thinking about name-calling as an element of power relations specially in the case of the Tsinoy. In the area of politics, opposing parties resort to name-calling to cut the opponent down to size instead of engaging him in a level-headed and head-on debate. And in the Philippine setting, it could even lead to disastrous consequences. One party might just decide to bring the animosity to a more physical level and resort to arms.

In political and literary theory, name-calling is seen as an articulation of power-relations. As early as the Spanish era, it was postulated that name-calling or “bansag” was a way for the subjugated to get even with the colonizers. There was even a “patood” that goes this way: “Duwang kastila/Nagboborobintana.”

The answer to that is of course mucus in a runny nose. It could be a way for the Bikolnon peasant folk to “hit back” at their Castillan hacienderos who would merely look at them from their windows while the former toiled in the farms. Name-calling is then a product of class struggle and an adversarial culture. In the realm of psychology, it could be a sign of immaturity on the part of the name-caller.

Being so, name-calling is a “no-no” in the academic setting. Aside from the aforementioned implications, it is tantamount to bullying and psychological violence. It results to animosities. It is also a hindrance to learning hence should never be resorted to by the students, and more importantly, by the teachers.

Our penal code has a provision on libel and slander, the former particularizing on written or published while the latter on oral defamation. Article 353 defines libel in general:

“Art. 353. Definition of libel.A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Articles 358 and 359 provide for slander:

Art. 358. Slander. — Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

Art. 359. Slander by deed. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person. If said act is not of a serious nature, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.”

Likewise, the Civil Code has a provision on the matter:

“Art. 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

(1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence:

(2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

And under Article 33 of the Civil Code cases of defamation can be subject of an independent civil action (from the criminal case):

“Art. 33. In cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries a civil action for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may be brought by the injured party. Such civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal prosecution, and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.”

Name-calling could fall under the purview of the above provisions and could be subject of a criminal and civil case. And under Art. 26 of the Civil Code, it falls within the purview of the fourth provision on vexing or humiliating on account of other personal condition, and could be a ground for damages, particularly moral damages and exemplary damages. Surely, name-calling could result to “mental anguish.” And said civil action could be proceeded with independent of the criminal case.

So how does name-calling affect Tsinoys? For instance, the teacher keeps on twisting the Chinese-sounding name of the student to make it sound ridiculous. It could humiliate the student for in our culture, one’s family name must be defended by all means being something we inherited from our forefathers. It could also have repercussions on racism. And as we said name-calling is merely a manifestation of power-relations which can be traced back to history.

There’s news of a husband abroad suing his wife because the latter is actually ugly. It is reported that the wife merely underwent plastic surgery to enhance her looks. Later, when the couple had their firstborn, said husband found the baby to be quite ugly. He then sued his wife, apparently for fraud. Now this happened in a foreign country. In said case, husband and wife were able to obtain a divorce. Will the same case prosper in the Philippines?

So here’s my StanagaTus #3:

Bakit sa paglilitis
Dinaan ang ‘yong inis?
Pinairal ang mistake
Dahil sa hidden defect?

We have no divorce law but under the Family Code a declaration of annulment of marriage may be obtained on the ground of fraud. And there are only four types of marital fraud as per our law, namely:

1. Non-dislosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude;

2. Concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband;

3. Concealment of a sexually transmissible disease, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage;

4. And concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage.

The law further provides that NO OTHER misrepresentation or deceit as to character, health, rank, fortune or chastity shall constitute such fraud.

Being that concealment of  an ugly progeny or anything of the same effect is not part of the enumeration, I surmise that said case will not prosper in the Philippines. That’s why some people are assailing said court decision as stupid. But I think it won’t be a stupid ruling if their law allows for it. Courts merely apply the law, right?