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.

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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!

COME AS YOU ARE

April 3, 2014

A few weeks ago, we had a Cirilo Bautista tribute as part of the Naga City Public Poetry Project. Only a few was able to attend as readers. There were only five of us there. But still, we pushed through. Afterwards, we had a meeting. You see, we are planning to apply for grants. I made a video of the event and started sending the YouTube link to FB friends. I wanted to involve as many people as possible, even those who failed to attend. The result was amazing. People did show interest and watched the video. Joel Pablo Salud, the editor-in-chief of Philippines Graphic even wanted me to write an article on the poetry gigs that I have been organizing in Naga City. So I did. And now the article is out, printed in Page 36-37 of the April 7, 2014 issue of said magazine. Please do buy (and grab) a copy at your nearest news stands, National Bookstore and 711 outlets. Here’s the picture of the pages. Nice lay-out!

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The next session is going to happen on April 25, 2014, again at the Raul Roco Public Library. I hope we could replicate the WG/VerSosimo/Bikol Slam projects as per attendance. Summer, summer, poems of summer. More updates coming!

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The Raul Roco Library will host a monthly poetry event dubbed as Naga City Library Public Poetry Project (NCLPPP) which will feature lectures, poetry readings, performances and books, among others. Main organizers include Naga-based writer Jose Jason L. Chancoco, AdNU-POEM moderator Elsie Albis and City Librarian Riko Vinluan. The first installment, a lecture by Chancoco on Bikol poetics, was held on February 28, just in time for the closing of the National Arts Month.

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

Photo Credit: Giovhanii Buen

Chancoco, a known organizer of literary events in the city, is the person behind the WG and VerSosimo. Said poetry projects were held monthly at the now defunct Wharf Galley Rock Café until it moved to Sosimo Bar. The Public Poetry Project will have almost the same format as the previous poetry gigs, featuring multimedia and performance poetry, but this time there is a lecture-workshop element.

For the month of March, the NCLPPP will be a Cirilo F. Bautista Tribute. Poems by the incoming National Artist for Literature will be read on March 14 at 4-6pm. An open-mic segment will also follow. Interested parties may contact the organizers at hagbayon(at)gmail(dot)com.

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)

POEMS AND GUITAR PICKS

December 3, 2013

I am happy to be revising my old Tagalog poems. It is like going back to my younger self. Since I have matured in more ways than one, I find them wanting of revision. My teacher Cirilo Bautista would say: “Make sure that they are the best you have written.”

He was talking about my next book, a collection of poems. I have to admit that this second title has long been delayed. Well, we cannot live as a dreamer all day. We have to make a living too. But while existing in the pragmatic plane, I struggled to still come up with poems and get them published. I even organized poetry gigs. I even won some poetry prizes. I cannot ask for more. Now let me post a picture of a Tagalog poem I published in Sunday Times Magazine. This one won in the Talaang Ginto 2012, a poetry contest sponsored by the Philippine government via its Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF).

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But then my guitars. I just cannot live without them. And I am just so passionate about guitar picks. I love collecting guitar picks! I collect them like stamps. Here’s some addition to my pick arsenal.

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There you go. Until next time my friends. 

As said earlier, it’s always fun to be with like-minded writers from time to time. One must be happy simply by knowing that people are listening. You don’t need a full-packed bar. You only need a group of five or six, so long as everybody is interested. So with the help of Santiago Villafania and Raul Funilas, I organized Multiverse/Multitongue: Poetry, Music, Art. It was held last November 6, 2013 at Tata Raul’s gallery in Antipolo here in the Philippines.

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Also in attendance were Gregorio Bituin, Glen Sales, Danilo Diaz, Sergio Aragones and Lt. Gegoria Reyes. We had a grand time just reading our poems to each other after we looked at Raul Funilas’ sculptures on display. We also had food and beverage. Potluck! 

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Too bad Yolanda happened right after. Our poems could not have stopped such bitch of a storm, but at least, we had a grand time before it. At the end of the day, it’s all about having meaningful time. We are only here today. So here’s some video clips of the event. I hope that you will enjoy it.

Until next time my friends. 

MOVIES AND POEMS

December 1, 2013

Been watching great movies, mostly about poems and poets. Have to catch up. My real purpose is to know how writers used to live during the earlier days. I figured that most of them simply focused on their families and their art. They would gather with a few like-minded writers, but as I said, with only a few. This is understandable. Real writing life is solitary. Even the data-gathering part is in essence solitary. Writers would investigate life as a spectator. Sometimes he would participate, but still, he works as a spectator. He maintains a distance. Lest he be overly absorbed and lose his objectivity. 

It’s inspiring to watch these movies. I hope to write about them soon. So far, I am busy working on my poems. I have been busy doing other things these past months. It’s time to catch up. 

By the way, it’s December 1. Merry Christmas!

Now let me post here a picture of one of my favorite poems that got printed in Sunday Times Magazine. It’s entitled “Cram Session.”

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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.