April 2, 2014

In 2012, something great happened in the literary landscape of Naga City, the Bikol Poetry Slam. Watch the complete video here.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

ENTER 2012

December 26, 2011

This is my year-ender and not my previous post. Last year, I don’t think I posted something like this. Perhaps there was not much to talk about. But this year is a peculiar year. Everything seemed to have happened all at the same time. Right now our government institutions are banging each other and the start of 2012 will see an impeachment court with the Chief Justice on trial. I hope this will not erode the integrity of the Court. We must bear in mind that this is an issue on personalities, and the Court as an institution is never part of this.

It has been prophesized that 2012 will start a New World Order. Could the conflict between the branches of government, particularly between the Executive and the Judiciary be nothing but the sign of its coming? Technology is advancing faster and faster. The way we see the world has changed. Must our system of governance advance along with it? As I always assert, the State is nothing but a mere political theory put into practice. Even the legal system is a political or literary theory. For instance, if we live under the auspices of anarchism, we would only have five laws and not tomes of substantial and remedial rules.

Good thing about technology is it more or less brings power to our hands. Social networking and blogging are the new media. People now are more informed. They can make better political decisions. We only need to make the kids, who are said to be techno-natives, a more useful lot in the cyberspace and not mere gamers and sex-video uploaders.

Literary practice has changed also. More and more writers use social networking and blogging to promote their art and the culture of reading. And many have started to become multi-media artists. Even poetry is now multi-media. Poetry is now cinema, is now music, is now performance, and not only a thing for pagination.

This year, aside from further studying Philippine laws and jurisprudence, I persisted in literary practice. I also chose to be a paralegal in an NGO that I think would better appraise me as to how to practice law more effectively in a third-world setting. Alternative lawyering is the key. Lawyers are also citizens and educators. They must not be confined to the law office and the court sala. Lawyers must also use other means to reach the people and educate them about the law. They must use technology, lobbying, social involvement, arts and culture even.

In the literary arts scene here in Bicol, I lament that seemingly, the Kabulig-Bikol has died. There are no meetings and no projects. Our current NCCA representative is almost invisible and seems to be hated by many. Good thing that there are other active literary orgs around. ABKAT is a remarkable group. They invited me to sit as panelist for the Albay Writers Workshop 2011 held at Bicol University-Tabaco on May 20-22. And to my delight, I learned that there are so many young female writers there. Don’t get me wrong. I was not delighted for any other prurient reason. I was delighted because we have very few female writers here in Bicol (poetess Jo Bisuna died November this year). The ABKAT group only needs to take care of these young writers: Keep a directory of their names and addresses, continually invite them to workshops, poetry shows and lectures, publish them, etc. Not to be outdone, the young writers here in Camarines Sur are also active in joining other writers groups here and in attending poetry gigs.

As I said, writing became a regular activity for me once again. Being able to write in four languages helped me in avoiding writer’s fatigue. This time, my focus is English poetry. I have published enough in Bikol and Tagalog. It’s time to come back to where it all started: English poetry. It’s also time to come back to my old self—happy just to be able to come up with a poem. Not thinking of personalities who serve as nuisance to literary practice—writers who cannot think straight and who mess everything up because of their immaturity, eccentricity and petty politics. These writers give the literary arts sector a bad name and further alienate it from the people.

And so I sent poems to publications again. Let me list my printed poems for 2011:

1. Biyahe (Sunday Inquirer Magazine, January 23, 2011)

2. Firefly (Sunday Inquirer Magazine, June 5, 2011)

3. And Home is Not What I find Each Christmas (Philippine Panorama, December 25, 2011

4. Magsaysay Soiree (Sunday Times Magazine, June 26, 2011)

5. After the Magsaysay Soiree (Sunday Times Magazine, June 26, 2011)

6. Collision Lesson (Sunday Times Magazine, July 31, 2011)

7. The Night Before the Lunar Eclipse (Sunday Times Magazine, July 31, 2011)

8. The Wake Up Call (Philippines Free Press, April 23, 2011)

9. Sa Bookstore: Dasal ng Salesboy (Liwayway Magasin, May 30, 2011)

10. Barbershop Brainstorming (Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry, September 2011)

11. Basang Papel Itong Tamong (Sagurong: 100 na Kontemporanyong Rawitdawit sa Manlain-lain na Tataramon Bikol, September 2011)

12. Opera (Sagurong: 100 na Kontemporanyong Rawitdawit sa Manlain-lain na Tataramon Bikol, September 2011)

13. Astral Travel (Paper Monster Press—Dream Pop Issue, August 2011)

There could be more and my radar may have missed them. Hence please inform this blogger if there are other poems not mentioned here, dear blog reader.

It has always been good custom for writers to send poems and stories to magazines and anthologies. But sadly, the year saw some of these outlets abandoning poetry or worse, closing its pages. First is the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. After I got printed, it’s no longer a weekly but a monthly magazine, and so far, there’s no poetry section. Second is the Philippine Panorama. Its poetry editor and columnist, Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista has ceased to be a part of the magazine. Good thing that is still publishes occasional poetry, albeit with bad lay-out. They sure could use a competent poetry editor. Third is Sunday Times Magazine. Their circulation is so very limited, they don’t even send copies here in Bicol on Sundays. Fourth is the Philippines Free Press. They don’t have print copies anymore. I was informed by their staff that their lawyers failed to spot that their incorporation needed renewal notwithstanding that said attorneys receive retainer’s fee. Hence it could be a clear case of negligence. But then, if a corporation continues to operate even after 50 years, incorporation is impliedly renewed. Good thing that the FP still prints poems in its website.

Surely, what we have here is lack of outlets. And lack of support. Most Filipinos don’t care about literary arts. Many would rather focus on politics and money-making. But then again, should we care? We write therefore we are, and they have to share this dying planet with us. When there are no other avenues for our art, we can blog, we can network.

This year, this blog was awarded Best Literature Blog during the 1st Bicol Bloggy Awards (but I have not received my citation yet, so someone from the organizers would please send it to me). Yes, blogging exists. Facebook is there only as jumping board for the bloggers, myself included. Nothing beats blogs and websites in content development. There is more focus. Social networking sites are fast-paced. People don’t really stop to read and absorb. That is why I maintained this blog. Hagbayon is a portal of mine. This is me.

Also this year, the UP Harong once again proved its devotion to local literary arts when it sponsored the 9th Sural Essay Writing Contest. It was held at Naga College Foundation on October 27. As one of the judges, I noted that young Bicolanos have a lot of things to say. We only need to fine tune their writing skills to be able to develop the writers in them. If we are to train more writers, we must start with the younglings.

As a said, poetry has become multi-media. Last year, I started making short poetic films. In March, I also organized Writer’s Gig at Wharf Galley, a monthly poetry show in Naga City featuring music, poetic short-films, poetry readings, theater and dance. We also have literary discussions over rounds of beer after the gig. The idea is to bring language art to public places just to introduce poetic discourse. So far, we have had seven gigs. And since our beloved Wharf Galley is closing, reluctantly, we have to look for a new venue. I am sure there are others out there willing to house a poetry show at least once a month. One feature of our gig is my band The Super Poet Genome Project. Video clips of our performances could be accessed via my YouTube Channel.

Memorable literary events in 2011 were the Su’pay at Aquinas University and the Bikol Poetry Galore both in February. I also attended the .MOV Festival for the “Under the Storm” launch.

At this juncture, I should like to comment that musicians here in Bicol should have fought tooth and nail just to help Wharf Galley survive. After-all, the bar caters to the local rock scene. I think some rockers here need to deepen their advocacy for their art. Not that I am impressed by most of them. They act like rockstars but many of them suck big time. The least they could do is to place their heart in the right place.

Bikol literary criticism and language studies are getting within the folds of Bicol academe. Teachers of literature and language are now networking with practicing writers. I was invited as paper presenter for the 1st Bicol Regional Conference on Language and Literature: Engaging New Frontiers in Research and Pedagogy, held at Ateneo de Naga University on April 30, 2011. Dr. Priscelina Legasto and Dr. Doods Santos were the main speakers. It was exciting finally meet Dr. Legasto. I found her to be a witty conversationalist able to adjust to her audience. From her, I learned the term “alpha-male” to which I am happily a member of. Dr. Legasto appraised us on postcolonial theory. Dr. Doods Santos introduced to us ecocriticism. This blog for one is determined to include climate-change mitigation in its advocacies. Surely, to look at literature in particular, and the world in general using ecocriticism as critical lens will aid me in this intention.

How about my book? Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon is a library book. I wrote it not to sell thousands of copies (not that NCCA printed thousands of copies). I wrote it for the very few elite poets who are really into the art of Bikol poetry. Lately, I learned that there are copies at Yale University Library and the National Library. I can’t ask for more.

How about love life? (Ehem). I am a lover by nature, an amador. The life of somebody like me is always full of romance. But I shall leave that to my would-be biographer to discuss. Maybe it’s too early for a valentines post. But guys remember this: Women deserve to be loved no matter if your exes ended up as queen bitches. So there. Happy New Year!

–Jose Jason L. Chancoco

Iriga City


October 10, 2009

During the Bikolinismo Awards 2009. My book was conferred the Premio Bibiano Sabino para sa Librong Bikolnon.

Local languages in the regions are also official languages as per the 1987 Constitution. For the purposes of instruction and communication, the official languages of the country are Filipino, and until otherwise provided by law, English. And for the same purposes, local languages shall serve as auxiliary medium (Art. 14 Sec. 6-7 of the 1987 Constitution).

Yes, auxiliary medium, but only for the purposes of instruction and communication, particularly in the academe and government subdivisions. However, as literary medium our local languages may also be construed as occupying the privileged space of being official. Likewise, literary culture is part of custom which is deemed to be not contrary to morals, law and public policy, hence countenanced by the Courts when proven as fact (Arts. 11-12 RA 386). Our country also has a prevailing policy in support of ethnicity for the framework of national unity (Art. 2 Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution).

Perhaps the above provisions are only in recognition of the country’s being multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Literary pursuits in the regions involving ethnicity as in the search for local aesthetics is very much lawful. In fact, when in contact with foreign states our policy shall always be for the right to self-determination (Art. 2 Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution). What more when we deal with fellow Filipinos under the context of nationhood?

Tomorrow, we shall be awarding prizes to some Bikolnon writers during the Bikolinismo and Premio Tomas Arejola. The more exciting part of the event is not really the awards night itself, but the opportunity of Bikol writers to gather right after the awards rites and exchange thoughts about the state of Bikol literature and its direction. And this writer is lucky enough to be part of the awards night as the book “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” will be conferred this year’s Premio Bibiano Sabino para sa Librong Bikolnon.

The people must know that our pursuits are official in nature, and not mere auxiliary or hobby. Publishing our works and giving them prizes are just some of the ways to assert this fact. This is a happy realization for this blogger as I dig out the writer’s place under the province of our fundamental law and statutes. Literary culture is a sound custom and countenanced by law. Culture is law, as the latter is supposed to be shaped, if not influenced by the former.

Our poets are legislators too. Younger poets invoke the elder ones. Poetics is law, and if in the proper context, poems can articulate culture and native wisdom which in turn are very much suited to be a rich source of legislation and law.


September 24, 2009

Earlier, I blogged about the need for the National Book Awards to open itself up for books published in Philippine languages other than Tagalog/Filipino. Of late, more and more books are coming out from the provinces written in their respective local languages. As I said, I am not so keen on awards, but then with the NBA existing, I think these titles ought to have a place in the roster.

Here in Bicol, there is a new category in the Premio Tomas para sa Literaturang Bikolnon seeking to recognize Bikol books that contributed much to Bikolnon letters. It is open for book authors, editors and illustrators for titles distributed from September 2007 to September 2009. It is the Premio Bibiano Sabino para sa Librong Bikolnon.

Being part and parcel of the PTPLB, the Premio Sabino awarding will be alongside the regular categories. This year, it will also coincide with the Bikolinismo Awards. The winner will be conferred a citation plus a modest cash prize. I only pray that this Bikol book award will continue from this year onward to be Bicol’s counterpart for the National Book Award.

Needless to say, this September is Bikol Literature Month. Some of the Bikolinismo awardees are giving lectures on their craft just so they could make the most of their visit in the City of Naga. Dr. Zeus Salazar, on the 30th, 9am at the Museo de Caceres, will talk about an archeological find, a jar cover/lid that could explicate the historicity of the Ibalong. Foremost screen writer Ricardo Lee, on the 29th, 8am at the UNC-IMC, will give a lecture on the screenplay. He will likewise launch his latest novel, Para Kay B.

With all this writers around, I think Kabulig-Bikol should take advantage of their presence and arrange even an informal meeting or gathering right after the awarding ceremonies on Tuesday.

Two stories for children, three essays, four short stories, one 1-act play and eleven collections of poetry are in contention for top honors in the 6th Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon.

This was announced by Carlos Arejola, chairman of the Bicol-wide literary competition widely regarded in the literary circle as the region’s premiere literary prize.

Cited in the stories for children are: “Kun Tanu Maharang an Lada” by Owen del Castillo of Pilar, Sorsogon and “A-HU-HO, A-HE-HE (o an Kolor kan Buhay ni Koroy Sa Apat na Osipon) by Estelito Jacob of Camaligan, Camarines Sur.

The finalists for the essay category are: “Pagiromdum” by Eden Enano-Estopace of P. Ocampo St., Manila, “Buhay Riles” by Eilyn L. Nidea Parocha of Ragay, Camarines Sur and “Seminarista” by Owen del Castillo.

The eleven collections of poetry cited this year are: “Parokyano kan Tinampo” by Jerome M. Hipolito of Calabanga, Camarines Sur;  “Insomya” by Owen del Castillo of Pilar, Sorsogon;  “Sa Lugar na Dinakulaan” by Alex Michael S. Boribor of Pioduran, Albay; “Muklat” by Rodel Delera Añosa of Aroroy, Masbate; “Pisaran asin Iba pang mga Rawitdawit” by Leopoldo C. Brizuela, Jr. of Ligao City; “An mga Para-lagaylay asin pang mga Rawitdawit” by Irvin Parco Sto Tomas of Canaman, Camarines Sur; “Sa hubasan, nagprobar akong magsurat” by Eduardo Endraca Uy, Jr. of Gubat, Sorsogon; “Naglakaw ako” by Welbert Cipria of Tabaco City; “Apat na Tigsik sa Tabaco Buda Iba Pang mga Rawitdawit” by Richard Madrilejos of Tabaco City; “Paglabto sa Pagtubod” by Honesto M. Pesimo, Jr. of Naga City; and “Hamot kan Narumdon” by Jaime Jesus U. Borlagdan of Tabaco City.

Cited in the short story category are: “Ligñon Hill” by Rodel Delera Añosa of Aroroy, Masbate; “Kaldero-Kawali, Buhay an Nahale” by Alex Michael S. Boribor of Pioduran, Albay; “Dolores” by Owen del Castillo of Pilar, Sorsogon; and “Pagsarado” by Jaime Jesus U. Borlagdan of Tabaco City.

Only one 1-act play, “Sa Minundagan Sana: Pasirip sa Que Lugar Este kan Dayo ni Jimple” by Richard Madrilejos of Tabaco City, is cited by the Premio Arejola this year.

The said literary works will be honored on September 29, this year at the Conference Hall of the Avenue Square in Naga City at an awards rite which shall also honor the first recipients of the Bikolinismo Outstanding Bikolano Artists search.

The best entries, to be named in the said event, will receive P5,000 and the PTALB medallion. The grand prize shall then be chosen from among the category winners and shall be conferred the title Writer of the Year, and receive P10,000 and the Naga City Jaycees Parasurat kan Taon trophy. The cash prize and trophy is courtesy of the Naga City currently headed by Mark Enrile.

Also to be honored are the finalists of the Rawitdawit para ki Ina, a special poetry category for elementary and high school students, namely: “Pagkamoot kan Sarong Ina” by Sean Marben P. Guinoo and “Pagtubod. Pagkamoot. Pag-omaw” by Grechil Angela L. Ayen, both of St. Louise de Marillac School of Pili; “Bulos kan Pagtubod” by Ailyn B. Caringal and “Pag-omaw ki Ina” by Flerida Ann G. Deniega, both of Ragay National Agricultural & Fisheries School; “Peñafrancia Fiesta” by Kimberly Anne F. Tolop, “An Ika-Tersentenaryong Milagro kan Inang  Peñafrancia” by Khim Joseph R. Naval, and “Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia an Pangaran Niya” by John Paul A. Bacsain, all of Pili National High School.

First handed out last year, the winner of the Rawitdawit para ki Ina category receives cash and prizes worth 3,000 and a medallion designed by Marianne Olaño of Baycrafts, a Naga-based outfit and trademark.

The two other major prizes to be handed out are the Premio Bibiano Sabino para sa Librong Bikolnon and the PTALB Lifetime Achievement Award.


August 19, 2009

August 15 at the Avenue Square was my first ever book launch but I was not nervous at all. I had company, a woman of course (can’t live without them), and the other seven writers and two visual artists who participated. Surely, it was a feast of the written word.

Actually, the “Pagbungsod” was just a part of “Gira nin Panahon”, an arts and culture project of Development Institute of Bicolano Artists Foundation, Inc. (DIBA). It features not only literary arts, but also the visual arts. In fact during the launch, there was an art exhibit at the second level of the venue.

The “Pagbungsod” will also be brought to other areas in the region. In fact, an Iriga leg is already being cooked up by poet Frank Penones, who by the way, announced during the launch that this writer will be conferred the Sumagang Award (for literary arts). The said distinction is the highest that the City of Iriga could ever give to Iriguenos who made a great mark in their chosen field of endeavor.  With due respect to Manoy Frank, my nominator, I really had the gut feel as early as early, from the time he texted me a congratulatory message, that the award will not really be given to me. Of course the mere fact that he announced it at the Avenue Square before Naga City public officials, educators, media, writers and artists; he must have been assured by the Sumagang committee of my winning. Being a writer of great repute, he must have had verifiable basis.

Alas! My ‘literary clairvoyance’ did not fail me. It was just a foul-up after all, in other words ‘kuryente’. Manoy Frank sent me an email saying he was not sure if the Sumagang committee was not able to defend their recommendation of me or if it was the committee itself that changed its mind and scrapped my name off the list before sending it to Mayor Madel for approval. According to the rules set by the Sumagang Awards, only nominees screened by the committee will be sent to the Mayor for approval. This way, we could prevent the Caparas-Alvarez Case of inserting a “nominee” at the approval level of the contest while the same “nominee” did not undergo the screening process set by the committee. In essence, a shortcut.

The Sumagang committee has the discretion as to who it will recommend for the award. Heck, it even has the power to change its mind to the detriment of those who construed its decision as final. The Mayor also has the power to reject a recommended nominee. The trick is the formal letter because it contains the official information (but lest we forget that Manoy Frank is the PIO of Iriga City Hall). Also, I think, nominees and nominators have no cause of action against the committee and the Mayor, hence they cannot complain, protest or even file suit in a quo warranto proceeding since they are just that, nominees and nominators (Cuyegkeng vs. Cruz, July 26, 1960) and I think, the same rule applies even to the National Artist Awards.

I am not bent on discussing this issue here by virtue of delicadeza. I am the nominee after-all. But surely, I did not nominate myself, this I can say. Manoy Frank, in his own volition took up the initiative and asked for my writer’s archive. But since the “Pagbungsod” crowd of civil and intelligent citizens were duly informed of my supposed conferment of the Sumagang, I see it fit that things be clarified here. But surely, I hold that Manoy Frank was in good faith on account of his eagerness to congratulate a bard-brother.

It is painful for us Iriguenos of course. This could be construed as something similar to the dagdag-bawas National Artist. Frank Penones will not make those pronouncements in public if he were not sure of it. Anyway, I am not so keen on awards. Specially those tainted with irregularities. As writers, we all work hard to build a good by-line. I for one, will not allow mine  to be besmirched just because of the Sumagang. Also, I maintain that poets are immortal, superior to politicians and more sublime than human accolade. In such that awards don’t honor us, we are the ones who give prestige to the awards.

Bikol literature is arguably populated by Irigueno writers and poets. This is something that Iriga-LGU must learn to recognize and accept, lest they only expose their ignorance.

I would like to thank Mrs. Maria Ngo and the Filipino-Chinese community in Iriga City for nominating me for the 6th Dr. Jose P. Rizal Awards for Excellence (for Arts; Literature and Culture). Surprisingly, I landed as finalist. Past awardees include Charlson Ong, Ricardo Lee, Jose Mari Chan and Doreen Yu

I almost had a resolve to shy away from nomination-based contests, but how do you refuse and disappoint an eager nominator? Thanks again Shan-si!

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‘Dissolving what is marginal and central.’ This is the end-tail of the blurb I gave for Pangasinan poet-laureate Santiago B. Villafania for his KWF funded second book ‘Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles’. And this is exactly what you will experience if you happen to understand Pangasinense and read the works therein, considering that there are also English poems in the collection. So place your orders now while supplies last.

Meanwhile, this summer Malagilion experience of mine seemed to have extended itself toward one melting-pot of heat, traffic and culture, and that is Sampaloc, Manila. I was invited to sit as panel during the 9th UST National Writers Workshop held right inside the Pontifical University’s campus in España. It was in 2002 when I won a slot as fellow for poetry in the same workshop along with the likes of Ma. Francezka Kwe, Mikael Co, Alex Agena and Maryanne Moll. The end result was a drained supply of Red Horse beer in the creepy but classy Hotel Veneracion in Baguio City.

This year’s fellows were mostly young (like me, haha). And I did my best to be fair and objective as possible. I pointed out parts that needed improvement, offered correctives so as to leave a sense of direction. The country’s workshop set-up is primarily inductive. It is easy to get lost in faultfinding without offering remedies.

In a way, this is the advantage of LIRA’s palihan system—there’s the theory or lecture, and there’s the application or writing part. And the workshop would last for months or even a year so the panel can follow-up on the progress of the writing fellows.

For a change, I added (together with Santiago Villafania) some tinge of regional paradigm in my critiques. I wanted the fellows to see that panelists come from diverse backgrounds and they ought to identify who could help them best. In my view, I saw it fit not only to share what I know about Tagalog/Filipino poetics but also Bikol poetics more importantly that some writing fellows were from the provinces.

I believe that writers from the regions have a lot to share. In the KWF’s Talaang Ginto, I am beginning to see this trend. Writers from the region would win because they infuse something from their culture in their Tagalog/Filipino poems, thus enriching the National Language. Cirilo F. Bautista, himself a Gawad Collantes honoree and judge has this to say: ‘…because Filipino—which is now called our national language—has a democratic character, it offers contemporary poets new inroads and challenges. Indeed, some of them have shown that words and phraseology, and imagery from one region can be positioned within the structure of Tagalog. John Iremil Teodoro and Genevieve Asenjo of Antique, Jose Jason Chancoco of Bicol, and Santiago Villafania of Pangasinan have done exactly that and, consequently contribute to the enrichment of the poetic medium. (Breaking Signs, Philippine Panorama May 4, 2008).