Yesterday, I got an SMS from writer-friend Bebang Siy, the famed author of It’s a Mens World. She told me that she will be sending me an E-mail. She didn’t really tell me what the E-mail was all about. And when she did send it, she even left the subject line blank. Surprise, surprise! It turned out to be a “chain letter for writers” where the recipient has to answer ten questions about his or her latest or upcoming book. It’s really a way for the writers to promote their book projects.


1. What is the title of your latest/upcoming book?

My latest book is “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon,” a work of literary criticism on Bikol poetics. The working title of my next book project is “The Jason Case”. It will be a collection of my poems in English, Filipino, Bikol-Naga and Iriganon.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I studied Tagalog poetics under Rio Alma. And when I attended the Iyas and Iligan National Writer’s Workshops, the elder writers in Visayas and Mindanao were also thinking of writing about their poetics. I figured that at the time there was yet no work of literary criticism covering the poetics of a regional language. So I thought that I better do research on Bikol poetics. It took me four years to finish “Pagsasatubuanan”.

The idea for “The Jason Case” came from a poem of the same title. I thought it could capture my case: A writer who writes in English, Filipino, Bikol-Naga and Iriganon.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

“Pagsasatubuanan” is under literary criticism. “The Jason Case” is poetry, tula and rawitdawit.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

People in a typical Bikolnon community. “Pagsasatubanan” posits that the rawitdawit has a dramatic element, specially the tigsik.

The Fire n Ice Dancers could play-dance “Hagbayon,” one of my poems in Filipino. In fact we already have such performance. Baron Geisler could play the poem “The Jason Case”. It would suit him just fine.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your upcoming book?

“The Jason Case” captures multimedia poetry from the vantage point of a Bikol writer–orag, dexterity and all.

6) Who published your latest book? Who will publish the next one?

“Pagsasatubuanan” is published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). “The Jason Case” will be published by Ateneo de Naga University Press perhaps? DLSU Press? UST Press? We don’t know yet.

7) How long will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Around one month. It won’t take that much time. I have already gathered most of my poems.

8) What other books would you compare this story (project) to within your genre?

Hmmm… There was this book once with a CD accompanying it.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The people around me. Daily experiences. But the project as it is–it’s inspired by the WG, our regular poetry gig here in Bicol.

10) What else about the book that might pique the reader’s interest?

It will be sulit. Will use all of my “powers” here as a writer, performer and musician.

So there you go. Thanks to Ms. Bebang Siy for including me in the chain. You could check her work here.

Also, by next week or earlier, you could check the answers to the same questions by the following writers:

Stephen Prestado

Jaime Jesus Borlagdan

Santiago Villafania

Edwin Cordevilla

Marianne Villanueva



June 15, 2010

The doctrine of posse comitatus appeals to our sense of roots and home. Almost no one is exempt as it is equated to labor of love—love of country that is. Although forced servitude is frowned upon by law as in the case of Delos Reyes v. Alojado, being called upon to fight for one’s motherland is a great sacrifice sanctioned by the 1987 Constitution (Art. 2 Sec. 4). The fundamental law provides that the Government: “may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military of civil service.”

Being a reserve officer, I can expect that I would be called out also to defend the country. I can just imagine how it would feel like, standing in line being given an old M-16 rifle with a half-full magazine due to limited ammunition. And then singing the national anthem just before being sent to the front to face war machines. Perhaps at that moment I would think of the following: my loves, the government bureaucrats who would benefit with the outcome of the conflict, and my native Iriga, particularly Tarusan street—the place of my boyhood, my roots. They say that you will not really think of the entire Philippine territory as defined under Article 1 of the 1987 Constitution. Instead you will think of your home, the place you grew up in. It will inspire you to face the tanks and the nukes.

These things came to my mind during a visit by poet Marie Bismonte on May 29. Perhaps addressing her homing instinct she put a rest to her itinerant nature and settled for the meantime here in the Philippines. She revived her writers’ group and reconnected with local friends. She started to look at Bikol culture and literary tradition in search of her poetic voice and her roots. During her visit I also invited Bikol literary scholar Dr. Cyril Conde and Sumaro Bikolnon President Mr. Ramon Olaño to spice up our discussions. It was a forum of sorts, a dialogue. Marie gave us her standpoint as a Bikolana who left for the US when she was only ten. It is a peculiar fact that she maintained proficiency both in the Bikol-Legaspi and American-English. She could enounce nuances and idioms of the Bikol-Legaspi language like your typical Albay gal while she could also discuss Philippine politics in perfect English with your usual American twang. But then, here’s the rub, she almost can’t speak Tagalog. When asked why she answered: “Dai man pa’no yan pigtuturo duman.” It made sense. She could not speak much of Tagalog because it was not part of the curriculum, and she and her family use Bikol at home, even when in the US.

She is a living proof to the argument that English may not be our second language as usually placed in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Within our framework, English may very well be our third language, Bikol being the first and Tagalog/Filipino being the second. Bikol is truly a language and not a mere dialect of Tagalog. As in the case of Marie, there is no apparent inter-intelligibility between the two languages. In the absence of proper instruction and exposure, there is no chance that a Bikolnon would be able to acquire Tagalog as a language.

Language can be an issue for writers, especially under a post-colonial setting. We advised her to relearn the language for it is common even for Bikolnons to be more at ease with English and Filipino as literary language. We told her that it is the usual route for all of us. We also gave her other sources and authors. Dr. Conde and I even gave her complimentary copy of our books, knowing that she is a poet of the first water and an excellent reader.

Roaming around the city was the next logical thing to do. After walking around Ateneo de Naga, we went to Museo de Caceres, Basilica, Plaza Quince Martires, Kakanon Bikolnon and Kulturang Bikolnon. We temporarily parted ways at SM City Naga and curiously enough, we talked about labor standards and how it is violated by multinationals. In the same vein, we shared sad stories of copyright issues being suffered by local writers. So much to talk about so little time, but there is always next time.

I have launched my first book on Bikol poetics published through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts-National Committee on Literary Arts (NCCA-NCLA). I think this book is important because it is the first ouvre on Bikol poetic aesthetics written in the Bikol language. So that non-Bikols could understand its gist and purpose, I saw it fit to write the foreword in English.

As they say:

“Chancoco’s book enlightens us on important aspects of Bikol poetics. It is a great contribution to Philippine literary scholarship.”
–Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista, Philippine Panorama

“We could not fault Chancoco’s craftmanship”
–Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, Homelife Magazine

“Jose Jason L. Chancoco’s pioneering and scholarly work, Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon, is a koh-i-noor in the canon of Bikol poetics and literary criticism. A rare achievement!
–Santiago Villafania, Dalityapi Unpoemed

“An “Pagsasatubuanan” ni Chancoco sarong pagtukar kan Bikolnon na poetika sa paaging strukturalista-pormalista, sa paaging ini, an libro minakapot kan tropeo bilang enot na pagrurip sa pagrarawitdawit sa Bikol.”
–Victor Dennis Nierva, Vox Bikol

“Creating his own devices to articulate terminologies in Bicol translation, Chancoco uses Bicol in its formal form, proving that studies and researches can be articulated in the native language.”
–Juan Escandor, Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer

Copies of the book are available (PhP250 only) at Museo de Caceres (inside the Holy Rosary Minor seminary), Kulturang Bikolnon (first level of the CBD Hotel Building) and Basilica Souvenir Shop (Basilica Compound) in Naga City. Orders may also be placed by sending an E-mail to tarusan22(at)yahoo(dot)com or via SMS to 09199470406 and copies will be sent by courier.


November 22, 2008

BURIED with work somewhere else. This is my alibi for not updating my blog.

It is no joke being a college instructor. At times, I would like to attribute my sudden slight increase in blood pressure (aside from no-no foods and beer) to my attempt to play teacher in front of hormonal and emo-crazed youngsters. Everyday, I feel like a rondalla player in a rock concert.

Also my work as PR practitioner is about to go full swing for SM-Naga will soon operate in the region. This will bring not only employment for me and other compatriots but a promise of world-class shopping experience. As a writer, I am excited because of National Bookstore. As a guitarist, I await the opening of Yamaha, Perfect Pitch, J and B and/or Laser. As a film lover, I sure will invade SM Cinema.

Soon enough Shoe Mart will become part of Bikol culture.

I expect that there will be a St. Pauls Publication outlet in SM-Naga. St. Pauls is popular among Bikol writers because of Homelife Magazine. Writers (mostly regional) delight at the prospect of being printed in its poetry page as edited by Leoncio Deriada. In fact its October 2008 issue features one of my poems entitled “Magnanakaw.” Also in the same section are the works of Honesto Pesimo, Jr., Carlos A. Arejola and Estelito Jacob. So please grab your copy!

NCCA has started contacting the chosen delegates to the 1st Philippine Literary Arts Festival slated on February 11-12, 2009 at UP-Diliman. Its original concept is that of 40/40—forty writers below forty years of age. 10 writers each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, plus 10 from the National Capital Region. However, NCR produced a list of more than 10 young writers. So it is no longer 40/40 (50/40 perhaps?). From Bicol I know the delegates to be Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Kristian Cordero and this writer. Recent National Book Award winner Vic Nierva is listed as a delegate for NCR. During the festival, I expect that there will be conferences, performances, lectures and book exhibits. Truly, it’s something to look forward to.

Similarly, I will surely attend the launch of Ani 34 on December 17, 7PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Ramp. I have four titles in the anthology and the CCP Literary Arts Division is considering my podcast on “Uniberso” for a dance performance. This is a welcome development and I am open to the idea of collaborating with the dancers.

Needless to say, I congratulate all of the writers included in Ani 34. CCP’s Literary Yearbook is still the longest running literary anthology in the country featuring a myriad of writers across the archipelago. Indeed, the anthology of anthologies.


November 20, 2007

Call it literary ESP. I knew I would surely have a poem published in the November issue of HomeLife Magazine, so there I was buying two copies from St. Paul’s Bookshop. And indeed a work of mine was there, conveniently printed in the poetry page. As usual, I had a short chat with the Sisters and they were egging me to contribute for the Paulines Magazine. ‘Why not Sistah,’ I replied.

I have written about this before, my mild clairvoyance of anything literary. Like seeing Hotel Veneracion in a dream before I actually got to attend the UST National Writers Workshop; or having a sort of an ‘advance proofreader’s copy’ of my work, seeing the page in a dream before it reaches the stands. This time, I saw this plaque. Nothing else more, just a plaque.

So when I texted Dulce Deriada saying ‘hi and ‘thanks’ to his father for using ‘Elehiya’ this month, HomeLife’s poetry editor, Dr. Leoncio Deriada could only blurt out: ‘May ESP ka ano? You had an inkling that you won?’ It turned out that my poem in Tagalog/Filipino ‘Isang Gabing Ganito’, yes, that one with a typo when it got printed, won first place in this year’s contest. I thought I was dreaming, like the clairvoyance thing again, but this time I did not have to wake up.

Maybe five months of isolation and concentrated literary thought when I was in Imus, Cavite back in 2000 (just finishing off my ROTC) developed this ‘clairvoyance thing’ in me. It was the time when I could sit the whole day just thinking of my literary plans. I loved those moments as flavored by my endless readings and writers’ dates. It was just me and God signing a contract.

Now Home Life Magazine’s poetry contest just like when it started in 1992, considers as entries only those poems that got printed in its poetry page for the year. Dr. Leoncio Deriada serves as its editor and at the same time ex-officio judge during deliberations in November. Judges would come from different parts of the country, and thankfully, I am in no way connected to this year’s judges (except Dr. Deriada who was a panelist during the Iyas and 12th Iligan National Writers Workshop). This makes a clear-cut win, methinks, considering that my co-winners are good company (Kristian Cordero of Iriga City-2nd and Estelito Jacob of Camaligan-3rd prize). Also, New York-based poet Luis Cabalquinto of Magarao won first place for the English Division.

But not without heavy competition. According to Dr. Deriada, it was the Filipino Division that gave the judges a hard time. Poets from the NCR, Central and Northern Luzon also contended for the top spot against their Bikolnon opponents. But not much luck this time, for even the fourth place was occupied by another Bikol poet, Carlo Arejola, almost displacing Esting Jacob by an inch. A Bicol sweep indeed.

Here’s the complete list of winners and judges as sent via SMS by Dulce Deriada on November 20, 2007:

Filipino Category—1st Prize: “Isang Gabing Ganito” by Jose Jason L. Chancoco of Iriga City; 2nd Prize: “Sa Paglubog ng Araw” by Kristian S. Cordero of Iriga City; and 3rd Prize: “Sa Muling Pagputok ng Mayon” by Estelito B. Jacob of Camaligan, Camarines Sur.

English Category—1st Prize: “Quotidian” by Luis Cabalquinto of Magarao, Camarines
Sur (now based in New York); 2nd Prize: “Confrontation at the Café” by Michael U. Obenieta of Cebu City; and 3rd Prize: “A House Full of a Keeper’s Absence” by Tem M. Adlawan of Naga, Cebu.

Members of the Board of Judges are: Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada (ex-officio chairperson and poetry editor of Home Life), Prof. Jonathan P. Jurilla and Prof. John E. Barrios.


September 3, 2007


Although I write in English and Tagalog/Filipino, I consider myself a regional writer not only because I also write in Bikol-Naga and Iriganon, but because I am based in Bicol. Staying here was a choice I earlier made even if there are more opportunities in Metro-Manila, where the national government seems to center its developmental projects. This is also true for literary activities. Being a melting pot of Philippine cultures, it pays to visit the NCR from time to time and meet with Manila-based and other visiting regional writers. This way, we can enter into some kind of a dialogue and avoid cultural and intellectual stagnation.

One opportunity to mingle with other writers was during the launch of ‘Latay sa Isipan: Mga Bagong Tulang Filipino’ published by the UST Press. It was released along with other titles produced by the UST Press in its aim to catch up with its quota of 40 titles a year, making up at least 400 titles by 2011. Now they ought to be lauded for this enterprise since the Press is also open for literary titles.

Being included in the ‘Latay sa Isipan’ anthology was great only that Bicol-based writers seemed to have failed to take-up much space in the collection contrary to my earlier presumption. Poets Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Jose Jason L. Chancoco and Kristian S. Cordero only had one representative poem each to their name while the others have at most five. And Carlo A. Arejola was removed from the anthology due to age disqualification (after being told that he was included in the roster). I was also expecting more from the young poets that frequent the poetry pages of the Philippine Panorama. But then later on, we learned that it was Allan Popa who actually picked the poems in the collection and not Cirilo F. Bautista himself.

As if to complement the irony of the previous event, I found a copy of ‘Sawi: Funny Essays, Stories and Poems on All Kinds of Heartbreaks’ at the UP Press booth for Milflores Publishing, Inc. I am included in the said anthology and still waiting for my complimentary copy. I have already written the editors and I hope to receive it soon. You see, it is heartbreaking to be buying your own printed poem when in fact you ought to be paid for it. If not for KWF Chief Dr. Ricardo Nolasco who bought it for me (I was not so liquid), I would not have a copy of the collection.

But then again, brokenhearted or not, every reader should buy a copy of ‘Sawi’ as edited by Ada J. Loredo, BJ A. Patino and Rica Bolipata-Santos. Writers of note are Gemino H. Abad, Christine S. Bellen, Nikki Alfar, Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Catherine Candano, Libay Linsangan Cantor, Ian Rosales Casocot, Jaime Dasca Doble, Luisa A. Igloria, Arvin Abejo Mangohig, Bernice Roldan, Elyrah Loyola Salanga, Joseph Salazar, Enrico C. Torralba, Edgar Calabia Samar, Naya S. Valdellon and many more.

The awarding rites for the Gawad Komisyon 2007 pushed through for all the other divisions except Pangasinense and Bikol. As Santiago Villafania would lament, the Pangasinan writers are on the verge of extinction. That is why they just held a conference on Pangasinan Cultural Studies and the same project will be held in Legaspi come December, this time for Bikol studies. The KWF will announce a call for papers for the conference. All of the essays submitted for the Gawad Komisyon Bikol will automatically be considered and the awards for the short-fiction category will be given during the said symposium.

I also attended ‘Pistang Panitik’, a lecture-forum on the body of works of our living National Artists for Literature. The lectures will serve as guide in reading and gauging the significance of the writings of Bienvenido L. Lumbera, F. Sionil Jose, Virgilio S. Almario, Alejandro R. Roces and Edith L. Tiempo. I was only able to attend Lumbera and Sionil’s day but it was worth my visit. J. Neil Garcia’s reading of Sionil’s ambivalent stand on Americanization and Nationalism further made the latter a more interesting postcolonial writer. As expected, the same postmodern and hybridist criticism were employed by Garcia (as he used it for Rio Alma). One important note was Sionil’s clear perception of nationalism as somewhat dangerous because of its romanticized state—being that it was still a case of a dominant upper-class joining in for the revolution at the last hour. As Franz Fanon once warned us, nationalism only breeds imperialism.

Truly, it was a feast of the written word. Not to mention that I also chanced upon the National Book Awards at the World Trade Center. And I know that soon, we will have local versions of the award—or better yet, the Manila Critics Circle should better open its roster for critics in the regional languages.

The Literary Arts Division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines recently released the list of contributors for the 20th Anniversary issue of Ani, the CCP Literary Yearbook. Now on its 33rd issue, the volume once again explores Nature and Environment as metaphors of the human condition. Edited by prize-winning writer Herminio S.Beltran, it will be launched on September 14, 6:30 pm, at the CCP Ramp.

The volume features poems, short stories, essays, translations and a play by 77 contributors including Bikol writers Carlos A. Arejola, Abdon M. Balde Jr., Jose Jason L. Chancoco, Kristian S. Cordero, Marne L. Kilates, Niño Manaog, and Victor Dennis Tino Nierva.

Other writers of note are Merlie M. Alunan, Genevieve L. Asenjo, Herminio S. Beltran Jr., Dexter Bomediano Cayanes, Genaro R. Gojo Cruz, Jeneen R. Garcia, Luis P. Gatmaitan, Gelacio Y. Guillermo Jr., Sid Gomez Hildawa, Elyrah Loyola Salanga, Beverly Siy, John Iremil E. Teodoro, Enrico C. Torralba, Santiago B. Villafania and Camilo M. Villanueva Jr.

Rommel Manto did the book design and lay-out. He also used a photograph of a Junye Installation and a print by Neil Neil Doloricon for the cover.

For more information please contact: Mr. Arnel F. Tabaranza, CCP Literary Arts Division, tel. no. 832-1125 locals 1706, 1707; mobile 0917-8379922.

Whether it is regional or national literary landscape, the real problem is not really with the number of literary practitioners—it is with the number of readers. This was discussed in Cirilo F. Bautista’s latest column in the Philippine Panorama last Sunday, August 19, 2007. Because we cannot get more Filipinos to pick-up literary titles by Filipino authors, we have lesser incentives for our writers.

Truly, we do not even see authors being featured on TV during primetime news. We have yet to see the Palanca Awards being featured in TV Patrol. Only Cecile Guidote-Alvarez’ NBN program made a run on the latest Talaang Ginto and Gawad Soc Rodrigo in Malacañang last April. We are lucky here in Bicol because our local ABS-CBN, particularly the Bikol Espesyal: Oragon Na! would sometime focus its lens on literary activities.

One big challenge is to write even without contests. Writers ought to be given prizes because they are writing, and writers should not write just so that they will be given prizes. The deadline for the Bikol division of Gawad Komisyon 2007 sponsored by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino has recently been given indefinite extension due to lack of entries. Now the Bikol writer needs to make-up for this neglect. We should look at the Tausug writers who made a staggering turn-out of hundreds of entries.

Or perhaps the notion that we have more Bikol poets than fictionists or essayists is correct. The Gawad opened only the short-fiction and essay category for the Bikol division. And lets us also consider the upcoming Tagalog poetry anthology by Cirilo F. Bautista to be launched on August 30, 3pm at the World Trade Center. Bikolnons are expected to take-up much space in the collection. No less than the assistant editor himself, Allan Popa, is a Bikolnon along with Carlo A. Arejola, Jaime Jesus B. Borlagdan, Jose Jason L. Chancoco and Kristian S. Cordero; whose poems will also see print in the said book. Truly, we have more poets.

Now if Filipinos do not like to buy books with a single by-line, maybe his/her communal nature coupled with ‘pakyawan’ culture would prefer an anthology. The more names, the better. Or perhaps publishing via the literary sections of various magazines and newspapers would be the easiest way to reach one’s audience via the so-called ‘literary bangketa’. A poem safely tucked in the pages of Philippine Panorama could fly as second-class mail and land in the magazine/newspaper stands of Mindanao, and even crawl its way to the front right there in Basilan or Jolo.

Let me reprint here my latest Bikol poem published in the August 12-18 issue of the Bikol Reporter (All Rights Reserved).


Minapoon sa palibot an paglalang
Arog baga kan pagtaram kaning uran.
Dangogon ta: Ining paros nakurahaw
Nin emosyon kan panahon na dalisay.

mayo pang minaabot na dayuhan
Na nagsakop poon bukid astang pampang.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Kan an dila kan poeta minalangoy
Sa salog kan sadiri n’yang tataramon.

Kan an langkaw kaning kalag asin dunong
Tinatangad bilang kusog nin Oragon.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Kan pigmukna ining nasyong Filipinas
Kan kikilat na nagkilyab haling luwas.
Kinuryente an puso ta asin kalag.
An hawak ta asin isip nagsiribwag.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Taong-lipod an poetang nagdadangog
Sa pag-awit kan kadlagan asin bulod.
Kun an banwa sa dayuhan minasulog,
An boses n’ya sa may Sulong minaanod.
Talinghagang Ingles, Bikol o Tagalog,
Sa papel man o sa bayle kaning duros,
Minatadyok sa may s’yudad garo pandok

Kan santelmong dai dakop kaning kamot.

Kun kaya an satong birtud minasanib

Minapoon sa palibot an paglalang.
An pagsulit kan memorya kan kagabsan

Kan poeta sarong ritwal na eternal.

The largest marketplace in Asia–so they say. The Naga City Public Market is just bordering a portion of the Bicol River. Giving us a trace of history when city-states used to thrive near bodies of water. The rationale was of course trade and barter. That is why the Market offers almost everything for the wise and enterprising costumer. And this includes second-hand books from prominent authors such as Dan Brown and Arthur Miller, even cut-out poetry sections from reputable magazines such as the Sunday Inquirer and Philippine Panorama.

I spent time perusing the materials, all the while thinking to myself, these simple and unassuming merchants have no idea that they are contributing greatly to the Bicol literary scene. While it is good that we now have a branch of National Bookstore right there at the Pacific Mall in Legaspi, I think we still need more bookstores here. I am sure it will be a lucrative business.

Aside from bookstores, regional writers need to be more visible. And I remember, I once attended a poetry reading at the now defunct PowerBooks-Pasay Road. Perhaps owners of these stores would be able to attract more bibliophiles by organizing public readings.

But there is just so much with proprietary efforts. Writers themselves can make their move. However, government funding is possible if and only if a certain writer’s group has legal identity. Else, the group has to find a viable conduit. That is why the Kabulig-Bikol, an association of creative writers and cultural workers in the region will have its Constitutional Convention on July 15, 9am at La Medalla, Baao, Camarines Sur. There will also be elections and sessions regarding future projects by the group.

Surely, this will make registering the group with the SEC possible. With proper legal identity, the group can now apply for grants from the NCCA and other government agencies. This was one of the problems before when I wrote a project proposal to the aforementioned agency. It was approved but I had to withdraw due to legal troubleshoots.