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 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).


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.


There you go. Until next time my friends. 

There is just this periodic itch to come out and read aloud. Perhaps it is due to the solitary nature of writing. One day you will find yourself ready to explode with poems and with the desire to do it in a crowded place. And so it was one night in March 2011 when I found myself a little bit bored with pragmatic existence and wanted a poetic breather.

Wharf Galley Rock Café was just then some walking distance away from my Naga City apartment. Managed by Virgie Sorita and James Estrada, it was then the only venue which catered to the rock n roll lifestyle of Bicol. The region is one of the first that responded to the rock band revolution of the ‘90s started by the Eraserheads, The Youth, The Wuds, The Teeth, Philippine Violators, Yano, Tropical Depression, Wolfang, Siakol, The Weed etc. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that Ely Buendia is actually from Naga. With only a few chairs and tables, intimate enough to capture creative convergence from people coming from the same era, Wharf Galley was in that psyche. And I was thinking of the Bikol “Sompongan” during the 1940’s and the Dredd Poet’s Society led by Karen Kunawicz during the 90’s. My mind also traveled to Malate and re-joined the Spoken Word group at Survival Café headed by Triccia David. And of course, Al Purdy’s “At the Quinte Hotel” also came to mind.

It turned out that the “Backyard Poets” of Sta. Cruz was never really forgotten by Wharf’s rock technician Jonjie San Vicente. True enough, he once visited my apartment where together with Ateneo de Naga based writers, we used to hold poetry sessions at my backyard, complete with guitars, beer, peanuts, mosquitoes and katol. It took only one cigarette break’s worth of mind-picking, and the WG (Writers’ Gig) was conceived. It was to be a monthly event, just an hour of open-mic poetry. The emphasis was and still is the open-mic. Poetic short films would be projected, and then poems would be read or recited from memory, or from the smoke-thick ether.

Then one beery night with guitar master Don Alanis and writer Kevin de Quiroz led us to the former’s unassuming but compleat music studio at Jacob Extension. There we traded riffs and beats until poetry just had to come out through the microphone. Rock music and poetry—our band was born. But it was not until the very first gig on March 5, 2011, when we were having a hang-over breakfast at my place, when the name The Super Poet Genome Project was coined by Bikol Komikero Yatoy Carretas. I was then talking about some literary mentors who would train young writers to become their suicide bombers, their intricately crafted poems as magic spells and bombs, when Yatoy innocently and elegantly blurted: “The Super Poet Genome Project!” And the word was made flesh, and in our minds Jason Faktor, the comics character who could save the world with his poems, was born.

Jason Faktor could win a poetry contest without even joining. He would whisper a haiku to a butterfly and it will come back with a tsunami. He wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. They actually plagiarized the Holy Bible because he actually wrote it. The entire Philippine Constitution was inspired by a comma in one of Jason Faktor’s bad poems. The list goes on.

The Super Poet Genome Project ended up as a performance poetry rock band taking its cue from the likes of Radioactive Sago Project, Axel Pinpin Propaganda Machine and Tony Pigott. The band would open up the show right after the film viewing. Earlier gigs saw screenings of locally and internationally produced short poetic films. Without formally starting the show, said films would be projected on-screen just to prepare the minds of the audience to a more poetic mood.

The SPGP then had Don Alanis and Don Sarte as sessionists for the bass guitar and Kevin de Quiroz on drums until classical guitarist Peter Orata bought a Washburn bass guitar and joined the band. I, for one, as the band’s guitarist and voice also use a Washburn, and occasionally, an Ibanez to effect our breed of metal and shred with some touch of acid rock and blues. And so far our repertoire includes my poem “Bakwet,” our bluesy rendition of “Alak” by Mike Coroza, the heavy metal “Uniberso” and our version of Rivermaya’s “Ipoipo” with my poem “Dumaraan” integrated with the song. We also play guitar-driven instrumental songs such as the “Top Gun” theme and the bass-driven “Peter’s Groove,” an original.

The gig is primordially an open-mic event where walk-ins are welcome to participate. However, we earlier featured as main writers the likes of Ricardo Lee, Frank Penones and Vic Nierva. We also did a fund raising campaign for cancer patient Jo Bisuna, and when she finally succumbed to said illness, we organized a tribute gig. Our gigs for her were the most attended, leaving the venue swarming with writers, poets, artists, musicians, dancers, intellectuals and activists.

The WG regular poets and readers are Kevin de Quiroz, Jerome Hipolito, Jusan Misolas, Ronel Astor, Ronel Amata, Buboy Aguay, Issa Redburn, Jay Salvosa, Elbert Baeta, Johner Caneba, John Pazcoguin, Fer Basbas, and Irvin Sto. Tomas. Poems in English, Filipino and in any of the Bikol languages are read. Bikol poetic forms such as the tigsik are also highlighted, along with rawitdawit and the emerging tuyaw. The tigsik is an indigenous poetic form done during drinking sprees. Oftentimes with rhyme and meter, its participants would tigsik or “drink to” a particular topic, each paratigsik taking turns answering each other just before gulping a drink thereby creating a flow of alcohol-induced sharp and exciting poetic discourse. The rawitdawit now stands for the word poetry, and the tuyaw is a poetic theater act where the poet would go onstage and start a conversation with a person in the audience. At times, they would discuss matters not previously rehearsed making the performance spontaneous and interesting. Truly, spontaneity is what makes the WG, and this is carried off until the after-party when we indulge in more beer and literary discussions.

Aside from film and performance poetry also features other art forms such as music and dance. Books by Bikol writers are also sold. The Fire n Ice Dancers are regular performers during the monthly gigs. Singer Julie General once rendered her version of the Les Miserables piece “On My Own”. Events organizer Sheila Basbas rendered the sexiest song number ever for her hubby, Fer. Poet and musician Jaime Jesus Borlagdan once dropped by to sing some of his original Bikol songs.

Since Wharf Galley’s goodbye kiss last February, the event has been dubbed as VerSosimo: Writers’ Gig at Sosimo Bar after moving to Sosimo Resto Bar at Magsaysay Avenue. Sponsored by the Atty. Francis Papica Foundation, we had our anniversary gig last March 4, 2012. Video clips can be accessed at

The creative writer has always been quite an odd entity in the Philippine setting. More so if he writes in one of the ‘strange’ regional languages. There must be a way for the local writers to be visible—and in a relaxed atmosphere. A way for them to show especially to the younglings that poetry rocks and writers are cool—and that reading is hip. Multimedia is the way to go. Poetry is now cinema, is now music, is now performance, and not only a thing for pagination. Hence the WG.

VerSosimo! (WG Videos)

April 6, 2012

With this gig, we finally capped the WG-year which started March 5, 2011. We now have had twelve (12) gigs.This happened here in the Philippines, province of Camarines Sur, Naga City at Sosimo Bar. Please check the video. Enjoy!

This next video is from our Anniversary Gig. Still have to upload the rest of the video. Thanks to Pen for this.

This video is from our emergency gig when screenwriter and novelist Ricardo Lee came to visit Naga City.

I also was invited to read a poem during the Fire n Ice Dance Concert. Here’s the video.

And this one is from Su’Pay 2012 at Aquinas University.


January 11, 2012

The 8th Verses: Writers’ Gig at Wharf Galley (Naga City) last January 8, 2012 started the year right. True, there were spoilers. In fact I got sick twice during the holidays and I caught the so-called 24-hour bug. Truly, health is wealth and sickness can compromise our mission. Cirilo Bautista is correct in saying that hospitals can reduce humans to scrap. It is ironic that we send so many nurses abroad, yet our healthcare system here in the Philippines is almost crap. Even our doctors study nursing just so they could go abroad. But then hey, WG8 saved the smiley in me.

That night, I finally got to rock and use my other guitar, the Ibanez. I got to shred and sing my soul out with my band, The Super Poet Genome Project. I brought my wakizashi with me to be used as props for my poetry performance. The Fire n Ice Dance group was just great, rendering two dance numbers. One filled me up with nostalgia for they performed dances from the 80’s to 90’s, a patikim for their up-coming dance concert on February 15-16. Icing to our metaphorical cake was our guest slam poet from Canada, Mr. Ronel Amata.

The readers for the night were Noel Cervantez, Ronel Astor, Jusan Misolas, Jerome Hipolito, Kevin de Quiroz, Tristan Velarde, Johner Caneba, Tess Francisco, Ronel Amata, and of course, this blogger. Writers Jay Salvosa and Rizaldy Manrique were also in attendance.

As always, we welcomed Ronel Amata via our traditional “jijutzu” finger-lifting levitation trick. After which, we ushered ourselves to a literary discussion over rounds of beer. We asked ourselves: “When did we start writing?” We figured that we have been writing as early as early, we just did not know it. Living is writing as proven by the love-angles and melodramatics by some of the sharers. But then this overflow of ideas was cut short, unfortunately, when it was my turn to share. Two motorcycles collided in front of Avenue Square, complete with flying bodies in classic quasi-delict frenzy. The gig started with a bang, and yet we  had to end by taking our cue from a motorcycle crash in this motorcycle country.  We had to proceed to Gotobest plaza just to appease our hunger and clear our throats of shock with goto-kinalas-tokwa with egg plus sili, and cold water.

Till next month my friends, till next month.

I always found the Bikol traditional wedding song/dance, Pantomina as guitar work genius. Now I made a rendition of it using the classical guitar, plus a little dramatics. You see, the Pantomina is performed with the ‘Tagay’. So here’s the video.

Here’s one of my latest guitar videos.

I made the soundbed myself, played over it then presto! Had fun jamming with myself. It would seem endless so I called it Endless Jam. So here you go.


May 31, 2010

It was March 1994. It was the weekend right after the final examinations and I was a highschool freshman ready to show-off to my folks some high grades I got, specially the 99% score in Filipino. Before I could drop my bag and commence my brag, I saw an acoustic guitar hanging by the wall. I did not care. I thought it was there left by some neighbor. Not until my mother told me that it was mine, that my lola bought it from a passing Cebuano for P700. I held it for the first time, admiring its curves and the enjoying the narcotic smell of its varnish. It was a Gibson-copy by a Cebuano luthier. It sounded glassy sharp with treble edges. I did not know how to play it.

A guitar player herself, my mother had an instant solution: The minor chords of A, D and E; the formulaic chord progression of most Bikol folk songs. Believe it or not, I was playing “Sarong Banggi” and “Si Nanay si Tatay” before I even bothered to pick up a songbook to learn the rock hits of the 90’s. I later bought music magazines, “song hits” as they were called. I tried to memorize the chord chart. But soon enough, I figured that it was a useless effort. I wanted to learn how to play songs, and not just to play the guitar per se.

I started with simple chord progressions. One day, I was practicing outside our house when a passerby commented how bad my playing was. He even went ahead of himself and suggested that I quit. It really did give me a jolt. I almost succumbed to his discouragement.

But I kept on, one simple chord at a time. I bought more songbooks and tapes. I studied the songs of Eraserheads, Radiohead, Lemonheads etc. I thought all the bands that ended with ‘head’ were good. My music collection grew to almost a hundred. As I listened to more bands, the acoustic guitar was not enough for me anymore, I wanted to go electric.

It was hard to convince my Dad to buy me an electric guitar. Being a businessman, maybe he could not see the point. But eventually, he obliged. So we went to the now defunct Felfran Music Store along Igualdad, Naga City. I was choosing between a Kramer and a Fender Stratocaster. Both were merely copies. The Kramer had a Floyd Rose Bridge while the Fender had a fixed bridge with tremolo. I did not know how those things worked at that time. I picked the Strat because most of the bands that I saw in MTV used it.

I was always excited to have a guitar session because of my Strat. One day, an uncle who played guitar for a show band dropped-by our place. He saw me practicing. He borrowed my axe and showed me some riffs and licks (or solos). He played Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.” He played more solos. He advised me to learn how to play fast. He said that other guitarists would envy me if I could play fast. I recalled how a passerby tried to demoralize me. I thought if I could chase fast solos, then nobody would push me around anymore.

Chasing fingers. That’s how it started for me. So I chased Kirk Hammet, Manuel Legarda, Marty Friedman, Joe Satriani. Ironic, but it was only later when I learned how to slow down and be a little poetic. I studied, I worked, and I wrote.

I thought that this enterprise of licks and solos would be forgotten. Now it has come back. Lately, when I am not busy doing deskwork I listen to Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci (through Dreamtheater), Syu and some other Japanese shredders.

Now the 30-minute guitar break after lunch is one of the best parts of my day. Tired of playing just for myself, I started recording some of my sessions and upload them on YouTube for my Bikol Gitarista channel. It is funny and at the same time thrilling to see the videos I upload being placed beside the videos of my guitar heroes. Truly, the internet is a great equalizer.

But then I would come across guitar prodigies, most of them from Japan and below ten. And they could play faster and cleaner. Now I have to chase small fingers.


May 14, 2010

Yes, I am also a guitarist, but no I don’t have a band.

The primary reason is: I don’t have time. I really can’t figure as to how I can squeeze band practice into my rigid schedule and order of priorities. I’m in law school where there is no such thing as overstudying. I write and edit. My second book could still use more poems. And my advocacy for Bikol literature and multilingualism requires a sort of messianic complex if not some measure of masochism. Almost always, nobody understands you. Hence, it requires a lot of time.

There are other reasons.

I really hate people with rockstar complex. It’s difficult if one happens to land in your line-up. He will waste your time. Why? Because you are never sure if he will show up during the gig. So when I see this tendency in a person, I kick him out as early before fistfights ensue.

I hate to be in a cover band. I like to write my own songs. I am out of luck because I rarely come across a musician who has real original music inside him. Most of them would rather parrot another artist, and sometimes, they are not even good at it. Yet, they act like rockstars.

Rock gigs here does not pay much. Sometimes they don’t pay at all. And of course, there is piracy. It bleeds the artists dry.

So I keep my music to myself. Everyday, I practice for about thirty minutes right after lunch. It’s the most exciting part of my day.

Last Saturday (May 1, 2010), I watched a gig by Luna at Wharf Galley here in Naga. After 14 years or so, I came across Gareth Somers, my former bassist during the Voodoo Child years back in highschool. He plays base for Luna, an alternative music band based in Manila. Gareth is one great bassist I truly miss.


December 21, 2009

There’s nothing much to say really, though it’s been another year again.

Everything seems to have happened this year. My planned wedding did not push through, I found another girl, she found another guy (her Friendster profile says ‘It’s Complicated’), I went corporate, I left corporate (SM’s labor practices suck), I went into law, I left creative writing and literary criticism (for the moment). But earlier this year, I attended the Taboan International Literary Festival as a delegate, I sat as a panelist in a regional writers workshop, I saw my first book come out and win an award.

I started cleaning up my guitar gears again. I played everyday, each time with an impulse to find like-minded musicians and form a band to play live again. I wanted to write songs again, to get lost in my riffs, solos and words. Or just to get lost. There is silence in loudness, tranquility in speed.