Sunday, August 31, 2014

soundbyte #001



The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe

You know Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. You know nothing about Janelle Monáe. That’s a shame. A darling of many music critics and considered a favorite of Barack Obama, Monáe officially arrived in the industry in 2010 with the studio album The Archandroid that was an intense blast of fresh air. Hers was a music that ranged from R&B, funk, soul to jazz and hip-hop. All this wrapped in a narrative about an android falling in love with a human makes it even more of an entirely different creature. And it surprisingly worked. Now, she continues this inimitable streak with her latest album, The Electric Lady, and has added more genres like cinematic scores, rock n’ roll, and reggae. It is astonishing such vocal prowess and musical dexterity exist in this world. Featuring an array of talented guests like Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles, Esperanza Spalding, and Miguel, The Electric Lady is by far the album at the moment that would, upon hearing its entirety, linger for many years to come. There’s the single “Q.U.E.E.N.” that celebrates one’s uniqueness (where she spouts some nasty rap in the end), “Primetime” that brings the age-old story of budding love to new light, and “Dance Apocalyptic” that could make the stiffest leg move and dance to its beat.

From orchestral flourishes to arena-size anthems, this girl can perform without the slightest doubt. There are also radio skits sprinkled here and there, and sometimes one might say she is too much. But to say that Janelle Monáe’s work is a jumble of influences is to pigeonhole her in one category. Monáe does not work that way. There is a calculated order in her chaos, a meaning to her excess. The different styles meld together to form one manifesto: to embrace the differences of love and identity, to overcome what brings us down with hope. It is that simple and basically what we need. She’s monolithic in her music, not in a way that imposes but encourages, as if the melodies are whispering, “Let’s listen to something brave and beautiful.” In this industry that is crowded with empty words and saturated in sex and insincerity, Janelle Monáe can be a deity. She is indeed electric like a music messiah who delivers us from all the nonsense. You knew nothing about Janelle Monáe. But this time you do. You are saved.

Essential tracks: “Q.U.E.E.N.,” “Dance Apocalyptic,” “We Were Rock n’ Roll”




Love in the Future
John Legend

When it comes to contemporary R&B love songs, it is hard not to include John Legend as one credible source. Unlike his previous efforts that are a great auditory experience but generally safe, his fourth studio album, Love in the Future, sounds risqué and shoots to the heights of grandness. Its music is sweeping, its character dramatic and sometimes even surreal with its gospel choruses, ethnic-sounding drum sets and morsels of Kanye West beats (not surprising since he is one of the album’s co-producers). The album’s intro sets this tone straight. This time there will be heat, sweat, and messy bed sheets—a far cry from his previous album Wake Up!, a collaboration with The Roots, which is more political than sensual. He is in his top form in this work, his voice consistently clear and strong and his skill with the piano flawless.

At this point in time everyone must have heard of Legend’s chart-topping ballad “All of Me.” Although the track is reverent, it is tinged with a quality that brings to mind the heart-wrenching song, “Someone Like You” by Adele, which made many eyes moist back in 2011. Like that song, “All of Me” has an emotion that is unfiltered and intentions that are frank. Legend’s crooning is reminiscent of a lover whose adoration for someone is an open book. Despite that song’s brooding nature, Love in the Future remains more of an optimist and upbeat than the other way around. It is full of anticipation and brimming with winking candor. Take a trip with “Made to Love,” and in all its thumping beats and handclaps, you will know why it is titled that way. “Hold on Longer” is hopeful, its tunes like a walk in the park on a Sunday morning. “Aim High” is smooth and comforting. In the book An Imperial Affliction, the author Peter van Houten states that “Pain demands to be felt.” With this album, it is not pain you feel but the rapture and bliss of loving, being loved, and making love. Bring out the handkerchief. This time you might end up with tears of joy.

Essential tracks: “All of Me,” “Made to Love,” “Save the Night” .

Sunday, May 18, 2014

original choice

I took it lightly when you said stop,
Thinking ours is a bridge of interludes
That could go on for a lifetime.
From your end of the line there was a
Break. Was it the heater in your room again?
Was it another call from the many people
You randomly met? Or was it a deliberate glitch,
A gavel finally hitting the sounding block?
We have truths as dirty as the workings
Of our hands and we wash them away
Before the tap runs dry. Anywhere,
There is always the drill to be cautious.
Also, there is always a fragment
In our lives that insisted on love.
We could live the latter and spiral
Into surgical dreams of content.
Yet there is no stopping the surge
Of an end like the wings of angels
In fright. So I remember this fondly
As to a strange mineral first discovered,
Remember everything the way gods
Remember me in the future.

Monday, March 17, 2014

rage against the storm


My poem "Original Tempest" made it to VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA: A Storm of Filipino Poets, edited by award-winning writer Eileen R. Tabios. This groundbreaking anthology that features 132 works from poets in the Philippines and around the world is also a fundraising publication with all of its profits donated to relief organizations assisting the survivors of the largest typhoon ever recorded on land. Support the cause, rage against the storm.

Click here for orders.

Friday, March 14, 2014

we know when we get there


To travel is to make sense of our place in this world. It is by brief moments of displacement that we encounter the marvelous and the extraordinary.

This sparked my consciousness a few years ago when contentment confined me within the corners of my rented unit in Pasig City. Back then, with books by my bedside, to trek the expanse of the world was no problem.

But one day something moved me. There was a switch in me that clicked. I realized one has to go to places, and I shouldn’t be left behind.

Plans were made. Since I had just started my stint in the world of employment, thus wielding disposable income that could only go that much, there was an understanding among my travel buddies that we had to explore our country first before travelling abroad.

So we parasailed and partied in Boracay, hopped from one islet to another in Caramoan, relished the mangoes in Guimaras, snorkeled in the marine reserves in Apo and Balicasag Islands, reveled in the festivities of Cebu, returned to the artistic culture of Dumaguete, surveyed the sugarcane fields in Bacolod, frolicked in the waterfalls in Iligan, braved the whitewater rafting in Davao, bicycled on a tightrope in Bukidnon, explored the caves in Sagada, surfed in Baler and San Fernando (La Union), sated our appetites with delicacies of another San Fernando (Pampanga), and many more. When we almost reached our quota for local flavor, we finally immersed in the cultures of our neighboring Asian cities Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

There are far more impressive excursions out there, but in the company of family and friends, the stories we learned and shared were the most rewarding part of the trip. Together our senses were overwhelmed: eye to colors, nose to aromas, skin to textures, tongue to flavors. We had the time of our lives!

And suddenly, something came like a dark shroud and cloaked the bliss I was in. Wanderlust was cut short with bewilderment. What was then a continuing series of wow is now a persistent reflection on why. 

On October 15, 2013, Bohol was struck by an earthquake with a 7.2 magnitude. It took the province by surprise. In seconds hundreds of lives were claimed, homes rendered into rubble.

“Muoli ko” (“I’ll go back home”), I said, but my family in Tagbilaran suggested otherwise. Aftershocks just kept on coming, and it seemed unwise to return to a place with grounds tirelessly quivering. So I waited for things to tide over and prayed.

Then on November 3, typhoon Yolanda loomed. It was headed to Visayas. I prayed even harder. People had hardly gotten up from the earthquake.

The storm only brushed past Bohol, easing the hearts of many from fear. “Kaluoy sa Ginoo” (“God is merciful”), my mother said. But unfortunately not everyone was spared. Yolanda entered the country with a trail of destruction that was historic in its scale and aftermath.

I already knew to travel is to make sense of our place in this world. We know when we get there. But this instance is far from sensible.

A couple of days before Christmas, I got onto Flight 5J617 bound for Bohol. I was not sure how I felt then. Months had already passed since the first blow of the earthquake yet stories of people living in crowded basketball courts or shanties were as fresh as the breaking news on Yolanda.

The minute I stepped off the plane and out of the terminal, my father and mother welcomed me and suggested that we go visit our relatives in Loon, one of the hardest hit towns in the province. I agreed. 

There we saw long stretch of streets cracked like backsides of crabs, bridges that led to nowhere, houses that had either tumbled down a slope, bowed to the ground, crumbled to scraps, or in some instances did what we could only describe as a Pilita Corales—whole structure bent backwards, front door and windows looking up to the skies. It looked like a face in search of answers in the heavens, seeking divine intervention. We laughed a little, but that was only to mask the gloom in the air.

We met a couple of our relatives now living in tents and huts. ‘Nang Edith, my father’s cousin, recounted the tragedy in detail, but neither regret nor confusion was present in her eyes. Instead there was fortitude. Or maybe I interpreted wrongly. Guilt was about to creep on me when my mother asked her how she and her family are coming by.

“Naa ra man gihapon ta diri. Padayon ra.” (“We’re still here. Just carry on.”) She cracked a joke.

Coping mechanism or not, help clearly is still needed. But I admired ‘Nang Edith. Hers was a response I did not expect from someone who had lost so much. She appreciated all the assistance she received, especially those from friends and relatives she both know and never heard for a long time.

We’ve heard a lot about the Filipino spirit and resilience, but nothing speaks volumes like this. And following the wake of Yolanda, the world has witnessed the most notable trait of a Filipino: He can overcome any obstacle and provide aide that equals the force of any earthquake or storm.

We left Loon and returned to the city, bringing a treasure of wisdom. It’s funny how a trip back home turned out to be the most life-changing. Though it is ironic how travel and tragedy seems to be so alike—both changes lives—I am thankful for the present. After the travels we made and despite the tragedies we encountered, my family and friends remain intact and now even stronger.

The calamities of the past made us cross the Rubicon. There is no turning back. There is only one way and that is to go forward, for we must continue venturing to another life-changing trip of our lives. All journeys never end.

Padayon (Carry on).

Monday, September 02, 2013

63rd carlos palanca memorial awards for literature

September, for some, is the month bearing the good news. And this year, for the 63rd edition of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, a few friends and acquaintances receive the honor. Congratulations, fellows in writing. You know who you are, and all of you deserve it. Here is the complete list of winners:

REGIONAL DIVISION

Short Story - Cebuano
1st: TUBOD, Jona Branzuela Bering
2nd: ANG BATANG TAMSI, Richel G Dorotan
3rd: PADRE BOTOX, Noel P Tuazon

Short Story - Hiligaynon
1st: SI PADRE OLAN KAG ANG DIOS, Peter Solis Nery
2nd: ULUBRAHON, Norman Tagudinay Darap
3rd: TORBIK, Alice Tan Gonzales

Short Story - Iluko
1st: NO WINNER
2nd: BAGNOS PAYEGPEG, BETERANO, Danilo B Antalan
3rd: TI PALIMED NI KATUGANGAK, Gorgonia B Serrano

FILIPINO DIVISION 

Nobela
TATLONG GABI, TATLONG ARAW, Eros Sanchez Atalia

Maikling Kuwento
1st: BAYANGGUDAW, Lilia Quindoza Santiago
2nd: PAMAMANHIKAN, Bernadette Villanueva Neri
3rd: AD ASTRA PER ASPERA, Kristian Sendon Cordero Maikling

Kuwentong Pambata
1st: ANG PAGLALAKBAY NI PIPOY PISO, Maryrose Jairene C Cruz
2nd: ANG SINGSING-PARI SA PISARA, Eugene Y Evasco and Chris Martinez
3rd: SALUSALO PARA KAY KUYA, Lucky Virgo Joyce Tinio

Tula
1st: MANANSALA, Enrique S Villasis
2nd: ASAL-HAYOP, Mark Anthony Angeles
3rd: LOBO SA LOOB, Kristian Sendon Cordero

Tulang Pambata
1st: HARANA NG KULIGLIG, Eugene Y Evasco
2nd: FAMILY TREE NG TUMUBO SA ANIT, April Jade I. Biglaen
3rd: SISID, Alvin Capili Ursua

Sanaysay
1st: OUR LADY OF IMELDA, Kristian Sendon Cordero
2nd: GABAY SA GURONG-LIKOD, Salvador T Biglaen
3rd: MGA BIRTWAL NA KARAHASAN, Laurence Marvin S Castillo

Kabataan Sanaysay
1st: ANG ALAMAT NG BATANG MANUNULAT, Rowin C de Leon
2nd: PAGKATOK NG DUMAGUNDONG NA MANOK SA UMAGA, Annette Irina C Tanlimco
3rd: DEUS EX MACHINA: SAPAGKAT TAYO AY BULAG PA, Rajee S Florido

Dulang Pampelikula
1st: NO WINNER
2nd: KUNG PAANO MAGHIWALAY, George A de Jesus III
3rd: THE REVENGE OF THE COMFORT WOMAN, Patrick John R Valencia

Dulang Ganap ang Haba
1st: NO WINNER
2nd: NO WINNER
3rd: DHAHRAN QUEENS MANILA, Luciano Sonny O Valencia

Dulang May Isang Yugto
1st: MGA KUNEHO, Miguel Antonio Alfredo V Luarca
2nd: KAPIT, George A de Jesus III
3rd: PAMAMANHIKAN, Bernadette Villanueva Neri

ENGLISH DIVISION

Short Story
1st: ARMOR, John Bengan
2nd: KRYSTAL HUT, Erlinda V Kravetz
3rd: REN, Lystra Aranal

Short Story for Children
1st: MARVINO'S LEAGUE OF SUPERHEROES, Nadeth Rae E Rival
2nd: THE MAGIC BAHAG, Cheeno Marlo Sayuno
3rd: A THOUSAND OF PAPER CRANES, Patricia Marie Grace S Gomez

Poetry 1st: PASTORAL AND OTHER POEMS, Mikael de Lara Co
2nd: CROWN FOR MARIA, Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
3rd: ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS, Joy Anne Icayan

Poetry for Children
1st: ATTACK OF THE PERSISTENT COLD VIRUS AND OTHER POEMS, Mia A Buenaventura
2nd: MR BULLY AND OTHER POEMS FOR CHILDREN, Francis C Macansantos
3rd: MONSTERS UNDER MY BED, Kathleen Aton-Osias

Essay
1st: THE KRAKAUER TABLE, Shakira Andrea C Sison
2nd: UNDER MY INVISIBLE UMBRELLA, Laurel Anne Fantauzzo
3rd: VOICES FROM THE VILLAGE, Maria Neobie G Gonzalez

Kabataan Essay
1st: HYMNS OF THE MOUNTAINS, DREAMS OF THE STARS, Marc Christian M Lopez
2nd: PANACEA, Vicah Adrienne P Villanueva
3rd: MANIFESTO OF LITERATURE, Pauline Samantha B Sagayo

Full-Length Play
1st: END OF THE GALLOWS, Jay M Crisostomo IV
2nd: THE SON OF ASHES, Mario L Mendez Jr
3rd: COLLECTION, Floy C Quintos

One-Act Play
1st: BLUE EYES, Allan B Lopez
2nd: DEBRIEF, Lystra Aranal
3rd: CALL OF DUTY, Danilo Nino Calalang

Monday, August 26, 2013

on beauty

Early morning last Friday, with barely enough sleep, hair tied in a tight bun and put into a place by a head band, and eye bags as heavy as the backpack I carried, I stepped into the elevator followed by a woman probably in her early forties. She looked familiar, so I greeted her a good morning. She smiled at me and started a small talk. I thought this is going to be one of those situations when things go awkward until, before stepping out onto her floor, she cheerfully said to me, “Ang ganda ganda mo!” (You're so beautiful!). I didn't exactly know what she saw, but that was enough caffeine to perk me up. I want to hug her dearly.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

something mostly true

Before, the concern of “Don’t be too serious” comes up as often as daylight. In return, the fact that each of us belong to different poles is raised and accepted. Again and again. Well, I thought we did. I embraced the opposite but what I get is a shrug and a casual exodus to whatever that self-interestedly pleases you.

Here is link that would serve as a reminder, something that I have stumbled upon just this morning. Hope it makes it clearer.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

sands & coral 2013: celebration


This book has been in the works for more than a year, and finally, under the helm of Ian Rosales Casocot, it is coming out this month. A special edition of the Sands & Coral that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Silliman University National Writers Workshop—founded by the Philippine literary monoliths Edilberto Tiempo and Edith Tiempo—it gathers works from select fellows of the said workshop’s half a century run of guiding the young writer’s pen. Thus, it is fittingly called Celebration.

As a writing fellow in the year 2008, I have been invited to share a couple of poems and have also been commissioned to do the illustrations for the anthology. All of this is a first for me. And whether my works would see print in its pages (table of contents not yet revealed), I am still glad to get the opportunity to be involved in this historic project. You see, Sands & Coral, which remains to be one of the Philippines’ oldest academic literary folios, had a hiatus, its last issue seen in the early 2000’s. But now, having this teaser of a book cover circulating the internet, there’s really something to look forward to.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

the sty who shagged me


“Is someone with you? Are you alone?”

Alone. The doctor said it with much emphasis and in a tone that seemed higher than the rest of her words. She smiled the smile of a cashier: tired and required. Whether it was an accusation of my solitude, a mockery to my singledom, or just plain honest question, it did not matter because I entered the clinic with a dread reserved for the victims of Jigsaw finding themselves in his puzzle-torture chambers.

It is not everyday you need to have someone flip your right eyelid up and slice it open.

All this was caused by a sty, kuliti or budyinggit. I could not remember any itch before this, as believed by many. It just started with a feeling of discomfort in the eye and a pain like that of a grandmother’s pinch the next day.

I had no problem with it, carried on, especially insistent on the recommendation of someone from the medical field that I leave it alone and let it pass even if my office colleagues suggested I pay a visit to the ophthalmologist soon. It didn’t pass. On the third day since it started acting up, the eye presented to the whole world a sty. And it lingered.

Time constraints got me visiting the doctor only on the fifth day. She immediately gave me two options: take Fucithalmic eye drops and some Augmentin antibiotics for a week or undergo minor surgery. Of course, I took the conservative approach.

Fast forward to yesterday and none of them work. I had no choice. The sty was as stubborn as the frizz on my hair. After the operation, I got a patch over my eye. Achievement unlocked: the closest I could get to being Jack Sparrow. 

Before I left the clinic, the secretary asked if someone would take me home. I gave her the cashiers smile because, suddenly, it hit me: Never in my whole life had such small thing reminded me of my solitude in this universe. Indeed, the smallest things matter.

“Nobody, I said.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

bad luck

2013, I think, would go down in history as my worst, bar none. The first half of it has been awfully terrible: the inevitable departure of the geographical kind, the second severe ankle sprain in less than four months, the persistent thievery at my home province’s house, the news of mild scoliosis, the same old issues that run in the blood.

The second half opened to something much worse: the constant unreciprocated feelings, the lost iPhone 5 that was only five months old, the car accident that left my father with a map of bruises on his body and a fractured rib, the sty that didn’t go away and would now require an eye operation soon, the doubts that proved to be true in the end, and finally, another departure, but only this time, it was of the emotional kind.

I greeted July not with shining optimism but with a dread that would shame even the most ominous of feelings. Up to this very day, I’ve been wondering, why? Why now? Why me? Could it be a conspiracy of everyone I’ve made ill in the past? Could it be the number 13 that, like a clingy girlfriend, latches on the 20 to make the ultimate year of bad lucks? Could it simply be not my year?

More questions, less answers. One may never even know why, and that’s what hurts the most. The obscurity of reason or the absence of it is just as intense and piercing as the bliss of discovery. All this is fairly personal. Some brought by acts of the divine and brought by my own doing, therefore the art of blaming this on that can easily be regarded as null and void. No one’s to blame but me. The stubborn, illogical, “emo” me.

There was, of course, the tailspin of emotions. It happened, and the descent was rapid and violent and even close to hitting rock bottom if not for the distraction of my family and friends’ familiar noise, the insight of newfound acquaintances, the numbing drudgery of the everyday, and even alcohol. Red Horse, Tanduay Rhum, and Emperador Light were my closest of friends. I remain thankful to them for pulling me out of that dark, dark place instead of plunging further down.

And now it is the first day of August, the second month of the second half of the year. It could have also been the anniversary of a word that had brought so much joy, so much promise when it was flung at me out of the blue before:


hey

Who would’ve known such simple utterance would create a ripple in my life. Like a pebble dropped on still pond, something was stirred, something was changed. I believed it was the start of something handsome and lasting, but now, in retrospect, I think it could have also been a disturbance, just a blip in my fight for sanity.

Many have said do not dwell on the past. But it is hard not to. At the moment, the past is just too close to the present. Bad luck’s still throbbing in the air. But there’s a silver lining: the stone may have been dropped, disturbing the calm, the ripple extending and reaching far, but I know the water will soon become still, the undulations edging away. Things will be at peace again.

I wait for the ripples to go.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

what national artist?

Four National Artist awardees of 2009 being invalidated broke news just recently. The order issued to the four by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was nullified because it “disregarded the rules of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in giving ‘preferential treatment’ to the four in the selection of awardees.” (The Philippine Star). 

The one who spearheaded this case was Commissioner of NCCA, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario. In a capsule, it stated that all was made without proper procedure. And being the most vocal and more visible in the media among the four, Carlo J. Caparas retaliated on national television.

“Kilala ako sa buong bansa. Itong mga tula ni Almario, walang bumabasa,” Caparas said (I’m recognized all over the country. These poems by Almario, they’re not read).

As a practicing writer, his words struck a nerve. Being mostly unread by the mass is always a given to those who toil for literature. It is a lonely craft, so they say. Though this is more of a personal claim, I believe writers do not aim to please, as compared to Caparas and his body of works. His profession doesn’t make him less accomplished on what he must be oh-so trying to do for many years.

Cartoonists or comic book artists can be as revered as ballerinas, architects, or even poets. But here’s the catch: He’s not the artist of Panday or Bakekang. Never has been. He’s only the brain behind it. Thus, the title of National Artist for Visual Arts bestowed upon Caparas is beyond comprehension. That fact alone makes the conferment null, void, and overtly embarrassing.

Besides, the National Artist award requires a certain gravitas, a respect mined not by measures of fame but of influence. A National Artist brings ripples to society with his or her introspection of the human condition, may it be through dance, lyric or sculpture. A National Artist never brings attention to himself (hopefully).

But he is right on one point. Almost everyone knows him in the country. And I guess here rests the problem of his logic: Popularity entitles quality.

It is sad Caparas keeps this myth close to his heart. All hopes for progress would certainly go down the drain if anyone’s thinking goes in line with this. With his statement, it seems we have to agree that what brings more applause, what is trending on Twitter, what is consistently shoved on our faces is the one that truly matters, the one thing that we must not ignore. For heaven’s sake. These so-called Minions are famous, but that doesn’t make them food for the soul, right? Junk food is famous among children but that doesn’t make it healthy, right? Right.

I will not argue any further.

The point is, if Carlo J. Caparas insults another National Artist who does deserve the title, demeans the rest of the pantheon of Philippine letters, then to the Gates of Hell with him. Because on the bright side, that would be a fantastic comic book story for many writers.

Friday, July 05, 2013

seen in the cinemas no. 1

I have noticed that I have only produced one post per month this year (except for the month of March which has three posts). A very dismal number that could easily make anyone stumbling into this site uninspired. So to save this blog from its slow descent to obscurity and irrelevance (as if the internet can’t get enough of it), I have decided to offer my two cents’ worth on movies that I have seen in the cinemas the past few months. Here they are.

Iron Man 3

The third installment in a franchise, more often than not, rarely takes off and matches the brilliance of the first two. See the Spider-Man movies by Sam Raimi, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Pirates of the Caribbean. On the other side of the spectrum there are those that managed to amp it up as their stories progress: Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight trilogy. In the case of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, it falls between the two. It’s not bad but it’s not memorable. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man remains reliable in giving a hilarious quip, but in this iteration his act is all but an act. The fresh wit was thin, if not gone. Even the editing was not as slick as the superb first and second films. Save for Ben Kingsley’s surprising character, Gwyneth Paltrow’s turn as a pseudo-feminist savior, and references to the presence of The Avengers, the rest of the film felt tired and burdensome to get through. Its attempt to make it a little bit grim—perhaps as a response to the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy’s gritty realism—also makes it jarring as a continuation of sorts to Jon Favreau’s  Iron Man 1 and 2. If not for the second movie’s dismal existence, I would have regretted seeing this third installment. And to keep a superhero away from humiliation, I think his or her third movie should end on the third crusade. Warning sign: the Richard Donner Superman films.

It Takes a Man and a Woman 

Now here’s a fine example of a film that milks on the tried-and-tested success of its predecessors. Directed once again by Cathy Garcia-Molina, this movie follows the love story of Laida (Sarah Geronimo) and Miggy (John Lloyd Cruz) that began with A Very Special Love and then with You Changed My Life. All are huge profit-gainers for the producers, luring in hundreds of people to the cinemas, even though the titles alone could instantly give anyone the summary on how the tale starts and ends. In short, predictable. All’s well that ends well. Here’s a thought: Major studios in the Philippines these days are usually recycling the formula again and again, even adapting (or copying?) our neighboring countries’ blockbuster hits, instead of being dependable on releasing entertaining yet original, thought-provoking stories that could easily stand head-to-head or even best other foreign works. It is heartbreaking, like Laida and Miggy’s obstacle in the second act of the movie. We have good actors, we have good writers, and as proven by many independent filmmakers, we can make do with the smallest of budget. What we usually do not have are stories that can be remembered for being compelling and not for Sara Geronimo’s over-the-top performance.

The Great Gatsby

Weeks before the release of the film, I hastily read the revered American classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald and boy was I drunk with its prose. Rich and velvety, one could almost taste the novel’s words. And this is how I feel for Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation. It even goes beyond the sensation of taste. His film is a delight to the senses. The backlash is expected to arrive after its premier, what with the relentless buzz surrounding the film from its production to the release of the book tie-in, but I say that Luhrmann lives for the flashy, the elaborate and the spectacular. It is his edge over other artists (see Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!) or maybe his Achilles’ Heel (see Australia). We can never complain that Wes Anderson is too neat, that Steven Soderbergh uses too much filters, that Quentin Tarantino spills to much blood on screen. Luhrmann, whose artistry roots in theater, has daring, is daring. And Fitzgerald’s very malleable story is the perfect canvas to paint with his creativity. In Luhrmann’s hands, Tobey Maguire brings more attitude to Nick Carraway, Leonardo DiCaprio projects more passion and familiar mystery to Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan makes Daisy Buchanan more relatable but sketchy at the same time, Joel Edgerton adds more grit and conceit to Tom Buchanan, and lastly, the Australian Hollywood newbie Elizabeth Debicki puts an impressive stamp on screen as Jordan Baker compared to the otherwise forgettable character in the book. As for the anachronistic soundtrack that is executive produced by Jay-Z, bringing modern hip-hop to the 1920’s, thus, bringing much heated debate, I love it. It feels dangerous but beguiling, feels that we are treading on foreign territory, just like how it must have felt like when you open your eyes one day to the so-called jazz age. Despite its excesses, it all fits well.

Man of Steel 

With the previous effort by Bryan Singer failing to launch a lucrative franchise in the mid-2000’s, the latest reincarnation by Zack Snyder of 300 and Watchmen fame has a lot of weight on its shoulders. He’s dealing with the granddaddy of superheroes after all. It is anticipated with expectations as immeasurable as the title character’s strength. To a fanboy’s eyes, these are met. To a critic’s though, it is an entirely different story: almost absent chemistry between Henry Cavil (Kal-El/Clark Kent) and Amy Adams (Lois Lane), overlong fight scenes, complete disregard for collateral damage, and the once bright and optimistic last son of Krypton is now a brooding, husky man who seems to miss his igloo or one who has read too much philosophy textbooks. Add to that a supporting cast like Kevin Costner (Papa Kent), Diane Lane (Mama Kent) and Russel Crowe (Jor-El) that put extra gravitas in every frame of the film. Luckily though, I watched it with the eyes of a freshie. The origin story is grounded on the basic questions of how would an alien feel in a world that is peopled with no one like him, how would he grow up and embrace the discovery of his powers, and how can he be trusted? Snyder, who I still believe is a capable director but easily falls into the allure of blockbuster bombast, deftly moves his way around these questions, inching towards the battle with the excellent Michael Shannon as Zod and closing admirably for a possible sequel. And by the way, I have no problem with this Superman’s chest and facial hair.

Four Sisters and a Wedding

Another directorial effort by Cathy Garcia-Molina, this romantic-comedy revolves around four sisters—Teddie (Toni Gonzaga), Bobbie (Bea Alonzo), Alex (Angel Locsin) and Gabbie (Shaina Magdayao)—who reunite when their only brother Reb-Reb (Enchong Dee) announces he would marry his girlfriend Precious (Angeline Quinto) of just three months. Add into the mix the girlfriend’s meddling, snooty parents (Boboy Garovillo and Carmi Martin) and mayhem ensues. The premise is fairly new in the Philippine context, but unfortunately the treatment blasted anything that is good far, far away from its comedic promise. The movie may not fall into mediocrity but it is on the brink of it. Martin and Gonzaga’s comedic chops are admirable but theirs belong to another movie. That is why Connie Reyes, as the mother of the siblings, stands out because her cool demeanor speaks volumes. There’s no need for excessive hand-wringing, there’s no need for screaming. But then again, she cried buckets in the near end, a Filipino staple. Those blatant product placements too leave no room for the imagination. If this movie’s in 3D, I suspect those manufactured goods would reach us, wrench our mouths open, and feed us with delectable consumerism. The film aces on the idealization of togetherness and forgiveness in a family, but with its constant traipsing on the preachy side, what has been gagged on our throats will be hard to forgive.

Monday, June 24, 2013

what we do not have

We do not have symmetry,
We do not have grace
As sleek as baby’s lips.
What we have are shards
Of glass, their teeth bright
And prescient: “We will hurt
You.” Can you still remember
How my voice played inside
Your head? Can you still remember
How cats always had their way
Of sleeping, standing—a position
That makes us more human,
A stance that makes us more
Inadequate? But consider these
Forgotten, thrown at the sky’s
Questioning face. Like crusts
Of dry paint, we will press on
That what we may have will be
An assemblage of mess and glory,
An impression that likely lasts.

Friday, May 10, 2013

original apology

It will take the weight
of ashes falling,
because it is soft,
taking its time
to hit you on the spot
without force.
If time ever expands,
I would like you to notice
its pull, its whisper:
"Hey, we've got a minute
to spare. See this graceful
surrender. Let us talk."
We could always hope
ours is a heart
that does not beat
only for ourselves,
but as how the bravest
of proverbs go,
what cuts is neither word
nor blade
but the silent truth.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

why worry?

A week or so ago, there was the inevitable coming of that moment of evaluation. It was the day when you shifted from an untroubled, spendthrift adolescent to a man questioning “Where now and what’s next and how but why?” Others call it the early pangs of perpetual quarter-life crisis. I call it a slap on the face.

Actually, I don’t want to call it anything yet. It is too early to tell. What I know is that it is something that gives the chills like a raincloud hovering on the skyline with me having no umbrella. I’d be drenched, I’d be cold. Whether I like it or not.

One might say it’s too much of a forward thinking, to plot the days ahead at such a certain “young” age, when my generation says I should work hard and party harder, when people sing hosannas that the sky is always the limit. But what if that sky is the same, murky sky mentioned earlier, sinister over the horizon? So much for optimism, eh?

And this is the part that is worrisome, the part where the vicious combo of uncertainty, cynicism, and missed opportunities becomes the benchmark of possible success. I should have done this, I shouldn’t have done that. It is not much on what you can do but on why you do what you have been doing.

The intensity of ambition and passion may still be there—in the form of writing, nursing, engineering, teaching, scrapbooking, or bungee jumping—but what prompts the hesitancy is the thought of setting the limit and the questioning of one’s purpose.

Because in the first place, should there be a limit? Does one need a purpose? What for?

I think for people my age the mid-30’s is the window where one sees nothing is really enough. Pessimism gnaws from the inside and out comes doubt, fear, regret, or other kinds of destabilizing emotion. Or maybe a new breed of malaise. Or maybe just plain, old exhaustion.

As experienced by those ahead of me, it is the period of weighing the priorities. In my case, with the flux of circumstances coming each day—i.e., fluctuating relationships, sprain in both of my ankles in less than four months, unbending intolerance from family members, increasing fear for my depleting savings account, and many more—this task becomes all the more insufferable, all the more urgent. Like classic movie villains, there are those that derail you from your goal.

Hence, my reason to be restless, irate, worried. It’s as if in every corner there’s a thief that would rob you of the greatness that may happen to your life soon.

But if Job triumphed over the multitude of sickness thrown at him by his savior, if Frodo managed to let go of the ring at the mouth of Mount Doom, and if Tony Soprano survived the cycle of patterns that he faced each day, then I guess I could endure the living nightmare that is my worries. The great icons are enough reminders.

You see, it’s everyone’s right to be anxious, and nobody must judge the degree of severity of one’s apprehensions, because if you think about it, comparing your worries to someone else’s is like two boys comparing how far each other’s piss could go. It is pointless.

So let me worry right now. I will be open to consolations and words of encouragement, of course, but these are by no means instant answers to the riddles in my head. I will solve them, maybe not now, not tomorrow, but I am certain that day will come.

It’s all part of being 25.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

original ache

During monsoons in my province,
Fortitude wears thin,
Faces grow long, and ants file
To cracks on the wall
Next to the bottles of spices.
I know it would come again,
The gunfire of ache in my pulses
Following the thrum of rain on the roof.
A philosopher might say
The mind suggests what the mind
Only knows, so I forgive myself
For knowing one thing:
We have variations of longingness,
Those we could soon mark
On our necks and chests,
The rest of the landscapes
We have yet to conquer,
As if to say, this is how we begin.
Now all I want is to be blind
On how these could possibly end, to keep
The monsoons of the heart unfading
Like the birth of a new storm.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

52nd silliman university national writers workshop fellows


This year’s announcement requires more than the usual celebration at the nearest drinking pub. Here’s why. Just two months ago, a friend asked me to read his collection (written with much discipline over many years) before submitting it a day before the call’s deadline, and right then and there, I knew he would make it. And he did. Congratulations, Lyde. Our rare lucid moments have finally paid off.

*

The 52nd edition of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop is slated to start on 6 May 2013 at the Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village in Camp Look-out, Valencia, Negros Oriental.

Here are the thirteen writers from all over the Philippines who are accepted as workshop fellows:

For Poetry
Corina Marie B. Arenas
Nolin Adrian de Pedro
Patricia Mariya Shishikura
Brylle Bautista Tabora
Lyde Gerard Villanueva

For Fiction
Tracey dela Cruz
Sophia Marie Lee
Rhea Politado
Patricia Verzo

For Creative Nonfiction
Jennifer dela Rosa Balboa
Ana Felisa Lorenzo
Arnie Q. Mejia

For Drama
Mario Mendez

They will be joined by special Singaporean fellows Christine Leow and Nurul Asyikin from Singapore Management University.

The panel of writers/critics for this year includes Director-in-Residence Susan S. Lara; Dumaguete-based writers Bobby Flores Villasis and César Ruìz Aquino; and guest panelists Dean Francis Alfar, DM Reyes, John Jack Wigley, Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., Ricardo de Ungria, Marjorie Evasco, Alfred Yuson, Gémino H. Abad, and Grace Monte de Ramos. They will be joined by two foreign panelists whose names will be announced later.

The workshop, which traditionally lasts for three weeks, is the oldest creative writing workshop of its kind in Asia. It was founded in 1962 by S.E.A. Write Awardee Ediberto K. Tiempo and National Artist Edith L. Tiempo, and was recently given the Tanging Parangal in the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

This year, the workshop is co-sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Embassy of the United States of America in Manila, and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

For more information about forthcoming events during the workshop, please email Workshop Coordinator Ian Rosales Casocot at silliman.cwc@gmail.com or call the Department of English and Literature at (035) 422-6002 loc. 520.

Monday, March 04, 2013

v for vulgarity

Here’s something true: I cringe and feel sick when a curse word comes cruising into my ears.

There is a multitude of them, originating from different languages, each possibly more hilarious or vulgar than the last one you’ve heard. Like drugs they vary in degrees of potency. You’d probably get one on your way to work. Hence, there’s no need mentioning any mammalian excrement here, the F word here or someone’s mother and what she does here.

I have my fair share of them thrown at me and I can say that I am no saint in this department, as if suggesting I haven’t flung an expletive at somebody or the neighbor’s noisy dog in this lifetime. Of course, I do. I, too, fall into the ease of this play.

But not as frequently.

As frequently compared to whom? Now let’s keep that blank to avoid a strain on relationships familial, intimate and platonic.

This is my sense of self, the familiarity of my reservations. And just when I thought I was alone, an unlikely friend of mine last Saturday shared the same displeasure to cussing or cursing.

Also, the same aftereffects upon receiving or hearing one, especially when it is uncalled for: aggravation, a numbing pain in the head, and then suddenly, a strange sense of disappointment and hopelessness. Almost like a hangover.

Profanities, it seems to the two of us, are major downers.

This is not to spring myself up on the goodness scale. No one’s holy. Sometimes, dropping the bombs in cases of extreme anger are justifiable (or debatable, it depends), but during everyday conversation for the sake of being funny? For driving the point home? For enraging someone? Here are my thoughts on them.

For humor? Casual crudity could be amusing but an excess of it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. For emphasis? Curses only highlight a starving imagination or the absence of it. For retaliation? Courage comes in many forms, but firing away obscenities is not one of them, since cursing simply stresses the incapacity to talk back with sense.

In the end, what you think is funny, cool, or brave is actually the other way around: rude, cheap, and coward.

There are more horrifying things the world could open up to us, so there is no use contributing to the garbage we already have in our hands. The idea is this: the less said the better.

But that’s just me. If all forms of reasoning fail (such as this article), then I would have to keep to myself or run away from the hailstorm of vulgarity. Jumping into the bandwagon is not an option as of the moment.

So now, you can start putting in your two cents worth here. In other words, your piece of shit.
 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

original judgment


I’ll write you a poem
that praises you so well
it’ll glow in the dark.
—from “Cliff Top, East Coast,” Norman MacCaig


You and I are made
To judge each other:
Your lips are unbeautiful,
Away from mine.
And you would say,
Your face is no light
Without my sun of a heart,
One that will make you
Glow, burn restless
Like ember. I will hate you
For this, hate you
Like arrows, points sleek
Dug deep in targets
Crimson red and round.
I could say that everything
Of you is a wilted petal,
A disappointment
To the promise of blossoms.
You could hate me next,
Bring fire and brimstone
To the filth of my words.
But I could not muster
The strength of stones
To break us apart.
Because, still, you and I
Are made to judge each other:
You do not deserve this.
You deserve neither praise
Nor poem but a truth like love
That cries and glimmers for you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

could be a year of contradictions. or not.


I’ve said this just before the turn of the New Year: 2012 was not just something. It was more than anything that I have expected.

Just like the previous years, it wasn’t an entirely smooth ride. But it was nonetheless remarkable, beautiful, and grotesque like some sort of creature you’d both fear and cuddle. Contradiction, it is in every life’s DNA. 

When I look for sunlight, it pours. When I decide to stay, someone leaves. When I yearn for that, I get this instead. I am not complaining though I think I’ve come far too short to how I wanted things to work out. I’ve come far too short to make some semblance of major accomplishment. I’ve come far too short to many, many others. 

But due to the very same contradictions that go speeding into my direction, there are other routes of realization that open along the way. 

It is a complicated matter, this sudden awareness, this understanding that there is more to what we know and have faith in. And it is through this that you could get through all hurdles because you know yourself much better than anybody else. 

Just like any beautiful irony, this could be brought about from a lot of things: trips to foreign places, situations we find ourselves in, people who come into our lives. 

The latter, usually, makes the most impact. At least for me. It is because it is the people that precedes and propels us to which place we could go or what situation we could be in. The human mobilizes the happenings. 

That is why 2012, really, is not just about contradictions. Through the people we meet and through the lives they live, we learn that our failures are not entirely a collapse of ideals but a chance to assess what could be done next time. For the good. 

It could be about seizing that success story which you’ve been dreaming for yourself and your loved ones. It could be about painting one day on a canvas which you haven’t done in years. It could be about browsing old pictures without that ache in the heart. It could be about acknowledging the truth to your family. It could be about finishing that draft of a story in your archives. It could be about doing sacrifices for someone else. It could be about a whole lot of things. 

Because in the end, as how someone dear to me pointed out, what is important is the attitude of gratitude. Let us simply be thankful. Someone else could have it worse. 

Being grateful allows the rekindling of hope which strengthens all that we need, especially love. 

Yes, tomorrow may be uncertain but it is our decision now that shapes it. I decide right now to be better. Not only for myself but also for my beloved. It will be a work in progress, of course. And it would be hard, for what we see and hear often tells a different story, but we will manage. 

This 2013, you and I, we can work it out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

original sadness

There is no difficult way to sadness.
This has always been our open secret
Despite our efforts to cruise and get lost
In this sea of distractions, in someone’s arms,
Or in someone else’s. One day, we would find
Ourselves rooted again on where we had just
Left off. I understand poetry both knows
And doesn’t know why. We, it remains,
Are the only ones who absolutely do.
We believe we do. But when all else fails,
We would search for it, search for words
That would reveal glimpses of paradise,
And we would think of all the comely things
We can say with and without seeing them.
Maybe I simply understood the honey in pain,
Its heirloom tang indelible like promises.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

poem in slate 2013



I almost forgot about this until someone gave me the heads up. My poem “Poetry as a Lesson in History” is one of the literary works published in the Slate 2013 Planner.

As stated in their official website, “the Slate Planner exhibits more stunning visual creations by local and international artists, both well-known and yet to be discovered. Be inspired by the works Kitkat Pecson, The Creative Dork, Vincent Raphael Aseo, JR Bumanglag, and Singaporean artist, Eeshaun. Aside from visual pieces, 2013 also features stirring literary works from local talents.”

Wow. Stirring. That’s a catchy adjective. So visit your nearest bookstore and grab a copy now. (Um, actually, you don’t grab. You ought to buy one).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

introvert, extrovert

Call it serendipitous, but the enumeration of differences (or the demands of each) between the two coming into the picture today is very timely. Bottom line: opposites. Pointing out the specifics of both is fun and perplexing (and maybe even draining). 



And it seems it is much more fun and more perplexing (and maybe even more draining) when you work out a thread to connect the two. I guess that is the purpose of the ritual of living: to work things out, no matter the opposites, no matter the differences. If one really wants it to.

[ visit source of images here ]

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

almost in there: likhaan 6

Apparently, the news came to me a little bit late. I didn’t make it in the final contents of University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing’s Likhaan Journal 6, but a poem from the collection I submitted for possible inclusion got a little bit of mentioning in its preface or introduction written by Gemino H. Abad, the literary journal’s editor:

‘”There are quite a number of remarkable poems that I personally would not hesitate to include in an update of A Habit of Shores should I venture again into those woods “lovely, dark and deep”; for instances, each one for wholeness perfectly chiseled—Jov Almero’s palindrome; Miro Capili’s “Monet’s Last Yellow”; F. Jordan Carnice’s “Relativities”; Albert B. Casuga’s “Graffiti: Five Lenten Poems”; Nolin Adrian de Pedro’s “caxton”; Vincent Dioquino’s “candescence”; Jan Brandon Dollente’s “When I say the sky opens its mouth”; Eva Gubat’s “A Telling of Loss”; Pauline Lacanilao’s “A Crowded Bus Stops Abruptly”; Christine V. Lao’s “Swatches”; R Torres Pandan’s “Remembering Our Future”; Trish Shishikura’s “The Manner of Living”; Jaime Oscar M. Salazar’s “Clinch”; Arlene Yandug’s “Aporia.”’ 

Familiar (and respected) names are all over the place. If one of the master poets mentions my work in a note such as this, then I think it is worth saying the simple citation is rewarding. Thank you.


[ click here to view the journal in PDF ]

Friday, November 23, 2012

original atonement

The sincerest of apologies
takes the form of genius.
Or distance void of caustic
depths. This has been the doctrine
I have committed to: Every strike
of error is certain, spot on,
and denies excuses one must fear
becoming the child who grew up deaf
because no one listened to him,
listened to the truth he believes.
Yet man is forever in service
to inconsistencies. For each day
there is so much to relearn,
to untangle what is once wrought
with conviction. The colorblind,
for one, can tell that this orange
has never been that orange until later.
Always, there will be that something
or someone that brings grief in poetry.
But let the dark define the splendor
of things. Everyone must be hard
to love. Otherwise, an orange
from the market is all we need.

Monday, November 19, 2012

spoliarium and the 31st national book awards

I just met Juan Luna. His famous work that is, the Spoliarium. And it is spelled as such, not the often-used “Spolarium.” Many years ago, the nearest I could get into seeing it were on television, history books, art magazines, and the internet. I’ve been based in Manila for three years and haven’t gaped at it in person until last November 17. It’s like—as how a friend’s friend put it—being in Paris and not seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Really embarrassing for any art enthusiast.


The 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters oil painting, housed in the National Museum of the Philippines, was Luna’s piece to the Madrid Art Exposition in 1884 which actually won him a gold medal. To say that it easily topped the said competition is an understatement. It depicts the aftermath of a gruesome spectacle in Rome that is a gladiatorial match. Spoliarium, according to the museum’s official site, refers to “the basement of the Roman Colosseum where the fallen and dying gladiators are dumped and devoid of their worldly possessions.”

 
The work is vast but the emotional force it contains is bigger, much more enormous than its canvas. Every wrinkle on every face, every wilted limb of each lifeless man constitutes to a story that transcends what it visually features: the frailty of human life, the impact of death, the everyday horror of what could happen next. Juan Luna’s Spoliarium—along with the museum’s other masterpieces by Fernando Amorsolo, Jose Joya, Cesar Legaspi, my favorites Ang Kiukok and Vicente Manansala, and many more— is proof that art remains one of man’s triumphant mementos that become richer, more profound, and more relevant in each passing time.

*

On the same day and in the same place, around five in the afternoon, I attended the 31st National Book Awards for the nomination of Ian Rosaless Casocot’s Beautiful Accidents in the Cirilo F. Bautista Prize for Short Fiction in English. (See full list here).

 
And, apparently, without prior knowledge, I could also be in the event for Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry (edited by Khavn De La Cruz and Joel M. Toledo) nomination in the Manila Critics Circle Special Prize for a Book by an Independent Publisher. My longish piece “Stones” is one of the 150 poems featured in this collection.

 
Held in the venue’s magnificent old session hall, the whole affair felt like a night of overflowing champagne in the gilded age. Though both books lost in their respective categories, we had a sumptuous late dinner at Tao Yuan Restaurant in Malate we all felt like big winners. And in the end, our appetite was the bigger winner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the amazingly extreme case of epic superlatives

Awesome? Epic? Great? Amazing? Super? Galing-galing? Sobra?

They all sound familiar, right? It is because they are the very same words we hear (and use) oftentimes, if not every day. And that reality is unsettling.

Why? I think our penchant for superlatives has just diminished our capability for precision, subtlety, and their unique varying gradients. Our critical mind’s supposedly surgical knives have become prehistoric stone tools.

How’s the food? Great. How’s your trip? Awesome. How’s the movie? Response these days usually falls under “epic” or “fail.” End of conversation. And please don’t get me started when it comes to books. I am a victim of my own complaint.

We’ve been there before (and still there, in fact) with “interesting” and “cute” labeled on things that range from puppies to the up-and-coming boy bands. Ambiguity abounds. In Sianne Ngai’s new book Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, as pointed out by Daily Beast reviewer Benjamin Lytal, “One of the big changes is this: we don’t use straightforward words of praise anymore.”

It seems we’ve simply embraced all the terms that sound bombastic, go beyond normal, on something bigger just to sound cool, just for the sake of it. Which is really an alarming practice.

Now imagine you’re a ballet dancer. Imagine you worked hard on stage as if it’s your last. Now, how does it feel when you ask a friend how’s your performance and you get an “It’s cool!” response? Fine? Maybe. But great? No. Definitely no. Maybe insult is what you’d be feeling. This is like appreciating the icing on the cake, never going beyond the surface.

But why do we do what we do? Why just eat the icing?

Maybe this is our communal protest against English professors who’ve made our college hell. Maybe we’ve simply adapted to the concept of “bigger is better” in our everyday language, conditioned alongside by empty blockbusters assailed by almost all forms of entertainment these days. Maybe, due to the increasing accessibility of information, we forgo the duty of finding the right ones and use what are at hand—which are usually not the best of finds. Maybe, strangely, we are running out of things to say.

This is not an inquiry on our aptitude in language or an evaluation on personal preference or judgment. This is simply raising awareness on respect to an item—may it be a television series, a short story, even a dish—and the people involved around it. Especially these people. Because when opinion is given, enrichment follows. Discussion flourishes, not songs from crickets and rolling tumbleweeds that trail after the end of an empty conversation.

You see, an empty praise is the lowest form of flattery. One might say it is flattery, no less. But it is the lowest, no less. I say just judge it. Judge everything with thought. So, what’s your say then?