Saturday, February 29, 2020

new poems published in katitikan

Two of my poems—“Cleaning the Attic” and “Sky Over Cairns”—are in the second issue of Katitikan, the Literary Journal of the Philippine South.

This latest edition, which is now live and can be viewed here, taps on the theme of “Space and Place.” Today’s Leap Day is not that bad after all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

from father to daughter: the lasting art of napoleon abueva

In the afternoon of February 19, 2020, packs of students, teachers, cultural workers, artists and guests came to the National Museum-Bohol for “The Life and Times of National Artist Napoleon ‘Billy’ Veloso Abueva.” It was a talk that was recounted by the artist’s daughter, Amihan Valles Abueva.

Contrary to popular belief and what is circulating online, Billy was born in Manila, not in Bohol, on January 26, 1930. But this does not negate the artist’s connection to the province. He is after all the son of Boholano congressman Teodoro Lloren Abueva and Purificacion Gonzalez Veloso, a Cebuana who became president of the Women’s Auxiliary Service. He was born Esabelio (that’s why he’s called Billy by family and close friends), but he took the moniker “Napoleon” after his time with the nuns at St. Joseph Academy who kept crying out “Napoleon Bonaparte!” whenever they found him being mischievous for the nth time.

Amihan with a bronze self-portrait bust of National Artist for Sculpture
Napoleon “Billy” Abueva.

Billy had even lived a significant portion of his life here, together with his own family, as evidenced by his contributions to the province: The statues of Pres. Carlos P. Garcia and Dagohoy; the Risen Christ in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in K of C; the tombstone behind St. Joseph statue at the Cathedral façade; the memorial structure in Balitbiton, Valencia; and the Blood Compact monument (which unfortunately has no plaque or telling signs of origin and artist despite its relevance to Bohol). There are more artworks in the Abueva residence in Duero. All this makes Billy as Bol-anon as the rest of us.

The tribute was a fitting addition to the National Arts Month activities in Bohol, since it was held just three days after the artist’s second death anniversary. Amihan, being an artist herself who usually works with fabric, had lovingly woven the life and works of his father with so much nuance and color.

Amihan shared that her grades in school didn’t matter to her father that much, as long as she would narrate to him the questions she had asked in her classes each day. Curiosity and discovery were important to the family. Billy was also supportive of her political inclinations that he would even suggest to Amihan that he will drive her to a rally in Mendiola. Another anecdote that was amusing for its candidness was when Billy, pressed with a deadline and taken over by temper, would reprimand his art assistants. But they would only laugh behind his back because, like several times before that, they knew Billy will serve them drinks and food when he will eventually realize it is unbecoming of him to get mad at them. “He is a generous artist,” Amihan said.

A stainless steel sculpture titled “Family Group.”
This is just one of the many works by Napoleon Abueva
that are currently on display in the Pagpauli (Homecoming) Exhibit
at the National Museum-Bohol (the old Capitol Building, located across Rizal Park).

For Billy’s body of works, one that gave him the status of being the Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture, Amihan framed her discussion within the trends and significant movements of our history—from World War II and the rise of anti-colonial movements, the anti-racism and civil rights movements, the beginnings of feminism and gender equality, the struggle for democracy and human rights, down to technological advancements and the environment.

This was not only a fascinating peek into an artist’s mind but also a confirmation on the inseparability of politics and arts, the relationship between the environment and the creative process. For Billy, the youngest recipient of the National Artist title to date, the political has always been personal and vice versa. Nothing is made out of a void. And Amihan understands this very well. She is not only a daughter, a mother, and an artist, but also a child rights advocate and human rights activist. In fact, she is one of those at the forefront of opening the doors to child protection, here and abroad, ensuring that children are protected from violence, trafficking, and sexual exploitation.

A rare copy of a self-published book that contains
some of Billy’s masterpieces and the history behind them.

During the open forum, after National Museum-Bohol Head Audrey Dawn Tomada and Gov. Arthur Yap had given Amihan her certificate, I asked her this question: "As an artist and human rights advocate, what words of guidance or encouragement can you give to artists, especially the young ones, in this time of abuse, divide, and disinformation? What can be done? What must be done?"

“Be courageous. Be creative,” Amihan said. “Because artists have a very special role in helping others understand these key issues—disinformation, fake news, tyranny.”

Amihan then highlighted this need to inform and be informed with a question to the audience: “People have been killed in the last three years. For a country that is supposed to be Christian and Catholic, nganu maghilom man ta?”

Amihan also added: “When there are crises, this is the time that the artists come out… If you notice in the times of rebellion, in the times of revolt, diha nanggawas ang mga maayong writer, mga maayong painter. So this is a golden time. Unfortunately, it is a bad time for the victims. But for us who keep on fighting, I think it is a good time to continue the struggle for dignity, for human rights… Stay courageous, stay creative, don’t lose hope.”

Indeed, this boldness runs in the Abueva family, and most definitely manifests in the works of Napoleon “Billy” Abueva. Although his art is informed by the different years of celebration and turmoil in his surroundings, whether in the Philippines or outside its borders, Billy’s masterpieces remain to be both current and future-bound. His sculptures are timeless. Each has a distinct way of mirroring the present but one that is also looking forward. It exudes a creative wisdom that is eager. It is courageous.

[ This article is first published in The Bohol Chronicle on February 23, 2020 ]

Monday, January 13, 2020

new year, same problems

Climate change has been a serious concern for many, many decades, and we simply brush them off anyway because, you know, we keep telling ourselves, “What could happen here?”


Despite the increasing number of signs—raging storms, beached whales, earthquakes, droughts, wildfires and blizzards, a flower blooming its last bloom—we simply laugh.

Or we drink. We take selfies. We share memes. We say, “Happy New Year!” We smoke our cigarettes. We desire the latest iPhone. We drive our third cars. We make more babies. We travel because “we travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” We eat our cakes. We mine our mountains. We make “art.” We shoot the birds in the skies. We ridicule those who clean up beaches and hug trees. We cut more trees. We swim with whale sharks. We fume at the protesters and rallies in the streets. We share our “thoughts and prayers.” We go to the movies. We say, “We are only human.” We say, “Whatever makes people happy.” We dance and sing. We gossip over wine and cheese. We elect the same shit. We throw our trash anywhere. We pee everywhere. We do not talk to our exes. We continue with our lies. We maintain multiple profile accounts on Facebook. We update our Spotify playlists. We “move on.” We dramatize the same sunset. We look at the full moon. We feel #blessed.

Meanwhile, corporations and our leaders and our governments take advantage of our collective indifference, our misgivings, our lapses.

Now we face the consequences.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

happy 2020

Yes, we all want peace, the comfortable, the quiet. But when resistance and unclouded introspection are needed, we must break the silence. 2020 is our chance to not only correct our mistakes but also to magnify our collective voices for the common good, for the common people.

Heads up, guys. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

one chapter down

Nothing elaborate. No new me. No kilometric year-ender essay writing contribution. Just a photo of me to remind myself, perhaps a year later or so, that there was a moment in this life that I have a genuine reason to smile. Let’s just say 2019 is hard, and a majority of the 2010-2019 decade harder, but thanks to everyone who endured with me both delightful and agonizing experiences, these affairs eventually accumulated to that reason. Hope to see you all again in 2020 with much better reasons to smile.

Friday, December 27, 2019

everyday christmas

Since her birthday is also on Christmas Day, it feels like every day is also her birthday the whole month of December. Yey!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

dear ma

Just a few words: Christmas Day is always exceptional because of you, and what I want for Christmas is to have more Christmas Days with you—stronger, healthier, happier—so we could travel together more to places you have not traveled to in your prime.

Happy birthday, Ma, and I love you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

merry christmas!

May your Christmas Day bloom with so much joy and blessings, and your loved ones blossom into more beautiful, compassionate souls. That’s my yuletide wish for you.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

new poem for the holidays in the sunday times magazine

Happy holidays, my loves! My poem “The Walk Toward Home on a Holiday Season” is published today in The Sunday Times Magazine (22 December 2019), the magazine supplement of The Manila Times newspaper. This will be my Christmas treat for you!

You can buy the paper at your nearest newsstands and bookstores. Here is a link to the poem in case you can’t get a physical copy.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

how to make an accident

A passerby stopped by the table, paused, and asked me, how are we supposed to create an accident? Is it even still an accident? I said, it is for you to find out within its pages.

How to Make an Accident is my second collection of poems. Just leave a message if you want to get a copy.

Monday, December 02, 2019

my latest poem published in the sunday times magazine

I just got a new poem, "The Wait at the Doctor's Clinic," recently published in The Sunday Times Magazine (10 November 2019), the magazine supplement of The Manila Times newspaper. So happy this made print; I literally wrote this while I waited for my turn at the doctor's clinic.

It is also available online. Here is a link to the poem.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

call for manuscripts to the 59th silliman university national writers workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 59th Silliman University National Writers Workshop to be held from 27 April to 8 May 2020 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village and the Silliman University campus.

This Writers Workshop is offering ten fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts on or before 6 December 2019. (Extension to the deadline will not be made.) All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries).

Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries. Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowships should submit at least one (1) One-Act Play. Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 20 pages, double-spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 20 pages. Aside from manuscripts in Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Drama that should be written in English, the Workshop will also be accepting manuscripts for Balak (poetry in Binisaya) and Sugilanon [short story in Binisaya]. Applicants should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) balak entries with their English translations, or three to four (3-4) sugilanon entries with their English translations.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. Please indicate the category (FICTION, CREATIVE NONFICTION, POETRY, ONE-ACT DRAMA, BALAK, or SUGILANON) immediately under the title. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 12.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts. Manuscripts should be accompanied by the official application form, a notarized certification of originality of works, and at least one letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer. All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to the Department of English and Literature, attention Dr. Warlito Caturay Jr., Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

another kid in peril

Now I found this a really good horror movie. I just don’t understand why this is sent straight to Netflix instead of showing it in movie theaters. Eli is the kind of good because of its wackiness. It starts gentle, moody, and then strange (of course), just leisurely ticking off the boxes of anything that you’d expect to see in this kind of movie. The tropes are all here. And then all of a sudden, it is totally not the movie you have imagined it to be the entire time, even in the final minutes. The cast is perfection, especially Charlie Shotwell, Kelly Reilly, and the ever reliable horror staple Lily Taylor. I didn’t mind its pacing and tone. They do serve as the right appetizers for the dessert that’s about to come. Eli is pretty sly. It is littered with moments that spoonfeed you with suggestions that you know what it’s all about. They are easy to spot if you’ve seen countless horror films. Until that third act unravels. It just flips the tables and goes hard for the jugular. There’s this one sequence near the end that’s equal parts poetic and nasty. It’s just crazy! And that’s what makes it fun. Enjoy.

[ image borrowed from this site ]

Saturday, October 05, 2019

nothing to laugh about

It is inevitable that we finally get the cinematic treatment of a standalone, origin story about Batman’s longtime foe, especially with the hero’s appeal waning throughout the years in the movie theaters. Director Todd Philipps has crafted Joker that consciously distances itself from the current crop of comicbook films. It is brutal, knowingly dark, and has borrowed a lot from noir and psychological thrillers. Philipps knows the strengths of his actors, particularly Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, and Joaquin Phoenix. Sadly, Zazie Beetz is criminally underutilized here.

Much adulation has been said about Phoenix’s performance, and all of those are true. You simply cannot ignore Phoenix, just by the sight of him alone in each frame. He has this gangly body like stretched rubber, one that is always at the point of breaking. And break he did. This is an acting that is tremendous, almost grotesque in its unhinged ferociousness. Comparisons to Heath Ledger's Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight are valid. But Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck—the character before it became the infamous Joker—is different. Here is an unlucky man-child who works as a hired clown, dreams of becoming a standup comic, and lives with an ailing mother in a world that is systemically determined to make their lives miserable. It doesn’t help that Fleck has a condition that prompts him to laugh, painfully, at the most unfavorable times.

The movie has its funny moments (it is The Joker after all), but unlike the quippy Marvel humor, these moments still involve chaos and bloodshed. Yes, bloodshed. And poverty. And confusion. And government budget cuts. And secret bloodlines. And the good old cruelty and manipulative injustices of society. This sounds bleak and hopeless, but that is the point.

And it makes this movie dangerous.

It is basically a vivid representation of our flaws, of all that we usually ignore and the consequences we get from doing so. Despite its (successful) attempt at fleshing out the grey areas of our regular excuse of “us being simply humans,” it is terrifying to imagine the glee, the affirmation, people who have been equating mental health issues to something abstract and purely evil could get from this film. It is also difficult to shake off the feeling that it has the potential to heighten the stigma around said issues and to validate revenge fantasies—especially for people with impressionable minds in the age of violent instant gratification, Trump, and Duterte. With a pop culture subject that is as massive and influential as The Joker, it is not funny. It has just become too real and scary.

[ image borrowed from this site ]

agi: the pathways for our literature

Words are among our simplest of comforts, but when wielded differently, these are also a source of division and displeasure. That is why, in the recent Agi Creative Writing Workshop—organized by Kaliwat ni Karyapa (KaKa) writers collective, with the support of the Center for Culture and Arts Development of the provincial government of Bohol—these things were held to a higher standard, handled with a master’s care.

Patterned after the country’s major writers’ workshops, where a panel of distinguished literary artists dissects and studies the participants’ submitted works, Agi is the first of its kind in the province, gathering practicing and emerging writers from different parts of Bohol. The term agi is a Bol-anon word for “handwriting” and “to get through.”

The writing fellows are Cathleen Grace B. Dahiroc, Marlene G. Estorosas, Mae Tiffany O. Gallendez, Donita Jeanne Gervacio, Karla Jane Gonser, Anne Genelou D. Hangad, Vanessa Jane Jumoc, Lucell Larawan, Carlo Christopher A. Lelis, Karen Lara M. Libot, Ariel B. Logroño, Mary Rose D. Morales, Ruvyne Gayle A. Nagal, Ruby Angeline A. Pring, John Harvey Reforeal, Ronald T. Salada, and Venice Alyzza L. Ugay, along with two members of KaKa, Dandreb James Arro and Amor Maria J. Vistal.

The workshop sessions began on May 25 at Reyna’s The Haven and Gardens Hotel, where the first order of business was poetry. The panelists for the day were poets F. Jordan Carnice, Paul Joseph Vistal, and Palanca award winners Rene Eune “Coy” P. Ponte and Noel “Roy” P. Tuazon.

Since the fellows were a mix of high school students, working millennials and long-employed professionals who reacquainted themselves with their love for writing, the panelists balanced their critiques by pulling the hardest punches, but still aiming for sharp but necessary tough-love advice.

Criticism is never meant to discourage, but everyone needs to know what can be improved and what should be disposed. For poetry, this includes growing out of comfort zones: to kill your darlings when lines sounded beautiful but gratuitous; to break out of traditional rhyming schemes that constrict, rather than uplift, the poem’s intent; to stop mimicking Hallmark greeting card poetry and Instagram aphorisms by setting aside Lang Leav, Rupi Kaur or Wattpad and then venturing to other literatures; and above all, to read, read, read more works, especially by local writers.

There was also the dialogue on allusions and central metaphors, heightened language that ushers the reader to insight, ekphrastic poetry, sexism in writing in the 21st century, enjambments and caesura, brevity versus excess, and many others. The standout that day was some of the balak, Visayan works of poetry that were clearly more Bol-anon than Cebuano, capturing the sensibilities of one’s culture and strength of the native tongue.

May 26 was dedicated to prose works, covering both fiction and creative nonfiction. The workshop was moved to the new Bohol Provincial Capitol near CPG Park, where everybody endured the indoor heat due to the absence of electricity in the building. This only added to the unease of the writing fellows who were at the receiving end of more heated discussions. Luckily, power returned just before lunch. The main panelists for this day were overall workshop coordinator Liza Macalandag and Bonifacio Quirog Jr., along with Carnice, Vistal, Ponte and Tuazon.

Although nothing is truly original, since an idea is a reflection of reality or response to another idea, the critiques still touched on inventiveness and demands of narrative, requiring the fellows to ask themselves these: What does “show, don’t tell” mean? What makes this narrator’s point of view distinctive, but still relatable? How do I avoid becoming didactic, but still driving home the point?

The temptations of purple prose, the wasted opportunities of going back to heritage for story material, and the phallic undertones (or overreadings?) of some of the pieces were among those that animated the discussions. In the end, whether the story is sci-fi, horror, a recording of personal angst or an excerpt of a longer memoir, the consensus for any literary work is that substance should always trump form. The skeleton needs organs and muscles for the body to move.

After the workshop sessions, the panelists were impressed that, despite of the unsavory words that came with the praises, nobody among the fellows cried or left the room in a fury, unlike many of the panelists’ past workshop experiences. But when they were asked to share their thoughts about the workshop, tears were shed. They agreed that this two-day fellowship was an opportunity too rare for anyone to pass, especially in Bohol, and they were beyond grateful that they were gifted with the space to identify themselves with another writer, to unload questions they were fearful to ask (ironically) in classrooms, and to refine their craft while getting the chance to connect with other literary artists in the province.

This response proves that there is a desire for a community of writers in Bohol, that there is passion for writing and critical thinking despite the constant assault of misinformation these days. There are already several writers workshops held annually in the country, serving as major rites of passage for aspiring writers, but they are mostly outside of Bohol — the Silliman University National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City, the IYAS Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod City, the Iligan National Writers Workshop and the many university-led workshops in Manila, to name a few.

Finally, Bohol has the Agi Creative Writing Workshop, a gathering everybody hopes would be institutionalized and reach its golden anniversary in the future. Because, like reading, writing must never end. Writing our literatures is fundamental because, no matter the place, it is a way of memorializing (and learning from) our nation’s traumas and triumphs.

But Agi is not just about writing and establishing one’s penmanship in the country’s many literary expressions. It is about creating pathways for new writers and tirelessly following the journey of history and heritage of a people. And based on the direction this workshop is going, it is on the right track.

[ this article is published in The Sunday Times Magazine of The Manila Times on June 9, 2019 and an abridged version is published in The Bohol Chronicle on June 2, 2019 ].

Monday, May 13, 2019

midterm elections 2019 thoughts and tidbits

Election day is perhaps one of the few days to get your hands dirty. Well, just a fingernail actually. 

You can’t mock and shame people for posting photos of their inked fingernails on social media, regardless of who they voted. They did a mighty job fulfilling their duty as a responsible citizen. Kudos to them, kudos to everyone!

If it’s up to me and it is completely legal to have all of my fingernails doused in COMELEC-issued indelible ink, I’d gladly grab the chance and take hundreds of pictures of my nails for posting on every social media account I have. Kebs ninyo.


Woke up at 5AM to get to our precinct before 6AM. Arrived at Eastern Cogon Elementary School, double-checked my name in the lists in Cluster 33. Took the queue; I was the third person in line. Early bird, right? At exactly 6:15AM, I accomplished my ballot.

Funny thing was the machine accepted and scanned our ballots (mine and my sister’s), but once the ballot receipts were printed, the screen on the machine showed this “paper jam” error message. Thankfully though, the receipt correctly mirrored our votes. The inspector called a technician for assistance, but all the technician ever did was shake and slap the machine. You know, like what people do with old TV sets back then? All the slapping and shaking curiously worked, and so the machine readily receives another ballot. But then another paper jam message will show up. Another round of shakes and slaps. It was like this for every ballot inserted. The machine is basically faulty or broken. The Philippines is one gigantic comedy show.


I voted as early as 6AM because I needed to watch Game of Thrones hours later without guilt. After the show, it saddens me when I realize that what just happened on Game of Thrones today is basically like Duterte-era Philippines.

So guys, I pray, please vote wisely and with the future in mind. We can truly change this.

Sunday, March 31, 2019


My heartfelt gratitude goes to everyone who remembered and greeted me on my birthday yesterday.

People say you become wiser with age. Although wishful thinking dictates it has a smidgen of truth, I just think you become equal parts jaded, dumbfounded, and generally exhausted, especially with all the happenings in this world.

But the fortunate thing here is that (if you are fortunate enough) you find people around you who are as jaded, dumbfounded, and exhausted as you are. Kidding aside, what I want to say is that you have to have a support system, and I am thankful I have my family with me and very few friends who I can genuinely call friends throughout these years. And pinpointing them out is hard, TBH.

Many fear the coming of 31, that it’s like jumping over a cliff with unknown heights, or finally crossing the three decades prior with inadequate life skills and experiences to prepare you for the next decades or so. I guess some of these are true, some not. There will always be questions that will continue to nag you. Have you done enough?

Have you corrected and made peace with the errors you’ve made in life? Are the choices you make benefit you and you alone? And after everything you have achieved, are you truly happy?

These are valid questions, concerns. Ultimately, to me, what matters is that you know deep within your compass that you know where you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to do, whatever your age is. To hell with where the rest are going and are doing.

To borrow and paraphrase a few words from our queen mother RuPaul, shantay wherever you want to sashay.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

birth month

The Two-Headed Calf
Laura Gilpin

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.


I am drawn to this poem by Laura Gilpin again and again in the past few days and I still couldn’t prevent myself from being pierced by what it is trying to convey. This is one of the few poems that has the same effect on me as “Allowables” by Nikki Giovanni and “The Diameter of the Bomb” by Yehuda Amichai did when I first read them. It just leaves me like a massive wreck, my nose stuffy and my eyes puffy.


Perhaps the reason why I gravitate to this poem lately is that there is this one revelation last year, in 2018, that keep recurring to me in the present. It is the shock of finding out, as I was cleaning my contact list on Facebook, that a person—a person who is once close to me—now has a profile that is labeled “Legacy Contact.” The term meant a person has passed away.

The information came to me in 2018. The actual person left three years prior. The thought bothered me the past few days because, on the year of the person’s departure, I received a message from this person and I chose to ignore it. It was a one-worded message: “Fred.” It was like a call, it sounded like a concern, or an opening to a confession that needed attention, but I kept silent for reasons that were deemed appropriate during that time.

Today I wonder what would have been our conversations like if I had responded to the message. I will never know.


I didn’t give it much thought until recently, when I had been to several birthday gatherings of friends and family in just two weeks, that I realized this month, March, is my birth month. Yes, I am turning a year older in a couple of days. How fleeting time is, right? How short-lived the days could get when you fill them with distractions in an effort to finally say you accomplish something right in your life.

So this begs the question: Is this all there is to it?

Will there be another time in this repetitive existence when we (both) look up into our respective skies and see there are twice as many stars, as usual, and feel everything is all right? Still all right? One could only hope so.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

58th silliman university national writers workshop fellows

Silliman University, together with the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, presents the 58th edition of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop on April 29 to May 10 at the Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village in Camp Look-out, Valencia, Negros Oriental and the SU Campus. Here are the 10 writing fellows of Batch 2019:

Arielle Abrigo (Antipolo City)
Alsteine Diapana (Cebu City)

Jefferson Del Rosario (Danao City)
Dave Pregoner (Lapu-Lapu City)

Kaisa Aquino (Quezon City)
Catherina Dario (Muntinlupa City)
Samuel Evardone (Metro Manila)

Creative Nonfiction
Donna Patricia Manio (Imus City)
Cavite Riddick Recoter (Metro Manila)
Maria Gliceria Valdez (Davao City)

Tara Eunice de Leon and Jhudiel Brigid Plando will join them as special fellows for fiction and nonfiction respectively. Two applicants have also been invited as special workshop mentees: Alter Hofileña (Misamis Occidental) and Geormie Yanoc (Mabinay, Negros Oriental).

The panel of writers/critics for this year includes Director-in-Residence Anthony Tan, resident writers Cesar Ruiz Aquino and Ian Rosales Casocot, as well as regular panelists Alfred Yuson and Marjorie Evasco. They will be joined by guest panelists Rica Bolipata-Santos, Simeon Dumdum Jr., Susan Lara, Grace Monte de Ramos, and National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares.

Beginning last year, the Workshop has been accepting manuscripts for Balak (poetry in Binisaya) with corresponding English translation. The inclusion of Balak has further enriched workshop discussion regarding the craft of poetry rendered in different languages and the cultural nuances that underpin such expression.

Founded in 1962 by S.E.A. Write Awardee Edilberto K. Tiempo and National Artist Edith L. Tiempo, the workshop is the oldest creative writing workshop of its kind in Asia. It was recently given the Tanging Parangal in the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Silliman University National Writers Workshop continues the legacy of the Tiempos in giving value to literature and creative writing in the Philippines.

For more information about forthcoming events during the workshop, e-mail Workshop Coordinator Lady Flor Partosa at or call the Department of English and Literature at (035) 422-6002 loc. 350.  

[ article lifted from the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center Facebook page ]

19th iyas national writers workshop fellows

The IYAS National Writers’ Workshop of the University of St. La Salle, Bacolod City proudly announces the 12 Fellows for 2019.

Elizabeth Joy Serrano Quijano (Binisayang Sugilanon)
Maria Cristina I. Canson (Hiligaynon Binalaybay)
Nicole-Ann T. Lucas (Hiligaynon Sugilanon)
Isabella Kathrina S. Villarojo (Binisayang Dula)
Ryan Cezar O. Alcarde (Filipino Tula)
Alec Joshua B. Paradeza (Filipino Maikling Kuwento) 
March Anetonette S. Ortuoste (Filipino Dula)
Jefferson G. Del Rosario (Binisayang Balak)
Sigrid Marianne P. Gayangos (English Short Story)
King V. Llanza (English Poetry)
Jose Luis B. Pablo (English Poetry)
Edmark T. Tan (English Poetry)

Last year’s IYAS Writers Workshop had Dr. Marjorie Evasco as director and Ms. Grace Monte de Ramos-Arcellana, Ms. Susan S. Lara, Dr. Ronald Baytan, Mr. Em Mendez and Prof. John Iremil Teodoro as panelists. IYAS Project Director Atty. Raymundo Pandan, Jr. and workshop founder Dr. Elsie Coscolluela had also joined the panel.

The IYAS National Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of St. La Salle, the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.

This year’s workshop—the 19th edition—will be held at the Balay Kalinungan Complex of the University of St. La Salle, Bacolod City, from March 31 to April 6, 2019.

[UPDATED 03/31/19]

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan and his recent films, but I just re-watched “Unbreakable” and, man, this guy is good. Really good. He is a master of mood and composition. It's on Netflix. Watch it.

I just think though that he needs an editor these days, or someone to restrain his wild wild ideas. To cut his philosophising. To focus on the emotion. (And to limit his cameos?) Because these are the methods that I believe made “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs” so tense, so moving.

His latest film, “Glass,” could've been great like those three. This is perhaps his wildest, boldest film to date but it is also his most frustrating, most perplexing. So ultimately, bad habits are just hard to shake off, noh? I guess he is not entirely unbreakable.

[ image borrowed from this site ]

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

happy birthday, mother dear

Yesterday, December 25, may just be another day to be merry with complete abandon for some, but in this household the 25th of the 12th month of the year means something more. Probably even more than any other celebrations out there.

Because December 25 is also the birthday of my mother, the person who I always wish to become but staggeringly fail. But despite these drawbacks, both big and small, she accepts them, rises above them with grace and generosity. That is why it is easy never not to love her.

Happy birthday, Ma! And Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

happy holidays!

It is now the eve of a day when many people find joy and conjure the most simple of reasons to celebrate the smallest of things—life and warmth, food and shelter, luck and laughter, good decisions, company of friends and family.

So for this particular Christmas, I will make it simple as well: I wish we can have it all throughout the year and in the next, and I wish we will experience these with people who love us, respect us, and who truly matter to us.

From our family to yours, happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

last copies here

Out of 75 copies, I am down to my last seven copies of my poetry chapbook Weights & Cushions.

In June of this year, I made an initial print of 25 copies for Silliman University and DumAlt.Press’ LGBTQ Zine and Book Fest. Not much was sold during the festival, but friends and relatives here and from someplace else thought it was a good idea to buy and support my work. I am so grateful for these beautiful supportive souls. Apparently news reached New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, New York, California, etc etc. And I was running out of copies, so I made another print of 50 copies a week later. And today this is what’s left of it.

Five of these are actually going to Roxas City in the province of Capiz for VIVA ExCon 2018 this week—along with an art zine I’m still working on (something I call Philippine Roast and Other Drawings)— that means, technically, I’d only have two copies in my hand.

It’s mostly a solo effort, doing everything on your own, one that many would like to call a “vanity project,” but it is this very criticism why I am doing all of this in the first place. Keep ‘em coming. .

Sunday, September 30, 2018

37th national book awards

Hello. I just want to share this happy news because I rarely get one these days. Two books that published my works are finalists—in the same category!—in the 37th National Book Awards of the National Book Development Board - Philippines and The Manila Critics Circle.

The publications The Bohol We Love, an anthology of memoir that is edited by Marjorie Evasco and one that includes my personal essay “A (Re)Collection of Stones”; and Sustaining the Archipelago, an anthology of ecopoetry from the Philippines that is edited by Rina Chua and one that includes my poem “Poetry as a Lesson in Botany” are both finalists for Best Book of Anthology in English, Literary Division.

Huge thanks to the people who make this happen. Also, books from several friends and mentors are nominated / finalists as well! Cheers and confetti, everyone! Yey!

You can see the complete list here or here.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

ppp2018 : unli life

Miko Livelo’s Unli Life is, just like last year's Patay Na Si Jesus, that odd but hilarious member of the family in this year's Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Vhong Navarro is Benedict, a podcast DJ who is too eager to please his girlfriend wherever they go, whatever they do, a trait that can be considered sweet or suffocating. Unfortunately, his girlfriend thinks it's the latter. Crestfallen after the inevitable breakup, he finds a bar by the street called Turning Point that is manned by Joey Marquez. Here he is offered a “wishkey,” a strong drink that takes him back to different eras and gets to meet the people he knows except with different personas. He believes this is his chance to correct something in the past to prevent his massive heartbreak from happening in the present. Here’s a disclaimer: The concept here is definitely high, but the comedy is grounded, old school. And it works. Navarro’s shtick can sometimes be overplayed, his physical comedic mannerisms far from fresh, but it’s the treatment of these on a material so unhinged makes Unli Life a joy to watch. Even if the anachronisms are all over the place, the props and sets laughably crude, many of its sight gags and jokes are gold, benta, a feat that can only be inspired by Wenn Deramas’ filmography. For example: “Sinong John Lloyd?” “Ah, John Lloyd... Yung poet.” Who thinks of that?! It breaks the fourth wall, it feels unscripted, brimming with a veteran improv’s tendencies, like it has the spirit of a Monty Python work. Livelo knows the space of absurdity his movie occupies, and he is not ashamed to flaunt. He flaunts it hard.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Thursday, August 23, 2018

ppp2018 : the day after valentine's

Jason Paul Laxamana’s The Day After Valentine’s enlists again what makes his previous movie 100 Tula Para Kay Stella succeed despite its too-engineered plotting, which is the tandem of JC Santos and Bela Padilla, this time as Kai and Lani, respectively. (These actors have ridiculous strong chemistry). One evening, the two meet by chance where the Lani works, and like all love stories where two persons have no distinct commonalities—with Kai being private and cautious, and Lani being forward and spontaneous—they eventually find themselves stuck with each other, for reasons that are rarely seen in Filipino movies. It is immediately revealed that Kai self-harms; when his thoughts and emotions are too much to handle, he makes small cuts on his right arm to divert the pain. Lani, being a good person, comes to his aid. She believes she knows what and how he feels. She even goes the extra mile, literally, by flying back to Hawaii with the FilAm Kai, whose tourist visa is expiring. The movie soon shifts into a story of shared trauma and enlightenment instead of mere heartbreaks, and becomes an anti-love story, a direction that could either go really bad or incredibly good. The Day After Valentine’s goes somewhere in the middle. Metal health issues are taking major spotlight in many conversations today, which is good, but the movie somehow toys with the idea that you can be better if you have someone—can be with someone—and yet turns the other way around and reprimands you for bringing up the idea. All in all, it’s a dangerous idea. Nothing is more detrimental to a mind troubled by internal and external pressures than indecisiveness. But thankfully, in the end, it redeems itself with a message that barrels through this little ambiguity: Be kind to yourself because, like wounds, it always takes time to heal inside, and not one person can ever rush you to feel better, no matter the occasion.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ppp2018 : pinay beauty, she's no white

Jay Abello’s Pinay Beauty: She’s No White does not waste its time in showing its intentions, one of which is to poke fun at the many demands of our insecurities constantly playing in our heads. We are instantly introduced to the world of Chai Fonacier’s Annie and her dreams of having skin so fair, so “white”—like Disney’s Snow White but with bigger boobs. “I am happy when I am beautiful,” she would say. And serving as a tension to this journey to voluptuous whiteness, the story parallels to Migs (played by Edgar Allan Guzman), Annie’s boyfriend, who has wronged his uncle after stealing money for Annie’s plastic surgery. It also throws into the mix Maxine Medina’s Lovely G, a morena princess-like celebrity who dreams of getting better roles, to further complicate the movie’s attempts at social criticism. Despite the breeziness and mostly unassuming demeanor of comedy, everybody should know that comedy is not easy. And for someone reason, it feels like Pinay Beauty knows this very well, too, because it strains extra hard to make these scattered elements work. Yes, it is funny, it is charming, and this movie can be Chai Fonacier’s validation that she could lead a movie. She effectively portrays the whiplash changes of her character’s emotions. The movie does have the absurdities that are a requisite of a work of satire, but Pinay Beauty feels like it is pulling its punches, does not whole-heartedly embrace the dark, ironic humor that often comes with risky decisions. You know, like going under the knife to look better and, thus, feel better? The movie slightly touches on the issue of beauty and what constitutes the idea of beauty in the Filipino context, but slight is not what we need. All in all, the treatment that we get is harmless and tame for this subject matter. For first time in a long time, I think this is a movie that simply stumbles for being not ridiculous and exaggerated enough. 

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, August 20, 2018

ppp2018 : madilim ang gabi

Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Madilim Ang Gabi, the second Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino movie I got to watch this year, comes at a most opportune time in Philippine cinema. Fantasy, action, comedy, and romance are just fine, but we also need the mirror that reflects the conditions of our reality. It stars Gina Alajar and Philip Salvador—both showing stellar, understated performances—as the couple Sara and Lando. They live not far from the PNR railway tracks and, for the sake of their only son and a dream of good life, try really hard disconnecting their ties to drugs by selling the last of their supplies. They believe in change, not purely out of fear but also of necessity. It shows in the recognizable baller ID that Sara proudly wears wherever she goes. And then one day their son goes missing. Many non-mainstream movies that tackle on the lives of slum dwellers often showcase a kind of hardship and poverty that could be indulgent and leave some viewers distanced or disconcerted. Not with Alix Jr. In his hands Madilim Ang Gabi takes an even more urgent tone when it accompanies several scenes with actual audio recordings of speeches of our current administration. The words are terrifying, outlandish, but you know it is familiar because it is real. There is no distancing from the truth. The movie also features a dizzying array of cameos from veteran stars, slipping in and out of the moment, some lasting for only a few seconds, which could be distracting to those easily swept by celebrity. The “night” that the title speaks of arrives very late in the movie, and yet every scene might as well be the titular evening. We see lives eternally enshrouded in darkness, whether in daylight or moonlight, because of a violence that is bureaucratic and of a system that only favors the powerful and the influential. This movie is a dismantling of everything that led us to believe that this vast network of oppression is all right and ordinary. Our reality is never just a case of good and bad, one that can easily be summarized with a message on cardboard like “Wag Tularan” to know which is which, especially when the bad knows the good rhetoric that people love to hear. It has never been. Madilim Ang Gabi has its faults though—the meandering plot, the unhurried pace, and the growing fatalism that pulsates throughout the film—but at the rate our collective moral decline is going, all this is easy to dismiss. We are all dead, we can all be dead, either in the streets or on the inside. But like Sara in the middle of the film, it is never too late to start living with the right choices, to genuinely change, to remove from her wrist the false promises that come with the baller ID.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Friday, August 17, 2018

ppp2018 : we will not die tonight

Richard V. Somes’ We Will Not Die Tonight fits in the distinctive space that Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino holds, even if this festival is only two years old: good production values, unique plot, famous actors trying out new material. Erich Gonzales’ Kray is a stunt woman, working hard to meet both ends meet for her and her sickly father. Desperate to create her own luck, she agrees to do one last “raket” with her usual troupe of friends who are fellow extras and stuntmen, a job that is proposed by a former lover. Upon meeting their employers one evening, she realizes this is not the job she is looking for, which involves kidnapping street children to slice out their internal organs for some shady market. Shocked and feeling betrayed, Kray and her friends run away from the situation before they themselves would end up on the chopping block. This is a very strong premise, but unfortunately everything goes downhill from here. What starts as a story (seemingly) about a woman fending off every odd that comes her way, especially heightened by the fact that she works hard only to be in the sidelines, abruptly shits into a raucous and messy film that only drowns out everything it wants to say. It has a distracting soundtrack that sounds prepared by an overbearing hipster who worships punk and metal songs. We Will Not Die Tonight could have been our very own take on 28 Days Later [2002] or The Purge franchise but then it becomes a straightforward torture porn packaged as a hide-and-seek game. When a group of middle-aged men search for a little girl in an abandoned warehouse, with machetes in hand, and whisper words like “Do you want me to skin you alive?” with so much glee, you know something is off and unmerited. The film lingers on this type of violence for violence’s sake, relishes on the pounding, piercing, and slicing of the flesh. In short, it becomes exploitative. It is a huge waste because Erich Gonzales here does a better action film than Anne Curtis in the much buzzed-about BuyBust [2018] by Erik Matti. There is a genuine physicality and heaviness in her moves (or her double’s?), her pain onscreen so palpable it could make your palms sweat. Early on in the movie, a character criticizes Kray for her outdated moves on set. Like in the 80’s, too old, nothing new. It turns out this could be the movie’s own criticism.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, August 13, 2018

what spirit?

I am sorry but I am tired of seeing posts like this that put a (deceptively) positive spin on the suffering of many Filipinos because of our leaders’ inefficiencies. What Filipino Spirit? What resiliency? This is insulting. Nobody deserves to experience this, in the first place. Situations like this are not to be celebrated—they need to be solved.

If this is what they call “Filipino Spirit,” then I want to see the same thing, the same situation, for our barangay captains, councilors, mayors, governors, congressmen, senators, and even the president himself. These guys are culpable, through and through.

These days, proclamations of “resiliency” and “Filipino Spirit” have just become an excuse to shrug off and/or accept incompetency and the broken promises of our leaders. This only becomes problematic when the same leaders criticize anyone who seeks a better life by demanding more from them. Self-sufficiency should be enough, they would imply, as if we are forever immune to these calamities. Like a toxic lover who consistently takes advantage of you (and yet you keep welcoming that person into your life anyway), these leaders are the posterboys for abusive relationships on a national, political scale. 

An acquaintance argued to me that our leaders have nothing to do with these disasters, even going further by stating that “no country is prepared enough for Mother Nature, no matter how deep their drainage systems are.” 

Oh dear. Does this mean I have to put all the blame on Mother Nature for poor urban planning, undisciplined and ill-educated communities, inconsistent implementation of policies, substandard projects, absence of proper waste management, and government workers who do not do any work at all? Everything connects after all.

What this acquaintance of mine has forgotten or refuses to acknowledge is that the Philippines (and its leaders) is not equipped and just do not have the initiatives to handle situations like this, even if this country has been experiencing these situations regularly for decades now.

So yeah, I am tired of all this. If that guy in the photo is smiling, instead of praising it, I think we should all ask this question instead, louder than ever: “Why is this still happening?”

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

here we are again

There’s always that instance when we chance upon something we don’t really need but we end up thinking it’s just what we need after all. One such instance is the premier of Ol Parker’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Nobody asked for a follow-up to the 2008 smash hit Mamma Mia! And yet, ten years later, as the subtitle implies, here we are, in this world of unease and uncertainty, about to witness a wild and colorful romp.

Here We Go Again is a strange prequel-sequel hybrid of sorts, and somehow it succeeds, considering it follows a film that is based on a theater musical that is loosely inspired by a bunch of songs from the Swedish pop group, ABBA. This latest installment traverses two timelines, with the present focusing on Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie, daughter of Meryl Streep’s Donna, and how she navigates a life trying to perfect, or at least capture, her mother’s ambitions. The past timeline, on the other hand, serves as a major performance showcase for Lily James (who is playing the younger Donna) and as a fleshing-out of the throwaway details that are mentioned in the previous film: How did Donna meet those three guys who become Sophie’s three fathers? How did she end up in that idyllic Greek island? Who is her mother?

Here We Go Again basically fills the gaps, and it does so with a balance of drama and comedy, and an excess of brisk and boisterous song-and-dance numbers. In here we get to see serious actors, once again, act like they are unsupervised and are just enjoying a break from the constraints that come with the label “serious actor.” Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters reprise their roles, and they are joined by a talented and absurdly attractive cast that serves as their younger versions. In full display they all get to perform both famous and lesser known ABBA songs (but are there really lesser known ABBA songs?).

Meryl Streep is little seen this time (spoiler alert!), but her duet with Sophie of the song My Love, My Life near the end of film could easily put anyone’s heart in a blender. Be prepared to ugly-cry. She is by far one of the greatest living actors of any generation. As if she is not enough, this movie introduces characters played by Andy Garcia and Cher, with the latter’s presence concretely affirming the case that we need to see her in many movies, that seeing her in only one movie this year is criminally insane. Cher is Cher, you get the picture.

All in all, it’s a bright and ridiculous, highly-saturated, overly-convoluted kitschy fun, but you won’t mind. Even if you’ve left the cinema, the songs are still playing in your head. Again and again. And then you might want to watch it again

[ photo borrowed from this site ].