Friday, December 19, 2014

back to the big top


I remember watching the first episode of Daniel Knauf’s “Carnivàle” in 2006 and was left astounded by its vision and orchestration. It had a good versus bad story like no other. It was the very moment I thought television can be greater than the movies. Featuring a world set between the two World Wars and characters so bizarre and meticulously written “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead,” and “American Horror Story” would pale in comparison (even by its opening credits alone), the series was unfortunately cancelled by HBO after a two season run. It was sad, missed opportunity like so many great TV shows cut short (i.e. “Awake,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Enlightened”). The creator Daniel Knauf kept silent until early last year when he spoke about the grander plan for his show in an article for the AV Club. It is heartbreaking to revisit one’s imagination and talent that never fully get there. But despite the show’s absence in the general conversation of today, there are those who are still enamored by the power of its story. I am one of them. Season 3 should be made.

Monday, December 15, 2014

the end



“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” does not lend gravitas as much as the third installment of “Lord of the Rings” [2003], but director Peter Jackson’s extended version of the children’s book is decent and entertaining enough to please both readers and non-readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. Yes, the plot is stretched, but after the first two long-winded films, in here we finally get a brisk and focused tale of harmony over conflict, fortitude over fear, and honor over greed. Truth to one’s words still trump any accomplishment brought about by betrayal and lies. As learned by Thorin Oakenshield the long and hard way, victory and gold are worthless endeavors if one follows a self-centered path. Being the last part of a series of prequels to connect to the grander story that would end the ring to rule them all, “The Battle of the Five Armies” delivers. I’ve wanted more of Bennedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug though.

[ photo lifted from here ]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

hey

Sexy, isn’t it, the way that one-syllable word purrs into your ears? So daring, yes, so full of character. Or maybe not. It is a word that masters traipsing on the edge of nonchalance, a balancing act of “How’s it going?” and “It’s nothing.” It is bold as it is imposing. One could easily say it demands attention. Like a sore finger, like a thief grabbing your bag, like a blackout shrouding your room in sudden darkness. Here’s a thing. It is in this same darkness its source can be revealed: eager, scheming, Machiavellian. Don’t let it pull you into its depths. Stay away from these people like the plague. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone deserves your kindness. Are you listening? Hey.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

the year of the flood

We all have our encounters with disaster, whether it is physical or conceptual. Late last year, my home province was shaken by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, our home luckily spared by its great tremor. But this year, just last week, the same home was flooded within a day’s rain. Our home never experienced a flooding until that morning. The basement level was submerged in water more than two-feet deep, thigh-high. Around the neighborhood electrical lines and cables snapped in halves by fallen trees and debris whisked into the air by strong winds. To think that it was just a signal no. 1 typhoon.

We all have a feeling the said earthquake has tilted not only the land our house is located but every imaginable place around, changing the topography of the island which, in return, has made our area a catch-basin of rainwater. Many accounts have been shared about dry places transforming into miniature lakes, and beaches with the sea retreating away from their shorelines. Indeed, nothing is ever constant, everything shifts and moves, even the grounds we stand upon. Now it is a matter if we move on and move along or not.

*

Update: It has been forecasted that another tropical cyclone is on its way, possibly hitting the Visayas once again by Thursday. And it will be strong. Whether it would really enter the Philippine area of responsibility or not, Bohol, do not rely on resilience. Know your hotlines:

Police Department: 166
Fire Department: 112
Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response: 117

Sunday, November 30, 2014

last breath

When people ask me how to read a poem (which always happens a lot when they learn about my undergraduate degree), I always tell them to try reading Robert Hass, Stephen Dunn, or Mark Strand. Especially the last one. “Just feel the words,” I would suggest. Meaning, let them sink deep on their own. Poetry, like love, cannot be forced. Though I only know a few poems from Strand, these few have left an imprint of deep admiration in me. That is why when news about his death came this morning, I can only think of this as a token of gratitude for his lasting genius: To read more of his works, to continue feeling his words. Below is a newfound favorite.

*

Breath
Mark Strand (1935-2014)

When you see them
tell them I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way,

that the lies I tell them are different
from the lies I tell myself,
that by being both here and beyond
I am becoming a horizon,

that as the sun rises and sets I know my place,
that breath is what saves me,
that even the forced syllables of decline are breath,
that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath,

that breath is a mirror clouded by words,
that breath is all that survives the cry for help
as it enters the stranger's ear
and stays long after the world is gone,

that breath is the beginning again, that from it
all resistance falls away, as meaning falls
away from life, or darkness fall from light,
that breath is what I give them when I send my love.

Friday, November 28, 2014

a good sport

I have once been asked to write something about sports. The closest I could get to was that event in college, the intramural. It has always been a part of many institutions since time immemorial. Its history could be sketchy at best; it could have started in the 1910s or it could have dated back to the era when Greece or Rome are in power, setting up games and competitions in arenas. This alone speaks volumes on how significant sports are in one’s culture.

But in this age of the iPhone 6 Plus, the internet, and other modern distractions, do the young still have time for ball games? Do they still have the slightest bit of interest on rules and discipline along with sweat and dirt? If we at the colleges of today, the answer is simple: Yes. During the intramurals, we see students taking pride in their team colors, taking part in an event that forges solidarity through fair play. There are no different courses and year levels, just skill and talent.

As tirelessly taught by many P.E. instructors, this is the constant agenda: We play to be better not only as an individual but as a community. Like a family. The intramurals are never meant to divide us. And this is the part where I have to probe deeper into the significance of sports among the young people of this generation.

Despite the consensus, a sport is not entirely about victory, power, strategy and strength in numbers. It is about the need to remind the young of the significance of principles such as honesty.

Fairness and truth must be discussed as a major factor in sports as much as being brave, being intelligent, and being pleasant. It must be discussed even more than the usual. Honesty is in fact a multilayered word. There are a lot of ways to interpret it: There was Gilas Pilipinas who admitted defeat to Argentina in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. There was the former cyclist champion Lance Armstrong who eventually revealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs in competitions. There was the regret of having not to play the sports I wanted to play now after suffering from a surfing accident that rendered both of my ankles inept. There was this defeat in a game I thought I was really good at. There are a lot more. Conceding only little.

That is why significance of sports must not only tackle whether there is a need to implement this among the youth or bring up what specific sport is good for them. Significance should also bring to light the values we can learn from sports. Because what good is winning when you have cheated? What good is a strategy when you mean to hurt someone? What good is a trophy if your hands are as dirty as your next lie? 

Indeed, honesty is the foundation of sports, the bedrock of all the other codes and morals that makes the games more engaging, profound, and beautiful. That is why we take the oath of sportsmanship before anything else, right? No amount of medals and recognition would result to honor without honesty. This is the crucial significance in sports that the youth needs to remember now and always.

Honesty though can pull one in different directions. Like a tug of war, there is tension from opposite ends. In a sport that you have lost, you could be left embittered, in surrender to the raw emotions of anger and envy. But on the other hand, you could be liberated from what you think you can do and get up from there. This is the kind of honesty that nurtures humility and would make one say, “Yes, I will do better next time.”

You see, when it comes to sports, we become too preoccupied on the competition, too focused on the reward, and burdened by the desire to outdo one another and to claim that elusive success story that we forget the very core of sports: to be good, to be better, and to be humble. I believe these are what makes one notable, in and out of the court.

To bring this to a close, the significance of sports among the young people of today remains indefatigable. It is ever-changing, never-ending, and tireless like the spirit of a true athlete. And one could only be as such if there is a certain kind of openness and sincerity in his heart. Honesty, win or lose, makes one a good sport.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

art therapy


Christmas came in early this week. Got 36 watercolor pencils all neatly arranged in one fancy tin case. So I made a color wheel as a note to myself for having not made any form of art—visual or literary—in a very long while. It’s a crime on this side of the planet (read: my sanity). Getting back to something you love to do after having ignored it for a year or so is no easy task. You can say it’s a dry spell. I’d like to believe the color wheel above resembles a mandala. This could be my own little universe, your universe, where calmness is the ultimate reward to one’s self, where colors are a salve to the soul.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

musta?

There are ghosts in our lives, dormant and unspeaking, until one day they will make themselves known with "How are you?" or the bastardized "Musta?" Be careful, my friend. They might not mean it. For what reason is their resurgence no one knows. But here's what is likely to be true: They need you. They will need you for their own good. They are that kind of people. This return with a seemingly harmless greeting will be followed by an inevitable pulling of the rug from under your feet. You will never know the accident until you have fallen. Hard. So keep in mind the insincerity behind the word, the cloud of pretense that cloaks the intention, the little details. You will learn and can identify it for sure. You've wielded the same word before, right? Remember how it happened? Musta na?

Friday, November 07, 2014

stellar, indeed.


I had my reservations with Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar." He is the kind of director whose films are always not without demerits: conversations too cerebral, ideas too heavy to take on screen. But it is these very same things that elevate his latest work. By means of science fiction, he presents the most basic desire, and ultimately, need of all human beings: connection. That in itself is notable, having a trait that is absent in many blockbusters that subject their audience with unnecessary bombast and explosions. For sure, there will be negative remarks about the movie (especially from those whose attention span is short and fleeting as a dance floor beat), but I am also sure the naysayers would mistake the film's ambition as high-mindedness, loss as distance, and emotion as coldness and inconsequential. For all its worth, "Interstellar" deserves to be seen. It is that rare film that presents itself with so much thought and feeling at the same time, its heart undeniably on its sleeve. Also, I want to have TARS as a friend.

[ image lifted from here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

did you miss me?

People who often ask this are most likely to leave you one day or show you the door. They can never wait for you to say you miss them because it is always about them, your attention always for them, that when the minute you look the other way, they can go ahead and wander, having the weapon of assurance that they are those you pine the most, that you would always search for them and return to at the end of the day like bird to its nest. They know you would find it charming, but you should know better. It's a trick, an ace hidden in a sleeve. Now, let me ask you this: Did you miss me?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

ethics #002

Upon Turning To The Last Page

Tuesdays With Morrie, a non-fiction work by Mitch Albom, brings to mind my classes in poetry with renowned writer Myrna-Peña Reyes. Unlike Mitch’s, we met twice a week for an hour each in her home, having one-on-one classes for my final lesson on the craft of building and deconstructing verses. Like Mitch’s, we discussed life, love, death and everything in between.

The book read like an unfinished biography albeit with an arresting conceit which my poetry teacher would surely approve: The author and the subject met every Tuesday, and each Tuesday they had one category for which to wrap around their conversations with. Like there was a Tuesday when it was all about feeling sorry for yourself and another when it was about the fear of aging. It all started when Mitch chanced upon Mr. Morrie Schwartz on national TV, as weak as a broken bird. He was stricken by a strange condition: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In Mitch’s words, it is a “brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system.” In my words, it is the disease that brought to the internet millions of amateur video clips of people challenging and dousing themselves with buckets of ice.

It turned out Morrie was Mitch’s favorite professor and he was Morrie’s favorite student back in college. Due to the natural (or unnatural, depending on how you view it) course of living, they both took their separate ways, never to communicate again after many decades until that eventful day in the living room where Mitch was absentmindedly channel surfing. Mitch made it a mission to reconnect to Morrie. From then on the rest, as they say, was history.

Morrie was the quintessential professor; eager to learn and more eager to partake what was learned. He made me wish for more teachers like him. I have only encountered a few, and I will cherish each of them until my very last breath. Morrie and the rest of the few I personally know are the kind of teachers that matter inside and outside the academe. They make every peso paid for education worth it.

Sometimes, though, Morrie seemed more like a fictional character than a real person. He was just too good to be true. How can he be so optimistic? How can he be so brave? My doubt would have grown into full disbelief if not for him being grounded on this faith that I am presently starting to agree with: Be fully present. Morrie insisted that you should be entirely with the person you are with and focus on what transpires between the two of you.

I believe I tend to forget being completely present with people I care about due to modern distractions and old temptations. It seems in this age of excessive multitasking—work on a task here, talk to a friend there, Facebook everywhere—we have come to a point of doing more but actually feeling less. Energy abounds but never the empathy. We never really remember the last time we helped a stranger, we never really notice how our mothers smile anymore. If not the people around us, we also have our environment that we always take for granted. Have you ever acknowledged the skies today have fewer birds than ever before? Have you ever stopped someone from throwing his cigarette butt on the sidewalk? It is shameful.

Through Morrie’s mantra, we can claim what needs to be prioritized. This way we put our attention to not only what matters but also to what makes things exquisite and bursting with meaning. That is why I agree with Morrie. Death is irrelevant, especially in our pursuit for life and love. Ironic, isn’t it, we crave to be ahead of the rest but when we come upon the tracks of death we slow down or scamper away from it? Truly, good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, everyone faces death in his and her due time.

In fact, there is a substitute for death that we can think about. It is honesty. In the 26 years that I have been through life, I think this is what I need the most above everything else, maybe even above love. Love always brings remembrances, setting down the anchor that is nostalgia, which consequently rekindles what have been and what could be. That is why love can be painful; it drags along the past. With honesty, it is all about the present and its repercussions. It is the raw emotion that absorbs truth and deflects bullshit. I am still coming into terms with my understanding of honesty in the context of my actions and from those of the people around me. It is a process I have been working on.

If one argues that death should be feared because nobody wants to be forgotten, I must say we must not forget that there are more to look forward to. It is our attitude towards the future that we can be immortalized. We must not also allow ourselves to be tricked by the deceptiveness of youth and perfection even if they are bombarded to us on television with rejuvenating soaps and lotion, on billboards with perfectly sculpted abs and pectorals, or on the internet with penis enlargers and breast enhancers. The ideal cannot always be the ideal. Most of the time you just have to embrace what you have, love those who love you, and dive into the unknown. No instruction manuals, no second chances. Isn’t this the point of living? If things go wrong, just be at the center of chaos and experience every little tremor around you. That is how instinct and learning works.

For a slim book Tuesdays With Morrie did pack a lot of punch. It brimmed with themes that could fill a library, and all this is not enough. It made me wonder more about existence and its peculiarities. I liked it, so to speak. There is a reason why I am drawn into this and philosophy in general: It gives shape to the abstract and the ghostliness of ideas like hands molding clay. It is like poetry itself, the poetry I have learned with Ma’am Myrna many years ago. Albom’s book was like those hands, too. It managed to run over emotions current and long forgotten, and brought forth emotions that may happen as if I had not experienced them yet.

As I was nearing the end of the book, I felt a kind of heaviness inside me. It was not because of the inevitable death that was about to happen but because of a question that slipped into my head and bloomed like a great, magnificent flower: What can I do now? “A lot. A lot can be done,” I said to myself. Upon turning the last page, I basked in the comfort of that discovery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#bravebohol

On this day a year has already passed since the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck our beautiful province of Bohol. It changed everything. Too much has been said about getting up after the fall, “bangon,” and this wanton righteousness to connect everything to resilience. But resilience is not enough. Resilience ignores the fact that humans are in nature capable of getting hurt, being miserable, and at a loss for words. Even up to this very moment. This must be the reason why many do not understand what we are commemorating for today: “Happy anniversary para sa earthquake?” or “Plenty have died, why celebrate?” I get it. There is always the weight of enigma that follows an immense, random tragedy. That is why resilience must be taken in a different context, if not taken out of the picture, since it pays no respect to the process of healing, the pains of progress and normalcy. Rather, it is the collective bravery of Bol-anons that we must remember and be grateful for. Being brave is to acknowledge fear and vulnerability, to confront and conquer them. Resilience does not entirely capture that essence. A year has passed, and I can now truly, thankfully say, “Yes, these Boholanos are brave.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

ethics #001

Differentiate Sociology, Psychology, and Ethics. 

If Plato would have it, I guess ethics will stand above all the other sciences like Sociology and Psychology, and there wouldn’t be that much difference. There is a thread that aims to tie them all: to study man and its nature. He wouldn’t say “Ethics is the supreme science” if he didn’t believe it as such. But actually there is, if we see the other two sciences as variations of Ethics. Though Sociology is concerned with the moral order of a particular society, which really likens it to the science of Ethics and it principles, Sociology focuses more on the relationship between individuals and then to the community. The difference lies on the observance of moral laws and how a community responds to it. In short, the act of observing is Sociology and the concept that is observed is Ethics. Between Ethics and Psychology, the difference is much clearer and basic. Whereas Ethics is concerned on man’s morality, Psychology deals more on what brought man to his idea of morality. It is like the former insists on how one should behave while the latter probes into why one behaves that way.

Give a sample situation wherein a person is liable legally and morally.

The situation that fits a compare and contrast study is usually the act of murder, sexual assault, and other grisly crimes. In this discussion, I will take an example that pervades in our reality right now which is cheating. It is in the movies, television, and even in our daily lives. Cheating is an act punishable by law when it is performed, specifically for a married man in a situation that leads to concubinage (sexual relationship of persons not officially married). With enough evidence, the man that does the cheating is legally liable. When the cheating is not initiated or committed, then the man is still liable, morally. His being morally liable is based on the fact that he thinks of cheating. Not acting it out does not lessen the man’s accountability to the wrongdoing.

To say that cheating is human nature (like the ability to think and to question), since the theory of evolution refers to and/or the origin of population could have started with polygamy and multiple partners, and the guilt that stems from cheating could easily be dispelled by dedication to one’s religion and faith, remains debatable. To me, what is certain is that whether cheating is legally liable or morally liable, both the idea and the act are simply unethical. It is wrong.

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.