Monday, June 04, 2018

in praise of janine berdin

Janine Berdin still got me thinking. I was so mesmerized by her winning performance yesterday on the second season of Tawag Ng Tanghalan Ang Huling Tapatan (even if that was the first time I heard her sing) that I spent the whole night watching her previous performances. Man, glad I did. It was like discovering a sterling talent, a new mineral that has yet to be named. Yes, obviously I cannot stress the superlatives enough.

I am not sure how this would affect her vocal capabilities in the future, whether this is natural or a result of her years-long stint on the stage (and family gatherings), but the crack(s) in her voice when she sings lends her renditions both mortal and ethereal qualities. It is a voice that definitely sits on another plane, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong; her competitors Steven and Ato are undeniably powerful singers but there is something in Janine’s voice that hits me differently the way my ears first heard QUEEN’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”, Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War.” Perhaps it is her untarnished and optimistic passion? Her focussed drive that could easily dismantle all pretenses and pressure around her? Who knows.

I mean, just watch her cover of Kamikazee’s “Narda” on YouTube and witness how she sang that 2006 rock song and turned it into a painful, forlorn yearning. I got goosebumps, seriously. And there were her renditions of Yano’s “Banal Na Aso” and Eraserhead’s “Ang Huling El Bimbo” where she managed to interpret these iconic masterpieces without getting herself trapped into the easy allure of copy and theatricality—the two-punch combo that TKO’d lesser singers. It is like she wrote these songs herself, knew them by heart. (Honestly, some producer should compile all of her covers and make an album out of ‘em ASAP).

And she is but a little 16-year-old girl from Cebu! Now just imagine when she finally gets acquainted with all the nitty-gritty of every emotion in the spectrum. Just imagine when she finally experiences her first massive, irreversible heartbreak that usually informs and shapes the finest work of many artists. This may sound awful, but deep I inside I cannot wait to see her get through these things soon.

Okay. That’s all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

supersized superhero mayhem

It is inevitable. Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War is basically a culmination, among many future culminations, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that started long ago with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008. Seems like ancient times, right? Thanks to this universe, the comic book superhero knowledge of the general populace is no longer limited to Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Darna, and the X-Men.

Aside from then relatively unknown Iron Man, we are now familiar with the likes of Captain America, Bucky, War Machine, Thor, Loki, Hulk, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Panther, Shuri, Okoye, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Mantis. All this is no longer a geek’s secret source of delights.

These characters are but a microcosm of heroic desire, duty, and dedication in this massive if not overblown entry. The film’s story picks up right after the events in last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, and for the first time we finally get to witness the full menacing splendor of Josh Brolin’s Thanos, the latest big bad villain of the MCU. He is a stocky purplish giant in search of the Infinity Stones, six gems that grant anyone the supremacy of a god when gathered together in a gauntlet (some sort of glorified golden glove that Thanos had fashioned for himself). His ultimate mission? To eradicate half of the living entities in the universe in order to achieve cosmic balance.

Because some of the stones are held by a couple of our heroes (and antiheroes)—namely Loki with the Space Stone, Vision with the Mind Stone, Doctor Strange with the Time Stone—Thanos goes after them, and mayhem ensues. A lot of familiar and unfamiliar faces show up here and there, and although it requires a certain amount of investment in the MCU to enjoy Infinity War, anyone can still relish the whole shenanigan the same way one can appreciate watching a dog chase after its own tail on YouTube—it is sheer unadulterated entertainment. The stakes are higher here than previous MCU installments, the body count darkly indulgent, but being a Marvel film, there is the requisite humor and witty banter scattered all over the place.

Thanos is unquestionably an antagonist that necessitates a congregation of super-powered beings. But what makes him even more terrifying is that he falls under the classic category of the guy with the noble intention but with the problematic methods—a category that sticks too closely to our truth. His scheme to commit mass murder to attain peace and order resembles the many motivations of our outspoken, charismatic leaders from all over the world who couldn’t care less. If there is one wish that we, as viewers, can take from Infinity War, it is that we hope our very own mighty heroes could come and save our world real, real soon.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Sunday, May 13, 2018

happy ma's day

I grew up knowing a mother can do everything, anything. And up to this day, that thought never changes. At least when it comes to you, Ma. You are prone to tears with the teleseryes you follow, you can be hurt with the words, you are very human. But you are also that someone who’s closest to the manifestation of a miracle—how you can be strong when everything around you seems to crumble, how you can be kind in the face of cruelty and confusion, how you can whip up something out of nothing.

Sometimes, in the most difficult of times, I’d think I do not deserve such grace, but in every moment of each day with you, you always make me feel otherwise. So thank you, thank you, thank you… There is not enough “thank you’s” or “I love you’s” to wrap in one embrace all of the effort and sacrifices you’ve made for me and this family, but I will try. That is a promise. Happy Mother’s Day, Ma. I love you, always, clear as sunlight.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

silence is survival

All works of movie-making demand attention, but John Krasinski’s horror film A Quiet Place takes that truism to a whole new level. It is almost void of dialogue one must pay attention to every detail unfolding in the screen. The characters do not speak for almost 90% of the movie. Yet, in the hands of Krasinski, who does not only direct the film but also co-writes it and stars in it with real-life spouse Emily Blunt, the tension is cranked several notches up with the simplest of things: stairs, corn kernels, nail, some objects you wouldn’t expect.

The story is set in a not-too-distant future wherein the entire population has dwindled to a couple few and the world is infested with blind homicidal creatures gifted with exceptional hearing. The slightest sound sets them off in a murderous rampage. It is never explained where these monsters come from, but what it known is that an incident with one of these has left the Abott family traumatized. Lee (Krasinski), Evelyn (Blunt), and their children have managed to survive, thanks to their familiarity with silence. The eldest child Regan is deaf (played astoundingly by Millicent Simmonds who is a deaf American actress), thus, the family communicates in sign language way before the dystopia began.

Even if the Abotts live a secluded life now heavily constrained by rules—never speak a word, do not use plates and utensils, only walk on sand paths to dampen any sound—some things are just bound to happen, like in most horror movies. But A Quiet Place is not just a horror movie. Although the premise could easily be in a Shyamalan film, the whole setup is saved from ludicrousness for being wise instead of simply being clever and for having wisdom instead of having gimmicks. There is more to tell but to divulge any further information might lessen the impact of that brilliant, flawless ending.

The movie’s near total absence of sound is oppressive like it is a character in itself that heightens all the other sensations. The dripping water goes in cadence with your racing heartbeat and the creaking floor weighs on you like a ton. Basically every scene just rattles your nerves. The accomplishment of combining spare dialogue with high suspense speaks to the genius of Krasinski’s solid vision and craft. It helps that he has a team of actors and film professionals who is up to the demands of this crazy idea.

It is not difficult to see A Quiet Place as a mirror to our current reality. Each day there’s the confusion that tries to rob our logical reasoning, the unspeakable horrors shrugged by many as ordinary. In fact, the creatures must be an embodiment of incessant noise that invades our waking moments—political conflicts, fake news, never ending acts of prejudice and hate. And if that is the case, obviously, a quiet place is what we all need

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

Monday, April 16, 2018

playing with pop culture

Anything that deals with the past can sometimes be a turnoff to some people, that the antiquated must only be revered in museums, journals, and sweet old memories. But Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One, which is adapted from a 2011 novel of the same title by Ernest Cline, tries to flip the table on that mentality. In here, Spielberg proves that the old can actually be just as interesting as the new. Because when it comes to pop culture—which is basically the fabric of this movie—the old is what becomes of all that is treasured.

Aside from being a critique on modern day distractions and anxieties (corporate greed, privacy issues, social media catfishing!), Ready Player One is a wild, visual feast of nostalgia. It’s as if it serves as a geek’s guide to 80’s and 90’s music, movies, pulp fiction, video games, comic books, and other sundry items that are usually deemed too inconsequential for lofty-minded individuals.

The story is set in the year 2045 and introduces us to Wade Watts (played by an effective but easily forgettable Tye Sheridan), a young man who spends most of his time in the Oasis as Parzival, a virtual world created by James Halliday. This is where anything goes, depending on the limits of your imagination (and the digital coins you collect in this computerized reality). Upon the death of Halliday, his avatar (or his digital persona) reveals to all players that there are three challenges to three powerful keys that grant ownership and control of the entire game. Everything changes when Watts meets Art3mis (yes, that’s spelled correctly) who reveals to him that this is no longer a game, when the order of the world is at stake and the gap between classes of society gets even more pronounced—especially that the power-hungry technological company Innovative Online Industries is doing everything it can to take hold of these keys.

Ready Player One has little of the subtlety and poeticism that shaped Spielberg’s other ambitious, fantastical works like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report, but it certainly has the frenetic energy of The Adventures of Tintin and War of the Worlds. It just keeps going and going, with little pauses to process all the pop culture references bombarded at you before the next batch arrives.

Yes, it does wholeheartedly embrace the wonders of the past, which give the movie a tendency to tread on clichés and camp and the requisite shots at admiration of the familiar, but all this does not rob it of the fact that it is so satisfying to walk down memory lane. Each scene is like this homage to something exuberant, something vital to our understanding of reality, no matter what time it is derived from. Whether we as viewers are in it for the nostalgia trip or not, this movie sure knows how to play its game

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

Friday, April 13, 2018

new poem published in ecopoetry anthology

A few days ago, I finally received my (paid) copies of Sustaining the Archipelago: An Anthology of Philippine Ecopoetry, which is edited by Rina Garcia Chua, who includes my work "Poetry as a Lesson in Botany" in the collection.

I believe this is the first of its kind in the country; an anthology that attempts to meditate on our nation's concerns and priorities under the lens of ecological understanding. The result is nothing short of fantastic. I just wished the book's contributors though won't have to buy their own copies. Not all writers are, you know, blessed with disposable income. Writing the poem is already hard enough for us. Heh heh.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Yup, the idea of a Dirty 30 celebration is tempting. You can’t be forever 30, right? You should meet the unknown with wild abandon as you leave behind the last vestige of your youth. But keeping it Lowkey@30 with the family will do. (It still rhymes!) I prefer it that way, too. Just chill, just closer to those who really matter to you. There’s a lot to say, but I will save all of it for some other time. The bottomline is this: If there is one wish I’d make on this day that’s not only for me, it is that we could all liberate ourselves soon from what perpetually pains us. Really soon. Cheers, friends and loved ones! Thanks to those who remembered, to those who made this day special.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

new poem in the sunday times magazine

Now here’s something to be happy about. My poem “Market in Matakana” is published in The Sunday Times Magazine (11 March 2018), the magazine supplement of The Manila Times newspaper. The piece is inspired from a long drive to the North Island town of Matakana in New Zealand. I hope I did it justice though. That place was just brimming with so much beauty.

Here is a link to the poem in case you can’t get a copy of the paper.

Monday, March 19, 2018

another tomb to raid

Movies that are based on video games have a long and rocky history of success (see Super Mario Bros., Warcraft, Prince of Persia, and Assassin's Creed) and audience recognition. Not everyone toys a keyboard or a game console for hours in front of a screen, right? But the Tomb Raider brand must have enough worldwide appeal in its arsenal that it is rebooted for the year 2018. This time around, in the hands of Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, the plucky heroine Lara Croft is played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and the plot drones in on the days before she became the braided, frequent-flyer, two-gun-wielding adventurer that she is famously known for. In fact, the version of Croft here is so primal her weapon of choice is a bow and arrow combo.

This story is still basic in that it feels like a teenager’s uninspired computer game narrative in the 1990s and early 2000s. After realizing she cannot entirely live her life as a food deliverer, Croft faces the mysterious disappearance of her aristocrat father and employs the help of an Asian boat captain to get to the island of Yamatai, where she believes she will find her father. This also turns out to be the place where the mythical tomb of the fabled Japanese Queen of Death, Himiko, is located. Because this won’t be a Tomb Raider movie without a tomb.

Despite doing a good job at fleshing out the relationship between Lara Croft and her father, while also informing us of the major plot points ahead, the flashback scenes are, more often than not, distracting. It does not help that the requisite villain goes for the cold-blooded, two-dimensional killer route, which is unfortunate for the talented actor Walter Goggins’ who plays Mathias Vogel, a recruit of the shady organization Order of Trinity.

Yes, things are clunky, but once the machinations finally invest on the premise of Indiana Jones high-stakes action, it delivers. Vikander may not have the magnetic charisma and bombshell curves of the previous Tomb Raider titleholder, Angelina Jolie, but she makes it up with her grit and intense physicality. Despite Vikander’s petite frame and the excessive computer effects thrown around her, one could feel every grunt and squirm that she endures. This is one girl who can channel her struggles out of the screen really well and proves she can overcome anything in her capacity.

Perhaps this is the reason why this new Tomb Raider comes out at the height of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement (and coincidentally, National Women’s Month in the Philippines). Even if Lara Croft is the only female actor with significant screen time (even the extras are mostly male), the movie still celebrates the strength and intelligence of a woman, that being one does not have to be limited to being sexy or a damsel in distress. Women can be tough and smart at the same time, and that is basically what many of us have known for a long while now.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Thursday, March 15, 2018

ang larawan: review and observation

The journey of Loy Arcenas’ award-winning film, Ang Larawan, to Bohol is one that parallels the difficulties of getting it made and seen by an audience in the first place. It was never shown in any of our malls during the entire run of the Metro Manila Film Festival 2017 last December and January. When it got the chance to be screened in Bohol, it was cancelled and moved to another date due to typhoon Basyang. But the fates are still good, the hardworking culture-bearers of Bohol better.

Continuing the activities of this year’s National Arts Month, and being part of a school tour that would also take the film to Cebu and Negros Oriental, Ang Larawan is finally shown with two screenings at the Bohol Cultural Center on February 19.

Before the 7:30PM screening, the Loboc Children’s Choir performed a suite of pop musical pieces. Actors and producers Celeste Legaspi and Rachel Alejandro also sung in a cappella, after joining Loy Arcenas and producer Alemberg Ang for a symposium. The four of them fielded questions from the audience that touched on characterization, how commercialism could coexist with art, and the need for micro-theaters (or cinematheques) in provinces like Bohol that could readily accommodate unconventional, non-mainstream works and provide movie consumption diversity.

And how lucky these students and teachers were, these culture and art enthusiasts, these regular moviegoers, to finally experience Ang Larawan. Rarely do Boholanos see a Filipino musical of this pedigree. It is not just different for diversity’s sake; it is a landmark in Filipino artistry. This movie is based on a stage musical with translation and lyrics by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio and music by Ryan Cayabyab, which is also an adaptation of the play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin.

Ang Larawan is set in 1940s Intramuros, before World War II, and focuses on two spinster sisters, Candida and Paula Marasigan, who live in a cavernous house with their artist father Don Lorenzo—the man who painted the titular larawan and who kept to himself inside his room for a year and counting after a mysterious tragedy. The once glorious household, where the alta sociedad frequently mingled, now relies on financial support provided by their siblings Manolo and Pepang, who both agree it is better to sell the property than to hold on to it like dead weight. But all this could not hold up to the daily expenses; Candida even considers her rat-catching talent and Paula’s fluent Spanish as lucrative jobs, but both eventually acknowledge this is not true. Thanks to Tony, a charming vaudeville piano player and male boarder who the two sisters have to take in, the idea of selling the last Marasigan painting for $20,000 to an American collector is put on the table. This sets Candida and Paula in a head spin and moves the story forward to situations no one would ever expect (unless you have seen or read the original play).

The movie is so lovingly made, as evidenced from the very first frame down to the last melody of a song. It is the type of movie that grows on you even as it confronts you with difficult, conflicting ideologies—principle or practicality, heritage or commercialism. Even if it brims with the gilded beauty of the past, it is not afraid to remind everyone that everything can be preserved as much as it could be ravished by the consequences of a decision or force that is beyond anyone’s control. Very much like a representation of how the culture and the arts in this country often balance on a precarious tightrope. The movie does not explicitly take sides, but any logical viewer can instantly decide where one must lean on. In fact, Joanna Ampil’s tremendous portrayal of Candida drives home the message.

The only hitch in this near-perfect production is that its movements stick closely to the structure of theater, that sometimes the pacing feels lumbering and too deliberate for a movie. There is no questioning the genius of Rolando Tinio’s libretto and Ryan Cayabyab’s compositions (whose score breezes through bombastic jazz and zarzuela), but the musical exposition it employs is in the vein of a Stephen Sondheim musical; the songs can be hard to sing along with.

It is easy to brush off this movie as another passion project that’s weighed down by its own ambitions, which makes it dismissible by an audience contented with slapstick humor and cheap thrills, but the movie’s mere presence in this time and age, let alone in Bohol, should be enough indication that we do have something great and important in our hands, that something even more precious could arrive someday. Has anyone heard of the movie Smaller and Smaller Circles by Raya Martin that features a host of Boholano talent but is unfortunately never shown in our cinemas in 2017?

It is no simple task, to remind everyone of this when people are getting used to with what they usually get (read: horror, romantic comedy, Vice Ganda), but last Monday’s audience turnout, with the help of both the local government body and private sector, suggests that a cultural renaissance is indeed possible. These are all concerns and ideas that have yet to meet a solid, committed prioritization in Bohol, but for now, let us at least revel at the thought that, at long last, the portrait is finally unveiled to Boholanos. To echo one of the movie’s cries, contra mundum!

[ article previously published in The Bohol Chronicle, 25 February 2018 ]

Thursday, March 08, 2018

happy international women's day!

Happy International Women's Day to my lady friends, relatives, and especially to my mother and sisters (even if we are supposed to celebrate womanhood all throughout the year, on equal measure with the opposite sex, of course)! Last night, just before this day of commemoration, a thought struck me: I can finally confirm that men—no matter how macho and dignified they would like to be in front of a crowd—are almost always afraid of confident, strong, and intelligent women. Especially those who carry them with grace and decency. Keep it up, girls. You are beyond inspiration, and you never fail to amaze me. We need more of you in this time of hyper-toxic masculinity. Love lots.

Monday, February 19, 2018

balut beer ug balak 2018 : the heart is in the words

February is practically baptized by many as the Love Month. But last February 11 at the CPG Heritage House Open Grounds, the evening professed a different kind of love that goes beyond flowers, chocolates, and candlelit dinners.

In celebration of this year’s National Arts Month, Kaliwat ni Karyapa (KaKa) Writers Collective, with the support of the Center for Culture and Arts Development (CCAD) and the Office of the Governor of the Province of Bohol, opened the seventh iteration of Balut Beer ug Balak (which is concisely hashtagged on social media as #BBB2018).

Lutgardo "Gardy" Labad introduces Kontra-GaPi and Kasing Sining

What started as a struggle to get the literary arts recognized in the province’s many festivities is now an event that justly merits the praise and attention it received last Sunday night. Back in the old days, there was significant support for all forms of Boholano art—except for the literary. There were budget and regular gatherings for music, dance, painting exhibitions! Unfortunately, there was none whatsoever for poetry and other writing affairs. If there was one, only little was heard of it, the fanfare muted like a cold grave shrug.

Kontra-GaPi dazzles the audience with a rallying ethnic music (source: CCAD)

As a rebellion and as a need to balance the field, considering that our nation has a writer hordes cherish as their national hero (Jose Rizal) and once had a prolific Boholano writer-lawyer as a president (Carlos P. Garcia), like-minded individuals united and pushed for an activity that celebrated the letters. They put emphasis on poetry, our very own balak, because it does not only encapsulate the yearnings of the Boholano heart but also humanity’s soul. KaKa, the writers collective whose rich history demands a separate article, was at the forefront of this endeavor.

Theater arts group Kasing Sining performs an excerpt of the musical 'Dagon sa Hoyohoy' (source: CCAD)

So for Sandugo 2004, the balak was brought to the public space. Since it was first held at the formerly scenic city pier, a combination of balut and a glass of beer was unanimously deemed the most felicitous reward for (non-minor) readers and performers. No pressure from anyone to present; it was simply done for the joy of this groundbreaking occasion.

An obligatory photo of me trying to drive home the message while presenting my piece

Thus, Balut Beer ug Balak was born. The singular dream to have Bohol’s varied literary voices heard is now a reality. For its latest appearance, BBB has even become more than its namesake. With Lutgardo Labad’s considerable generosity, the event last Sunday was graced by UP Diliman’s Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (or better known as Kontra-GaPi), and our very own theater arts group, Kasing Sining, who presented an excerpt of the Boholano musical folk-epic Dagon sa Hoyohoy.

Becky Demetillo-Abraham of Inang Laya performs with Butch de Juan

And like most events, BBB was not spared of how things could never go as planned. It was unanticipated, the number of mambabalak and volunteer readers was high, and the programme lasted longer than it should be. There were several presenters who read their original works that touched on emotions that may be too big for them to grasp, like young singers straining for the celestial notes, while some disconcertingly tackled delicate issues with humor, which could have been handled with more sensitivity and thought, especially for impressionable minds. It’s a common misconception that spoken word poetry must always traverse the territory of crass and shock.

Some of the guests, performers, and readers of BBB 2018 (source: CCAD)

But in the end, creativity requires influence, and an occasion such as Balut Beer ug Balak provided the perfect avenue for this much-needed enlightenment, as seafarers to a fortified parola. We are each other’s guides. Possibly and hopefully, in its next iterations, BBB could be not only a regular gathering to celebrate the literary arts but also as an occasion for everyone to better map the landscape of our current realities and to better maneuver the terrains of the Boholano imagination and emotion.

See you next time!

Because poetry is confirmation. It sparks in you what you knew all along. It is the language of the heart and the soul and their attendant nuances—love and rage, celebration and loss, resistance and surrender—and all this makes the entirety of literature even more transcendent, beautiful.

[ the article is previously published in The Bohol Chronicle, 18 February 2018 ]

Friday, February 16, 2018


Just got wonderful news. Three of my works—“Paulit-ulit”, “Paano Maglakbay Papuntang Kalawakan at Iwasang Bumalik”, and “Mula Enero”—are published in the collection of dagli or flash fiction, Saanman: Mga Kuwento Mula sa Biyahe, Bagahe, at Balikbayan Box, edited by Jack Alvarez. I hardly write in Filipino, and these three pieces are just a result of exorcising the demons of a tumultuous 2012-2013, so this is a real surprise. Well, this is a great way of greeting the last few days of our country’s National Arts Month.

A copy of the book can be purchased via the following links below:


Thursday, February 08, 2018

new poem up in quarterly literary review singapore

My poem “Habits” is published in the latest issue of Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, along with works by fellow Filipino authors such as Rodrigo Dela Peña Jr., who is one of the contemporary poets I look up to.

Early lines of this piece first came up in 2012, and through the years the poem took several phases of (re)formations. I dedicate this poem particularly to Lyde, Marianne, and Mars for being with me that one August night.

Okay, thank you for your time. You can check out the poems through the link here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

looks familiar

Two weeks ago, while I was at the bank one afternoon and was waiting in line to pay for this month's bill, a woman in her early 50s—who was two persons ahead of me in the queue—tried to catch my attention. I had my earphones on, listening to Pharrell Williams and Janelle Monáe being ecstatic about jalapeños, so I wasn't sure if it was actually me she was eyeing at.

But she kept craning her head towards me. It was starting to feel awkward. I removed my earphones, smiled, and acknowledged her presence. “Is your family name Torregosa?” she asked me directly, although in a tone that seemed already certain. “Oh no,” I replied. “Do I look like someone you know, ma’am?” She nodded, and she added that I have these features of a Torregosa. She told the same thing to the lady next to her, who I was very sure she just knew while waiting also in line, as if for reassurance.

I gave her a smile. I put back my earphones on, and scanned mental pictures of any Torregosa that I may have met or known in this lifetime. I couldn't recall a single Torregosa. I have nothing against the Torregosas in this world though. I do get this a lot, anywhere in this country—Metro Manila, Dumaguete, Tagbilaran, Cebu, etc.—being mistaken for someone else.

Before it was my turn at the counter to hand over my cash and payment slip, I fully realized two things: 1) I think it is not wrong to start believing now that I may have an extremely generic face, and 2) I am really bad at small talks.

Pharrell and Janelle continued singing they're hot.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

season's greetings!

The most common consensus as everyone inches closer to January 1 is that each year is just a series of extreme ups and downs, and that we will eventually feel better as we hurdle onto another year. Or so we thought. Nothing has prepared anyone for the avalanche that is 2017.

2017 is a year that could easily be summed up as difficult. From wrath of nature and its consequences, local and world leaders who make highly questionable and sometimes laughable decisions to unending wars, existential traumas, and personal tragedies, this has been a year that challenges us the more we try to get away from its clutches.

Although no amount of celebration could remedy the devastation in all its hideous forms that many have endured, I guess we are all lucky enough that we manage (and perhaps conditioned) to insert a cheerful vibe every December. Being joyous on the twelfth month is not for everyone, but for those who do, cheers mate!

Let’s take for example Christmas Day on December 25. As we know, it is not only a chance to open gifts and swap stories with family and friends. And for us, this always rings a notch truer than ever, in each year, because the month of December alone ushers us to the birthday of our mother—the rarest living Wonder Woman I personally know.

That is why moments or instances such as this allow us a momentary respite, a reason to celebrate. Yes, it may not be easy these days to insist that we “cheer up”, but at least we could try. We always try. So from my family to yours, Happy Christmas and have a delightful and prosperous New Year!

And remember, before we turn to another page in our lives, give thanks to those that make you matter, make your days a little bit lighter, a little more colorful. Do not fail them. That is why I am sending out my gratitude to those who keep up with my countless attempts at trying. Sometimes, the finer things in life do not require money. In these distracting times, what we might really need, more than ever, is appreciation.

Friday, December 22, 2017

tagbilaran food guide 2017

Since last November, I’ve been seeing a lot of city food maps and hunger guides on social media—from Makati, Pasig, Taguig to Bacolod, Dumaguete, Cebu and much, much more. And then it hit me. It is unfortunate that I still have to encounter one for Tagbilaran City, Bohol. So, instead of waiting for it to pop-up on my news feed, I decided to create one myself.

I just think this is perfect for the holiday season, with friends and loved ones heading back to their hometown. Or tourists finally getting to have their dream vacation in the island.

This is by no means a ranking of food spots across the city. This is simply a list of options that my friends and I have come up with. Also, the places to eat are not limited to what I have provided here—there is more scattered all over Tagbilaran (and beyond the city itself). And like most memorable food experiences, the thrill comes in the discovery. More information below.  Some of the local establishments have their own Facebook pages, too. Check them out. Enjoy!

Note: This is subject to change, in case I have missed something. Click on the photo to enlarge.


The Buzzz Cafe of Bohol and Bee Farm
▪ Galleria Luisa, Gallares Street
▪ Lite Port Center, Gallares Street
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Persona Mesa
▪ J.A. Clarin Street

Aïolí Cafè and Restaurant
▪ 717 Cesar Place, CPG North Ave.

Gerarda's Family Restaurant Bohol
▪ 30 J.S. Torralba Street
▪ CPG North Ave.

Prawn Farm
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Just Sizzlin'
▪ P. Del Rosario Street (beside Tamper)

▪ M. Torralba Street

10:31 by Chef M
▪ Miguel Parras Extension


▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Alturas Mall, CPG Ave.

▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Alturas Mall, CPG Ave.
▪ Plaza Marcela, Pamaong cor. Belderol Street

▪ BQ Mall, CPG Ave.
▪ J.A. Clarin co. Calceta Street

Mang Inasal
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Gallares Street (beside Borja hospital)
▪ Remolador Street (across old Holy Spirit School)
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave. (soon)

HOLA Mexi-Asian Fusion Cafe
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Dunkin’ Donuts
▪ 15 J.S. Torralba Street (across Plaza Rizal)
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Plaza Marcela, Pamaong cor. Belderol Street

J. Co Donuts
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.


Alfonso Pizzeria
▪ Dauis Junction

Al Fresco Bay Cafe & Restobar
▪ G. Visarra Street

▪ Vennore Building, J.A. Clarin Street

Alberto's Pizza
▪ Belderol Street

Pizza Hut
▪ BQ Mall, CPG Ave.

▪ Tagbilaran City Square, CPG Ave.

▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Plaza Marcela, Pamaong cor. Belderol Street

More Bites Pizza
▪ Gallares Street


Bohol Pearl Korean Restaruant
▪ Lite Port Center, Gallares Street

Rai Rai Ken
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Shang Palace Seafood Restaurant
▪ North Town Center, CPG North Ave.

Mooon Cafe
▪ Lite Port Center, Gallares Street

Hot Soupoon
▪ Mansasa Seaside, Venancio P. Inting Ave.

▪ MetroCentre Hotel, CPG Ave.

JJ’s Dimsum
▪ CPG Ave. (beside MetroCentre Hotel)

Garden Cafe
▪ J.S. Torralba Street (behind Cathedral)


Tamper Coffee & Brunch
▪ P. Del Rosario Street

Panda Tea Garden / The Library Cafe
▪ J.A. Clarin Street

Tablea de Maria Clara
▪ Ma. Clara Street (across University of Bohol)

Chill Pill Cafe
▪ CPG East Ave.

Hugot Cafe
▪ Tagbilaran East Road

Bo’s Coffee
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ 15 J.S. Torralba Street (across Plaza Rizal)

Tuko Cafe
▪ Gallares Street (beside Ramiro Hospital)

Brewpoint Coffee Club
▪ J.C. Borja Street


Too Nice To Slice Cake Gallery
▪ Dauis Junction

Cake Garden
▪ Dauis Junction

Estrella Bakery
▪ 15 J.S. Torralba Street (across Plaza Rizal)

▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Red Ribbon
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.
▪ Alturas Mall, CPG Ave.

Mosia Cafe
▪ Mansasa Seaside, Venancio P. Inting Ave.

Sweet Home Café
▪ 15 J.S. Torralba Street

Sun Cafe
▪ Sun Avenue, Gallares Street 


Payag Restaurant
▪ BQ Mall, CPG Ave.
▪ CPG East Ave.
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave. (soon) 

Chicken Ati-Atihan
▪ Ma. Clara Street
▪ Jacinto Borja Street

Gerry’s Grill
▪ BQ Mall, CPG Ave.

Chicken Deli
▪ Lite Port Center, Gallares Street

Abi's Seafoods & Grill
▪ CPG Ave.

JJ’s Seafood Village
▪ K of C Drive, Gallares Street

Acacia de BuBu
▪ V. P. Inting Ave. cor. E. Butalid Street


Wings St.
▪ Lite Port Center, Gallares Street

Socorro's Restaurant
▪ P. Del Rosario Street

D'boat Cuisine
▪ Galleria Luisa, Gallares Street
▪ Gallares Street cor. Jacinto Borja Street

▪ BQ Mall, CPG Ave.

29th M Street Café
▪ Marapao Street (across Red Cross Bohol)

Munch Box Snack Bar
▪ Vennore Building, J.A. Clarin Street

Jojie's Pa-initang Bol-anon
▪ Tagbilaran City Square, CPG Ave.
▪ Island City Mall, Rajah Sikatuna Ave.

Kwek-Kwek og Tempura
▪ Tagbilaran City Sea Port

▪ Tagbilaran City Square

Monday, December 11, 2017


So here we are again. I chanced upon a conversation that seemed pointless, all thanks to the tired excuse of saying “It’s just my opinion.” Although it is true that everyone is entitled to one’s opinion, let us be reminded that there are GOOD OPINIONS and there are BAD OPINIONS.

In short, not all opinions are created equal, and not all opinions carry the same weight of logic, relevance, and constructive intent. And before we forget, opinions are still informed by facts, shaped by study and discipline. These days, many opinions are just meant to spew hate and confusion. To make my point clear, let us take these examples:

“I like chocolate-flavored ice cream. It’s my favorite.” (good opinion)
“I like chocolate-flavored ice cream. It should be everyone’s favorite.” (bad opinion)
“She is gay and she doesn’t like to party. But it’s all right.” (good opinion)
“She is gay and she doesn’t like to party. She has no right to be gay.” (bad opinion)
“I think we need to water our plants regularly.” (neutral to good opinion)
“I think we need to kill all suspected criminals without due process regularly.” (bad to extremely bad opinion)

It's simple, right? It doesn't take a Master's degree from some university in Norway to understand the varying degrees of an opinion's nuances. Now you know.

Monday, December 04, 2017

the cold still lingers in summer

Anti-Love Poem
Grace Paley

Sometimes you don’t want to love the person you love
you turn your face away from that face
whose eyes lips might make you give up anger
forget insult     steal sadness of not wanting
to love     turn away then turn away     at breakfast
in the evening     don’t lift your eyes from the paper
to see that face in all its seriousness     a
sweetness of concentration     he holds his book
in his hand     the hard-knuckled winter wood-
scarred fingers     turn away     that’s all you can
do     old as you are to save yourself     from love.


We all have reasons to turn our faces away, even if sometimes we would expect that no matter the direction, we would still see what we have worked so hard to refuse to see. But that is how things go on from now. Decisions are made, and we must stick to them. Else, the fear of returning to the very beginning.  Else, the pains both necessary and unnecessary.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


After reading many of the searing reviews of "Justice League" three days ago, I went to the cinema to watch the movie for myself, with the excitement of a trip to the dentist. You'd go anyway even if you know you'd end up getting hurt because you've been through it all. But, boy, was I surprised. I liked it from start to finish. "Justice League", directed by Zack Snyder, who I think from now on should be a cinematographer instead, has the director’s staple sins: the addiction to slow-motion, the painfully obvious male gaze (do we really have to see Diana’s behind when people are having a conversation?), the third act that always falls into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movie rote of unsubtle CGI spectacle. Yes, there are hurried jumps from one scene to another, typical of a Snyder attention span, but I don’t quite agree with the incoherence complaint. I think it’s a sentiment that’s overblown, attributed to the frustration to finally see a great DC movie (next to Wonder Woman and Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy)—especially a Justice League movie—only to end up not being rewarded with one’s expectations. In fact, the movie is the most coherent in all DCEU movies in that it has the most simplistic story to tell. It’s so simple you can it sum it up in one sentence: Bruce and Diana have to round up a team to prevent three magical boxes from merging and stop an invasion that would literally demolish the human world. Each of the team has enough character this time—not just grim and brooding. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a wonder. She is a delight in every scene. Ezra Miller’s the Flash and Jason Momoa’s (ultra-scruffy) Aquaman got me looking forward to their solo outings. Cyborg and Batman though looked tired all the time, I feel sorry for them. As for Superman…(?) The dynamics here reminded me of the 90’s Bruce Timm Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network wherein its unsophistication makes it charming. It is quite refreshing, too, compared to the lofty mythologizing, heavy-handed philosophical musings of the previous Snyder-DC films (let’s forget about Ayer’s “Suicide Squad”). Even Danny Elfman’s score goes for the classics, closely honing on John Williams’ Superman theme and his very own Tim Burton-Batman theme. But, of course, he manages to slip in there Hans Zimmer’s now iconic piano tinkling for Superman and electric cello bursts for Wonder Woman, and I do not really mind. When I left the cinema, I totally forgot what the critics had said. I had an awesome ride. That ending got me excited, and that is something I rarely say for a DCEU movie. We need to see more. This franchise needs to be saved.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

call for manuscripts to the 57th silliman university national writers workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 57th Silliman University National Writers Workshop to be held from May 7 to May 18, 2018 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 January 5, 2018. (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 this year will be accepting manuscripts for Balak (poetry in Binisaya). Applicants should submit a suite of seven to 10 (7-10) Balak 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, or BALAK) 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 (1) official application form, (2) a notarized certification of originality of works, and (3) the form 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 Assistant Professor Lady Flor Partosa, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.