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.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

bored boys

Kip Oebanda's "Bar Boys", the last Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino movie I've seen, is a fine example of a missed opportunity. It features three boys and their painfully obvious travails in law school. I know there are four boys in the marketing materials, but this spoiler is not the worst of it. It doesn't help that the movie seems to be manufactured out of a pile of checklist exercises. Boisterous barkada. Check! Daddy issues. Check! Gay professor. Check! Funny bisaya. Check! Terminal illness. Check! Important speech. Check check check! There are a lot of stories out there that handle multiple narrative threads, but in this film the various strands are obvious, and they are weighing down the whole point of the film—which should be about perseverance and friendship. And the acting is strangely wooden. The saving grace here are the supporting actors like Odette Khan and Mailes Kanapi. I hope these two would get to be leads in movies someday. Lastly, this film is riddled with stereotypes. It's a chore enduring every second of it. And just like the many archaic laws of our country that are never amended, "Bar Boys" feels outdated.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, November 06, 2017

please come in

Nothing prepared me for the boldness and elegance of Prime Cruz’s “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B.” It has all the elements of a regular horror flick—a recognizable myth, a moody atmosphere, two attractive leads. What veers it away from standard Filipino work of this genre is how it entirely rewrites what we expect. There are long deliberate pauses here that would make an audience uncomfortable, especially those who have been conditioned by jump scares, screams, and cries. It is no easy task, but Ryza Cenon’s Jewel and Martin del Rosario’s Nico carry these silences into a heightened performance, such as an exquisite display of an arched back here or a slumped shoulder there. It is all about the body. For a movie with a mythological self-segmenting creature in its title, it should be about the body. And one can identify that this movie leans heavily on vampire retellings like Tomas Afredson’s “Let The Right One In”—primal, brooding, sensual. It is unapologetic on how it handles sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which is a welcome surprise in this country still steeped in machismo and misogyny. This is evident in Jewel’s transformation, how her sprouting of wings is like giving birth to a new life. Although it is difficult for her, considering her newfound attraction to Nico, her decision to still go after fresh meat is wholly her own. In the Age of Trump and Duterte, the urge to inject a political slant into entertainment has become more recurring than ever that it now resembles some form of moral duty. “Manananggal” is not spared from these intimations; it has chosen a hot timely crisis (of which I won’t divulge), and yet for all its good intentions, it has not fully enriched or broadened the discussion to greater effect. In fact, it has muddled “the important politicized idea” even further. But thinking about it now, it looks like that is the point of the movie. The whole world is now a mess, and for most people who do not know what to do, aside from ignoring or screaming at each other, the wise thing to do is to straighten up our act and pick up the pieces—such as the viscera of a manananggal’s latest victim.

[photo borrowed from this site]

Monday, September 25, 2017

right on target

Mikhail Red’s “Birdshot” is a work of art. The film centers on 14-year-old Maya who lives with her father Diego in some undisclosed farmland. Diego’s wife died in childbirth, and he is getting old, so he tries everything he can to teach Maya the ways of living—and that includes hunting. One day, with her shaggy black dog Bala, Maya finds her way to the sanctuary. She needs to prove to herself that she could stand on her own, and this brings her to an irreversible decision that changes everything. She unknowingly shot a haribon, a Philippine Eagle that is now close to extinction due to urban developments, illegal logging, and forest burning. This is where police officer Mendoza and his rookie subordinate Domingo come in to investigate. It’s hard giving justice to its brilliance without spoiling it. Even if “Birdshot” utilizes the methods of a police procedural and the coming-of-age story, it propels forward to places that you’d never expect, to situations that would unnerve and jolt you. Red’s direction is close to perfect. He has the polish of Chito Roño, poetic flourishes of Lav Diaz, the critical sensibilities of Marilou Diaz-Abaya. The absence of the specificities of time and place gives “Birdshot” an almost mythic feel. Everything's not what it seems to be—scarecrows seem to come alive, shadowy figures lurk in corners—and this is best portrayed by how complacency and good intentions of a higher system can actually have deeper, more sinister motives. Idealistic minds could get corrupted. In one scene, John Arcilla’s Mendoza tells his partner, “Trabaho lang yan… iinom lang natin yan”, and you cannot help but think of our country’s nightmares that consume our waking moments—like the innocent 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos who was killed by police officers last August 16. As the end credits rolled, I suddenly felt all the wrong decisions this country has made, and just broke down and cried. Fiction creeping into reality is nothing new. But when the distinctions are blurred or altogether removed, when life becomes stranger than fiction, it is high time we stand up, speak out, and remedy the situation. “Birdshot” is that eagle’s cry we all need to hear.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

beyond words

Jason Paul Laxamana’s “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” looks like it is the only movie in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino lineup that aims to entice the rom-com crowd. I thought I would be naturally repulsed, even with its premise of love and literature, but it should be noted that it is more than that. Framed by early 2000’s college academic years, the story revolves around JC Santos’ Fidel, who has a speech impediment and who falls for the devil-may-care attitude of Bela Padilla's Stella. He begins to write poetry and plans to gift her with a compilation of his works. Although the titular 100 poems leave a lot to be desired and could’ve been a chance to showcase our country’s rich verse literature, the device works in that it mirrors the ups and downs of the plot (albeit too conveniently). Winning someone with poetry seems quaint at this day and age (it doesn’t work, trust me), a formula probably culled from old Hollywood romantic comedies, but you could really dismiss this complaint because of the chemistry of the two leads. Bela Padilla is that type of actress who can embody a character without the usual self-awareness that plagues her contemporary. In this film, she truly is Stella—pained but passionate, indecisive but headstrong—and you'll understand why JC Santos’ naive Fidel would go to great lengths to win her despite her flaws. And above all, one thing that separates this movie from the rest of the millennial love stories out there is this: Just like poetry, its emotions are honest and raw, and what we may learn from them may not necessarily be what we want to have. The truth does not only reveal; it also hurts.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

from eight to X

Last Wednesday, September 13, new phones from Cupertino are finally unveiled to the world. Meet the iPhone X (pronounced as iPhone “ten”) and its younger siblings the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus.

I personally find it funny that Apple branded its latest and most advanced iPhone with the a fancy, pompous Roman numeral “X”. Obviously it is a nod to the iPhone’s 10th anniversary in the tech world, but this move just made all the Galaxy S8s, S8 Pluses, and Note 8s of Samsung this year look inferior. Which is a brilliant marketing move. If the accompanying numbers really do matter, I encourage Samsung to name their next phones with 10 to the power of 10. Or why not jump ahead to 200? You know, like, Samsung Galaxy S10 to the nth power. Or Samsung Galaxy Note200. Let the numbers war begin! But, of course, if numbers are all the craze, they have no match to Nokia 3310 or 5110.

Kidding aside, the design language of the latest iPhones has not differed that much from its previous iterations. I like it. It remains gorgeous and easy on the eyes. But looking at my iPhone 6 right now, which was first released 2014, just makes me think I am holding a relic from a distant past. It feels ancient. It has been with me for a long, long time already, and as much as I’d like to upgrade my phone, these new editions have prices that are incredibly steep and daunting. How am I supposed to get one of these? Sell a kidney? That’s a thought. Or I might as well consider Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. At least I’d get it for half a kidney.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, September 18, 2017

below budget

Remember that secret jail cell in a Manila police station that illegally detained people for ransom last April? CHR discovered that. Remember that motion to bring back death penalty which somehow only favored the punishment of the underprivileged? CHR challenged that. There are several cases more, which should be enough to put into anyone’s minds how the CHR functions in this country.

Now, under the influence of Duterte, our government slashed the CHR’s budget to a puny P1,000 for an entire year not because they are not doing their jobs. They cut it down so abhorrently because they are doing their jobs really, really well. CHR is on the right track to discovering one of the biggest problems that continues making this nation sick. Whether you like it or not, CHR proved to be the light in the Duterte administration’s darkness.

When these congressmen are asked what their reasons are for voting yes to that decision, my world crumbled when I learn these people basically do not know the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). They have no idea how the agency works. We are in the year 2017, and I guess everyone now is adept at stalking and Googling relevant information for fact-checking. A little effort goes a long way.

totally dead, totally alive

August was such a busy month I could only wish I was at two or several places at once. Also, September. That explains the minimal posts in here lately, which is regrettable since there has been a lot to talk about last month, and that includes the first ever Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino in the Philippines. It aims to be a festival that precedes the much-maligned, money-centric festival that arrives in December. The less we talk about that trash the better. As much as I’d like to watch all of the PPP films, I only got to see five of them. And starting today, I’d share my thought about them, starting with this one.

What an odd, little film this is. Victor Villanueva’s “Patay Na Si Hesus”, one of the films screening for Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino, is a black comedy that strangely works even if it combines Tagalog and Bisaya humor. There are tones of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Sideways” here, and I am not complaining. This is definitely road-trip movie—a genre not fully mined and realized in our country’s filmmaking circles and not appreciated by moviegoers—that features a family matriarch taking her children from Cebu to Dumaguete to attend the wake of her husband. It could have been as simple as that, if not for its strange family dynamics and scatterings of visual gags that are so hilarious, so out-there. I've never laughed so hard at the sight of Legos and a TV set until today (you should see them for yourselves). And that bathroom scene early on in the film, I find it so difficult to forget considering I once knew someone who believed that practice for a while. And Chai Fonacier is a delight; although her character borders on the absurd, her decisions and consequences feel real. It is far from perfect though. It definitely needs some judicious amount of script tightening, and the editing can sometimes feel like it is rushed. You’d also get a feeling that this mostly-Bisaya film is not written by a Bisaya at all. But its irreverence, boldness, and all of the actors’ willingness to dive headfirst into the absurd all make up for these, ultimately creating a movie that is charming and one that leaves you smiling even in these tough, dark times.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Saturday, September 02, 2017

67th carlos palanca memorial awards for literature winners

In the Philippines, September usually heralds the special announcement of a select group of people who will be receiving some special recognition. This is the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, and as celebrated yesterday evening, at the Manila Peninsula Makati, it is on its 67th year.

And what a wonderful night of literature and like minds, especially to my friends who won! Shout out to Jesus and Glenn, and to my batch-mates in the Silliman Writers Workshop (47th batch, Katsubongs represent!)—Dustin, Noelle, Tokwa, and Igor! I was supposed to submit my manuscript but I forgot the deadline. Petty excuse, I know. Next time, I will make sure I have set my alarm. Here are the winners:



1st Prize: NO WINNER
2nd Prize: Carmel Joy F. Vergara, Patlang
3rd Prize: Robyn Therese V. Jocom, Sungkitin Pabalik ang Nakalipas

1st Prize: Alpheus Matthew D. Llantero, The Adventure of an Alien and the Matalino Kid
2nd Prize: Pauline Sherice Wee, Culture Redefined
3rd Prize: Marielle Fatima B. Tuazon, The Pursuit of Lucidity



1st Prize: Andrian M. Legaspi, Sa Pagitan ng Sabaw ng Chaolong at Hilab ng Tiyan
2nd Prize: Valentine Dula, Patintero
3rd Prize: Nicko M. de Guzman, Troll

1st Prize: Maryrose Jairene Cruz-Eusebio, Ang Patay-gutom
2nd Prize: Josel Luigi F. Creencia, Lato't Ginto
3rd Prize: Cheeno Marlo M. Sayuno, Si Tiya Salome

1st Prize: Eugene Y. Evasco, Ang Mapa ng Taglagas sa Aking Maleta
2nd Prize: Will P. Ortiz, Sisid
3rd Prize: Mubarak M. Tahir, Aden Bon Besen Uyag-Uyag (May Buhay Pa Pala)

1st Prize: Christian R. Vallez, Sa Pagitan ng Banal at Karnal
2nd Prize: Jason G. Tabinas, Na Inyong Ikinalulunod
3rd Prize: Rogelio Dela Rosa Jr, Tanghod at iba pang Paghihintay

1st Prize: John Vincent J. Bucal, Muwang ng Musmos
2nd Prize: Errol A. Merquita, Tagulilong: Ang mga Nawawala
3rd Prize: Paterno B. Baloloy, Jr, Agam-Agam ng Langgam

1st Prize: Eljay Castro Deldoc, Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All the Overcoat
2nd Prize: Rodolfo Carlos Vera, Indigo Child
3rd Prize: Dominique Beatrice T. La Victoria, Ang Bata Sa Drum

1st Prize: Dustin Edward D. Celestino, Ang Pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez
2nd Prize: Joshua L. Lim So, Araw-araw, Gabi-gabi
3rd Prize: Vincent A. De Jesus, Changing Partners

1st Prize: Rodolfo Carlos Vera, Ang Aking Juan Luna
2nd Prize: Kristian Sendon Cordero, Kulto ni Santiago
3rd Prize: Avelino Mark C. Balmes Jr, Pablo Ocampo Extension



1st Prize: Jondy M. Arpilleda, Bunok
2nd Prize: Manuel M. Avenido, Jr, Panagtigi
3rd Prize: Errol A. Merquita, Aninipot

1st Prize: Jesus C. Insilada EdD, Tinuom
2nd Prize: Peter Solis Nery, Ang Milagro sa Ermita
3rd Prize: Leonard Francis M. Alcoran, Ang Itlog nga wala Nagabalibad

1st Prize: Ronelyn Ramones, Ti Lubong ni Anastasia
2nd Prize: Lilia Quindoza Santiago PhD, Siak Ti Interpreteryo
3rd Prize: Ariel Sotelo Tabag, Dado



1st Prize: John Bengan, Disguise
2nd Prize: Katrina Guiang Gomez, Misericordia
3rd Prize: Joe Bert Lazarte, Don't Blink

1st Prize: Michelle Josephine G. Rivera, In My Father's Kitchen
2nd Prize: Paul Gideon D. Lasco, The Art of "Hugot" in our Republic of "Sawi"
3rd Prize: Jade Mark B. Capiñanes, A Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak

1st Prize: Noelle Leslie dela Cruz, Sisyphus on the Penrose Stairs: Meta-Reveries
2nd Prize: Rodrigo V. Dela Peña Jr, Blood Compact
3rd Prize: Hurjay Medilo, Elegy for a Dying World

1st Prize: Cynthia Baculi-Condez, From Dawn to Dusk
2nd Prize: Patricia Celina A. Ngo, Magical Mall of Mysteries
3rd Prize: Ma. Amparo N. Warren, Animal Songs/Just So Poems

1st Prize: NO WINNER
2nd Prize: NO WINNER
3rd Prize: Joshua L. Lim So, Sa Syquia, Malate, Kabanata II: Letting The Days Go By

1st Prize: Dustin Edward D. Celestino, The Story of This Father
2nd Prize: Joachim Emilio B. Antonio,
3rd Prize: NO WINNER



Grand Prize: Eros S. Atalia, Ang Ikatlong Anti-Kristo

Grand Prize: Glenn L. Diaz, The Quiet Ones.