Sunday, August 31, 2008

august sunday night

me, jordan, marianne: again, at the table
staring at neon lights, at the translucent glow of the bottle
when echoes are company and friends long gone.

me: writing, jordan: drinking, marianne: texting
of thinking the deepest thoughts when thoughts are nothing
of remembering what was once treasured, we toast our beer to that.

we three: sit, stare, elbows on the table, chins cupped in our hands
like the day mankind was made and thought all could stand
now, only our wishful thinking is kept and our own selves left.

- this is a renga we wrote during one of those drunken nights of Silliman's Founders Celebration. Since we were the only ones at that time who understood that there was something beyond the momentary bliss that was found in a glass, we succumbed to each other's words of misery.

the vanishing pen

Fred Jordan Mikhail T. Carnice
The Weekly Sillimanian
August 28, 2008

Any form of crisis forces people to panic. Panic, in return, causes foundations to crumble. People, with the aid of whatever available noodle is in their heads, go forward in eradicating chaos and defeat, chiefly because of the dangers they carry along. Unfortunately, this assurance of assistance rarely happens in the circle of literary writing. Especially for a city where acacias sprout the juvenile words of poetry, where the boulevard sunrise pushes fictitious tales to materialize on paper, and the inevitable wave of midday heat commemorates the birth of a timeless memoir; it’s saddening to know that Dumaguete’s artistry has become limited instead of being boundless.

There has always been a magic in this city that, unlike any other place, makes inanimate objects specially coexists with humans—a relationship that has caused a thousand thoughts to spring up into text. That is why the place is beautiful. In Dumaguete, the pen seems to enthusiastically scrawl virgin letters on the blank pages of the notebook though at some point in time, it halts its progression for a while maybe because of the needed rest or the required period of persistent rethinking. Literature succeeds in time; but what importance and use is this resilience against the natural capacity of change if man halts the process of creation? Most definitely, there is none. If the pen is gone, creation also stops. And currently, the pen in the city does not only have its ink drying up but is slowly vanishing.

I know the current ripples in the literary world that involved Sillimanians this year—our very own Ian Rosales Casocot won 1st prize in the English short story category of the Palancas and even got himself in the longlist of Man Asia Literary Prize 2008, along with Sillimanian Lakambini Sitoy, for an unpublished novel. Even Butch Macansantos, a Silliman literary artist, has triumphed as a 1st placer for poetry in English in the Palancas too. And this month, we shall witness Marjorie Evasco receive her Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Creative Writing. It is indeed warming to acknowledge all these but there’s no denying they are among the few bearers of the pen. Or maybe, they are the only bearers of the pen who strive hard to retain the city’s title as the Creative Writing capital of the Philippines. Well, such effort is still of little value if the people behind them, who could follow them, or should look up to them, wallow in apathy the size of their bloated egos.

And then the questions: What about the young sector that comprises the majority of universities? Have they bound themselves to the clutches of hypocrisy to the extent that they believe carrying T-squares, PH bags, and heavily decorated multi-colored classroom illustrations guarantees them the brightest future of awe-inspiring income? Have they just lost it that they’d disregard the fact that art is also a significant fraction of a community’s rich cultural heritage and growth? Or maybe both?

These questions may not have mushroomed if the root of the problem had been removed from the soil, way before it grew up. The practice is almost gone if not for the efforts of some university publications that encourage students to write. Because Sands & Corals, the university’s official literary folio that was born in 1948, has been nowhere in sight for two years, the Weekly Sillimanian created Dark Blue Southern Seas (DBSS) last 2007. There has been a wide circulation of its call for submission of entries, inside and outside the campus, but to no avail. The number of works that we’ve received was disappointing. Yet, we pushed through because we should. Because, to quote a line in the foreword I’ve written for DBSS 2008, “persistence in plans is still better than stagnation in actions.”

It’s really unfortunate to be facing this seeming lack of interest where only a few are really concerned, particularly in this institution that holds the oldest Creative Writing workshop in Asia. That’s why anyone can say that the life of the letters in Dumaguete is in a state close to extinction. The young ones have lost the touch of the pen, have lost the idea that people write for the affirmation of existence, write for the biggest enlightenment extracted from the smallest of things. But even though I am here in the city as the sole Creative Writing major of Silliman, along with a handful of non-CW major who are bitten by the writing bug, I am buoyant of a sudden mentality shift, remain positive that in the “nearest someday” people will develop an appreciation for writing—especially the students.

Dumaguete does well up with the divine, the dwende, or the muse that causes creation of stories, so let’s put them to good use. For even in the midst of crisis, the pen must move on.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

worst bits of both

Those words come from a conservative guy talking to a transvestite who somehow feels comfortable with his presence. Unfortunately for this guy who has a problem with a shoe factory he newly-manned when his father unexpectedly died, he isn’t comfortable looking at a man wearing a dress. “You look like the worst bits of both,” he has said.

This is one particular scene in the movie Kinky Boots, directed by Geoff Dane and written by Julian Jarrold, where it steered me the most. Though the guy named Charlie Price can be considered an enlightened man in the land of Northampton, he still falls under the prejudices of other people’s scrutiny and idealisms when he and Lola the drag queen are together in the restaurant. Issues on sexuality often heats up even the most apathetic citizen that it is the whole debate becomes senseless and even discriminatory.

As for the aspects of pop culture found in this movie, the one that surfaced perceptibly is the fashion aspect since the whole film involves shoes, good looks, and runways. The film effectively covers this matter which almost everyone in the world has been involved with. From the proper shoe size to the debatable concern of who must wear this and that, Kinky Boots somehow breaks the mold of gender inequity in a less declarative and demanding way. Like Lola, or otherwise known as Simon, this cross-dresser who designed the “transvestite boots” for a factory that manufactures the common products such as the Oxfords and the school shoes is like a movement for a possible change, a sure way of ensuring equilibrium that homosexuals have their own share of the pie present in the market.

On the other hand, this act can be held accountable as a disadvantage since the majority is alien with this idea. Who would’ve thought that this particular place makes boots for gays? Therefore this is one thing that’s obviously unpopular either in this generation or on the next few years to come. Let’s face it, though more and more people have fought for the reshaping of the biased mentality, we cannot still get away from labels, taunts, and misconceptions that defeats the protests of those “radical” thinkers. Boots are good for females, better for female dancers, but awfully bad for drag queens—this is the code one may get in this film. For me, fashion adapts to different views and concepts so basically it shouldn’t follow a direct rule.

The movie has the makings of a classic, though. Even if it deals with issues about gender, fashion dichotomization, and societal biases, this movie can stand the tests of time for its focus on being uncategorized and fearless. These themes are universal and the insights never change even after countless of viewings. Just like Steven Spielberg’s Extraterrestrial, it still remains watchable until now for its charming nature, its youthful burst of energy found in the child protagonist, and the theme of reception and release. Aside from being a favorite, this sci-fi movie makes anyone relate to the child because personal experience usually makes movies click. In the film Kinky Boots, no one can really get away from it without having a connection to one of the wide variety of characters. Popular culture is unquestionably transitory, it lives on the various changes of things, but through this series of modification it eliminates the borderlines, the limiting characteristic of time. And since this movie, Kinky Boots, offers illumination of knowledge that transcends any period, it is a classic no egotistic scholar of the highest order could ever disagree.


Friday, August 15, 2008

missing beijing

The Olympics is back—and it’s in Beijing!

Unfortunately, due to unavailability of resources in the slipshod sensibilities of my Dumaguete abode, I'm not updated with the hundred of sports happening in the The Nest, in the Water Cube, and in the many places that I do not know. I don’t have television. Though I have read the results of competitions in the dailies, I still want to see the actual sports games. But thanks to Youtube and its staple “uploaders,” I get to witness the opening ceremony of this event. It was jaw-dropping; definitely a showcase of how Chinese creativity and discipline work well together. Cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

revise! revise!

After two months of shaping my itsy-bitsy skill in poetry under the exceptional tutelage of Filipino poet Myrna Peña-Reyes, I am now squirming in embarrassment thinking of all those poetry that I’ve made before I enrolled in this one-student class (or more like a tutorial program knowing that I’m the only creative writing senior at school). And some of those poems were even critiqued in a national workshop! Shame.

The benefits of having Ma’am Myrna as my teacher are all worth it. Visual and audio aesthetics aside, my so-called poetry has been transformed from mere abstractions to a graspable chunk of material thought. “I think you have a lyrical mind too. You have a good ear for sounds,” she once said. Well, here’s the first version of the poem entitled To End a Wall that, somehow, got out of my head when I was wallowing in the days of seemingly endless despondency:

To End a Wall

Either one of us
will divide, break, or tear
this wall apart; and yes not push
because pushing things aside does not do
any good—they just fall. (You enforced
not to wait for someday and I said eradicating
that someday, hopefully, must be easy.)
If this wall remains standing,
stoic and solid, let it remain standing like
a sentinel that would remind us what we have done,
or consider it an idol, a wide white barren article
of the past wherein we hold our hands
inside one of its tiniest cracks, crooked serpents
crossing the coarseness of its concrete face,
and see if greatness in mistakes crumbles
by the littlest plastering of confessions.

And this is the last revision, so far, that I think looks and feels good. In poetry, nothing ends—revision is crucial to the development of a particular piece, both in form and substance. What makes me happier is that my teacher agreed. Here it is:

To End a Wall

one of us
will divide, break or tear
this wall apart
and yes, not push
because pushing things aside
does no good—they just fall.
(You said this someday would come,
and I hoped it would be easy.)
If it remains standing,
stoic and solid, let it remain standing
like a sentinel that would remind us
what lies we have said;
or consider it an object of worship,
a wide barren structure of the past
wherein we held hands
inside one of its cracks,
our fingers like crooked snakes crossing
the coarseness of its concrete face.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

eight days a week

I’ve been working, writing, and rewriting a lot of times this season that, almost out of desperation to escape this constant repetitiveness or maybe for some other unknown reasons, I fall once again into an urge of listening The Beatles music. Call me old fashioned but this is my way of having an instant ticket to perpetual composure and sanity. In pursuit for more music, I’ve stumbled into their works that I haven’t heard ever such as Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite and I am the Walrus. Also I’ve just discovered there are already four versions of Across the Universe, from different artists, in my music folder. Too much? I think not, even in the season of having a hard day’s night every other day.

The poster above? That’s only the nineteenth century piece that Lennon got inspiration from when he wrote the Mr. Kite song. And also, there’s this information that might explain why I have this unexplainable feeling that makes me hum its tune more often than the usual: the sounds effects were recorded on the same date when I was born. Blam! The power of rationalizing and analyzing things are quite pathetic but the coincidence made me wonder, really.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

where's mama?


Papa I know you're going to be upset
'Cause I was always your little girl
But you should know by now
I'm not a baby

You always taught me
right from wrong
I need your help
daddy please be strong
I may be young at heart
But I know what I'm saying

The one you
warned me all about
The one you said
I could do without
We're in an awful mess
And I don't mean maybe.. please

Papa don't preach..
I'm in trouble deep
Papa don't preach..
I've been losing sleep
But I made up my mind..
I'm keeping my baby
I'm gonna keep my baby mmm

He says that he's going to marry me
We can raise a little family
Maybe we'll be all right
It's a sacrifice

But my friends keep telling me
to give it up
Saying I'm too young
I ought to live it up
What I need right now is
some good advice.. please

repeat chorus

Daddy daddy if you could only see
Just how good he's been treating me
You'd give us your blessing right now
'Cause we are in love
We are in love.. so please

repeat chorus
Papa don't preach..
I'm in trouble deep
Papa don't preach..
I've been losing sleep
Papa don't preach..
I'm in trouble deep
Papa don't preach..
I've been losing sleep

I'm gonna keep my baby
Ooh don't you stop loving me daddy
I know I'm keeping my baby

* * *

The dance step is enough for one to shiver. No, maybe puke. Knowing that most of our generation (the youth sector, to be exact) is conditioned with ecstatic musicians that vary from the dark goths to the cheap butterflies, it is hard to pull out something appreciative that goes far beyond our aptitude of recollection—unless it is an unforgettable classic. Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach unfortunately falls under this category of being incognito in my mental archives.

The video, with Madonna’s unnatural portrayal of a demented daughter alongside the rest of the people present in it (extra or not), is a bit tacky. Sans the negativity, somehow, the music video has able to project its message towards its viewers. And this is about a woman’s confusing life in a dysfunctional family setting. And no one can even call it a “complete” family setting since Mother is nowhere in sight. If feminism is applied here, then we can conclude once again that in the process of making the song or the video, patriarchy is still present.

Considering that the video is like a documentary of a girl’s life to womanhood in a drama series-esque way, not dipping its toes into any form of “indie spirit” or surrealism that has sickened most recent music videos today, it is easy to get the main gist. It is understandable—and this is a plus point.

A line in the lyrics can be considered ambiguous but smart such as this: But I made up my mind/ I’m keeping my baby/. Who is this baby the song refers to; the lady’s actual biological child currently inside her womb or the kind of baby that suggests a “boyfriend-girlfriend” relationship? This is a question of which each circumstances works well. Even though the video shows this double meaning technique that effectively keeps any viewer to think, the latter possibility mentioned is more likely to happen. The teenage preganancy issue may be more pressing but, in my opinion, it is not well-sustained in the presentation that it might fall as something unbelievable. This hint of indistinctness may seem indirectly unsure for some audience such as this comment by SamArmstrong1977 at YouTube, “During this period she was known for being shocking, much more than nowadays. Parents didn’t like their kids to her, mine didn’t anyway. The pregnancy message here was considered outrageous…” With this message alone, it shows that some doesn’t agree. Anyway, the song works in many ways.

Though the situation in this music video is quite complex, one thing is really sure: it may be complex in its time but in the 21st century, it is not that complex.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

we weekly people

It felt weird that in the middle of a light and merry gathering almost everyone’s eyes stung with tears as salty as the breeze summoned by the waves of the nearby beaches. It was on the 2nd of August that most of us staffers of the Weekly Sillimanian gathered, wandered, and bothered the quiet night of Bacong. Everything was perfect—and “fine” is an understatement.

There was no other word which could best describe that event but this: Indispensable. Thoughts were shared, objections were heard, and apologies were accepted. For all the three years that I have been working for this university publication (first as a writer in 2006 then as a Features editor in 2007 and 2008), that night packed the most meaningful and most important lesson that I learned. What was it? Leave it just to me.

Who would have thought that among the senior members of the organization composed of a sophisticated brat, a quirky overgrown toddler, a multitasking distressed woman, a striving pseudo-poet, a news anchor archetype, a choleric cheer dancer, a would-be kickass lawyer, and a dogmatic female geek went so sound and pleasant with the freshies whose nature ranged from the nerdy, the stone-silent, the lesbo-labelled, to the radical? None. We were an excellent group, a faultless combination like every ingredient for a delectable chopsuey dish were prepared by a skilled chef’s hands. Budjai, Carlos, Florence, Gus, Mars, Leon, Lou, Paul, and Phillippe—their special peculiarities never fail to complete the whole picture of what cheerfulness should look like. (And by the way, Prof. Philip van Peel was the best). Though there were few stilted expositions that night, every single one was alright after wiping his and her eyes. As what the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well.”

In my humblest judgment, I think this is the best batch in the paper I’ve been so far. We are just working on our eighth issue for this school year and, obviously, we have a long way to go pa. But like anything enjoyable and adored, times runs on the double. It is depressing.

And to add some bitter facts I am currently in my fourth year of college, handling a position for the second time around, and in a few months the possibility of leaving these newfound colleagues will take place. The thought alone makes my hair stand on its end, like yesteryear’s ghost passes by my side. But right now, I am trying really hard thinking of happy thoughts, appreciating cheerful morning greetings and conversations that never seem to tire down because sooner or later, like a grandmother pondering on yellowing pictures in a Sunday afternoon, I’ll have a lot of time thinking of the saddest things.

little thing

There’s no use keeping this shroud of mystery on me by now. I have my left ear pierced just last Monday. Though only a few have noticed it yet (of course, considering that I didn’t wear training studs the size of hubcaps), of which I and Marianne have made a pact that anyone who comments first about our piercing is someone special, I’m just a little glad that this particular person has observed something’s new in my ears. “Yey, welcome to the club. You’re now a probee!” If you know this character, just shut it. Alright? Hehe…

Monday, August 04, 2008


Today, if I’d pursue what is running in my mind, I will do something that is entirely out of my character (or maybe not). I don’t really know. But chances are I’d most probably have it because in the sub-sub-persona in me clearly screams that I wanted it all along. And the weight of opposing the thought is not that heavy anymore even if I know this will bring a little ripple in the waters. Well, let’s just see what happens next after I am done wandering into cyberspace. It is just a little thing, really. Like a bite from a tiny red ant.