Monday, March 30, 2009

familiar corners

The air smelled of old paint. That is the last memory I can think of. Or perhaps, the memory I am compelling to think of as the last. Fine, it is not the last but among the countless indelible remembrances shelved in my head.

Working at the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS) for three straight years is no laughing matter (as if there’s something funny to laugh about it, eh?). One of the oldest university publications in the country, tWS still has its quirks and dents that one will either be amazed at its printed blatant mistakes or be reasonable for the multitasking and heavy-lidded students that steered the paper. I am a witness to both sides. Three years may sound so short a time but they approximately reach a thousand days of legwork, edit, banter and study. Here is a chronological tale that, I guess, is worth etching on the deceiving private pad that is the cyberspace.

2006 – 2007

Wandering the campus that is lined with gnarled trees or reading old news articles at the library’s third floor every break is a routine. I am contented and that’s what matters most. But one day, I have finally put an end to my naivety. I have decided to put into use my skill in writing, or the slightest adeptness of it, to the university’s student publication. Why, in my mind, I was a cartoonist in our high school paper, therefore, I could probably work as fine as a writer! I am also in my second year in college who majors in creative writing but drills most of his head into tomes of physics, biology and psychology text books so I take up the call for new staff members. With Moses Atega’s (or more popularly known as Kuya Moe) thumbs up to the newly appointed editor-in-chief and a satisfactory grade in the entrance examination, I am in. Wow, I’ve received my very first assignment as feature writer which is to make a profile of the Filipino band, Kamikazee.

The day comes and I am set to conquer my fear of interviewing or even facing people. But fear has proven itself to become more potent when mixed with too much confidence—I inform my editor and ask for help. And out of nowhere Marianne Tapales and Rodrigo Bolivar II appear by my side at the entrance of Coco Grande Hotel where my very first interviewees are accommodated. Talk, talk and talk and everything is done. Actually, most of the talking is done by my companions who are obviously much more excited to do the write-up than me. I finish my very first feature article in my lifetime in one night. The following day, I beam with statutory pride on my way to the office, a hardcopy of my article in hand.

“What is this,” Michelle Eve de Guzman says, the editor-in-chief.
“What is this? Mura man nig high school!” She says as she continues talking loudly at the torture chamber about how juvenile my work is. I have even expected a much dramatic paper-tearing scene but got nothing of the sort.

Great. I am standing flabbergasted in the torture chamber, the infamous area of the publication office wherein all hardcore layouting and editing are done, and listening to a woman I barely know demean my skill, or the slightest adeptness of it. I should have stuck on making caricatures, I mumble to myself outside the office. And what is a creative writing major doing in the field of journalism? Pestot.

Well, it will always be like that at the very start. A few months later, I am the very first to write a column as a reward to a staff member who, in a metaphorical explanation, goes from ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, of course, in terms of writing. I can remember it very clearly; the column is about administrations that are thickly selfish and senseless in their overly-crisp coats, likened to the characteristics of the greedy amphibian, Rana catesbeiana. I have entitled it “Bullfrogish Unions.”

Everything goes well then. I meet up a lot of people, know a lot of things aside from the literary demands of my course and discover the limits of my capabilities. That is why when the school year is inching its way to the end, I think I am more capable than purely writing.

2007 – 2008

My being ambitious has led me to become the school year’s features editor. It is surprising, really. But the biggest turnaround yet is that the previous year’s features editor is now, merely, my writer. He is Micah Dagaerag. Thinking about it is humorous at first, like a party joke, but upon receiving his first completed assignment has made me doubtful. This feeling is much more intensified when my other features writer, who is definitely much older and more experienced than I, start to do some things that is not ought to be done.

It is not easy. I receive countless comments that have defeated even the acidity of Michelle’s comments. What more, the remarks do not only come from the outside but also from the people inside the office. Anthony Odtohan, the latest editor-in-chief, asks in our first editorial board meeting: “What is wrong?” I respond, “I don’t really know, Odie.” As if all sensibility in the world is crushed by my unguarded manifestation of stiltedness, our news editor John Boaz Lee suddenly retorts, “Maybe he is just very new to this, Od. Let’s just see what happens next.”

Yes, let us see what happens next. Events take place one after the other, more distressing than the last. I know I looked cool to many at that time but like the glassy surface of the lake, the smooth face is but a façade that housed countless creatures. This particular school year is the determining point in whether I will pursue anything that I have thought is right for me. It is a good thing that I still have my words with me; they guide and comfort me as I venture into the night of solitude, help me create lines after lines that seemingly console the line etched upon my frail condition. The demands of Ian Cascot, through LitCritters Dumaguete, help a lot too. And if not for June, solitude would have been more throbbing, more in tuned to the struggle of the Duende deep inside me.


All of sudden, faces I am always accustomed of seeing everyday are gone. What more, the editorial board is one quirky group. To add more difficulty with us having to accommodate new writers the “bylaws” of the publication, no one from the ed team has no mass communication representative. Two nursing majors, one psychology major, one business administration student and a creative writing major. How’s that for a student journalism publication that now runs for 105 years?

But we persevere. We defy what others thought wrongly of us. We laugh at our mistakes and, of course, worry about them too. All of us get along together in an instant that screaming at someone’s face is nothing (as long as it is deemed necessary). In some way, there must be this common thread woven into each of us that makes us connect, blend with our own eccentricities and almost freakishly, think alike. I feel comfort and relief that I have never thought existed. It feels weird at first but, on the long run, the company becomes a routine. The early morning comments about the messy floor, the midafternoon snacks, the midnight chikicha games, the unplanned overnight respite at the office, the Ravenhearst challenges, the self-coercion of facing final requirements, the almost-everyday gossip sessions, life is going for the better. I thought, thank goodness I have met these caricatures.

Then the month of March comes. The routine must be broken. Well, it has to be. Like any novel I have read, it has to end, to reach the blank leaf page that stares right back at me. But this is no end of total resolution, an absolute finality, because even though the sun sets each day, it will rise again, from a distant but promising horizon, and illuminate to us anything that is needed for the day.

I know you people have stumbled upon these words already but I will reiterate them again: Junie, never stop dancing in the rain. Mars, enlighten everyone. Pilipeh, never stop drawing the line—it must flow endlessly. Gus, walls can be the support that holds your roof. Budjai, be as soft as a petal, rocks are not everything. Marianne, some things need not be labeled as secrets to fulfill their purpose. Paul, share your love with your widest embrace. Camille, what is inside matters the most—if you know what I mean. And to everyone else, just keep on hopping.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

thirty-one minus ten

I am celebrating the first day I’ve swam in the pond for the 21st time, in the 21st century. But hey, the wrinkles in my eyes are not signs of aging. I just smile a lot.

Fine, I am getting older.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

dark blue southern seas 2009

I don’t know if I will be proud of this or what. Thanks to our adviser and layout artist Ian Rosales Casocot, familiar faces are smacked right on the front cover of the book. Anyway, posting this is a sign of delight—a weird, squirmy kind of delight.

After two successful years of publishing photography, visual arts, and literary works from both upcoming and established writers, the latest edition of the official literary folio of The Weekly Sillimanian will be released soon. Dark Blue Southern Seas 2009 will feature the works of the following:

Gémino H. Abad
Dean Francis Alfar
César Ruìz Aquino
Kris Dave Austero
Jan Paulo Bastareche
Lawrence Bernabe
Eliora Eunice Bernedo
F. Jordan Carnice
Ian Rosales Casocot
Darwin Chiong
Phillippe Antoni Credo
Carlomar Arcagel Daoana
Michelle Eve de Guzman
Marguerite Alcarazen de Leon
Rodrigo dela Peña
Jean Claire Dy
Mariekhan S. Edding
RV Escatron
Marvin Flores
Ralph Semino Galan
Deil Jossaine Galenzoga
Gilbert Agustin Ganir
Carlos Arsenio Teves Garcia
Christine Godinez-Ortega
Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
Luis Joaquin Katigbak
Marie La Viña
Susan S. Lara
Gabriela Lee
Francis C. Macansantos
Katherine Macaroy
Robert Jed Malayang
Timothy R. Montes
E. P. Ortega
Ned Parfan
Myrna Peña-Reyes
Michael Regalado
Danton Remoto
Celeste June Rivera
Raszceljan Luiz Salvarita
Zakiyah Sidri
Sonia SyGaco
Ramon Yasunari Taguchi
Anthony Tan
Yvette Tan
Marianne Tapales
Mia Tijam
Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas
Janet Villa
Miguel Ybañez
Ernesto Superal Yee
Lawrence Ypil

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the polished turd

John Boaz Lee, the intsik kwakang news editor of the Weekly Sillimanian last year, is quietly blogging for some time now. You cannot hide from us!

job hunting

This morning, I attended my first job fair. No matter how hard I try to avoid, I got to witness spunky PR members from various call center companies luring the innocent young minds of soon-to-be graduates. Oh, the nowhere accents of the sent agents just filled the waiting area. I did not particularly know why but my hands got clammy. It must be the summer heat that challenged everybody’s deodorant. Or something that I ate hours ago. Or it must be something else; something like the very first day I reported the different types of hog in front of a class back in elementary.

Fast forward to 9o’clock this morning, I suddenly found myself staring at a tarpaulin, a bunch of résumés at hand, and said to my companion: “it was really fast, noh?” All I got was a nod from him. Indeed, time went by in lightning speed that I was already reading one of the qualifications printed in the tarpaulin if I am willing to be assigned in different places across the country. Wow, when was the last time I stared or read at such notice? I cannot even remember.

At the same spot where I was sitting, I felt sad that I wouldn’t be reporting about the different types of hog any longer but would be facing a lot of its kind in a workplace someday. And I meant “sad” in the truest sense of the word. Work? Me, work? Jumping bullfrogs, I imagined I would be lounging by the beach, a glass of four seasons beside me, trying to get a tan while reading a book that’s not endorsed by Oprah!

It just dawned upon me that school ended—well, officially for us graduating students—but what’s next? Why was I attending this fair when I had already decided to rest, completely rest, for a month that would hopefully not become into five months? I do not know. I submitted two résumés to two hungry job employers and left.

As of the moment, what really matters to me is that on Sunday, March 22, I will be walking down the lane with something Latin called out with my name. Thank goodness, I made it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

words. ink. paint.

Yesterday, March 15, I opened my first solo exhibit.

But why is it called Lines Verses Lines? It is a simple play of words on how to describe my works; lines on the canvas and lines on the paper. Lines could also mean the singular unit of structure that make up a stanza, make up a poem. Of course, the verse refers to the poems while some of my poems refer to a visual artwork. I just have the urge to infuse two fields of art, visual and literary, to present in one show and Lines Verses Lines is the result.

What I really want to say right now is “thanks.” Thanks because the exhibit opened very fine (although I didn’t see some expected people), thanks because both familiar and unfamiliar faces appeared, and thanks because it happened. It was one great birthday and graduation gift for me (the exhibit ends on my birthday, March 29).

To everyone who is involved in this first major undertaking, I’d humbly say that though the stars can never be reached at all times, there is the moon that will always sympathize and share light. And I believe all of you are the closest moons around. To Moses Atega, Budjai Dollente, Phillippe Credo, Ms. Carmen Cabrera, Bambi Yap, and many others, daghang salamat.
More pictures of the event here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

call for submission of manuscripts to the 1st j. elizalde navarro workshop for criticism on the arts

The University of Santo Tomas Varsitarian is now accepting applications to the 1st J. Elizalde Navarro Workshop for Criticism on the Arts to be held April 19-25, 2009 in Baguio City.

This National Workshop in honor of Nationalist Artist for the Visual Arts and art critic J. Elizalde Navarro is offering ten fellowships to promising young critics who would like to enhance their analytical skills. Fellows will be provided free board and lodging for the duration of the workshop, and transportation cost from Manila to Baguio and vice versa.

To be considered for the fellowship, applicants should submit a scholarly, properly documented critical essay (seven- to twelve-pages, double-spaced, 12-point font) on any of the art forms (literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama or music) on or before March 31, 2009.

Manuscripts should be submitted in hard copy and on CD, preferably in MS Word, together with a resumé, a recommendation letter from an academic mentor or a literary/art critic, a certification that the works are original, and two 2X2 ID pictures.

Address all applications to Ferdinand M. Lopez and Ralph Semino Galán, Faculty of Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas, España Street, Sampaloc , Manila.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Ang tingin niya sa akin, tingin ko rin sa kanya.
Hinahanap sa lahat ng okasyon kahit kaarawan man ni Lola.
Kinahihiligan ang paggaya-gaya,
Wari’y walang iniisip na problema.

Kung ano ang tinatangkilik, hindi niya pinapansin,
At kung tinatawag naman, hindi siya umaamin.
Mabuti pa siya, walang masasakit na damdamin,
Pero huwag kalimutang siya’y mababasag din.

* * *

This was written seven years ago by a gangly first year high school student—me. If not for Lawrence, a hoarder to anything literary, I shouldn’t have known this poem is published in Home Life magazine (August 2008) whose poetry editor is Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee for Creative Writing and Palanca Hall of Famer Mr. Leoncio Deriada. I didn't even have a copy of this if not for Lawrence's initiative to send me a photo of my poem in the mag. I am still in shock but, at least, it makes me smile tonight.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

workshop changes

Now on its 48th year, the oldest creative writing in Asia is in for a major overhaul. The original three-week fellowship stay of the Dumaguete (or Silliman) National Writers Workshop is cut down into two weeks. Is this another indication of the global economic crisis or just plain human lethargy? You decide. At least I was lucky to be included in last year's batch.