Saturday, May 23, 2009

a writer has passed

The Hall of Justice was a cold place where everything seemed to reek off absolute severity. But when I entered his office and met him, the atmosphere changed. Atty. Ernesto Superal Yee, born on 29 October 1953 in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, is not only a gentle person but a guiding one. I can clearly remember his first words being said to me: “Are you happy?” And like anyone who knew important people but never got to meet them personally before, I shrugged and said, “I think so.”

He can be very sharp with his words, too, though restrained. And as a lawyer, who worked as the Clerk of Court V at the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 of Dumaguete City, I guess he needed to practice such stern approach once in a while. Besides, I just witnessed this state of being during the National Writers Workshops. Ernie, as what many writing fellows would like to call him, was one of the few who questioned the point of “The Other Ending” poem that I’ve written for a campus competition a year ago. He was one of the many who questioned the unreasonable changes in things such as the two-week stretch of this year’s workshop instead of the usual three. He was the one who lambasted my fiction and magnified its weaknesses during my stay in the city as a fiction fellow in the same workshop. But on the night that followed, on the culmination night specifically, he was also the one who offered Tanduay flat to each and every fellow on the long table at Hayahay Resto. Ernie is cool. All those air of superiority is just his way of reminding that we should set our ego aside.

A few weeks ago, during a short break from a session of the 48th workshop batch, I gave him a copy of Dark Blue Southern Seas, the literary folio of the Weekly Sillimanian, of which two of his works were published in it. I wrote as a dedication, “Thanks for swimming with us in this sea” and he responded, “I hope we could do this literally—but I am old!” He laughed like a child. His infectious mirth removed the serious mood around the antiquated room of Katipunan Hall brought about by the previous workshop discussion that his dear “sister” Susan Lara and I laughed along. I went back to my seat and in my mind I thought I’m glad I’ve worked with him.

The good times just kept on coming. Ned Parfan, also a writing fellow in the past, shared to me that on our way to Montemar to visit Mom Edith Tiempo and listen to her lecture Ernie told him that his new poetry collection is now in the hands of publishers and hopefully will be due out this year. It was such exciting news. Even though his arthritic fingers caused him to stop creating music through the piano, a veritable treat to the ears, he was able to write prose and poetry. You know those little things in sentences or verses that are more melodious than those produced from strings because they are drawn straight from the mind and heart?

But as unpredictable as the passing of time, a distinct note in the air faded. I received news in the afternoon of May 23 that Ernie died of a heart attack in the morning, in his bed. I was really in shock—probably even surrealistic especially when you didn’t really know what to feel. Because a few hours earlier on the same day, I was reciting his poem out loud to a few people who have a heart for musicality in words. And for Ernie’s works, this is certainly something not new. His poem, “A Prayer for Yuan,” is a favorite poem of mine that truly resounds the beating of my heart’s tune. Here is the last stanza that I’d like to share to everyone:

Lord bless this one with a heart
Burning with compassion and sympathy,
Accepting as to why some trees, like his uncle,
Choose to bear flowers instead of fruits.

Sir Ernie Yee, the flowers you bore in this land were beyond the superlatives of beauty. A poet's spark may have died all of a sudden but during its living brilliance it gave way for others to light their own candles. Thanks for all the help.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

because adam lambert should

Dustin Celestino, fellow for fiction in last year’s Dumaguete workshop, wrote why Adam Lambert should win in this latest season of American Idol:

‘Adam Lambert was the Elvis daemon of ecstatic agony when he performed “Tracks of my tears” and “If I can’t have you.” In “Mad World,” he was the tormented soul whose glorious wails of pure alienated despair seem to have echoed from the phantoms and spectres of suicidal lovers from the pits of the second level of Dante’s Inferno. He was the fiendish incubus of raw longing and restless turbulence in “Satisfaction” and “Born to Be Wild.” He was the jaded, egoistic, self-absorbed, lecherous second coming of Faust – the hedonistic demon of indulgence and abandon – in “I’m Feeling Good” and “Ring of Fire.”

Yes, Adam Lambert sold his soul to the devil to be able to emulate the devil’s defiant wail as the Morning Star was cast down from heaven unto the depths of hell, forever illuminating oblivion with the crimson glow emanating from the heart of the first sinner.

Adam Lambert’s songs are metaphorical representations of the ancient battle between good and evil – at once echoing the repentant sorrow of fallen angels and speaking in the holy tongues of
envious, sex-deprived seraphims.

Adam Lambert is what entertainment for an ironic generation is about – imbued with a sharp meta-camp sensibility, edgy in his defiance of suffocating social structures, and fearless in advocating a liberal perspective.

Kris Allen is a solo version of “Boyce Avenue” – check out their acoustic renditions of “Apologize,” “Disturbia,” “Bleeding Love” in YouTube. “Boyce Avenue” was what Kara and Randy had in mind when they picked “Apologize” for Kris to sing -§ion=International.

But what most people don’t know is that these contestants hold deep, dark secrets, that when revealed might influence the outcome of the contest. You saw it here first, the deepest, darkest secrets of the American idol finale contestants.

Adam Lambert is actually the product of a United States government experiment that combined the DNA of Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Meatloaf, and Madonna to create the ultimate disco demi-god.

Kris Allen is actually the fourth member of “Boyce Avenue.”

Yes, I’m biased. Obviously, I think the better artist should win.

My vote (if only I could): Adam Lambert - the turbulent titan of transgression; the
Eros-demented demi-god of disco; the self-aware, meta-artist of commercialized
camp (which makes it more campy).’

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

on being a yaya

(For all of you)

At first, it was not exactly what I pictured myself doing in the city of gentle people. Especially in May. With the dusty roads surrounding Silliman University flipped upside down, parading a bunch of tourists is not a good idea. But it turned out to be fine; perhaps, even more than fine. The experience was fulfilling.

The oldest creative writing workshop in Asia, now on its 48th year, has just baptized another batch of capable writers: Bea Nakpil, Mo Francisco, Keith Cortez, Philip Kimpo, Jr., Ynna Abuan, Marck Rimorin, Jonathan Gonzales, Niño Manaog (Lolo!), Stan Geronimo, Petra Magno, Arkaye Kierulf, Maoui Stuart del Rosario, Aleck Maramag, Gabriel Millado and Joy Rodriguez. Though I haven’t attended that much bashing of workshop batches, I’d proudly say this group was good (sans the dirt that was messily cleaned).

But aside from the daily workshop sessions, of course, there’s the much needed breather during the breaks and the weekends. Last year, our batch had the veritable Moses Atega (or Kuya Mo) who, I guess, toured many of the previous fellows in and out of the city. For this year, the guy’s island-hopping! And like the force of a fate’s pummeling gavel, a strange thought struck me hard: ako nalang kaha? That I did.

There was no planned itinerary on each day, actually. I don’t usually plan. Spontaneity has been my buddy these days. What they want, I’d show or provide it to them—but except for Ynna’s pleadings that I’d be her Dumaguete love catch. Pointing out historical tidbits of this monument or that structure, remembering the nearest beer stations, outmaneuvering thick crowds to lead the group to the nearest shirt sellers and, most of all, enlightening them to the real wonder of the city, which is, to quote former fellow Marguerite de Leon, the abundance of “disturbingly cheap” food, the job of being a guide was like second nature to me especially that I lived in the city for four slow years. And because of all the pointing, I hastily brushed up my mental compass. The sharp turns in the campus, check. The familiar labyrinth that is the university town, check. The numinous island of Siquijor, check. Check. Check. Check.

Of course, I just can’t lose the fellows or else Myrna Peña-Reyes, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Gemino Abad, Sarge Lacuesta, J. Neil Garcia, Juaniyo Arcellana, Ernesto Superal Yee, Rosario Cruz Lucero or Susan Lara will remain petrified on the semi-cold chairs in Katipunan Hall 1, scratching his/her head in utter confusion for such mass disappearance. But Dumaguete is a small town and it is everyone’s advantage—not only mine. What happened next, after nights and days of pedicab-traversing and sidewalk-strolling, was something that led me to receive a special prize on the culmination night last May 15.

“Yaya of the Year Award.”

I am not used to flattery of such kind but these guys, or otherwise collectively known as the 1st Siquijor Personality Workshop Fellows, floored me with sweet embarrassment. Well, who wouldn’t be if you are donned with a shiny floral apron that disturbingly matched your crisp floral long sleeves? Seriously, the humorous honor made my visit to Dumaguete more memorable than my countless futile trips to the registrar office in order to procure my transcript of records. Believe me, it is. Though I didn’t actually yaya-ized every single fellow, I know I’ve exerted enough effort I don’t usually share to people I got acquainted with in approximately fifteen days.

The morning after their rite of passage into the world of serious writing, a variety of things were shared: contact numbers, email addresses, photos, cigarette smoke and more cigarettes smoke. Much later I escorted some of the fellows to the airport and heard the whistling of this huge metallic bird that would soon head towards the north. One last wave and I went back to my humble spot.

I stayed and pondered on things left only in the amusement of my imagination. As the days continue to shed its youth and I consistently turn the pages of the calendar, I know the month of May would show up again. But I wouldn’t be waxing sadness here for it would be the particular month that I’d remember giving the fellows a ride in the 7-seater Dumaguete tricycle to anywhere they please, perspiring from the summer heat, but with a smile forming on my face.

Monday, May 18, 2009

real men

To those who are completely confused, here’s a blog that might help clear things up. And if it doesn’t work, I don’t what will.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

call for submissions: philippine speculative fiction v

Editors Nikki Alfar and Vin Simbulan are now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology Philippine Speculative Fiction V.

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first four volumes, we had a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 1,500 words and no more than 7,500 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: PSF5 Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example – PSF5 Submission: Meeting Makiling 4500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous publications (if any). Introduce yourself.

12. Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2009. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email. Target publishing date is February 2010.

13. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

Spread the news!

Saturday, May 09, 2009


One of my writings has finally seen print on a national paper. It’s something for me so I am putting the link here for everyone to see.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

temporarily offline

I am off to Dumaguete in a few hours to indulge myself in literary bouts between the greats and the mavericks. Tomorrow is the inauguration of the 48th Silliman National Writers Workshop, the oldest creative writing workshop in Asia, and I agreed to yaya this year’s fellows—just like what I did last year when the annual yaya, Ian Casocot, suddenly went out of the radar. I hope we’ll get along, especially that the presence of Niño Manaog (fellow for poetry in this new batch) will surely be felt on and off the sessions. He is just as chatty and whiny as a little child. Peace Lolo!