Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 philippines free press literary awards finalists

Philippines Free Press literary editor Joel Toledo has released this year’s finalists of the magazine’s annual literary awards. It’s no surprise, the people comprising this list. They’re good. To Margie, Nette, Eliza, and my dear teacher, Ma’am Myrna, here's a shower of confetti for you. What an interesting way to commemorate this blog’s 500th post.


Erscheinung, Michelangelo Samson
After The Body Displaces Water, Daryll Jane Delgado
When You See A Dog, Jenette Vizcocho
Numb, Jenette Vizcocho
Recuerdos de Patay, Caroline Hau
Sweet, Marguerite de Leon
Spawn, Popi Laudico
Desert Winds, Jean Gerald Anuddin
A Study of Insects, Irene Carolina Sarmiento
Works Cited, U. Eliserio
Fade to Red, Twink Macaraig


Variations on the Expulsion from Eden, Eliza Victoria
The Painted Prince, Frank Penones Jr.
Duwende, Myrna Peña-Reyes
Love is How We Come Undone, Amado Bajarias
How to Kill a Whale Shark, Timi Siytangco
Warrior’s Wife (After Li Po), Ino Habana
Weight Without Gravity, Andrea Teran
The Widow, Upon Learning That Her Old Lover Had
Returned to the Island of San Antonio
, Merlie Alunan

Zeno’s Paradox, Luisa A. Igloria
Weight of the World, Michellan Sarile-Alagao

Notes from the editor:

The 2011 Philippines Free Press Literary Awards covers Fiction and Poetry that have appeared in the pages of the magazine from January to December 2010.

The Awards Night will be on July 12, 2011 (Tuesday), 6-10 p.m, at Club Cafe, Makati Sports Club. Formal invitations and detailed poster to follow soon.

Finalists are advised to notify me if there are any mistakes in the typing of your names, especially in regard to the possible prize money if you do win and the respective bank account conflict. Anyone who has contacts with some of the finalists that are not on the Facebook can email me via so I can notify them as well.

Finalists are advised to visit the magazine’s website and read the guidelines, policies, and notes for the annual Literary Awards posted in there carefully.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners who will only be notified that they’ve won and be informed of their respective six judges (three per category) during the Awards Night.

Winners must be physically present during the awards night (all the finalists will be formally invited) to claim their prize money and their respective trophies, lest the monetary prize be forfeited (winners can claim the trophy anytime they want to at the Philippines Free Press office). This is as per the magazine’s policy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

return to the city of gentle people

To those who would be going back to Dumaguete, like me who would be flying to that city in time for Silliman University’s 110th Founders Week festivities, you might need this calendar and this schedule. See you all soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We know too well the lines on our palms
Fork into branches and crawl to the back
Of our hands
Our elbows
Our chests
Our necks.
And I wonder,
How long would a wrinkle take
To reach the soft crack on that lips?
In one nod?
In one word?
In one gesture of the hands
Pulling my arm, gravity
Losing purpose
Other than that face
Drawing close to mine?

Hear me—there is no expanse
That want would not cross,
Not even the verdict
Of cartography and the study
Of weather and heavenly bodies.

Ancient men lived by chartering
The phases of things:
The moon
The sun
The seas
The winds.
Yet I still wonder,
How long would it take
For that face to turn to mine?
In one rotation?
In one revolution?
In one undulating wave
Of glances, awkward
In their quiet relay
Of messages better tucked
In the pocket to be read at home?

Hear me—these men have survived
Even the most solid fists
Of their smiting gods,
Of their own two hands.
Let us mine the gold in our earths.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Around 130 people watched at the Sydney Observatory, with one woman dressed as a vampire. “There was (also) a child dressed very elegantly as if she was from another century, and a little boy dressed up as a red superhuman,” Sydney Observatory manager Toner Stevenson told reporters.
—Lunar eclipse turns moon blood red, Philippine Daily Inquirer (16 June 2011)

The longest lunar eclipse
since the last decade proves
we have not seen all things yet,
more so with our patient satellite
now waxing and dressing
the shade of too much

It prompts a flood of prophecies next,
and I fear not the stories
of vampiric newborn creatures
nor the peeling of skin in some hut,
but for that boy on a hill
towered by men, elbowing, eager
to witness the event before dawn.

There is so much around us
yet we could only grasp so little,
and I hear the child cry.
I guess this is the most basic sound
of misery, one that could find its way
to all ears. Except for this moment:
This moon is in pain. This is pain.

The crowd returns to their routines;
perhaps a hundred minute is enough
to bear such lurid beauty.
When the weeping closes to a hush,
I search for the boy
only to find a membrane of light
staining the field of bermuda.

[image lifted from this site]

Friday, June 17, 2011


A few weeks ago, I visited my doctor. I handed her the results of my tests, and she studied them very closely. A few nods later, she finally said, “Your heart is strong.” In my head, “No, doc, it’s not.”


Monday, June 13, 2011

altered for good

[Update] Yes, look up, I’ve changed the header. Petty things are petty things but something has to be done about it. Now it looks good with the rest of the layout. And don’t argue with that, mirror!


After five years and six months, I changed the template of this blog. And this would be my 491th post, by the way. Amazing. It took that long for me to notice how an eyesore this site had become. There could be other reasons too. It must be due to Muse screaming in my playlist, or the rain that has been pouring since yesterday, or the change of dashboard look Tumblr has undergone, or the simple desire to see something new, even in the minutest things. The header remained though, perhaps serving as a retrospect of how this logorrhea began. [06/09/11]

Friday, June 10, 2011


My poem, “Stones,” the lengthiest one I have written in that genre (for now), is in the 21st anniversary issue of Philippines Graphic (June 13 issue, vol. 22). The cover story’s on divorce law, by the way. Maybe that would be enough reason for you to pick up the magazine since its official site hasn’t been updated yet. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

variations of a smile

May 20 – Last Day, Gala Night

Friday, six in the morning. I woke up way before a single soul stirred in the apartment. Thursday night was something not to be missed, so a few of the golden ones stayed in the city. When all had their drinks until the early hours of dawn, I ushered all of the “overnighters” to my humble abode. It was SOP. They were momentarily my orphans.

That morning, I led them to Bethel Guest House to hitch on the war bus and get back to Valencia for the last workshop session, along with the students from the University of Iowa. I met Robin Hemley, the lead coordinator of the delegates, and he said the bus won’t be leaving until nine. Bullfrogs. The fellows had to return before the said hour. Since I could not think of any other way of hauling eight lethargic people to the mountains, I straightened myself up, approached Mr. Hemley, and asked if we could go ahead to the village, that the bus would be returning for them by nine-fifteen. He obliged with a smile.

Yes, being a feelerette has its plus points. If not for that, future workshops would probably bar me for imparting delinquency to the fellows.


Just when I was slowly sinking deep into my nap, the alarm rang. It was fifteen minutes before four o’clock. After a late lunch at KRI with Kirpal Singh, Alfred Yuson, Gemino Abad, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, and Ceres Abanil (of which, we were later joined in by Peachy Paderna and Misael Ondong), I thought of taking a short rest. It was short indeed.

I turned off the alarm, dressed up, and set off straight to Claire Isabel McGil Luce Auditorium for Gaudeamus, the workshop’s closing Gala Night. There was a whirlwind of distractions happening in the previous days that I was caught off-guard by the actuality of tonight’s gathering. This is the closing event. I didn’t exactly know what to feel. When I entered the auditorium, wherein almost everyone’s in there, I knew what I was feeling. I went hurriedly to my seat, greeting people I know along the way with a smile that seemed heavy than the usual.


Suddenly, the golden ones were gone. There were no long hugs, teary eyes, and sloppy farewell pronouncements. Something was keeping my attention that time after the dinner in the lobby when I noticed the fellows were all on the bus, ready to return to the village. I stopped and waved my arms from the distance hoping this conveyed everything I wanted to say. Stay, I thought, but then again, I supposed they should go. As how many wordsmiths wrought it, distance would keep our ties stronger. I waved once more, hollered my parting words, and capped it with a smile. That I guess was enough.


Blue Monkey Grill was perhaps the vacuum of all things good that night. We were drawn to the place like moths to a flame. (But there was no burning, thankfully). The Iowans were there, most of the panelists were there (yes, including Sawi), and the alumni were there—even those who didn’t turn up in the previous jamborees: Anthony Tan, Ed Cabagnot, Israfel Fagela, Francesca Kwe, Kris Lacaba, Nicolo Vitug, Aaron Jalalon, Carlo Flordeliza, Ida del Mundo, and many more.

It was fun to be in the company of both like and unlike minds, minds that at least had one thing in common, which was the desire to read and write. Except for the inevitable setbacks, we wondered when would be the next gathering of this scale, of this shared unpretentious connection, of this same familial atmosphere, and we continued wondering. All of a sudden, Peachy Paderna broke out crying because, even after a couple of years, it still pained her to witness the parting all over again. Of course, like any consoling brothers and sisters of the family, we gave her a hug. We will meet soon. There will always be next time.
And then she smiled

The next day, I lost my comb.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |

Monday, June 06, 2011

from different ages and places

May 19 – Finally, Converged

The previous day didn’t entirely end in a bad note, what with the catalog of lost things that continued growing almost every other day. As mentioned before, there was good news. Before I and the rest of the alumni hopped on the war bus to visit the Silliman Rose Lamb-Sobrepeña Writers Village in Valencia, to barge in the fellows’ second from the last workshop session, I purchased the May 21 issue of the Philippines Free Press and confirmed what had been previously relayed to me. My poem, “How to Write Another Story” was published in an issue that had literary works (by Alfred A. Yuson, Jose Wendell Capili, DM Reyes, Ricardo De Ungria, Nerisa del Carmen Guevara, and Christine Godinez-Ortega) dedicated to the celebration of the workshop’s anniversary.

It was a big deal, of course. It has been born especially for this event, and to actually see it during the homecoming activities is beyond words. I just blushed. To all alumni and the current fellows of the 50th Silliman University National Writers Workshop, this one’s for you.


How to Write Another Story

Remain calm,
the (word/world) ends only when
the (word/world) stops spinning.

Consider the whiteness as some sort
of cleansing: do not let the blank page
(t/d)aunt you.

Remember, in space, there is no void,
only a chance to burst in multiple
limitless directions.

There are other stories to tell.
Never depend on the full moon
—it could be the devil’s halo.

Just squint a little harder.
Look instead for things golden(ed),
like the dictionary in the attic.

Yes, a lot has been too easy these days:
the smiling, the laughing, the l(o/i)ving,
the homemade remedy for bee stings.

But easy is not always right.
Not even enough. To ignore complexity
is to question the generosity of the sky.

Take (ad)vantage of this (short)coming:
what we own is a glorified reflection
of what we do not have.

Case in point: apple on the table.
This fruit could be re(a)d
for another (r/s)eason.


Poetry hums in the very core of Dumaguete. It pulsates in all sights and structures, fragrant in the air as if uncapped bottles of perfume were wedged in every street corner of the city. Nighttime came and people congregated at Rizal Boulevard for dinner, conversations, and most certainly, poetry—care of this year’s workshop fellows.

What made the evening special aside from the presentations, Banda Manga, and Sharon Dadang-Rafols’s singing and chanting was the presence of the students from the University of Iowa. They went here for cultural immersion, visiting the country’s tourist spots, just in time to take part of the celebration.

Age, race, language—barriers of all kind collapsed. We probably made Blue Monkey Grill happier that night because once again we were there, now with the Iowans who mingled from one table of alumni to another until the early hours of next morning. The clinking of beer bottles was the night’s popular music. A couple of the writing fellows were present too, perhaps delighting in the remaining hours of the city’s charm. In just a day or two, they would be going back to their respective routines.

The moon in the sky was still nearing its full form, but the writing family in this small spot of the city was in some ways complete already, just continually growing, branching from different parts of the world. The lively chatter faded as the hours inched forward, but everyone knew this was something that would linger in the head for a while (and it wouldn’t be a hangover).

(seventh of eight parts)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |

Thursday, June 02, 2011

to the old kvetch

Maybe the earth is too round for your liking, the raindrops too many to count with your fingers, the fruit trees too tall for your reach, but dear, listen to what I have to say: I could not disagree with your disbelief on why some things do not align with the planets of the cosmos that is your mind. Instead, I praise you for this incredulity, as to how rainwater slides from our bodies, feeling great about it, the only departure we could love. You see, ‘wondering too much’ is an awful marriage of words; there is no gauge, no measure for an article of wonder. You ought to know that curiosity did not kill the cat, rather, it brought itself a mouse for dinner. You might receive your mouse too but not now because Father (can I call you this?) we too are as bland as the earth have expected (…till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember?), too reliant with what we have, too short the heavens, had to promise the trees would drop their fruits if it’s time. Let things be just for this moment, let the great old world spin quietly. Quietly.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

three lost things and counting

May 18 – And Suddenly, They’re Gone

I mentioned in the very first part of this series that five things were lost during my summer break in Dumaguete, and for five parts already, I had only mentioned one. Well, on this day, the vanishing tripled. As how many variety shows put it: one time, big time.

On our way to Antulang Beach Resort in Siaton, the final workshop week’s escapade, I put on my other sunglasses that I thought would best suit the day, especially when yachting in Tambobo Bay. After all, it is one of the few places in the Negros provinces that are gifted with both sunrise and sunset. A few hours later, I was looking for the glasses’ slip case and found none. And that was lost item number two. Just like any other small things, this couldn’t upset me. Along with a fellow who was itching to get into the infinity pool, I jumped into the waters under the midday sun and allowed myself to be unbothered by anything.


Strange, one co-fellow didn’t bring any swimwear with him in an outing that involved a lot of water. It was supposed to be a vacation for everyone, so I lent him a pair of shorts—which was recently bought and worn only once—of which he handed it to another person for safekeeping. All was set. But even with the shorts in hand, I eventually knew he didn’t dip a single toe in the pool or the sea. And due to the hurricane of swimming here and snapping photos there, talking here and diving there, I forgot all about what I had just lent.

At the end of the day, when we separated ways—the fellows going back to the mountains of Valencia and us alumni going back to Dumaguete City—I realized the pair of shorts was not with me. No problem. Will get it in my next visit. But the next visit was futile. It was gone, absent in anyone’s backpacks. I shrugged. There was nothing I could do. My plans of jogging around the rubberized oval in the city sports arena were immediately scraped off the list. Lost item number three: check.


It seemed that my personal properties had formed a pact and rebelled against me for possessing them. So, I decided to drown myself with my favorite music on the bus routed for the city. Nothing could lift this misery out of the system better than Janelle Monáe and Gnarls Barkley. I pulled out the iPod from the bag, and it was just the iPod. I searched for its earphones in my bag, in my seat, on the floor, and couldn’t get a sight of a single white noodle around. Lost item number four: check.

That was it. The battle between me and my belongings was growing fiercer by the hour. I turned to my seatmate and future Ms. Universe Liza Baccay, who was my co-fellow in the 2008 workshop, and sighed. She could only share to me what I had recently shared to her back at the resort: Ayaw pag-strong kay mag-struggle ang face.


It was Wednesday, and that meant one thing: almost like a tradition, workshop fellows would flock at Hayahay for Reggae Night and meet Miguel “Mickey” Ybañez, another workshop alumnus. After the mandatory dinner at Neva’s with Mo Francisco, Keith Cortez, Phillip Kimpo, Ynna Abuan, Ceres Abanil and Peachy Paderna (Ms. Universe, Elena Paulma and Noelle Leslie dela Cruz, my co-katsubongs, were suddenly a no-show), off we went to the seaside resto. Joel Toledo and Douglas Candano, as expected, we’re already in the company of Mickey.

Alumni kept on trickling that night. Like how the 47th met the 48th met the 49th. Missing in the link, surprisingly of all the batches, was the 50th. And then I knew they hadn’t attended one Reggae Night in their three-week stay in Negros Oriental. Back flip here. Of course, it was not as crucial as, let’s say, reading the next day’s short stories and poems, but on this particular night they missed Ricci Guevara’s dancing to the rhythmic percussions of a band. Just saying.

The sense of reunion was finally settling in the city. Some things were lost and some people were introduced. And I received some good news. The day was not entirely awful.

(sixth of eight parts)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |