Saturday, January 24, 2015

call for submission of manuscripts to the 54th silliman university national writers workshop

Ladies and gentlemen of the written word, it’s time to bring those works out for grinding. Only when needed, of course. And it would be worth your time, I can assure you. There will be grinding, yes, in more ways than one.

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 54th National Writers Workshop to be held 11—29 May 2015 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village.

This Writers Workshop is offering twelve 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 in English on or before 9 February 2015. 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.

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, or ONE-ACT DRAMA) 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 official application form, a notarized certification of originality of works, and at least one 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 Department of English and Literature, attention Prof. Ian Rosales Casocot, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.


Last January 14, the Philippines has once again experienced a shot of spiritual high in the form of Pope Francis’ visit just a few days after that frenzy in Quiapo, Manila.

Whether the very warm welcome is a sign of the people’s holiness reaching record-breaking status or simply a typical response of a celebrity-crazed nation (i.e. bringing back to office a plunderer and former action star, making a congressman out of a boxing sensation), the Pope’s short stay has made an impression.

What an impression, indeed. Ever since his inauguration, news all over the world proclaimed him as a great breath of fresh air, a very dynamic, progressive man of faith. Approachable, humble, and bearing a selfie-ready smile for Instagram, the latest Pope can easily bring one’s heart a-flutter.

But in what would be the most head-scratching statement I have heard in this time and age, the Pope said in one of his speeches during his stay in our country, “The Lord will never let you down. Let us move forward, always forward.”

Head-scratching because of this: How?

How can we ever move forward if the very institution the Pope resides in power—an institution millions of Catholics across the globe proudly hold high above anything else like a badge of honor—remains in a very un-progressive and staggeringly un-forwarding stand on the most pressing issues of the world: HIV and AIDS, unbiased opportunity for women to serve as priests, family planning and contraceptives, unsolved charges on pedophilia within the enclaves of their own churches, and anything that connects to the LGBT community like, you know, equality and human rights.

These are just a few of the realities he has been fence-sitting on if not avoiding altogether.

On June 2013, about an interviewer’s question regarding homosexuals going to church, he gave a statement that made international headlines, and probably the conception of him being the beacon of change: “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” Of course, people ate it up, threw confetti, or opened a bottle of champagne. But here’s the catch: he actually didn’t say anything about supporting gay rights or accepting the community.

He has mastered the art of ambivalence. As a man who reads Borges, Dostoyevsky, and other great literary writers, he knows what to say. He knows his words.

Also, the Pope is backed up by a target-oriented, well-oiled PR machine. You know PR, right? It is the same machine that creates plans and maneuverings on how to market chocolates to children, whey protein to gym-goers, or a toolbox to stay-at-home dads.

As for Pope Francis, his chief PR is Greg Burke, a 53-year-old former correspondent of Fox News, a channel known to be racist, sexist and anything that insults the intelligence. There is no denying that Burke’s job as the Senior Communications Adviser to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State (yup, that’s his official job title) is a success. He made a media darling out of a pope.

That is why it is beyond me that people still fall for labels “progressive” and “a new hope” and so strongly attach them to a man in robes when clearly nothing concrete has ever changed.

Lastly, this is what’s been bothering me. Upon the Pope’s arrival, the story of children crying at the sight of him stepping out of the plane has been repeated many times over on television, radio, and the internet, putting every possible spiritual spin on it. But is it wrong to consider that these children, perhaps just a few percent of them, fall into fits of tears because, even in the presence of such a powerful and authoritative figure, the Pope cannot actually do anything to eradicate the ills of the world like the scheming and corrupt government officials who kissed the ring on his finger or generally the oppressive society they currently belong? Just asking.

I shared a few thoughts to a friend, and he told me, “Just leave him alone. He’s not doing anything to you.” Exactly, my friend. He has not done anything. It makes me want to cry.

Friday, January 09, 2015

ethics #003

Earlier today, an estimated 5 million Filipinos flocked to Quiapo, Manila to join the largest procession in the Philippines to celebrate the 408th anniversary of the Black Nazarene. In the process of this “tradition,” a man died. Also, there was a lot of screaming, cursing, pushing, shoving, and trampling on fellow human beings to get to a cross. Nothing can be more ironic than this spectacle.

On this side it looked like a tradition that had overstayed its welcome. Believe it or not, some traditions better cease to exist than being practiced. In Indonesia, it is a tradition for a particular tribe’s women to cut a segment of their fingers when their relative dies. In the Faroe Islands, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, it is a tradition to slaughter hundreds of whales that could make an entire sea dark with blood.

Traditions can be subjective, especially if it has faith in its core. With our very own procession, as we witness the death, the injuries, and the wanton hurling of trash in the streets rise in numbers through the years, wouldn’t these go against the values of what is holy and divine? What happened to purity, discipline, and cleanliness?

Faith is a sensitive matter and a very tricky one, too.

There’s a father who insists on his wife and kids to go to church, but once inside he wouldn’t last 30 minutes through the service and leave. There’s a woman who preaches the teachings of the bible but remains bigoted and disapproving of what she deems not normal. There’s also a gay man who is partnered yet secretly frequents the cruising spots in town, pays for “service” with strangers, and by Sunday he would kneel down and pray, feeling all the promiscuity washed away with just the sign of the cross, saying he simply embraces who he is and all acts done are part of the process of accepting his true sexuality.

These are not made up. I know these people personally. It seems that faith can be bent at will, a switch that can be turned off when wanted. And it looks like some has an ambiguous idea of it—or have no idea at all. Featured in the news earlier, droves of people are in the middle of the procession like they’re ready for a rave party, expecting some sort of revelry.

Multi-awarded writer Nicolas Pichay shared to me on Facebook: “Our family are devotees of the Poong Nazareno. When I was younger, the procession was never anarchic. It had an internal order that valued solemnity and sacrifice. It is sad that the participants have forgotten this through the years.”

Truly, the essence of the procession has been relegated to the sidelines in favor of loud festivity, meticulous ceremonies, and head counts of attending celebrities. I am no saint, I have my errors. More so, I believe in the power of one’s faith. But at the end of the day, one has to ask: Does it have to be that way?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

to be resolved

I am bad at resolutions. I believe no one’s good at it—at all—yet every start of the New Year it is full of it. A friend once mentioned he is just glad to have a universally approved day wherein anyone can start all over again. It sounded familiar. I had my reset early last year, and so far, things are rolling just fine. So in 2015, I’m giving these resolutions another shot just to keep me posted on my degree of procrastination and what needs to be done, what needs to be resolved. (This list won’t be absolute though and would change time to time without prior notice).

  • Exercise at least 3x a week (I am busy).
  • Go back to jogging and rehabilitation of my feet.
  • Be more wary of what I eat (Read: limit my intake of chocolates).
  • Continue to minimize intake of alcohol (I actually had neither beer nor rhum in the past six months).
  • Not drink soda (but I need my iced tea and pineapple juice).
  • Visit the doctor regularly.
  • Read at least one book each month.
  • Finish a painting each quarter of the year.
  • Immediately fold the laundry once it is all dry.
  • Learn how to drive a car (I can drive but not in the streets yet—but soon I have to). 
  • Not miss a night using the toner and the moisturizer before bed.
  • Not miss a week exfoliating (I have reached a certain age, thank you).
  • Not spend too much on something that is not urgently needed.
  • Remind myself that not all people is worthy of my time and kindness.
  • Remind myself that I don’t have to feel that way when I feel down.
  • Be good at this new endeavor and then be better. 
  • Do my best on whatever I’d be doing.
  • Discover and listen to old music I have never heard.
  • Wear shades even when the sun’s not out (too much squinting brings out the crow’s feet early).
  • Not post any negative entries on Facebook (I save them for Twitter, my thought-dump).
  • Not raise my voice that often (Sometimes I do need to make a point).
  • Send postcards to friends.
  • Write at least one draft of poetry and finish another one in a month.
  • Write at least a draft of fiction each quarter of the year (I am making it realistic).
  • Write at least one entry in the journal each day no matter how mundane (“I had hotdogs for dinner”), random (“I made a paper boat”), and pointless (“Is it just me or are all the gays I know starting to have the same gay haircut?”) it is to someone with a better journal entry.
  • Keep this blog updated and somehow relevant (because in the last two years this blog was a ghost town).
  • Clean and dust the shoes every other week.
  • Be content more often.
  • Be more grateful that I still know how to keep still and appreciate the silence.
  • Be more honest.
  • Be more careful with my things and with my heart (figuratively and literally).
  • Cherish the people who truly matter.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

a matter of choice: the year 2014 in review

After New Year’s Eve, we always look back and survey the time that has passed, be thankful for having been through the last 365 days even if it is not an entirely smooth ride. Especially for us.

There was a doctor’s recommendation for the operation on my feet that would cost almost a hundred thousand for each foot, an introduction to cancer, a distancing of relationships that continued to stretch further as the days go by, a death in the family, a reappearance of people whose names alone make you sick to the stomach, an instance of flooding in the house that happened twice in a month, and much more that are still difficult to fathom.

It is a heavy way to start a year in review, yes, but this is to underline the sharp pinpricks of light in the darkness, the bits and pieces that remind us about the good: A decision to venture on a path I never knew I could do, a second chance in life during that trip to Sagada last February (I should be on that Florida bus that fell off a cliff and killed numerous lives, including local celebrity Tado, when I changed my mind at the last minute and took a van-for-hire instead), a recognition of a handful of people you can trust and hold on to, an epiphany on the need to burn bridges that go nowhere, a time to be healthy and fit (no alcohol in the last six months, hurrah), a return to the appreciation and creation of art and the occasional literature, a oneness of siblings despite the distances, a mother who makes this lifetime more beautiful and bearable, and a whole lot of blessings in different forms and interpretations.

Indeed, 2014 brought a sense of clarity like no other year has ever revealed: That every act has its place in the order of things, that one’s idea of right and wrong is as unique and different to another, and that one has to get up from where one has fallen with humility as immense as a prayer.

There’s always the distinction between what’s necessary and what’s not, and it is an imperative to recognize this at the soonest time possible. In short, all’s a matter of choice. People hurt you? It’s their choice. People are happy? It’s their choice. People love you? It’s their choice. And it is your choice to respond to their responses in a way that does not demean you but exalts you, makes you stronger and respected no matter how clichéd it goes. Remember, you are not born to harm or to be maltreated.

There are details though from both distant and not too distant past that jolt you up in an ordinary day, but one must keep calm. Especially when it comes to love and its intricacies. What I know from knowledge and wisdom is that it tends to bring remembrances, sinking the anchor that is nostalgia and rekindling what has been and what could be. That is why love can be painful; at times it drags along or clings to the past. If, and only if, that love has always and ever been true.

Though it takes dedicated will, one can break free from the shackles of this very subjective norm.

Last December, while cleaning up the mess in the basement caused by the first episode of flooding, I found a watercolor and ink illustration on board under heaps of paper and rubbish. Based on a note posted at the back, I apparently made it for a project in Physics under a Mrs. Pizzaras last September 26, 2004. That’s exactly a decade ago, when I was once an idealistic, overly optimistic and ambitious 16-year old.

Funny how such mementos could creep up on you at the most unexpected time, bringing you to how things have changed but not entirely so. I kept that high school Physics project, and from that moment I reminded myself once more it’s the good that ought to be remembered.

So this 2015, what I can wish for anyone is to be content even with the littlest of things, to be more honest, kinder, and happier not only for others but for one’s self, and ultimately to wake up each morning and say, “This day’s going to be good.”

To family, friends, and loved ones who stayed, remained modest and truthful, thank you for sharing with us your time and comfort in that trying chapter of our lives. Let’s wake up to new beginnings each day. The sky is never the limit.