Monday, February 19, 2018

balut beer ug balak 2018 : the heart is in the words

February is practically baptized by many as the Love Month. But last February 11 at the CPG Heritage House Open Grounds, the evening professed a different kind of love that goes beyond flowers, chocolates, and candlelit dinners.

In celebration of this year’s National Arts Month, Kaliwat ni Karyapa (KaKa) Writers Collective, with the support of the Center for Culture and Arts Development (CCAD) and the Office of the Governor of the Province of Bohol, opened the seventh iteration of Balut Beer ug Balak (which is concisely hashtagged on social media as #BBB2018).

Lutgardo "Gardy" Labad introduces Kontra-GaPi and Kasing Sining

What started as a struggle to get the literary arts recognized in the province’s many festivities is now an event that justly merits the praise and attention it received last Sunday night. Back in the old days, there was significant support for all forms of Boholano art—except for the literary. There were budget and regular gatherings for music, dance, painting exhibitions! Unfortunately, there was none whatsoever for poetry and other writing affairs. If there was one, only little was heard of it, the fanfare muted like a cold grave shrug.

Kontra-GaPi dazzles the audience with a rallying ethnic music (source: CCAD)

As a rebellion and as a need to balance the field, considering that our nation has a writer hordes cherish as their national hero (Jose Rizal) and once had a prolific Boholano writer-lawyer as a president (Carlos P. Garcia), like-minded individuals united and pushed for an activity that celebrated the letters. They put emphasis on poetry, our very own balak, because it does not only encapsulate the yearnings of the Boholano heart but also humanity’s soul. KaKa, the writers collective whose rich history demands a separate article, was at the forefront of this endeavor.

Theater arts group Kasing Sining performs an excerpt of the musical 'Dagon sa Hoyohoy' (source: CCAD)

So for Sandugo 2004, the balak was brought to the public space. Since it was first held at the formerly scenic city pier, a combination of balut and a glass of beer was unanimously deemed the most felicitous reward for (non-minor) readers and performers. No pressure from anyone to present; it was simply done for the joy of this groundbreaking occasion.

An obligatory photo of me trying to drive home the message while presenting my piece

Thus, Balut Beer ug Balak was born. The singular dream to have Bohol’s varied literary voices heard is now a reality. For its latest appearance, BBB has even become more than its namesake. With Lutgardo Labad’s considerable generosity, the event last Sunday was graced by UP Diliman’s Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (or better known as Kontra-GaPi), and our very own theater arts group, Kasing Sining, who presented an excerpt of the Boholano musical folk-epic Dagon sa Hoyohoy.

Becky Demetillo-Abraham of Inang Laya performs with Butch de Juan

And like most events, BBB was not spared of how things could never go as planned. It was unanticipated, the number of mambabalak and volunteer readers was high, and the programme lasted longer than it should be. There were several presenters who read their original works that touched on emotions that may be too big for them to grasp, like young singers straining for the celestial notes, while some disconcertingly tackled delicate issues with humor, which could have been handled with more sensitivity and thought, especially for impressionable minds. It’s a common misconception that spoken word poetry must always traverse the territory of crass and shock.

Some of the guests, performers, and readers of BBB 2018 (source: CCAD)

But in the end, creativity requires influence, and an occasion such as Balut Beer ug Balak provided the perfect avenue for this much-needed enlightenment, as seafarers to a fortified parola. We are each other’s guides. Possibly and hopefully, in its next iterations, BBB could be not only a regular gathering to celebrate the literary arts but also as an occasion for everyone to better map the landscape of our current realities and to better maneuver the terrains of the Boholano imagination and emotion.

See you next time!

Because poetry is confirmation. It sparks in you what you knew all along. It is the language of the heart and the soul and their attendant nuances—love and rage, celebration and loss, resistance and surrender—and all this makes the entirety of literature even more transcendent, beautiful.

[ the article is previously published in The Bohol Chronicle, 18 February 2018 ]

Friday, February 16, 2018


Just got wonderful news. Three of my works—“Paulit-ulit”, “Paano Maglakbay Papuntang Kalawakan at Iwasang Bumalik”, and “Mula Enero”—are published in the collection of dagli or flash fiction, Saanman: Mga Kuwento Mula sa Biyahe, Bagahe, at Balikbayan Box, edited by Jack Alvarez. I hardly write in Filipino, and these three pieces are just a result of exorcising the demons of a tumultuous 2012-2013, so this is a real surprise. Well, this is a great way of greeting the last few days of our country’s National Arts Month.

A copy of the book can be purchased via the following links below:


Thursday, February 08, 2018

new poem up in quarterly literary review singapore

My poem “Habits” is published in the latest issue of Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, along with works by fellow Filipino authors such as Rodrigo Dela Peña Jr., who is one of the contemporary poets I look up to.

Early lines of this piece first came up in 2012, and through the years the poem took several phases of (re)formations. I dedicate this poem particularly to Lyde, Marianne, and Mars for being with me that one August night.

Okay, thank you for your time. You can check out the poems through the link here.