26 March 2006

oh ki-hwan's seon-mul (last present, 2001)

every now and then, australian tv uncovers a string of surprises. for instance, oh ki-hwan's debut film “last present” is on sbs (australia's multicultural broadcasting station) tonight. i had the pleasure of watching this korean film before, so i am watching it again. and i am not disappointed. yong-gi (lee jung-jae) is a struggling comedian trying to break into television. after losing their first baby, yong-gi appears suspicious of his wife, jung-yeon (lee young-ae). in time, he learns that jung-yeon has a terminal illness. yong-gi compromises himself professionally by taking in discomfited roles just to make ends meet. in particular, he needed money for jung-yeon’s herbal medicines. yong-gi also hires a couple of comic con men to track down jung-yeon's old school friends and a mysterious high-school love so she can meet them again before she dies (she gets to meet many of these old friends as the film progresses). but unknown to yong-gi, jung-yeon was preparing a “last present” for him. it turns out that yong-gi is jung-yeon’s mysterious first love.

a korean friend says that park jung-woo (the film’s screenwriter) wrote the script when his mother was dying from cancer. oh ki-hwan translates this experience by extracting committed performances from lee jung-jae and lee young-ae. lee young-ae is totally understated while appearing anemic and haggard. no hysterics here. quite impressively, she is deglamorized from her off-screen “crush ng bayan” persona. lee-jung-jae is equally magnificent. he renders simultaneous nuances of slapstick and heartbreak throughout the film. there is total cohesion between the lead performers, particularly in scenes where lee jung-ae’s character competes for tv’s king of comedy title. meanwhile, minimalist musical scoring enhances the narrative’s mood and color. the over-all effect is gripping. good intentions and genuine emotions run through. in the end, oh ki-hwan pulls it all together.

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seon-mul (last present, 2001)

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lee young-ae
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lee jung-jae

24 March 2006

furore in manila: rome jorge, krip yuson, piping dilat, chari lucero, joi barrios and jimmy abad on the philippine national artist awards

National Artist Awards: an intricate process
Rome Jorge
The Manila TImes, 04 July 2005

More than 50 nominees are vying for the National Artist Awards for 2006. The period for nominations ended January 31 this year. The joint secretariat of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has collated all the data provided by the nominating institutions. The validation phase started in May and is slated to end July.

Process

Under the law, the National Artist Awards is conferred every three years to honor Filipinos with outstanding contribution to arts and letters. The award comes with lifetime medical benefits, allowances and state honors. Budgetary and logistical constraints permit no more than five to seven awardees for each National Artist Awards year. The joint secretariat of the CCP and the NCCA oversee the selection process.

Nominations phase: Only legitimate and registered organizations furnishing board resolutions nominating their candidate are accepted. The nominating organizations carry the burden of providing information on the nominee. Currently these include audiovisual digital data. The participation of nominating organizations in the process ends here. The names of accepted nominees are not made public to avoid lobbying. The joint secretariat collates all the data provided by nominating organizations and turns them over to the researchers.

Special research group: The researchers are respected experts in the fields, peers of the nominees, who must encode, validate and reproduce the data that will be the basis for decisions in next stages in the selection process. In the validation phase, no candidate is stricken from the roster unless found to be a foreign citizen or convicted for a grievous crime.

Artists short-listed from the last National Artist Award are automatically included in the current nominees. Researchers and peers related to the nominees or holding office in the nominating organizations are not included. Researchers cannot be part of the First or Second Council of Peers, the next two succeeding steps in the nomination process.

First Council of Peers: Both Council of Peers are selected by raffle. As with researchers, any conflicts of interest are avoided. For the First Council, five peers are assigned to each art category. Currently, the categories are: dance, music, theater, visual arts, literature, film, architecture, broadcast arts and recently, historical literature. The peers chosen to adjudge nominees are interdisciplinary. National Artists automatically are members of the First Council of Peers. A quorum is necessary for any decision.

Second Council of Peers: These peers number three for each art category. For the Second Council, peers are assigned only to the art form for which they are noted. As the plenary council, their decision determines the short list of nominees to be given to the President for approval.

Presidential prerogative: The head of state has the final say on who becomes National Artist. In its history, there have never been any subtractions by the any president to the final list, only additions. Though a President’s popular mandate comes with no aesthetic qualification, NCCA Executive Director Cecilia Alvarez explains: “that is her right as Head of State. She signs it.” It will be Alvarez’s first time to conduct a National Artist Award. The executive director enjoys a prodigious record of pioneering work in theater, international recognition as well as a role in antidictatorship efforts.

Criteria

Living artists who have been Filipino citizens for the last 10 years and those who died after 1972 who were citizens at the time of their death.

Artists who fostered nationhood with their art.

Pioneers in creative expression and style who influenced succeeding artists.

Artists with a substantial body of work and who continue to contribute artwork.

Artists who have garnered local and international recognition, prestigious awards, critical acclaim and respect from peers.

The Gawad ng Manlilikha, a parallel award, honors indigenous artists and boasts equal importance and benefits. Indigenous arts are often community-based with religious and practical applications; often they are not arts for arts sake, do not easily fall under Western categories, are poorly documented and escape popular recognition. Instead they are adjudged by a criteria determined by their own sociocultural context.

“The National Artist Awards encourages continued output from artists,” Alvarez explains. She also notes that age can be a factor in the selection process. “We prefer not to give posthumous awards,” she confesses. “The awards need to give timely acknowledgement.”

Ideally, ideology and partisanship should play no part in the selection process. However, National Artist Nick Joaquin, a vehement critic of Marcos dictatorship, accepted his award from the regime only so as to win the freedom of incarcerated fellow writer Pete Lacaba.

History

Proclamation 1001 dated April 27, 1972, created the awards. The first award was conferred to the classicist painter Fernando Amorsolo posthumously. Many of the modernists Amorsolo vigorously opposed in life, the likes of Victorio Edades and Vicente Manansala, are also National Artists in the Visual Arts category. Levi Celerio was nominated three times before finally being accepted in 1997. All the benefits due national artists are being given, save those for the late Ishmael Bernal, whose beneficiaries have yet to be determined by a court of law. With the inclusion of Carlos Quirino in the roster of National Artists, a new category of Historical Literature was created and which he now shares with no other.

Though there are those who criticize the process, Alvarez observes: “In situations like these there are always those who will damn it.” Some of the criticisms expose elitist prejudices against popular art. Other criticisms are rooted in partisan politics, misgivings about presidential prerogative and selection procedures. But the law lays out the process.
****
Nationalist Artist awards, anyone?
KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson
The Philippine STAR 03/20/2006

Three years ago, a day after initial deliberations were conducted for the National Artist awards eventually given out in June of 2003, UP's university professor emeritus, the distinguished poet-critic-mentor Dr. Gémino H. Abad, wrote a letter to the NCCA's then executive director Mafin Yonzon and CCP president Nes Jardin.

Dr. Abad offered his observations on the conduct of the deliberation, lamenting that not much time was given the Committee on Peers, headed by him, to review the comparative merits of the nominees for Literature.
The letter was dated March 6, 2003, a day after the first-level
deliberations:

"It was only on March 4 that I knew who the nominees were – Virgilio Almario, Cirilo F. Bautista, Jose Asia Bragado, Juan Hidalgo, Magdalena Gonzaga Jalandoni, and Alejandro Roces; and on the day itself, during the course of our deliberations, another 'sector' (the Multi-disciplinary) was authorized to pass to our Literature 'sector' two other names, Bienvenido Lumbera and Bienvenido M. Noriega, Jr.

"The actual deliberations started about 10 a.m., so that we were to consider eight nominees within about two to two-and-a-half hours. Our anguish then was for lack of time, for so serious an Award, for so great an honor, as the title of National Artist on the sole ground of a nominee's inimitable achievement in art as a rich and distinctive contribution to our national cultural heritage. Ironically, for lesser honors (though without doubt they are also very significant) – the Magsaysay Award, the Palanca, even the Free Press – so much more time for the judges is expended."

He suggested giving the NCCA's research group better lead time to accomplish their task, especially with regards regional writers, and perhaps allowing the Council of Peers at least three months to conduct their review and deliberation.

Of course, Dr. Abad commented, he was all too aware of the so-called "budgetary constraints" – which to this writer must constitute the most tricky element in the choice of National Artists every two or three years.

Particularly telling, too, as part of Dr. Abad's post-mortem – and which I will hark back to in my own observations about the way this delicate matter is handled – is the following:

"… The documents provided us on each nominee are very helpful indeed, but they are not sufficient for the very day itself: we need to have thought out the matter long enough, consulting with other scholars, reading or re-reading the works of the nominees, reconsidering views and opinions, etc., way before the meeting where a decision has to be made.

"Speaking only for myself – if I had known beforehand, and were given sufficient time – I believe I could have made a much stronger case for Cirilo F. Bautista than the write-up prepared for him in our collection of documents. I must have been chosen, I suppose, as an 'expert' on Filipino poetry in English.

"I believe of course that Virgilio Almario deserves the highest honor of National Artist; but I also feel that, in his own place in our literature in English – which is not comparable with the course of our literature in Tagalog – Cirilo Bautista cannot be justly displaced."

Now here's my rhetoric and my beef, born of credible rumors to the effect that several weeks ago a differently composed Council of Peers had met to deliberate over the new set of nominees, and chosen a couple of names for Literature that would then advance to the second level of deliberations (which in turn had a regrettable end result). Well, to begin with, as for that new set of nominees, it seemed more like "same-same."
As reported by the usual birdies, the front-runners were Cirilo Bautista and Bienvenido Lumbera. National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo, who joined that council deliberation, made a strong case for Bautista. It was also pointed out by some members of that seven-to-eight-man group that Bautista was the compleat creative writer. Epic poetry, short fiction in English, a novel and a book of poems in Filipino, and continuing works of criticism and journalism – these are Cirilo's domain. For his part, Lumbera's more significant work was in the field of literary scholarship and criticism.

The Council of Peers agreed to select these two names from the nominees' list to advance to the second round, the deliberations in which would be conducted by committee officers of the NCCA. Bautista would be representative of the Literature nominees for creative writing, while Lumbera would advance on the strength of his literary criticism.

Now guess who was knocked off in that second round of deliberations, and whose name as finalist will now be presented – and "lawyered" for – in the third and final round of deliberations conducted by the CCP board members as well as a few NCCA reps?

Cirilo Bautista is a long-time friend of mine, and Jimmy Abad's. It is however NOT this terribly Pinoy factor that causes us much anguish over the choice of Bien Lumbera as the Literature finalist. I have much respect for Bien, and with little doubt he qualifies as a prospective National Artist for Literature. Candidly, however, I must say that I find his criticism unfairly biased for Filipino and regional writers; he has practically dismissed the works of writers in English. I suppose that's because he likes to be seen as, or is in effect seen as, a "nationalist."

By the by, not a few writers in English in UP and beyond have asked jocosely of one another, over bottles of beer: "Name me one particularly memorable work of literature Lumbera has penned." These same beer house rhetoricians also predict that it is the "extreme Left" that will be overjoyed by their champion's ascension as National Artist. The communist candidate, it has been said rather bitchily.

Now I do not wish this to be construed as an attack on Bien Lumbera. Even as I could only smile over his backers' well-organized efforts at lobbying endorsement in the months leading up to NA deliberations, inclusive of testimonials from California Fil-Am groups and comprehensive Internet postings, I believe Bien has indeed done significant work for Filipino literature. Er, make that Philippine literature.

The least I could have bargained for, if someone cared to listen during those two rounds of deliberations, was that both Bautista and Lumbera were advanced as finalists for the ultimate reckoning. And, why, both could also be declared National Artists in Literature on the same year.

But I suppose that's where "budgetary constraints" come into the picture – that same variable that would have a committee deciding on the inclusion of departed nominees because the cash involved in the case of posthumous awardees is significantly less.

If it were to be an absolute one-person choice however between Bautista and Lumbera, I say give the creative writer the better due, as the scholar, researcher and critic is necessarily a second-tier citizen in the republic of arts and letters.

It may be too late, however, to repair the damage done the literary persona of the eminent creative writer Cirilo Bautista, one charge against whom, I hear from my usual intelligence sources, during the NCCA second-level review was that his "reclusivity was a mark of selfishness."

My eye! My word!

It does not matter that Bautista prefers to cocoon himself in his room at home to work on his outstanding poetry and prose, rather than waste his time socializing at book launchings, or that he only occasionally indulges in a little beer with close writer-friends. He has been selfless in mentoring generations of students at De La Salle and UST and at writers' workshops. His literary editorship of and column in Philippine Panorama magazine has for long years contributed to the molding of young poets and writers. He is the compleat writer, not merely (sorry, everyone) an epiphyte of a critic.

But that's how the ball bounces, especially when humans can only be human, subject to possible manipulation. I suppose that since my stalwart friend Virgilio Almario was anointed National Artist for Literature in 2003 (on the strength of his poetry in Filipino AND criticism, and conceivably not because scholar-critic Resil Mojares plugged for his scholarship on Filipino literature), a trend has been established, with Bien Lumbera's succession, that may keep our creative writers in English at bay where the National Artist for Literature is concerned.

I am sure that "Mom" Edith Tiempo, herself a notable critic, but whose poetry and fiction will be more of her inspiring legacy, will be saddened by this turn of events. And I can't help but imagine how Franz Arcellana, NVM Gonzalez and Nick Joaquin – our previous National Artists in Literature, all of them supremely creative writers in English – may be pshaw-pshawing in their graves.

Maybe we can start calling it the Nationalist Artist awards. That should be just as good a novel term as what's been bandied about as the "DNA" or Dagdag National Artist. I hear this year Soc Rodrigo might posthumously lay claim to that sorry title. Alas and alack. A pity, for Soc was a poet.

****

To Filipino Artists and Cultural Workers
Piping Dilat
This March 2006, the joint boards of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) shall make the final selection for the 2006 Order of National Artists. The body, including living National Artists, shall choose from the list recommended by a Second Deliberation Panel last February.

Recently, disinformation concerning the results of the deliberations has been coming out in sms, email and even newspaper columns. At the very least, this disinformation has been causing needless confusion, speculation and dismay. In the interest of transparency and accountability yet without breaking the complete confidentiality of the process, this letter hopes to inform the whole community of Filipino artists and cultural workers about HOW the National Artists are actually chosen, WHO are making the choices, and more importantly, WHO are the artists to be finally recommended to the President of the Republic of the Philippines "for confirmation, proclamation and conferral."
Transparency in the process and accountability of the individuals responsible for the selection are indeed necessary in establishing the integrity of the awards. Thus, it must be noted that a National Artist is chosen either through the nomination and selection process set forth by the NCCA and CCP or by the exercise of Presidential prerogative. This discretion is said to be legal and within the provisions of Proclamation No. 1001 (dated April 12, 1972 and signed by then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos) creating the National Artist Award.

FIRST DELIBERATION
The first deliberation was held in January this year. Around 100 artists and cultural workers (now called Council of Experts, not Council of Peers as in 2003) met to decide on the first shortlist from more than a hundred or so names nominated to or listed by (not nominated but included after diligent review) the National Artists Awards Secretariat.

Some 100 nominees were presented: 5 in Dance, 14 in Music, 8 in Theater, 16 in Film, 4 in Broadcast Arts, 26 in Visual Arts, 19 in Literature, 5 in Architecture and Allied Arts, and 4 in Fashion Design.

*DANCE*: Paz Cielo Belmonte, Eddie Elejar, Corazon Inigo, Ramon Obusan, Alice Reyes *MUSIC:* Fides Cuyugan Asencio, Alfredo Buenaventura, George Canseco, Ryan Cayabyab, Josefino Cenizal, Ernestina Crisologo, Octavio Cruz, Constancio de Guzman, Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, S.J., Gilopez Kabayao, Sylvia La Torre, Basilio Manalo, Eliseo Pajaro, Ramon Santos *THEATER:* Zeneida Amador, Amelia Lapena Bonifacio, Rustica Carpio, Romarico Cruz, Katy dela Cruz, Anthony Juan, Antonio Mabesa, Naty Crame Rogers *FILM:* Nora Aunor, Manuel Conde, Rogelio dela Rosa, Mike de Leon, Dolphy (Rodolfo Quizon), Peque Gallaga, Eddie Garcia, Rita Gomez, Fernando Poe Jr., Lolita Rodriguez, Gloria Romero, Carmen Rosales, Leopoldo Salcedo, Vilma Santos, Vic Silayan, Charito Solis BROADCAST ARTS: Cecilia Lazaro, Nick Lizaso, Dely Magpayo, Francisco Trinidad *VISUAL ARTS*: Pacita Abad, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Glenn Bautista, Dick Baldovino, Rosario Bitanga, Santiago Bose, Ben Cabrera, Alfredo Carmelo, Eduardo Castrillo, Roberto Chabet, Francisco Coching, Araceli Limcaco Dans, Abdulmari Asia Imao, Raul Isidro, Diosdado Lorenzo, Eduardo Masferre, Mauro Malang Santos, Onib Olmedo, Ramon Orlina, Cenon Rivera, Manuel Rodriguez, Simplicia Nena Saguil, Ricardo Trofeo, Romeo Vitug, Jaime Zobel *LITERATURE:* Cirilo Bautista, Antonio Realce Berango, Linda Ty Casper, Clodualdo del Mundo Sr., Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Lazaro Francisco, Juan S.P. Hidalgo, Jr., Lucila Hosillos, Magdalena Jalandoni, Bienvenido Lumbera, Genoveva Edroza Matute, Buenaventura Medina, Jr., Carmen Nakpil, Francisco "Soc" Rodrigo, Rogelio Sicat, Kerima Polotan Tuvera, Azucena Grajo Uranza, Rene Villanueva *ARCHITECTURE AND ALLIED ARTS*: Francisco Manosa, Felipe Mendoza, Felino Palafox, Ildefonso P. Santos Jr., Jose Maria Zaragoza *FASHION DESIGN *: Ben Farrales, Jose "Pitoy" Moreno, Joe Salazar, Ramon Valera
The experts (more or less ten in each group) met in groups to choose their candidates for the first short list. Then, the whole body convened and each group's representative announced their choice/s or non-choice.

Known to the more than a hundred or so people in the deliberation, those in the first short list are:
*Dance*
RAMON OBUSAN
*Music*
GEORGE CANSECO, RYAN CAYABYAB, ELISEO PAJARO, RAMON SANTOS
*Theater*
NATY CRAME ROGERS
*Film*
MANUEL CONDE, MIKE DE LEON, FERNANDO POE, JR.
*Broadcast Arts*
None
*Visual Arts*
BEN CABRERA, MAURO MALANG SANTOS
*Literature*
CIRILO BAUTISTA, BIENVENIDO LUMBERA
*Architecture and Allied Arts*
FELIPE MENDOZA, ILDEFONSO SANTOS, JR
* Fashion Design*
RAMON VALERA

SECOND DELIBERATION

The second deliberation was held in February. A representative of each group delivered a prepared presentation for each of the names in the short list (called by some people as "lawyering"), after which, the representatives of the group voting individually, trimmed down the list further to 8.

Unlike the first panel, second panel voted inter-category; one in which a representative from dance, for example, voted for the names in other categories.

Who are these 8 in the second shortlist? That this letter is not prepared to disclose. A lot of names have been mentioned, as previously stated, in sms, e-mail, and even in the press. The motives are not clear. Sourgraping? Red-baiting? Who knows? Some say the purpose is to preempt whatever decision the joint NCCA-CCP board will make when it meets this month to make the final decision: is it going to be all 8? 5? 6? Or none at all?

But what this letter is prepared to list down are the not-so-confidential names of those who will be choosing the names to be recommended to the president as the 2006 National Artists of the Philippines.

PEOPLE WHO WILL MAKE THE FINAL RECOMMENDATION

*NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR CULTURE AND THE ARTS (NCCA) *
AMBETH OCAMPO, chair
NHI JOSE CARLOS B. LACSON, House of Representatives JUAN FLAVIER, Senate FE HIDALGO, DECS MARIETTA CHOU, Records Management and Archives Office CORAZON ALVINA, National Museum PRUDENCIANA CRUZ, National Library NESTOR O. JARDIN, Cultural Center of the Philippines NITA P. BUENAOBRA, Komisyon sa Wika FELIPE DE LEON JR., private sector, arts CARLOS B. EBEO, private sector, cultural communities ALREDO G. GABOT, private sector, cultural dissemination ROSE BEATRIX C. ANGELES, private sector, cultural heritage CECILE GUIDOTE ALVAREZ, executive director

*CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES (CCP)*
EMILY ABRERA, chair
NESTON O. JARDIN, president BENJAMIN H. CERVANTES LORNA P. KAPUNAN JAIME C. LAYA MARTIN LOPEZ TERESITA O. LUZ RUPERTO S. NICDAO JR. ZENAIDA R. TANTOCO ISABEL CARO WILSON BALTAZAR N. ENDRIGA, ex officio BEL DERAYUNAN, corporate secretary

*LIVING NATIONAL ARTISTS*
LEONOR OROSA GOQUINCO, dance NAPOLEON ABUEVA, sculpture LUCRECIA KASILAG, music ARTURO LUZ, visual arts ANDREA VENERACION, music EDITH TIEMPO, literature DAISY HONTIVEROS AVELLANA, theater FRANCISCO SIONIL JOSE, literature VIRGILIO ALMARIO, literature SALVADOR BERNAL, theater design ALEJANDRO ROCES, literature EDDIE ROMEO, cinema

*PLEASE PASS TO FELLOW ARTISTS AND CULTURAL WORKERS!!!
Piping Dilat
Plaza de Buensuceso No. 5, 1o,
Barcelona, Espana

****
Why Beer House Rhetoricians Should Not Be in the Council of Peers for the National Artist Award

Rosario Cruz Lucero

First, let me share with Mr. Yuson and his ilk the wise words of two eminent British columnists:

Martin Amis: “Enjoying being insulting is a youthful corruption of power. Admittedly there are some critics who enjoy being insulting well into middle age. I have often wondered why this spectacle seems so undignified.”

Paul Johnson: “The most important point: Never exploit your power as a columnist for personal ends.”

Alfred Yuson, in his column Kripotkin (March 20 issue) impugns the artistic achievements of Bienvenido Lumbera by harping over and over again on the limited scope of Lumbera’s writing. A “second-tier citizen” he calls Lumbera, because he simply presumes that Lumbera is nothing but scholar, researcher and critic.


This only points to Mr. Yuson’s own semi-illiteracy and skewed ignorance about the whole field of Philippine literature. How can anyone putting himself forth as a spokesperson for Philippine literature be entirely ignorant of Lumbera’s primary position in the canon of Philippine culture and literature as playwright and poet? Much more can be said for Dr. Lumbera’s artistic, intellectual and inspiring influence in the whole field of Philippine literature, in the multiplicity of its cultures and languages.

As Yuson’s article continues, he descends into senseless vituperation, until he finally reveals his predilection for such simplistic equations as ‘nationalist equals communist’. We will leave it to Yuson’s fellow rhetoricians to take him to task for dragging them down into the slime of his own Philippine jungle energy beer house. I can only hope that when Mr. Yuson was composing his column, he was drowning in his cups sans their company.

To resolve the matter, I am proposing that he read a paper on the subject, or if he likes, even that very same column itself, for a Conference on the Philippine Literary Canon, in which everyone else engages in a fair exchange of educated and sober opinion.

Sincerely,

Rosario C. Lucero
Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas
Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura
University of the Philippines Diliman


****

So What's Wrong with being a Nationalist Artist?
Joi Barrios


Like all texts, there are many ways to read Alfred Yuson’s column Kripotkin published in the Philippine Star on 20 March 2006. Among them are:

1. He was merely sour-graping. He wanted Cirilo Bautista to get the National Artist award and Bautista got eliminated in the second round. I agree with Yuson. Bautista does deserve the award (I even think Gemino Abad deserves it as well!). However, to attack Lumbera because his candidate didn’t win is to be pikon. As we say, pikon talo! Yuson did Bautista a disservice.

2. Mr. Yuson fears that after Almario and Lumbera, “a trend has been established... that may keep our creative writers in English at bay where the National Artist for Literature is concerned.” I would like to remind Mr. Yuson that of the ten National Artists in Literature, only two (Amado V. Hernandez and Virgilio Almario) are writers in Filipino and only one is bilingual (Rolando Tinio). If anyone should be afraid of being marginalized, it should be the writers who write in the regional languages, not the writers in English.

3. Mr. Yuson is horrified that the National Artist Award could possibly go to a nationalist. I regret that at his age, Yuson still does not understand the meaning of the word “nationalism” nor the great tradition of nationalist writing espoused by both National Hero Jose Rizal and National Artist Amado V. Hernandez. One could even argue that the writings of Gonzalez, Joaquin, Tinio, and Almario are nationalist writings, because yes, even writers in English – surprise! surprise! – can be nationalists. If I were a mind-reader like Mr. Yuson, I could perhaps say that the writers he mentioned -- Franz Arcellana, Gonzalez, and Joaquin -- are turning in their graves not because they are “saddened by the turn of events” but because they will be the first to deny that their patriotism can be doubted. After all, they did spend their lives “ “promoting national cultural identity and the dignity of the Filipino people through the content and form of their works” -- one of the criteria for being named a national artist.

4. Mr. Yuson’s column should be read in the context of the political repression in the country. Five Representatives of Congress (Satur Ocampo, Liza Masa, Joel Virador, Teddy Casino and Paeng Mariano) are holed up at the Batasang Pambansa because they have arrest warrants; Representative Crispin Beltran, 73 years old, is in prison. Randy David, Risa Hontiveros, and Dinky Soliman have all been arrested for supposedly leading rallies. This past year, more than a hundred people have been summarily executed. Indeed, to be perceived to be “leftist,” is dangerous in the Philippines.

Mr. Yuson has irresponsibly called Dr. Lumbera “the communist candidate,” making him an open target for the likes of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who was decorated yesterday for his “anti-left executions.” I am therefore holding Mr. Yuson responsible for whatever may happen to Dr. Lumbera.

In one of the other dailies, the headlines read: “Attacks on leftists mount.” Perhaps the column was not really about Bautista. Perhaps it was not really about the “marginalized” writers in English. Perhaps Mr. Yuson was simply revealing who his patrons are.

Sincerely yours,

Joi Barrios, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
College of Arts and Letters
University of the Philippines Diliman
****
National / Nationalist Artist Award
Gemino H. Abad
I’ve been mentioned in Alfred A. Yuson’s column and in Joi Barrios’response to it. I wish to contribute a thought on the matter.

All Filipino writers in whatever language are nationalists, unless it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that, following the definition of“nationalism” in the document on National Artist Awards, a writer does NOT “promote national cultural identity and the dignity of the Filipino peoplethrough the content and form of their works.” As Sir Walter Scott has sowell put it, “Breathes there the man with soul so dead, / Who never to himself hath said, / This is my own, my native land!” I believe that “nationalism” is what is meant by the word “National” in the title of theAwards.

Yet “nationalism,” as defined for the Awards, is hardly an artistic criterion. There are many nationalists who, not being writers or artists, cannot be given the Award. The key word is Artist. The Award then is to be conferred on the sole ground of a nominee’s inimitable achievement in Artas a rich and distinctive contribution to our national cultural heritage.

In that light, if by literature as Art we mean “literary works” or “works of imagination” (poetry, fiction, drama), I believe Cirilo F. Bautista fully deserves the National Artist Award in Literature. Since 1963 to the very present, he has wrought a considerable body of works in Literature, in English and in Tagalog-Filipino – epic and lyric poetry, the short story, the novel – all of exceptional worth and quality. I make no invidious comparisons. I only insist on Art and artistic merit.

Incidentally, I cannot see why, in a given year for the Awards, there may not be two or even three, National Artists in one or the other artistic field. On artistic merit alone is the decision based, not on budgetary allotment.

Gémino H. Abad
U.P. Department of English
March 22, 2006
****
A language for nationalism?
KRIPTOKIN by Alfred A. Yuson
Philippines Star, 3 April 2006
Of course friends called, texted, e-mailed their support. Some, not all,agreed with the points I raised in that column a fortnight ago. Most wereprivileged to read the pig Latin in my flak vest, so their offers of assistance stayed private. Some actually said: Hey, own up, you’re playing rope-a-dope, right?

Well... Okay, let’s be a tad bit serious. A lot of hackles have beenraised, for which I’m sorry. No intention there to raise the rage level on this planet. But I should have known better than to provoke a bit of a firestorm over “nationalism.” So here’s clarifying some points, in response to those raised.

A pity that poet Joi Barrios’ intended letter-to-the-editor didn’t see print. Not sure she did send it, but it got first play on the Internet. Basically, Joi took umbrage over my apparently reckless endangerment of Bien Lumbera’s person, given the recent crackdown on perceived enemies of the state.

I’d like to make this clear. I didn’t label Bien a communist. Even if he were, which I don’t know, nothing wrong there. It’s legal to be a commie in this country. In any case, I’m not into that sort of vintage labeling. What I more than inferred, and decried, was the “nationalist” posturing (being careful now to employ quotation marks, as an indication of both eyebrows raised) of his fan base.

The passages in my column that quoted what I’ve heard in beerhouses and then some (about “communist candidate” and nothing really memorable in his works, something like that) were meant to add some flavor of reportage. Oh yeah? What kind of reportage is that when it doesn’t identify the speakers? Tsismis reportage, that’s what. Hearsay, first hand. No need to reveal the identities of those from whose lips I heard those views, to which I must confess a level of tacit agreement on my part.

But Joi may have been in her rights to raise the alarm. As for“red-baiting,” no, I assured her by SMS, I’m not into that either. Just as I don’t have “patrons” whose desires or policies I could’ve been carrying out. Why, I don’t even dislike communists. What I didn’t text Joi was that I found them rather funny at best.

The Left, with its wide gamut of ideological predilections, I respect as a whole, albeit not entire. I told Joi that I’m with her and “them” when it comes to mounting any civil struggle against the “pang-gigiit” against Reps. Beltran, Ocampo and company.

Okey naman kami ni Joi matapos ng mahabang diyalogo sa selfon. Sa wari ko.She said I better clarify all of that. I agreed. So here it is: I wasn’t red-baiting — which would be an even funnier proposition than any perceived goals of the intended prey. And I’m not a Commie-hater, since hardly any gander gets up to ever replace bemusement.

As for the reported comments on Bien’s candidacy for the National Artist award, to relate these to any Commie witchhunt was a stretch, I thought.Maybe I’m not given to paranoia where I sit or stand. But if it alarms friends and colleagues alike, then I regret having included those remarks.

What I found admirable in Joi’s heartfelt communication, in private, washer loyalty to her mentor Bien, whose influence she acknowledges with great appreciation. In gist, she said she couldn’t allow anyone to attack Bien and get away with it.

Again, I assured her I hadn’t been on attack mode. It was her rejoinder that was “banat,” I said, before adding facetious remarks like “buti nalang banat na’ng mukha ko” — to which she replied something about “Botox.”And that’s how our SMS dialectics ended.
Next came a diatribe from Gary Devilles of Ateneo something or other, in very angry Filipino. I can’t comment on his protest over what I wrote on the National Artist awards, as I sense from his language that he’s so used to denounce anything in high dudgeon. Aba’y palengkero daw ako, eh siya yung nag-gagalaiti at halos makita na’ng tumiklop ang mga litid sa leeg.

Rosario “Chari” Lucero’s letter, published in this space last week, I can appreciate for its relative elegance and elements of humor, irony, sarcasm and hyperbole. The valid points raised are marred somewhat by academically liberal — in more ways than one — leaps of deconstruction. I never equated “nationalist” with “communist.” That inference she made on her own. Neither have I ever put myself “forth as a spokesperson for Philippine literature.” Maybe for beerhouses, even as I favor whisky.

I agree that Dr. Lumbera enjoys a “primary position” in “Philippine culture and literature.” Never mind the academic “canon”to the left and right of us. Her proposal to thresh out matters of literary evaluation in a conference would be welcome had it not betrayed unfair terms of engagement, as well an assumption that a rep from the lushlife can’t partake of an educated exchange.

Jonathan Chua was most civil, for which I am thankful. He too raised valid points that can be properly addressed, most soberly indeed. He credits Dr.Lumbera with having co-pioneered the “Bagay” poetry movement together with the multi-genre genius Rolando Tinio. All I know, in my semi-illiteracy,is that some lines of Tinio’s “Valedictory sa Hillcrest” are still recited from memory by lushes like myself. I’m sorry, but I can’t recall a single poem title by Bien. True, he still qualifies as an artist, because he has written exemplary librettos, some early poetry, and voluminous critical work.

I don’t dismiss all that. Bien deserves to be a National Artist all right, but for his art and not for his perceived “nationalism.” (More on this later.) What I maintain is that if the choice should be between Cirilo Bautista’s and Bienvenido Lumbera’s totality of artistic merits, the former would undoubtedly be more formidable. Bien has been a scholar-critic more than a literary artist. But his lifework and influence have also been formidable, for which he also deserves the highest award imaginable. And yet, to my mind, not over Cirilo. The problem, as I saw it, is that ideological accommodation played a part in the choice.
I would’ve been very surprised if Paolo Manalo hadn’t joined the Internet critics. This fellow has long had it in for me, for reasons we both know but which would be irrelevant to mention here. I just wish that as literary editor of Philippines Free Press, Manalo makes a better effort at ensuring that contributors receive their fees, for it is a more fundamental responsibility than writing precipitate poetics.


Reuel Aguila was right. I made dabog. Naiintindihan ko rin kung saan siya nanggagaling. Nirerespeto ko ang kanyang kakayahan at mga akda, at ang bunga ng kanyang batikos ay isa na rin sa aking pinagsisisihan. Hindi ko naman gustong makipag-away sa mga Filipinista. Dapat nga tayong magtulungan.

As expected, the most sophisticated and enlightening take on the brouhaha has been Adrian Cristobal’s. He intelligently takes me to task, but seems to exonerate me even before he engages in subtle excoriation. Whee! And I can only agree with his closure:

“We should judge writers by their works alone, lest we consider Ezra Pound and Carlos Bulosan to be bad writers because one was a fascist and the other a communist.

“That risk belongs to the philistine. May their tribe decrease!”

Others have joined the fray in strange ways, like e-mail-baiting in private and then sharing the exchange in public, while masking themselves with pseudo-addy-nyms. Oh, well. Blithe as blithe goes, to each his perverse pleasure. Now, for more provocation, possibly, owing to the sensitivity that has only led to token politeness, and, well, tokenism.

But let’s get “nationalism” out of the way muna. The reason I place that term within quotation marks is that I find the manner in which it is commonly claimed credit for as unbearably proprietary. The trouble with “nationalists” is that they love to proclaim themselves as such, as if everyone else who doesn’t cannot be a nationalist.

It’s become a matter of seething too much, denouncing too much, bearing too much of a humongous chip on the shoulder for too long, while taking too much credit for being the only lovers of country.

I agree with Jimmy Abad. (I hope his letter to the editor appears somewhere on this page.) There’s no monopoly on nationalism, which is not gauged by the language one uses or where one lives. I love our country for all its faults, our faults, and our own brand of occasional idiocy. But Id o not have to proclaim myself a “nationalist” to the exclusion of most everyone else. And I’m tired of having to walk on eggshells due to PC awareness of sensitivity.

Ma. Luisa Igloria, recent winner of the highly prestigious Stephen Dunn Award for Poetry, is no less of a nationalist for writing in English, let alone for choosing to teach literature out there in Virginia, USA. By the way, she competes in a much larger, more challenging arena. And yet she does us all proud with her Filipino poetry in English. Heck, make that poetry, period.

When Eric Gamalinda gets a story accepted by Harper’s, it’s an honor for all Filipinos, whether they write in Filipino, English, or Spanish. Heck, whether they write at all.

I am not advocating that we all write in English. I try to write in Filipino, but am better trained in English, as was most of my generation that grew up in Manila. Let us strengthen Filipino, and all other languages in our regions. Let us not however equate writing in Filipino (or Tagalog), or favoring the writing of Filipino (or Tagalog), with stronger or more authentic nationalism.

The demographics alone are against that sort of reckoning. We still have more Cebuano speakers. Ilocano writers write in Ilocano, Ilonggos in Ilonggo or Hiligaynon, Bicolanos in Bicolano. Sure, there are exceptions: a few Ilocanos, Ilonggos and Bicolanos write or also write in Filipino. But more of the same can and do write in English.

Contrary to doomsayers for English literary use at the height of the bilingualism debate of the ’70s, greater numbers of Filipino poets and writers are writing in English, I believe so much more than the increasing numbers of writers in Filipino. That’s because Filipinos outside theTagalog region have not yet reached any proficiency in Filipino. Someday it’ll happen, when the electronic media — radio, TV and film — manage to eventually improve that proficiency.

For now, there are hardly any venues for literature in Filipino. Hardly anyone even engages in travel writing in Filipino, or creative non-fiction in Filipino. Which is not saying that it’s an inferior language. It’s just younger than major literary languages of the world.

When a Filipino writes in English, he necessarily takes on a tougher challenge — that of participation in the continuing evolution of a language that has been used for centuries, by the likes of Chaucer and Shakespeare and Oliver Wendell Holmes and Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje.

When a Filipino writes in Filipino, yes, he is writing in the language of his blood, and yet — and this is no invidious comparison — he is upholding, enhancing and reinventing a much younger tradition that “only” goes back to Balagtas and Lazaro Francisco and Amado Hernandez andVirgilio Almario.

When Cirilo Bautista writes in English, he vies against the standards of excellence that continue to be set in that yet dynamic language. When Bienvenido Lumbera champions Filipino literature almost to the exclusion of the merits gained by Filipinos in literary English, I believe he does a bit of disservice to scholarship and criticism.

Three years ago, I formally argued for a National Artist award for Virgilio Almario because I believed in the total creative worth of his literature in Filipino. I even said it was high time another NA award went to a writer in Filipino, after Amado Hernandez. I would have argued the same for Dr. Lumbera, but not at the expense of Dr. Bautista.

Of course all this has been moot, even when I first wrote on the matter (which is why Reuel is right in saying na nagdabog lang si ako) — given the fact that Lumbera was already chosen as the sole finalist for Literature. Even as this is being written, he could well be on his way to gaining the award. I cannot begrudge him or any other writer or Lotto winner any prize.
On an aside, as I texted Jonathan, bigyan naman sana ko ng konsiderasyon na sa tanda kong ito, alam ko namang ang nakikitang pagbatikos ko kay Bien ay malamang na mag-garantiya na maging NA nga siya. Alam naman natin ang sikolohiyang bumabalot sa mga nagdedesisyon.
No claiming of any credit, however, in hindsight or with foresight. I just had to say what I believed in, maybe because I have the guts, or chutzpah, or moxie, or apog. Na magdabog.

But again, at the risk of offending sensibilities, even those of my ka-barkadang mga Filipinista, uulitin ko ang aking paniniwala na mas mahigpit pa rin ang hamon ng pagsusulat sa Ingles. Kayat ang dapat ay galingan pa ang pagsulat sa Filipino. Mas madaling mangyari ito kung ilalapag na lang muna ang bagahe ng ideolohiya.

Sa ganun ay dadami ang magsusulat ng mga kaakit-akit na kakaibang mgatula tulad ng mga gawa ni Freddie Salanga, Pete Lacaba, RayVi Sunico, Beni Santos at Allan Popa — na siyang mga aral din sa Ingles at nagamit ang kanilang natutunan dito. O mga akdang pang-awit tulad ng mga hinahangaan natin mula kina Heber Bartolome at Joey Ayala — at panibagong hinahangaan kong si Israfel Fagela ng sisikat na bandang Los Chupacabras.

To my calumnists, please understand that not everyone can have a regular newspaper column. Some of us are asked to fulfill the role. I try to popularize literature, mostly Philippine — more often those in English because there are more works in English. I am not a critic but a reviewer and a tsismoso. I also try to be light, which is why I dub someone like the young Angelo Suarez “the Kobe Bryant of Philippine Literature.” Sorry if I can’t similarly laud efforts to tack on to a topical-trendy term like “jologs” for perishable poetry.

I am so sorry to Bien and Shayne for the hurt I caused. Couldn’t help it; it couldn’t be helped.

Let me end with gravity and flippancy: two sides of the same coin of eloquence (ahem). “The language of nationalism is in the heart, while the art of literature is in the mastery of universal craft.” That is mine. “Thanks for the intellectual discussion. It’s always hard to defend a losing argument. But you did a decent job of it.” — From the Cleveland Cavaliers message boards, and which we’re all free to say to one another.
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national artist f. sionil jose
with cirilo f. bautista and bienvenido lumbera
****
First posted 03:39pm (Mla time) April 11, 2006
By Gil Cabacungan, Inquirer

BAGUIO CITY -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has conferred the title National Artist to her political opponent, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.
The President conferred the title last March 30 following the recommendation by the Joint Boards of the Commissioners of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Poe was conferred the title national artist for film.

Poe died of a stroke in December 2004 with his electoral protest questioning the proclamation of Arroyo still pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The protest was later thrown out by the PET due to Poe’s demise.

Malacañang also announced the conferment of the title of national artist to Bienvenido Lumbera for literature, Ramon Obusan for dance, Benedicto Cabrera for visual arts, Ildefonso Santos for architecture and Ramon Valera (posthumous) for fashion design.
Conferment ceremonies are scheduled for June 9 in Malacañang.
****
The National Artist Awards: Vetting the vetting process
KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson
Congratulations to our latest National Artists: Benedicto "Bencab" Cabrera for Painting; Abdulmari Imao for Sculpture; Bienvenido Lumbera for Literature; Fernando Poe Jr. for Film; Ramon Obusan for Dance; Ildefonso Santos for Architecture (Landscape); and Ramon Valera for Fashion Design.

Yes, that includes sincere kudos to Sir Bien, who certainly deserves the award. Albeit I still say, for the benefit of those who may have followed the teapot furor a couple of months ago when I first wrote about the 2006 National Artist Awards, that I’m not taking back much of what I said then.

Artists have to be congratulated without qualification, however, whenever they receive some accolade, as little else do they reap in these parlous times other than the personal satisfaction of fulfilling the creative urge.
I’ve said my piece, mostly with regards the deliberation process involving the Literature awardee. And I’m sticking to my view that the premier poet Cirilo F. Bautista should have ALSO gained the National Artist Award this year.

That’s only the first of my continuing "gripes" – if you want to call it that, besides "rant" and "sourgraping" kuno, the alleged predilection of columnists of my "ilk" – that is, if you engage in UP Diliman-speak. Honestly, I’d like to think of the following as valid observations and comments that may yet make it to the suggestion box for the improvement of the NAA selection process.

What are the questions that easily come to mind when one learns about this year’s awardees? What, none for Music?! Eighty-million-something musical, karaoke/videoke-crazy Filipinos, the soul bros of Asia, and not one deserves a National Artist Award this year?

Granted that Cecile Licad has an invalid passport, what about Ryan Cayabyab, whose versatility, effort, and quality and quantity of creative output have been unquestionable? Or Gilopez Kabayao, whose passion, commitment and individually-driven grassroots program have been legend for over a hundred years it seems? Why not him, not enough lobbyists? Or, say, Joey Ayala? Too young? Or Freddie Aguilar? Too long-haired, too prole, too much of a Hobbit House and folk bar performer, despite Anak, which was accepted as an anthem in Indonesia and Japan? Maybe he deserves the title of International Artist instead? What about the Bolipatas? Or, say, George Canseco and Willie Cruz, too commercial as songwriters? Shouldn’t a "classic" song like Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas instantly earn an NAA for its creator? What about the artistic composer Ramon Pagayon Santos? Or for a PoMo flavor, Joey "Pepe" Smith? Too late a comeback?

But isn’t it unbelievable that no NAA goes for Music when six others are given for fields that are less than sublime? Like Fashion Design? So what’s next, by 2010, an award for Hair Design? Bag Design? Furniture Design? Computer Software Design? Interior Décor?

And for Film Arts, is Fernando Poe Jr. really that qualified, as an artist? Wasn’t he, bless his soul, more of a one-dimensional actor, a dedicated producer, and a rather commercial director, albeit he did attain a craftsman’s high level? Or is it a politically-tinged (not tainted, ha?) consuelo de bobo token, posthumous pa man din? But is he deserving of an artist’s award for Film more than directors like Mike de Leon, Peque Gallaga, Kidlat Tahimik and Raymond Red, or consummate actors like Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon?

Why is Malang always snubbed for Painting? Di ba pwedeng sabay with Bencab? Was it because he made fun of the Awards in the past by saying he’s quite content being a National Book Store Artist? Aren’t we so loaded with genius on the visual arts front that two or three of our painters and sculptors ought to be elevated to this national distinction every time the opportunity comes? So that soon we can also honor non-establishment artists like Danny Dalena and Chabet and Pandy Aviado? Or our first-rate sculptors like Ed Castrillo, Ramon Orlina and Impy Pilapil? Have they been too financially successful for their own good?

If the selection process served its purpose in an entirely proper manner, would we have, year after year, the still questionable fillip of having a "DNA" (Dagdag National Artist) proclaimed by solo presidential fiat? Or shouldn’t Abdulmari Imao have been considered seriously in the first place, and not just because he comes from Muslim Mindanao?

Why no award for Theater Arts either? Wasn’t Bibot Amador, bless her soul, perfectly qualified? Was it because she did too much of Broadway musicals? But wasn’t that theater, too? When Cecile Guidote Alvarez steps down as NCCA executive director, shouldn’t she be in the running herself, despite all those years in exile when she engaged in indie theater in New York, and did the Pinoy proud? Or should she have been here all that time?

Why the new category of Historical Literature? Shouldn’t that be part of Literature, plain and simple? Finally, must budgetary constraints even enter the picture at all?

Rhetorical rant na nga yata ito, excuse me. Okay, let’s try to be sober and academic about this. Granted, the previous NCCA leadership tandem of Dr. Jaime Laya as chair and Virgilio Almario (himself an NA now) as executive director helped lay the basis for a more competent nomination, deliberation and selection process than existed before. But undoubtedly, this process can still be improved.

Now that the awards are to be given at a regular three-year cycle, instead of two as earlier recommended, it gives the NCCA more time to undertake a thorough conduct of accepting and vetting nominations. And yet, there is something iffy about the nomination process itself. Lobby groups and/or determined artists can mount a campaign that easily translates into an often mis-perceived momentum. Helped along by agency insiders and cliques, faux momentum can build up and establish a nominee as a sure bet, even before the deliberations.

The NCCA may well look into the possibility of having its research committee actually complement the submitted nominations by including names of shy/modest artists after it has interviewed living National Artists and artists’ organizations in every field. This way – speaking only of Literature – the likes of Greg Brillantes, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Ophie Dimalanta and Jimmy Abad can get into the running. Otherwise, they’re consigned to the dustbin that collects the not-seeking-the-award types, who will merely inherit the earth.

The first-level deliberations among a six-or-seven-man group, formerly labeled as a Council of Peers, is fine, but the time given them for their important discussion must be expanded beyond a morning and afternoon session. If need be, give them a full working week, so that they can go over all the submitted nominations (from both the usual outside bodies as well as the NCCA’s research committee) and weigh comparative credentials carefully, before arriving at a respectable shortlist of as many as five or more valid contenders.

It is in the second level of deliberations and selection that we can really take issue with. Here, a select three-man committee from each art category (including Fashion Design for this year, I suppose), get together with the rest of the other counterpart committees in a plenary session. And hear out the "lawyer" for each field of semi-final nominee/s.
Now, not too many of us are Renaissance personalities who, as individuals of many admirable parts if not hats, are qualified to pass judgment on the nominees for all the traditional and non-trad genres (remember, one more by 2010, with the likely inclusion as nominee of Mr. Ricky Reyes, known as "First Artist" in the FVR/Ming dispensation).
Heck, I’ve been writing an Arts & Culture column for years, but I’d balk at having to decide on the qualifications of nominees for Architecture, or Dance, or, yes, Fashion Design.

The point is that this second level of discussion and selection should still be limited to the experts in each field. Membership in the NCCA committees does not a multi-faceted member-judge make. Very likely, what happens is that most of these selectors simply defer to the expertise of each committee.

Reports vary, however, regarding this stage in the process. Maybe the select three-man committee for each field does make the decision alone, and the rest of the plenary action is ministerial. In which case, what distinguishes the second Council of Peers from the First?
What could happen at this stage is for the representative leftovers from the first-level committee to have their shortlist vetted by, ideally, an academy (which admittedly is still problematic to organize). Other than this, the vetting at this stage can involve all possible artists’ groups, as an informal academy of this or that genre.

This need not take place in the NCCA premises. Legitimate groups or their reps can be sought out, as a general assembly might just result in jeeploads of warm bodies being ferried in, as was done in the past when, say, Literature sub-committee elections were held. Militancy has its merits, but it can also quickly turn into a tyranny of numbers. Needless to say, the actual credentials and influence of each org that comes into play must be factored during this level of discussion. In effect, this will be the final vetting, where the respective orgs can do their best in building up or destroying, er, deconstructing, individual repute.

There is also a bit of a problem with regards the third and final level of selection, which involves reps from the NCCA as well as the entire membership of the CCP Board. Alas, not a few of these NCCA reps and CCP Board members are your usual government appointees or elected officials, or worse, maybe their better halves or proxies. Meaning to say, they aren’t really all that qualified to participate in the final selection of outstanding artists from various fields.

At best, most are more familiar with the performing arts, understandably so because they get tickets to CCP Main Theater events. It has been my experience as a two-time "lawyer" for Literature nominees to wind up aghast at the notion that a good number of such judges hadn’t even read a single work of "Mom" Edith L. Tiempo, now a National Artist, or, for that matter, that of Rio Almario, but whom they knew as a former peer in a government arts and culture body.

This problem may not be resolved until the appointing power begins to desist from peopling arts and culture boards with not a few satraps or sinecurists. To obviate as well any arbitrary decision from a body limited in scope and qualifications, in passing earnest judgment on the respective worth of artists, this final selection ought to rely much on sage counsel from the living National Artists as well as other eminent culture experts.

In brief, then, the NCCA’s first-level council vets the research on nominees, and comes up with a shortlist of as many as five or more names that will then be vetted through consultations with legitimate functioning organizations involved in that particular art field, until an even shorter list comes up, say one, two or three, which will then be presented to the final selection group, which would also listen to the advice and commentary rendered by National Artists and members of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Ladies, aka Eminent Persons.

Now, if all that sounds much like the proffered workings of a transition council or junta that might have taken over last February had a certain general not left his men in their camp, well, it gives you an idea of who else might have been in cahoots with destabilizers.

Seriously, for all the caviling and nitpicking, for now we should all be grateful that we have a National Artist Awards process at all. Better than nothing, yes. But the process can still stand its own vetting.

on sporting australia and the state of philippine sports

australia is a sporting country. it is easily one of the top medal-producing nations in the world. what amazes me is that australia has a population of only 20 million people. that’s roughly the size of metro manila.

every now and then, i would try to catch many of these sporting events on tv. after all, top australian athletes can break existing world records anytime and anywhere. at the 2006 melbourne commonwealth games, for instance, lisbeth lenton, jessica schipper, liesl jones and sophie edington easily produced world record-breaking feats in the swimming events. they were minutes and seconds ahead of the other competitors. quite frequently, i ask myself why the philippines could not even produce athletes of such caliber.

it has never been the case of not having the right genes or not being able to obtain the proper nutrition. but philippine sports are in dire need of world-class coaches and sporting officials to keep it running. right now, we have mostly corrupt politicians and their minions running the show. in their myopia, these officials are just too happy to see our athletes winning over countries like indonesia, thailand, or malaysia.

it shouldn’t be enough for filipinos to rejoice over a victory in southeast asia. the truth of the matter is, many of our athletes are doing well in regional sports in spite of dodgy sporting officials. still, philippine sporting officials have no business gloating over barangay-level achievements. there has to be more selflessness to enable our athletes to do better.

i will never give up on the young athletes of the country. certainly, philippine sporting officials have failed miserably. but i know the athletes are staying on because they always have passion and unwavering commitment in spite of poor facilities, less incentives and corrupt management. filipino athletes are always waging the fiercest battles by going against the grain.

it would be more glorious for filipinos not to be too obsessive over boxing and basketball. i reckon the country can do very well in soccer, swimming, diving, athletics, even figure skating. filipinos are a creative people to begin with. but most importantly, philippine sports need committed sporting officials who can truly direct the state of philippine sports to a world-class level.
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olympic, world and commonwealth champions liesl jones, lisbeth lenton, sophie edington and jessica schipper

17 March 2006

canberra, the city

canberra is often perceived by outsiders as a dry, uncaring city frequently populated by nerds, politicians and civil servants. that is quite true, of course. but canberra also has a distinctive side. it takes time, however, for people to uncover it.

admittedly, canberra does not have melbourne's intercultural vibe. nor does it contain sydney’s breathtaking harbor. even so, canberra has countless museums, galleries and gardens surrounding the fringes of lake burley griffin. it also has a significant number of important landmarks and acquisitions. in fact, otley beyer’s philippine collection had been acquired by the national library of australia.

some of the world’s finest athletes are training at the australian institute of sports. apparitions of past and present australian olympians like susie balogh (single trap shooting), lauren jackson (basketball), petria thomas (swimming) and a host of others have spruced up canberra’s visual landscape. one can easily spot these athletes in malls, restaurants and terminals around the city.

one of my favorite spots in canberra is gus’ café. it is strategically located near canberra centre (the city’s main shopping mall) along with other food establishments. gus’ has become as legendary as canberra itself. during the 1960s, its pioneering owner fought the local government to ensure that the restaurant can simultaneously operate as a sidewalk café. since then, at least half a dozen cafes have sprouted within gus’ vicinity.

once in every fortnight, i break out of a.n.u. campus to drop by gus’. most of the time, i gorge on flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. at gus’, i get to replicate weeknights and weekends with family and friends back home. it doesn’t really measure up, but the stop-over briefly takes me away from academia's various inflexibilities.

even more frequently, i do brisk walking around a.n.u. campus and the nearby lake burley griffin. i would have taken up either landscape architecture, environmental planning or heritage conservation in another lifetime.

every time i do my frequent walks, i get to appreciate walter burley griffin's blueprint for canberra as a livable capital city.

canberra city proper sits on two perpendicular axes. a rather majestic land axis extends from australia’s parliament house on capital hill north-eastward along anzac avenue towards the australian war memorial at the foot of mt ainslie. meanwhile, a water axis opens up along lake burley griffin. walter burley griffin's vision for canberra was deeply inspired by the “garden city” movement in landscape architecture and environmental planning. “garden city” takes into account natural vegetation as an integral component of urban design.

in reality, a number of burley griffin’s initial plans did not push through. for instance, the plan for trams and trains to go across the city remained in potency.

canberra’s expansion slowed down as a result of the two world wars and the great depression. but the man-made lake makes up for these serious absences. lake burley griffin puts the city altogether.

suddenly, my mind takes me back to the devastation of manila during world war 2. planners and conservationists can try to reassemble bits and pieces from the obliteration. but the city will no longer be the haven of collective indigenous and colonial mix that filipinos were once boasting to put on view. filipinos can only create a new vision for manila. then make gargantuan efforts to preserve whatever little can be done with the existing baroque, art deco or art nouveau structures and locations.

australians have every right to take pride in canberra. the more committed ones among its denizens should stay put and make every effort to preserve canberra’s unmatched gentility.

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old parliament house, lake burley griffin and the war memorial

the fun and discernment in diseases by ralph semino galan

Published on page E4 of the October 31, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.


SICKNESS IS OFTEN SEEN only in terms of its medical and mechanical components, not its metaphorical and metonymic possibilities. An illness, thus, is reduced to a series of symptoms lacking in symbolic significance, and the human mind and body as mere indicators of physical condition.



"My Fair Maladies" [Quezon City: Milflores Publishing Inc., 2005, 215 pages), a compendium of funny essays and poems on various ailments and afflictions, looks at diseases and disorders not only with a clinical eye, but also as a veritable source of personal anecdotes and poetic insights.


Edited by prizewinning fictionist and essayist Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, the book covers a wide range of afflictions, from mild peculiarities to extreme dislikes, different types of phobia and paranoia, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and suicidal tendencies, and even nervous breakdown.


The confessional nature of the essays and poems reveal the more human and humane facets of the erudite people who are featured in the book. One discovers, for example, that premier poet and literary critic Gemino H. Abad ("Somewhere I Have Never Traveled") has a poor sense of direction, a malady he shares with the equally illustrious Lourdes Reyes Montinola ("Where Am I?"), Far Eastern University board chair.
One also learns that Susan S. Lara is a neat freak ("My Name is Susan, and I Am Anal-Retentive"), Butch Dalisay abhors cheese ("No Cheese, Please"), Susan Evangelista suffers from claustrophobia ("Canary in the Coal Mine") and Vicente Garcia Groyon has a penchant for counting quantifiable things, including the syllables in all forms of oral communication ("Ock Ock").



The list of physical ailments includes migraines and headaches, stress urinary incontinence, all sorts of eye trouble, alopecia (baldness), polio, sinusitis, hemorrhagic fever (dengue), appendicitis, influenza, epistaxis (nosebleed), asthma, tonsillitis, various allergies, osteoarthritis, as well as cancer.


There is also a special section on growing old, which our visually prejudiced world, bombarded as it were by the ideological state apparatuses with simulated images of youth and beauty, now considers as a kind of disease, if not total disaster.


As objects of desire, females are most susceptible to do everything and anything to stop the aging process dead on its track just to satisfy the male gaze. Remember Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in "Death Becomes Her"?


Ma. Josefina T. Barrios' "Botoxday" chronicles a middle-aged woman's first encounter with the latest craze in non-invasive cosmetic enhancement. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the tone of the poem is mock-serious, although it turns unabashedly romantic in the last stanza: "Ano nga bang maisusukli ng binata/ Sa kanyang katanghalian?/ Isang ngiti,/ Bulalas ng pagtangi,/ At naglaho sa aking puso,/ Biglang-bigla,/ Bawat gusot, bawat gatla.//"

Fat sickness
Another physical condition that contemporary women suffer from, which the odalisques of Rubens were worshipped for, is the "curse" of being vertically challenged. Charlene Fernandez in her essay, "You Know I Know I'm Fat (So Stop Telling Me That!)," confronts the issue head on, stating categorically that, "I figure that people who tell you that you're fat by way of a social greeting labor under some misconceptions: (1) that being fat is a deliberate choice rather than the result of a medical condition or some cosmic accident; (2) that fat people wish to be fat in order to offend other people with their fatness; and (3) that it is fun to be fat."



Tara FT Sering, on the other hand, writes about that form of madness better known as love in "The Divine Affliction: Nine Signs You Have it Bad."


Each of the 64 writers in the book has dealt with his or her particular malady in his or her own unique way: using liniments (Nestor Leynes Jr. in "Borher-ding" and April Timbol Yap in "Knee-deep in Ointment"), wearing corrective glasses and/or contact lenses (Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio in "My Confused Eyes" and Migs Villanueva in "Eye Do, Eye Don't," among others), through sheer perseverance (Jose Wendell P. Capili in "Coping with ADHD"), or even the proverbial fighting spirit in the face of a degenerative disease like leukemia (Tita Taule Mina in "The Diagnosis").


But what all of them share in common is the tendency to rely on self-reflection and self-reflexivity to provide them with meaning and mythmaking in relation to their ailments and afflictions. Those who have lost the battle in the medical front have decided to declare a truce with their diseases and disorders, which is the right attitude.


In his illuminating book, "Care for the Soul," Thomas Moore has this to say regarding how we should expand our view of sickness: "Illness is an enemy, but we've already lived out that myth with conviction. Now may be the time to see illness as the stranger who needs a place to stay and be cared for."

Unlike Susan Sontag who is suspicious of metaphors and prefers a thoroughly medical perspective of sickness as illustrated in her two books, "Illness as Metaphor" and "AIDS and Its Metaphors," where she demystifies "the punitive or sentimental fantasies" surrounding certain diseases to expose the so-called "truth," the writers in "My Fair Maladies" celebrate the imaginative aspects of their ailments and afflictions. They treat diseases as the root of unbearable pain and suffering, but also as the wellspring of personal discernment, funny or otherwise.

16 March 2006

home and away

finished intro and chapter 1. completed 46 DVD interview transcripts out of 55. wrapping up the last 9 interviews. working on chapter 2.

this is pure madness. i want to go home.

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missing home and family

14 March 2006

major new literary prize established in asia

Man Asian Literary Prize Will Recognise New Works By Regional Authors

HONG KONG - A major new literary prize was launched today to recognise the work of Asian writers and to bring them to the attention of the world literary community. The prize is a joint project of Man Group plc and the Hong Kong Literary Festival Ltd, which together announced the prize's creation.

Called the Man Asian Literary Prize, the award will seek entries from Asian writers for works that are yet to be published in English. Entries will be submitted in English, and the prize is intended to provide a broader platform for the cream of new Asian literature to be brought to the attention of English-reading audiences around the world.

The Hong Kong International Literary Festival, sponsored by Man Investments, is the region's most recognised festival highlighting the achievements of authors throughout greater Asia. Man Group plc (the parent company of Man Investments) is a leading London-based global provider of alternative investment products and solutions as well as one of the world's largest futures brokers. Matt Dillon, Regional Managing Director of Man Investments, Asia Pacific announced its establishment at the conclusion of the 2006 Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival. The first annual prize will be awarded in Autumn2007.

"Through this new prize we aim to foster the publication of new Asian voices in English and to help make those voices more widely heard", Mr Dillon said. "One of the most important tasks facing our world in recent times has been for the English-speaking peoples to have a better understanding of Asian society and culture. We very much hope this prize will encourage that activity". Peter Gordon, Director of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, said Asian writers were becoming increasingly significant on the world literary scene. "Asia is becoming an important source for new writing for major international publishers and this award will help facilitate publishing and translating of Asianliterature into English", Mr Gordon said.

"Since the purpose of this prize is to facilitate publication and translation rather than to merely reward existing publication activity, the Prize will focus on 'new' works, as yet unpublished in English", he said.

The Man Asian Literary Prize will be administered by a new and independent not-for-profit entity. It is anticipated that the judging panel will be drawn from international literary and academic communities.

The Man Asian Literary Prize has a unique combination of features. It is explicitly focused on Asia, as distinct from, for example, the Asia-Pacific/Pacific Rim. It is based in Asia and it will be for currently unpublis
hed works with the explicit objective of encouraging the publication of more works by Asian writers.

Further details including application procedures, eligibility and prize money will be finalised over the coming months and will be announced in Autumn 2006.

Man Group plc is also the sponsor of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker International Prize, two of the world's premier literary prizes.


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the inaugural hong kong international literary festival (2001)
at the peninsula: alfred yuson, timothy mo, marra pl. lanot, nadine sarreal, wendell capili and reine melvin
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wendell capili, kee thuan chye and alfred yuson during cocktails at the peninsula, hong kong

the great australian landscape

Floral emblems wither.

The calligraphy of dyeing
and weaving is perfected
within mountain spring
peacocks webbed in gold
and green, brightly
strutting hues of brilliance,
wheels of tail and quills
covered with spots smaller
than cobblestones flushed
with sand and pure coats
of tincture, forming this
folium of stems bearing
leaves of awe, closed
at both ends, enchanting
spring and shadow.

Mediations from every trail,
steep or stream bestow
an unobstructed view
of peacocks blushing
at the strangest sense
of wind chimes nourishing
starvation's saddest profile.

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university avenue, a.n.u.

13 March 2006

relocating a boyhood

Like fabrics, poems can be conceived by weaving with threads into which a very strong twist must be determined. Usually displaying an aura of pastness, each poetic thread is invariably an explicit product of one’s autobiographical memory. Many poems are often swathed with chronologies of grief, longing, fear of loss, and a passionate desire to memorialize personal history in a public space. [1]

Certainly, evocations of memory have been articulated by way of poetry. But when Andre Breton insists "poetry is a room of marvels,” I am even more compelled to conceive each poem not only as a latitude of metaphors, ideas, and images with a design and a system. In attempting to write a “good” poem about Algeciras Street, I must also carefully attend to the dramatic unfolding of my memories, find ways of interrogating and transfiguring a profound quietude to bring forth what otherwise has evaded consciousness. Consequently, I must afford opportunities for every recollected detail to live dramatically inside the reader. For instance, railroad tracks along my boyhood years must be replicated by attempting to put together raw emotions with the sturdiest of configurations:

Algeciras [2]

Halimuyak ang alikabok at basura
sa paglulunoy ng bawat daliri
paghakot sa kayamanang taglay
ng bote, lata’t mga lumang peryodiko.

Sa Algeciras,
hindi na kailangan ng abaniko
upang magpaspas kung maalinsangan.
Ang mga ugat sa lugar na ito’y nadiinan,
napipi: walang pakiramdam.
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algeciras

But poetry may still shut in the range and scope of such replications. A sequence of intensive states may also be rendered not necessarily by means of a pure assignation of metaphors. This awareness began as I embarked on a teaching career in the university. I was taken in immediately after college because many professors died, retired, or studied overseas. Unfortunately, my moment of glory as a new teacher was heavily muffled by the lukewarm reception of my colleagues. Often some of them reminded me of the provisional nature of my appointment. Others conspired to mark down my teaching evaluation scores. Every semester, I was forced to teach nine classes instead of the usual four. More severely, I did not have an office for months. Then one day the college dean saw my misery—I was sitting down on the floor, correcting test papers along the corridor. When he intervened, my department head was compelled to provide me with a working place. Seeing that no one would take me in as a roommate, the department’s administrative officer immediately secured a utility room vacated by the Psychology Department in the college building’s third floor. While humid and remote from the location of my department, the room protected me from my department’s cruelty for several years.

This turned out to be a glorious blessing. Six rooms away from me, I saw a sign marked “Rene Villanueva” outside an office door. I was such a huge Rene Villanueva fan! It was Vim Nadera, a college friend, who initially invited me to watch several Villanueva plays being staged at downtown Manila universities: May Isang Sundalo, Halik ng Tarantula, Huling Gabi sa Maragondon, Nana, and Kumbersasyon. Unfortunately, I never had opportunities to speak with Villanueva whenever I watched his plays. He was always surrounded by students and teachers from different schools, all wanting to catch a glimpse of him. Since we became colleagues from different departments within the same university, I took the opportunity to quickly jot down Villanueva’s consultation hours then mustered enough confidence to finally meet him upclose. When I finally did, I brought with me personal copies of Mithi 10 (UMPIL, 1985) and May Isang Sundalo (New Day, 1988).

In contrast to many colleagues from my home department, Rene Villanueva turned out to be a nurturing mentor and friend. Almost daily, I had conversations with Villanueva and his roommates Jimmuel Naval and Ramon Jocson. We often talked about books, writers and the day’s political or social issues. Together with his writer-friends Luna Sicat, Romulo Baquiran, Rolando de la Cruz and Maningning Miclat, we frequently walked towards the university food center to have lunch. Several times, he also gave me complimentary tickets to his plays. It was Villanueva who first saw my potential to write poems in English and Filipino. And he often encouraged me to submit manuscripts to Ani, Diyaryo Filipino, Filipino Magazin, The Philippine Collegian, and Diliman Review. It was disheartening to see him leave the academe for Batibot, his ground-breaking TV project for children. But just before leaving, Villanueva pushed me to attend The Silliman and U.P. writers’ workshops. And soon after, Villanueva asked: Why do you, almost exclusively, write poetry? Can’t you write prose?

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28th national writers workshop, dumaguete (1989)

(1st row) felino garcia, rex fernandez, miriam coronel ferrer, nenita lachica, cynthia lopez dee, wendell capili and gemino abad; (2nd row, standing) merlie alunan, marjorie evasco, vim nadera, gilbert tan, dm reyes, luna sicat, cesar ruiz aquino, joey baquiran, timothy wells, jovita zarate, an auditing participant, christine godinez ortega, ramon boloron, lakambini sitoy, edith lopez tiempo and ophelia alcantara dimalanta

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with maningning miclat (1995)

It took me thirteen years before I finally decided to work on a writing project that employed a genre other than poetry. Previously, whenever I wrote poems, narratives or articles, I never got conscious about writing a book-length manuscript. But after remembering what Villanueva said, I aspired to return to my boyhood years in Sampaloc. At the same time, I wanted to write about my boyhood years simultaneously with the authority of literature and the authority of fact. I wanted to describe and narrate Sampaloc during my boyhood years in the late 1960s and the 1970s not just by articulating my understanding of sociopolitical and historical facts.

It remains doubtful whether I had actually achieved my projections when I completed a draft of my work-in-progress, courageously entitled “Boyhood.” Still and all, I may have produced a kind of writing that muddles up literary and journalistic conventions to unmask the peculiarities of my life’s dramatic actions, emotions, and feelings.

In writing prose passages about my childhood and early adolescent years, I referred back to my poems as starting points. “Dagta” and “Spilled Ink Elegy,” for example, were attempts to pay tribute to my mother and grandmother. Both women gave up their promising careers (teaching for my mother and dentistry for my grandmother) and became full-time homemakers. In the following lines, I uncovered episodes from my boyhood years where both women unfailingly mopped floors, laundered clothes, scrubbed toilets and kitchen sinks, and sparkled rooms with decorations to warm up their families.

Dagta [3 ]

Pumatak ang sunud-sunod
na dagta ng mangga
sa dalawa kong hita.
Kanina, ito’y pinahiran
ng tapis at ng mga uyayi ni ina.
. . .
Pilit niyang ikinukubli
ang kanyang pagkamuhi
sa mga dagtang dulot
ng aking paglaki. . . .

Spilled Ink Elegy [4]

Black ink spills over grandma’s footprints
deeply, slowly, in pensive streaks
. . . .
When monsters were scary,
grandma cuddled me
against regressive veins.
She caressed the alphabet
with gears of dogcart motion
carving gold from Mother Goose music
in half-ascending tones.
. . . .
Now, I must cry a little,
let scars slip a pungency
back into the old cradle. . . .

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at the 18th u.p. national writers' workshop, diliman (1990)

with roland f. santos

Clearly, I was unable to articulate my emotions and feelings as I had originally envisioned them. Poetry required me to focus simultaneously on rhythm, figures of speech, diction, sentence structure, tone, sound devices, and the use of repetition to create emphasis or unveil mood and tone. In an essay titled “Mothers,” I may have directed my original intentions with more clarity and conviction. Furthermore, my commemorations have also afforded me with opportunities to collectively pay tribute to some of the other women in my formative years.

“My mother was my first teacher. When I was three, she made me recite the ABCs then count from 1 to 100 before our guests. At age five, I loved rummaging through maps and illustrations of Wells’ Outline of History. Upon learning about this particular fascination, my mother persuaded my father to purchase The Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas. The book enthused me to fluently memorize names of countries, capital cities, highest mountains, and other geographical facts.

At UST Elementary School, I had a number of teachers who sustained my interest in learning more about the world outside Carola Street. Miss Mila Bautista was my very first teacher in prep and grade 1. She made me a group leader, often asking me to monitor the cleanliness of our classroom and to keep my classmates’ mouths shut whenever she took a break. When I was stricken with flu, she personally brought me to the university health center and patiently waited for my mother to arrive before returning to my classmates who were all distracted with coloring book exercises. When Ms. Bautista became Mrs. Villarama, I was very sad because I thought she would be resigning. When she returned after giving birth to her first child, my grade 1 class deliriously threw a party for her. The class brought loaves of bread, slices of Kraft cheddar cheese, hotdogs, marshmallows and bottles of Sarsi Cola and Sunta Orange to celebrate her coming back. I would not forget Mrs. Mila-Bautista-Villarama because she saved me from embarrassment many times whenever I couldn’t understand texts the class orally read in unison. She knew there was something wrong with my comprehension skills. But she refused to call me dumb. After each class, she would make me read texts again and again until I finally understood the gist of things. Almost thirty years later, I discovered that I had been afflicted with Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder since birth. Mrs. Villarama’s creative impulse in sorting out my deficiencies turned out to be what became familiar to us as special education.

“In Grade 1, I also met two other interesting teachers: Mrs. Sylvia Fernandez, who taught me speech communication; and Miss Aida Jurilla, who taught me music.

“Mrs. Fernandez was fully aware of my lapses in speaking and writing. But whenever we had school presentations, she persistently plucked my name either as a lead performer or as part of a chorus. My first public performance was staged at the UST Education Auditorium before a thousand or so people. As her pilot Grade 1 students, we were trained to recite “A Little Boy’s Prayer,” a Vietnam War poem. Some 400 Grade 1 students auditioned for thirty speaking parts. Though I forgot my lines many times, I remained part of the ensemble Mrs. Fernandez had selected to perform onstage. I was among the first ten performers arising on top of a platform to directly face the audience. We were all dolled up in colorful jacket tops and trousers. But minutes before our number, Mrs. Fernandez noticed that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, cracking up and shivering in fright. Mrs. Fernandez momentarily pulled me out of the backstage so I can drink a glass of water. Afterwards, she motivated me to close my eyes, pray, and offer my performance to the ones I deeply care for. And she also insisted that throughout the performance, I should imagine that only my family and friends are in the auditorium.

“I still got frightened the very first time I emerged onstage. But Mrs. Fernandez hid behind the curtains to keep me cool, calm, and collected. I kept on whispering to myself “For Grandpa” and “For Mom and Dad” as I uttered the first lines: ‘Now, as I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mommy, Little Sue, Baby John, and most especially, my Daddy . . .’

“After five minutes, we ended our performance with a bow. And the crowd cheered us on. Mrs. Fernandez embraced each one of us. Then she gave us balloons before we went home.

“When I graduated from Grade 6, Mrs. Fernandez emceed the proceedings held at the UST Gymnasium. Although it was not on the script, Mrs. Fernandez added the words “consistent honor student” as she called my name. Looking back, I always remember Mrs. Fernandez because she made me realize that one speaks in public to communicate an important thought and certainly not to glorify one’s self.

“Miss Aida Jurilla, on the other hand, was my music teacher from Grade 1 to Grade 6. She made quite an impression on me because she looked glamorous without really trying. She nearly resembled the aura of Hollywood stars like Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. She has presence. As she entered each class, she always looked regal with pieces of beads, pearls, and other trinkets adorning her neck. Miss Jurilla taught me how to sing, play the piano, and be aware of rhythm and its nuances. She also introduced Hollywood and Broadway tunes like “My Favorite Things” (from The Sound of Music) and “Sunrise, Sunset” (from Fiddler on the Roof), popular American songs like “On top of Old Smokey, all covered with snow, I lost my true lover, he courted too slow . . . ” and “The Way We Were” as well as Filipino tunes such as “Lulay,” “Pilipinas Kong Mahal,” and “Dahil sa ’yo.” She also taught me how to sing the school anthem in English and Filipino.

“Every time I try to write poetry, I often remember Ms. Jurilla telling my Grade 1 class that music is poetry and poetry is music. Ms. Jurilla has taught me to prioritize the lyric in my writings. I always recognize Ms. Jurilla’s influence in the development of my poetic ear.

“My mother, Mrs. Villarama, Mrs. Fernandez, and Ms. Jurilla were my first teachers. Their collective patience, creative energy, and encouragement pushed me to speak, read, and write.”

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u.s.t. elementary school acolytes (1977)
(1st row) joel john santos, joseph sobrevega, thomas dayao, sheldon luz, gonzalo fernandez and thomas capati; (2nd row) me; joel rendor, ernesto torres jr., ysidro castillo iv, noel siongco and bino realuyo --though bino thinks it's someone else; (3rd row) jouel lava, seth pleta, donato tianco, jonathan alegre, a parent, eldemar arellano, gilbert castillo, ust elementary school speech teacher mrs. sylvia fernandez and michael racquel

Meanwhile, playing with the other kids from Sampaloc and its peripheries (Quiapo, Sta. Cruz and Tondo in Manila as well as Araneta Avenue to Galas in Quezon City) propelled me to write “Sa Pagitan ng Talayan at ni Paul Klee.” In it I endeavored to challenge elitist aspirations being forced on me by formal schooling. As I wrote the poem, I cultivated mixed feelings of revulsion, rage, suspicion, howl, grief, and guilt over the great disparity between cultural refinement (which I have acquired by virtue of my university education) and the numerous patterns of oppression surrounding the community where I lived.

Sa Pagitan ng Talayan at ni Paul Klee [5 ]

Subalit dito, sa dilim na ito,
dalisay ang silahis ng init.
Humahabi ang kalikasan ng magaspang
na gilid ng nakatingarong lata
at papel, kartong nakasabog
para sa kanya na kumukulay
sa bahay ng mga ilusyon
sa mariringal na simborya
at masidhing kinang ng buhay
mismo, na hindi kumukupas.

Ngayon, Klee,
mapipigil mo ba itong dakilang
delubyo ng nakakalunod, nakatangay,
mabangis na sapirang tumatahip
sa mga gusi ng iba’t ibang mga hugis
ng batid mong daigdig?

Ang baog na buhay, Klee,
ay isang walang panahunang
piraso ng sining abstrakto.

Again, I felt the poem had serious chronological and spatial limitations. In “Stratification,” however, I was able to extend the texture of my impressions beyond what I had exemplified in “Sa Pagitan ng Talayan at ni Paul Klee.” Creative nonfiction may have allowed me to uncover the marvels of my melancholy.

“Although Sampaloc is largely composed of people who are not wealthy, a fraction of its population can be considered comfortable. But I did not know anything about stratification until I went to prep school at age five and half. Rodel Pelobello, one of my playmates, often remarked that I had been fortunate to gain admission to UST Elementary School. His father could only afford to send him to Alejandro Albert Elementary School along Dapitan.

“When I turned seven or eight, the distinction between private schools and public schools loomed larger than what I had previously supposed. In the streets of Sampaloc, schools were inherently attached to image and genealogy.

“The more affluent ones were usually sent to Dominican School, a private school located at the corner of Pi y Margal and Governor Forbes (now Arsenio Lacson). It was probably the grade school in our area that charged the most exorbitant school fees. The conventional Catholic families sent their kids to UST or Holy Trinity School in Balic-Balic. The old rich and the financially upcoming ones sent their children to St. Theresa’s College along D. Tuazon, Quezon City, Lourdes School along Retiro, or San Beda College along Mendiola. There were even those who sent their kids to Ateneo in faraway Loyola Heights. Many Chinese Filipinos sent their kids to St. Jude Catholic School (near Malacaňang Palace), Chiang Kai-shek or UNO High School (along Jose Abad Santos), which was owned and operated by the family of film producer Lily Yu Monteverde.

“Those who missed the deadlines set by most private schools ended up in schools with later application deadlines: St. Jude College along Dimasalang or Perpetual Help School along V. Concepcion (between Dapitan and Laong Laan). I also had playmates from schools within the Mendiola-Morayta hubbub: Far Eastern University, University of the East, La Consolacion College, Centro Escolar University, and National University.

“Most of my playmates, however, were educated in public schools: P. Gomez along Andalucia (near Central Market and Zurbaran), Alejandro Albert (surrounded by Dapitan, Casanas, Pi y Margal, and Instruccion streets), Moises Salvador (along Honradez, near G. Tuazon and Governor Forbes), Legarda Elementary School (surrounded by S.H. Loyola, Craig, P. Leoncio, and Lepanto) and Juan Luna Elementary School (along Cataluňa, near Lepanto).

“During my boyhood years, school pants and skirts were usually indicative of wealth, money or power. Private school students blazed city streets daily with their custom-made school uniforms. As a statement of pride, school emblems were frequently highlighted in these uniforms to catch attention. Public school students, on the other hand, felt inferior and resentful because they wore generic khaki pants, faded blue skirts and white cotton shirts. Likewise, those who walked their way to school were envious of those who went to school by car or by school bus.

“Suddenly, we were no longer one happy bunch of kids in the neighborhood. Even Chinese kids stopped playing with us in the streets because their teachers and (some of their) parents called us “Hua Na”—a bunch of barbarians. Several other times, those who were studying in very exclusive schools were indifferent to us because we could not speak their brand of Standard American English. As I got older, my boyhood friends became estranged from everyone else.

“I ended up hanging around with kids from UST. Aside from sharing teachers, UST students routinely got involved with communal exercises such as the annual sports intramurals. Escorted by pompom girls and muses, we wore lustrous uniforms then played basketball, volleyball or football in the athletic field. I was not particularly gifted as an athlete so I often sat in the bench. Overall, the level of competition was pathetic. Even more hideous were the names assigned to each team. In Grade 4, athletic teams were named after birthstones: Pearl (our class team), Turquoise, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, and so on. In Grade 5, the teams were named after pairs: Beau and Beauty (our team), King and Queen, Lord and Lady, Duke and Duchess, Baron and Baroness. In Grade 6, the teams were named after cars: Ford (our team), Mustang, Volkswagen, Pontiac, and Volvo.

“Alternatively, we were also encouraged to sing and dance during school programs. But Grade 5 was particularly traumatic. My homeroom adviser had initially selected me to recite a Tagalog poem by Lope K. Santos. Minutes before walking onstage, the school authorities bumped me off in favor of a top couturier’s nephew, largely because my presentation was potentially too dense for the school audience. Most importantly, the couturier's nephew was the favorite of all our teachers and his famous designer uncle designed his princely suits and costumes during school presentations. I looked too shabby and dreadful compared to him, whose impersonation of 1970s pop idol Rico J. Puno was truly a class act.

“From the viewpoint of those who were brought up in style and extreme comfort, the little boys and girls who roamed across the streets of Sampaloc were generally lacking in refinement. But even then, there were family members, teachers, and friends who kept Sampaloc kids afloat when things occasionally fell apart. In the long run, schools did not really matter for as long as one gets to acquire the certitude of vision to move on.”

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i - st. dionysia

u.s.t. high school, 1979-1980

(1st row) wendell capili, mrs. leticia pacheco (home room adviser), elaine rose teodoro, mary ann juico, elena escarcha, teresa brion, mary ann africa and carla solis; (2nd row) nina marie lopez, geraldine cachola, marie paz salud, portia valle, jesusa posadas, floredliza poquiz, elsa quintana, lourdes cendana and racquel bautista; (3rd row) emilia tiburcio, maribeth miranda, james allan cordon, martin anthony hernandez, raymundo jose, ireneo enrico san pedro and jerome apostol; (4th row) ariel benet, enrico narito, francisco lagonera, elmer reasonda, michael racquel, reginaldo yumul, carlo canares and ariel oliveros.

Sampaloc is also typically associated with floods, garbage, and filthy things that floated all over. In fact, photographs of drenched commuters cruising along Sampaloc’s Espaňa Avenue have appeared quite often in The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Mainichi Shimbun and The Sydney Morning Herald. “Ulan,” however, can only afford to make visible my less intricate entanglements with the monsoon season.

Ulan [6]

Malakas ang ulan kahapon.
Dahil dito, nadulas ka
sa taas ng baha
habang tumitirik
ang mga sasakyang
bumubuga
ng sama-samang
usok, alikabok, at grasa.
Tila malalim ang sugat
sa iyong tuhuran.
Pagkatapos ng ilang oras
halos ga-daigdig pa rin
ang iyong mga sigaw
dahil sa sakit-karayom
na humahataw sa iyong balat.

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grade III, section b (a.m.)

u.s.t. elementary school, 1975-1976

(1st row) geraldine martinez, rosamond fernando, angelica ilagan, imelda canlas, larrie alinsunurin, carmelinda masagca, cristina pamintuan, roselia bautista, argentina jean dadivas, vidie marie ilagan, cielo gomez and corazon faustino; (2nd row) dolores naniong, cynthia bustamante, maria rowena lucas, mary jane uy, maribeth miranda, maricon angeles, maru ravida, sharon sevilla, ana zecel sanchez, anna loudette santos, josephine sucgang, rowena consumido and antoinette co; (3rd row) ariel monsalud, emmanuel sunga, michael santos, roland garcia, michael gines, rafael rollan, jonathan alegre, jorge gicale, fabian gappi jr., pioquinto diokno, rodolfo soriano, rommel bondoc and manuel sobrevega (4th row) rosauro villamater, tito sadio, nicolas acal, wendell capili, henry yadao, victor paul veloso, orlando macalalad, emmanuel salazar, michael racquel, michelangelo quijano, arnel ricaforte, rogel manalo, elmer arellano and filebon tacardon.


On the other hand, “Floods” enabled me to describe and reflect on what can easily be rendered forgettable. Not even the most enthralling experience in the world can ever make me forget the murkiness of my Sampaloc past. After all, there are lessons to be learned when one gets inundated in a flood.

“Sampaloc is usually infested with floods from June to October. It is a puzzle why residents have constantly allowed themselves to be splashed and squeezed in Sampaloc during the rainy season.

“I take pleasure residing in Sampaloc because I have many family members, friends, and acquaintances all over the district. But there are occasions where floods can be very annoying.

“When I was in Grade 3, I tried to go to school alone in spite of the heavy rains. There were no radio or TV announcements that classes had been suspended. I didn’t want to miss school; I wanted to get a star for perfect attendance by the end of the school year. With my parents fast asleep, I was convinced that I could go to school alone. Quietly, I sneaked out of our house and waded through the waters of Carola Street.

“Upon reaching the corner of Carola and Dapitan, beside the old house of Aling Nita (co-owner of Josephine’s, a popular seafood restaurant chain), I suddenly slipped into a manhole, then nearly got siphoned into its hollow. Fortunately, I managed to gather enough strength to get myself out of danger. Back home, I quickly poured buckets of tap water all over my body then splashed it with Family Rubbing Alcohol. Suddenly, I felt clean and spotless. As I treaded softly back to my room, l vowed never again to aim for a perfect attendance star in school.

“During successive overflows, a number of students from UST, Ramon Magsaysay, St. Jude’s, Perpetual Help, Holy Trinity, and Esteban Abada high schools began to appear in unfashionably gigantic, knee-high black rubber boots. As I was growing up, it became a necessity for me to exhibit these boots as my rain shield and paraphernalia.”

For the reason that school has taught me to be more conscious of associations between signifiers and the signified, it became even more excruciating to remember, reconstruct, and textualize the past. When I wrote poems, I had to frequently note down the indeterminate and playful aspects of language and the tendency to slip constantly from denotation to connotation then back. I had these in mind when I made “Demolisyon.”

Demolisyon [7]

Pagkatapos ng palabas
bagong bihis ang dating putikan
sa pahayagan.
Tuwing sasapit ang halalan
naninibugho kaming mag-anak
dighay ang ga-lungsod na katapangan
sa aming paghahanap
ng isang bagong tirahan.

Consequences, inferences, and postscripts to these issues were hopefully extended in “Dapitan.” By journeying over Dapitan Street, I was able to bring in more details about a geography that dominated my boyhood years. Other than inflating further my disenchantment, readers may also find amusement in recognizing familiar names and spaces as they hit the road where individuals of lesser importance are normally seen passing through.

“I spent my boyhood years playing with children whose families lived around the University of Santo Tomas (UST), in Sampaloc, Manila. Throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s, my playground was Dapitan, a two-way street where jeepneys and calesas moved freely. It was a magical place where I played hide-and-seek with children from the perpendicular streets. And even then, Dapitan was a tributary of stores and dormitories catering mostly to UST students and teachers.

“UST students frequently purchased their school supplies at College Inn. My yaya and I had merienda in a panciteria beside it. Other times, we visited the newly opened, Barrio Fiesta-owned Handaang Pilipino because it dished up crispy pata and kare-kare. When I was in Grade 4, I opened my first bank account at the neighboring University Savings and Loan Association.
“My yaya bought pandesal for breakfast at Fame Bakery at the corner of Dapitan and Don Quijote. Between Governor Forbes and Algeciras, students huddled themselves together inside endless rows of tailoring and beauty shops as well as sari-sari stores with take-home counters loaded with pork barbecue and fried peanuts. One notable landmark was Aling Mameng's Carinderia and Sari Sari Store at the corner of Dapitan and Carola Streets. The owner frequently remarked to their regular patrons that their previous clients included budding UST students who became luminaries in Philippine politics, cinema, art, journalism, and literature. These students turned out to be writers Cirilo F. Bautista, Francisco Tatad, Wilfrido Nolledo, Albert Casuga, Rita Gadi, Recah Trinidad, Jullie Yap Daza, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, and Norma Miraflor; actor Bernardo Bernardo; fashion designers Steve de Leon and Gino Fernando; artists Danny Dalena and Manuel Baldemor.
“Just above Aling Mameng's Sari Sari Store, fast-rising hairdresser Jun Encarnacion endowed matrons and their minions with his fabled beauty tricks. Five doors away, Mang Nary managed a barbershop where I had my first haircut when I was about a year old. At the corner of Dapitan and Trabajo, I had my first photograph taken at a studio beside another beauty shop—that of Grace Lagman's.
“Beyond Dapitan, however, I learned about poverty, bitterness, and disillusionment from my playmates living in squatter communities along the railroad tracks. At a very young age, I had a consciousness of Martial Law and its repercussions. Many of my playmates’ immediate family members and relatives had been “salvaged” or incarcerated as political prisoners. A number of these immediate family members and relatives became “fall guys” for crimes they did not commit. Among the underfed, many performed sleazy jobs (prostitution and drug dealing, most especially) out of desperation. Growing up as a “Marcos Baby” during Martial Law in the 1970s offered me a clear-sighted awareness about the so-called New Society and how it had been employed by a newly emerged bourgeoisie to consolidate their power and privilege.

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grade v, section d (p.m.)

u.s.t. elementary school, 1978-1979

(1st row) rommel bondoc, homero angelo domingo and amelito tan; (2nd row) bino realuyo, eduardo esquivias, fabian gappi jr., romeo manego, enriquito aguas, mrs. elizabeth duff-mendoza (home room adviser), pioquinto diokno, lyndon lacanienta, richard dyogi, elmer arellano and jose cumento; (3rd row) norbert basa, nathaniel delgado, roberto fernandez, jonathan alegre, danilo dobles, ranel concepcion, eric paul de la vega, ariel oliveros, felixberto garcia, david dacumos, noel siongco and raymund serafico; (4th row) ulysses sta. rosa, ernesto torres, petronilo manalo, cielito candido, bernarlito fajardo, alfredo buyser, daniel gutierrez, riley joy sison, oscar sagalonggos jr. and wendell capili; (5th row) melchizedek manalo, raymond ignacio, joseph mendoza, oscar nanquil, nicandro aure, norman de los santos and gerard flynn franco.

“I have very little recent memory of Sampaloc because I lived overseas. When I returned to the country, I could not find time to revisit Sampaloc. My family moved to a dream house overlooking the city. Elsewhere, matters that compelled immediate attention kept me busy.

“After numerous attempts, I finally managed to explore Dapitan again. To my astonishment, Greenwich, Shakey's Pizza, and Dunkin Donuts had replaced the old College Inn. Chowking's occupied the spot where Handaang Pilipino used to be. Several Jollibee and McDonald's branches stood next to each other.
“And yet, a number of the old places refused to die: University Savings, Aling Mameng's, and Grace Lagman. Fame Bakery also stayed alive. But it had been renamed Tinapayan. Jun Encarnacion passed on and his children moved his beauty shop to a new location along Laon Laan, a street parallel to Dapitan. Aling Ising's Uniform Center occupied the space Jun Encarnacion had previously vacated.
“But Aling Mameng has gone to America with a retired US Navy serviceman. A distant relative is said to be running her once-reputable carinderia. Mang Nary and his children are now operating a small canteen beside the old barbershop.
“All of a sudden, reputable banking institutions are sprouting all over Dapitan- Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metrobank, Equitable-PCI Bank, Prudential Bank and Allied Bank. Old dormitories and turo-turo canteens have been knocked down to give way to condominium units, Wendy's Hamburger, Max's Fried Chicken, Cravings Bake House and The Coffee Beanery. Traffic barely moved along Dapitan when Coby's Music Café got inaugurated by celebrities led by Pops Fernandez, Side A, Gary Valenciano, along with ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network's stable of stars and starlets.
“The moon has sailed across the Milky Way with Dapitan's changing landscape. The city street’s elemental sadness can never be surmounted.”

When I turned sixteen, I became a resident of an exclusive, Catholic-run student residence hall in Quezon City. I was a devoted member of my church but temporarily found solace in the spiritual organization running the hall. I got good grades in school even when I was squeezing in—before and after my classes—prayers, Bible classes, spiritual readings, and visits to poor communities. Hastily, I accepted an invitation to surrender my life to the organization. But, as it turned out, residents at the hall were mostly students and professionals from upper-class families. Inside the organization, I was a misfit. I was often ridiculed for my plebeian ways, “kasi, galing Sampaloc!”
From the viewpoint of my housemates, my lifestyle choices were frequently “bakya” and disastrous. My clothes were mostly 1950s-1960s hand-me-downs from my grandfather. I collected albums of Original Pilipino Music. I preferred Bernal, Brocka, and Third World films over Hollywood. When I began receiving further enlightenment as a teacher of many students from far-flung provinces and marginal communities, I decided to completely cut my involvement with the institution that engulfed most of my adolescent years. “Hometown” tries to replicate that period in my life when I nearly got embarrassed to tell people that I was born and raised in Sampaloc. Many times, however, I felt the poem lacks precision vis-à-vis my feelings regarding the velocity of my “spiritual” experience.

Hometown [8]

I keep from my children
the dispossession
of a family name
story books
nomads heap on
this antinomy.
I must leave this place
with a fishing pole
tucked under my sleeves
to consume the edge
of my private fears
leaping through
each headwater.

I have decided to cross genres from poetry to creative nonfiction precisely because I want to construct narratives using scenes, dialogue, detailed descriptions, and other techniques drawn from politics, kinship, religion, economics, history, sociology, and the other disciplines. I want to put together research, exposition, prose, a strong emphasis on ideas instead of language vis-à-vis the feel of a literary voice, the elements of narration, characterization, instinct, a strong sense of place where facts come alive and a strong, personal engagement with my chosen subjects. Through each effort, I am bewildered whenever elevations of space, time, and causation are consequentially aligned and transcended.

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with my brother john, along carola street (1972)


“I used to be ashamed letting people know that I was born and raised in Sampaloc.

“After all, many Sampaloc residents have been unable to seize opportunities to study in elite schools and realize upward social mobility. Around Balic-Balic, for instance, one can easily locate a presence of kanto boys in neighborhood sari-sari stores drinking Tanduay Rhum and Ginebra San Miguel from sunrise to sundown. Every alley in Sampaloc is a playground. There are gay beauty pageants in city streets during weekends. Basketball leagues dominate other streets. Everywhere in Sampaloc there are denizens who cannot speak English properly, who slouch too much, who possess dark and skinny bodies raging with pimples. In enclaves of the rich and famous, they are often ridiculed as “the ones who stink and sweat too much,” “jologs” or “the great unwashed.”

“But I live in Sampaloc, within the proximity of its ghettoes surrounding railroad tracks and alleys, rat-infested dormitories, flooded streets in the monsoon season, and open manholes. Certainly, it is one of Manila’s backwater districts. Outsiders are bewildered. In spite of experiencing varying levels of discomfort, Sampaloc residents have been determined to continuously subsist in the neighborhood.

“The University Belt area is undoubtedly Sampaloc’s nerve center. Here, students from all over the country come to pursue life-long dreams of obtaining diplomas from a Manila university. These schools and universities are: the University of Santo Tomas along Espaňa; Far Eastern University along Morayta; University of the East (UE) and San Sebastian College along Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto); and Centro Escolar University, La Consolacion College, College of the Holy Spirit, and San Beda College along Mendiola. Conveniently squeezed in between are Perpetual Help College near Dapitan; Family Clinic School near San Lazaro Hippodrome; St. Jude College near Dimasalang; Mary Chiles Hospital School behind UE, and scores of review schools specializing in board examinations. These schools and universities sustain Sampaloc. Should these institutions be relocated, Sampaloc will consequently lose its grip on Manila’s cityscape. This is very apparent during summer vacations, semestral breaks, and Christmas holidays—the usually congested streets of Sampaloc become free of traffic.

“These days, Sampaloc has a newer point of convergence. Along Dos Castillas, between Dimasalang and Dapitan streets, an area collectively known as “Dangwa” (after the Baguio-bound bus liner) emerges suddenly as a flea market for fresh flowers from the Cordillera region.

“Dangwa” may soon become a terminal exclusively for passenger buses bound for Ilocandia and Cagayan Valley provinces. Nevertheless, cargo buses from Baguio and other locations arrive every morning to deliver fresh begonias, carnations, violets, tulips (“fresh from Holland!”), lilies, marigolds, blue bells, dahlias, periwinkles, foxgloves, celandines, hibiscuses, lilacs, and variations of the other types. Rows of dormitory houses have been altered severely to serve as flower shops. And during the week leading to All Soul’s Day, the entire area becomes a mixture of flower freaks from all over.

“Sampaloc is densely populated twenty-four hours a day. There are billiard halls, computer rental shops, and areas for computer games for children and young adults. There are food stalls, beauty parlors, basketball courts, and photocopying shops in every street corner. Cars, tricycles, and jeepneys are frequently double-parked in its streets.

“Then and now, Sampaloc continues to disarrange my boundaries of lies and truths. When I lived in dormitories near UP and Ateneo, I often stated that I was born and raised near Sta. Mesa Heights and Welcome Rotunda, never quite admitting that my family had actually lived farther. Meanwhile, scores of Sampaloc houses in their art nouveau and art deco splendor have been demolished. Prefabricated condos have sprouted hastily to meet the housing needs of numerous board exam reviewees, teachers, students, and medical practitioners.

“Sampaloc is an aftertaste that lingers. It continues to burst within its own kind of blooming. My birthplace does not merely lie outside the fringes of Shangri-La, Rockwell, Eastwood, Greenbelt, Alabang, and similar enclaves for the high and mighty. Sampaloc is outside the center and radically striates it. Sampaloc will never cease to unravel subjectivities, pleasures, relationships, and intensities.”


Sampaloc is truly an outflow of continuousness. Writing “Relocating a Boyhood” has enabled me to rearrange intimate, personal, even local pasts outside of Sampaloc’s “official” public histories in the late 1960s and the 1970s. My personal convictions have become engendered creatively between my roots and its intricate gasps and silences.

Relocating a boyhood may certainly transform the lyric of loss into a recovery of one’s identity and subsequent will to come to terms with the jaggedness of everyday breathing.

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_____________

Notes


[1]. A version of this work was presented in The 1st Kamustahan: (University of the Philippines National Writers’ Workshop Alumni) Conference sometime in October 2003 in Tagaytay City. Grateful acknowledgment is made to the UP for the writing grant that enabled me to write it. A revised version of this work was published in Philippine Studies Volume 53 Nos 2 & 3 (Soledad Reyes, issue editor). Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2005: 272-289.

[2.] This poem and the subsequent poems cited in this work have all been published in my first book, A Madness of Birds. Ibid., “Algeciras,” p.67. And for a full rendition of the other poems, see Wendell P. Capili, A Madness of Birds (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998).

[3.] Ibid., p. 69.
[4.] Ibid., p. 49.
[5.] Ibid., p. 74
[6.] Ibid., p. 76.
[7.] Ibid., p. 71.
[8.] Ibid., p. 6.
oOo