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21 May 2007

Dumaguete then and now by Alfred A. Yuson


Philippine Star
21 May 2007

In November 1970, a year and a half after enjoying a writing fellowship in the Dumaguete summer workshop, I found myself going back to visit the Tiempo family and wound up handling classes in poetry in Silliman University.

It was a fun time all of that second semester, life being simple, fed by a constant engagement with the sea. On the grass lawn of the campus quadrangle, blossoms of pink and white drifted down from lofty boughs of acacia to land on book pages and students’ papers subject to an afternoon’s browsing.

So too does memory dictate that every hour spelled a litany of breezes. A ride through town, across the university or along the seaside boulevard, was conducted at a leisurely pace, on a tartanilla or horse-drawn carriage, low-slung, with wooden seats angling downwards on both sides, unlike those of the carretela or calesa.

There were no fences, gates, or security outposts on campus. Why, it was a season of innocence before martial law. Only a couple of small bars serving beer turned into haunts, other than the mainstreet institution that was North Pole, which was more of a restaurant (favored by Nick Joaquin when he visited and held court).

Now a noisy horde of tricycles buzz about in a much busier city that has a “Makdo” replete with Wi-Fi, and a Robinson’s soon to rise on a large empty lot south of the plaza. Only a couple of tartanillas occasionally ply Rizal Boulevard, as a tourist treat. Any number of restos and bars, delis and dive shops, crowd across that esplanade, inclusive of videoke joints, Spanish, Japanese, German and Persian cuisine, and free Internet.

Right beside the elegant Residencia Al Mar hotel’s Don Atilano, which serves fine meals, is the Aussie-run Happy Fred’s bar and billiards parlor, a hotspot! (from where Butch Dalisay and I can leach to surf and e-mail while having coffee at Don Atilano).

Getting into campus on any kind of transport other than a motorized tricycle or “pedicab” merits a security check a la Makati enclave. It’s much warmer and more humid in Maytime. Al Gore’s alarums strike a chord even among DumasGoethe’s or Duma’s or Dagets’ oldtimers, including balik-fellows. Every year it seems to turn hotter.

When one says “fellow” in Duma, one refers to that lucky specimen of an aspiring poet or writer who has managed to gain entry into a marvelous rite of passage.

For this Maytime’s 46th edition of the National Writers Workshop still conducted by 88-year-old Dr. Edith L. Tiempo, National Artist for Literature and beloved “Mom” to all, the 16 writing fellows are:

Sharleen P. Banzon, Cecille La Verne de la Cruz, Kristian Abe L. Dalao, Krisette Sia-Valderia, Jennelyn Tabora and Pancho Villanueva for Poetry; Catherine Alpay, Michelle Eva A. de Guzman, Robert Jed Rio Malayang, Sasha Martinez and Janina Marie O. Rivera for Fiction; and Jan Paulo A. Bastareche, Primy Joy Cane, Mia Tijam, Martin Villanueva and Justine Megan Yu for Creative Non-fiction.

The workshop started on May 7 with Susan Lara, Macario Tiu, Cesar Ruiz Aquino and Ernie Yee as panelists. For the second week just past, Jimmy Abad, Marj Evasco, Dave Genotiva and this writer composed the panel. A bonus for the fellows was the arrival for R&R of Butch and Beng Dalisay. Butch had a lot of work to accomplish with his PowerBook, while Beng painted, on the garden of South Seas Resort where we all shared merry company.

Butch joined us for the two-hour sessions morning and afternoon at End House, the former studio and residence of Dr. Albert Faurot, who had given so much of his music expertise to Silliman University before passing away several years ago.

S.U. is a balik-patron this summer. After an inexplicable hiatus of over a decade, S.U. president Dr. Ben Malayang, has worked out an arrangement with Mom Edith for the eventual return of both funding and administrative functions relating to the workshop.

S.U.’s English Department, with Ian Casocot coordinating, has already started to help out in a big way, preparing the workshop venue, conducting a monthly Literatura Festival that included a dance tribute to Mom Edith and literary lectures by Timothy Montes, Susan Lara, Mac Tiu and Marj Evasco so far, and arranging for midweek picnic sessions at Antulang Resort and Bacongham Place (so wonderfully named) for the first two weeks. This third and final week, it’ll be at Forest Camp in Valencia, with Anthony Tan, Bobby Villasis and Lito Zulueta as panelists.

In fact Lito arrived early, to lead the NCCA’s Literature sub-committee in a two-day summit at the South Seas’ spanking new conference hall. Preceding him were other notable writers finalizing their term of office with the NCCA: Mayen Angbetic-Tan from Cebu, Merlie Alunan from Tacloban, Zeny French from Iloilo, Ricky de Ungria from Davao, Rudy Alano from Naga, Butch Macansantos from Baguio, and Jaime An Lim and Jing Hidalgo from Manila.

Upon doctor’s orders, Mom Edith has had to forego daily attendance at the workshop sessions. But last Thursday, she invited the fellowship to hold the afternoon session at the balcony of her Montemar hilltop home off Sibulan, with its panoramic view of the coastline, Tañon Strait and the southern tip of Cebu island across.

She also rendered a lecture on poetry — its essential dependence on heightened language and metaphorical values, the preference for connotative over denotative word usage — which had the young writers scribbling away and posterizing the privileged hour with more than just the usual snapshots.

As illustrative examples, Mom Edith used several poems, among these Jimmy Abad’s “Ghosts” and Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas’ “A Balloon for Rima,” with Cesar “Sawi” Aquino, Ric de Ungria and this writer pressed into reading service.

Dinner and drinks followed, and the camaraderie of Summer of 2007 could only prosper under a night sky dominated by the question-mark configuration of Scorpio. For the young poets and writers, queries from their respective internal voices as to their future in creative writing may find an answer — now as then — in memories of an evening in Maytime.

For the record, the National Writers Workshop of 2007 must credit the generous patronage of the following: the NCCA or National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Silliman University, CAP College, and fellowship grants from Senator Edgardo Angara, Senator Mar Roxas, Dr. Jaime Laya, Erlinda Panlilio and Mav Rufino.

By the by, having mentioned premier poet Ricardo M. de Ungria, let me add that our consulate general in Sydney has announced that he will be spearheading the Philippine participation in the prestigious 2007 Sydney Writers Festival from May 28 to June 3.

On May 31, Ricky participates in the event billed as “Poetry from Around the World II” at the Bangarra Theatre. On June 2, he joins the forum titled “From the Editors: Migrant Communities and Emerging Australian Literature” at the Liverpool Regional Gallery.

Also participating in this 10th edition of one of the most anticipated international cultural events in Sydney are internationally-published poet and academic Jose Wendell Capili and Filipino-Australian poet Noonee Doronila.


Blogger gibbs cadiz said...

hello wendell, welcome back! :)

Sat May 26, 12:56:00 PM 2007  
Blogger wendell said...


have been swamped with teaching and admin duties in diliman right after returning from oz. tell lito z to tag you along the next time we go out for coffee.

keep in touch!!!


Sun May 27, 12:58:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Hydrocodone said...

pvuKoG The best blog you have!

Fri Nov 02, 10:18:00 AM 2007  

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