Category Archives: Musings

My One Week in Davao: The things I experienced in the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop

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My One Week in Davao: The things I experienced in the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop

Ever since I travelled from Davao, I’ve been having hard time writing, not that it didn’t serve me well. On the contrary, the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop has taught me so much about the craft. It’s just that, with all the sound insights from the panelists as well as co-fellows, it was hard to choose which ones to take. Plus, I had a handful of projects on my mind, it was difficult to keep up and decide which ones to write first.

I’ve raved about being in the final list of fellows in the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop but I still haven’t blogged about my Davao experience. Abby even beat me to it.

So here’s my take on our Davao Writers Workshop experience. dww5

Trip to Davao                

My trip to Davao was fraught with hang ups. For one, I’ve been having a hard time looking for someone to take care of my dad. The previous one had to go back to her hometown a week before the workshop. She had to leave because of health reasons. Good thing I talked our house help, Ate Dodong, into getting the job.

Second was the fact that I was practically dirt broke around the 3rd week of October. I usually get my paycheck on the 25th. But then it fell on a Saturday which means no money, no honey. Aside from that, my wallet was snatched by a rugby-sniffing kid around XU. Good thing I had my ATM card in my bag and not inside my wallet. That would’ve been a colossal screw up. So, I called in a few favors. Good thing they took pity on me.

On the night of the 26th of October, Abby and I met up at the Agora Bus Station. We were quite surprised that a crowd was already waiting for the next bus to Davao. We had to stand up for 20 minutes before it arrived. By the time it parked, all of us swarmed towards the bus.

I now have first-hand experience on how humans would behave when the zombie apocalypse comes.

We could’ve been on the bus that left at 10pm but we didn’t get the memo about virtual strangers getting hired to reserve seats for passengers. We even had to plow our way into the bus only to find out there were no seats left for us. That bummed us out.

It took Abby and I at least 2 hours to get ourselves on the bus to Davao. We even had to watch this cheesy show in TV5. It was another Wattpad story that got adapted into a TV show. I don’t remember the title but the most “profound” line that got stuck in my mind was “Mas pinili ko pa siya kesa sa online games.” (I chose her over online games.)

It was the last trip to Davao. At a quarter to twelve, it left the station. By the time it zigzagged through Puerto Heights and I saw the city lights from the pier to Macajalar Bay, I had this odd feeling of relief.

We were going to Davao for the first time. It was pretty daunting knowing that our amateur works were going to be scrutinized by the seasoned panelists. But we were also excited on the new things we were about to learn from the workshop.                

I was in and out of sleep on the ride and there wasn’t much view to be seen from the window because it was practically dark out. But there was a time when I woke up and there was a fork up ahead. The sign said left for Davao and right for Kibawe. When I read it, I thought “Oh man, moment of truth.” The bus turned left.

At 5am on the 27th, the sun was going up. We reached this place where we had an impeccable view of the foggy mountains. The fog looked like a huge white lake. It was magnificent. (No photos. The view wasn’t on our side of the bus.)

Touchdown

We checked in at Lispher Inn at around 6am. When we got our things out of our bags and into the cabinet, we realized one thing. We were starving. The breakfast slip handed to us was only valid for the next day so we had to call Jollibee for delivery.

Davao ww

At 9am, Sir Julian dela Cerna, the workshop director, called us down. I must tell you. Sir Julian and I have been corresponding via text even before the workshop. He put his personal number on the email he sent the fellows. I had to tell him I had no IDs left on me because my wallet got snatched on the 25th. (Didn’t I tell you that earlier? It was one of those hang-ups I told you about.) I also asked for directions from the bus station to Lispher Inn. He suggested that we should just take a taxi to the inn. True enough; the place was pretty near from the station. The taxi only charged us 50php.

First day

When Abby and I got into the conference room, we were greeted with warm smiles from Sir Dom Cimafranca, who surprisingly commented on my post, and who I would eventually know as Sir Macario Tiu. Sir Dom even greeted us with an inside joke. I didn’t get it immediately (being in the bus for 6 hours does not make me the sharpest cookie in the block) but good thing Abby replied something witty.

The room was gaining crowd. Two groups of monoblock chairs were set up inside divided by an aisle. I noticed that the veterans were seated on the right side and the young guns on the left. There was a podium upfront. Behind it, the wall was covered with the official tarp of the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop. People who knew each other were already mingling. We seated ourselves at the back, near the water cooler. Most of them were virtually strangers but I noticed someone’s voice that stood out faintly but familiar.

Ma’am Jhoanna Cruz officially welcomed us to this year’s workshop. She acknowledged the presence of seasoned Davao Writers Guild members. The experience was so vivid. It felt like I had to know these people but then being the local literature dumb that I am, that hampered it. And then she nonchalantly mentioned Joey Ayala. Joey Ayala! I had to stop myself from squeaking like a hormone-raged teenager.

dww6

Then, Sir Julian was on the podium. He informed us of the statistics of applications sent for this year’s workshop. The demographic of applicants was spread throughout the Philippines. There was one from Diliman. I think there was even one from abroad. He also said there was a 40% drop of applicants. It may be attributed to the fact that UP Mindanao, whose student body is a steady source of applicant, changed its school year starting in August, also around the same time the deadline of applications was set. Out of 37 applicants, 14 were accepted as fellows. He introduced us by reading our bios. By the time he read mine, I stood up and a weird sense of pride came to me. I was representing CDO with Abby. I told myself I shouldn’t screw this up.

He then introduced the panelists for this year: Sir John, Bengan, Sir Nino de Veyra, Ma’am Jhoanna Cruz, Sir Macario Tiu, and Sir Nikki Gomez.

Sir John Bengan teaches writing and literature at UP Mindanao and took his MFA at The New School in New York City. His English short story “Armor” won 1st Prize for Short Story in English in the 2013 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Sir Nino de Veyra is BA Communication Arts graduate from the UP Visayas Tacloban College and took his MA in English at Silliman University. He is currently Assistant Professor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of UP Mindanao.

Ma’am Jhoanna Cruz is the President of the Davao Writers Guild. She also teaches writing and literature at UP Mindanao. Her play “Halakata, MS.D” won 2nd Prize for Full Length Play in English in the 1999 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Sir Mac Tiu is teaches Literature at the Ateneo de Davao University. His short story “Tsuru” won 1st Prize for Short Story in Cebuano in the 2008 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Sir Nikki Gomez is a journalist in Davao City. He is also a member of the Davao Writers Guild.

They have such awesome bios. All so accomplished in the literary industry.

Then, Sir John introduced the guest panelist for this year, Ma’am Daryll Delgado, the winner for the 2013 Outstanding Book Award for her book “As the Body Displaces Water.”

He gushed about how he met her in New York. He did pabaga’g dagway and introduced himself to her. After that, Ma’am Daryll went on the podium and said that she was also a fan of Sir John’s as well. It was so refreshing to witness such quick repartee by two distinguished writers. Made me see that the industry wasn’t as cut-throat as it seemed to be. (Side note: Abby and I shipped Sir John and Ma’am Daryll by then. Although Sir John told us he was gay on the third day, we still went on with this fantasy even after the workshop. We’re crazy like that. Haha. )

She then gave a lecture on Philippine Fantasy. She compared the fantasy writers from the 80s to the current ones. The fantasy writers from the 80s (who included Nick Joaquin), she noted, didn’t have precedents and somehow had a richer Filipino cultural texture. On the other hand, the more recent ones are very much influenced by Western, especially American, sensibilities.

I think it was her dissertation for her PhD. I’m not quite sure. I couldn’t focus because my brain wasn’t fully functioning well. If there’s an English word for being jetlagged on a bus, I’d have written it here.

(Nananawagan po ako kay Ma’am Daryll. Ma’am Daryll, if you’re reading this, I apologize for not paying attention to your lecture. Being bilar is not an excuse.)

After her lecture, we had our lunch break. Sir Julian even asked Abby and I to tell the other fellows about the first few works to be critiqued later that day. I think it was his way of making us break the ice. It kind of didn’t work. Not yet.

For this time of the workshop, the head panelist and moderator was Ma’am jho. The pieces that were critiqued that afternoon were written by fellows MJ Tumamac (Poetry), Arjay Viray (Short Story), Ria Valdez (Poetry), and Reil Obinque (Short Story).

That afternoon, the panelists gave their comments first before the fellows did. It was fascinating listening to them. They saw and made critical opinions about the details that lacked in the pieces but not without pointing out the good aspects of it.

Second day                

By this time, we had the schedule and the compiled drafts handed to us. It was hardbound in blue leather with gold letters. We called it The Manual. My 2 poems were scheduled to be critiqued on the 29th and the 31st.

From the 28th to the 31st, the workshop started with a Craft Lecture given by one of the panelists followed by a snack break. Then, we proceeded to critique the scheduled pieces for the day; expected that we all have read the works from the manual beforehand.

For this day, we had Sir Mac discuss on “Effect” as his framework. He pointed out that the question “How would you want your readers to feel after reading your piece (happiness, nostalgia, sadness, grief, etc.)?” would become a point of reference, or a framework, when we write. All of the details we write should all aid to move the plot towards that effect. This framework doesn’t just apply to short stories but in creative writing in general.

The written works critiqued on the 28th were written by Neil Cervantes (Poetry), Resty Bhoy Partoza (Short Story), Hannah Valencerina (Poetry), and Jecia Anne Opiana (CNF).

This time, we fellows were the first ones to say our opinions about the pieces. We kind of got the rhythm of diagnosing the drafts from the example led by the panelist. It was a bit of a hit and miss for me because I never had any experience with literary critical frameworks before. So, I had the tendency of saying what I liked and pointing out confusing details about the pieces, but then, I never really any suggestions to improve the drafts.

Third day

On the 29th, Sir John opened the workshop with his lecture on translation and equivalency in writing Philippine fiction in the English language. He made use of Matthew Choate’s interview on him about his process in writing “Armor”.

Writing Philippine fiction in English is a tricky feat, I found out. Not only are we writing about our own Filipino culture, we also have to consider the audience, not just the Filipino readers, who will be able to read our works. When he was asked how he deals with the balance between information, background, and the rhythm of the story itself, he answered that he ultimately trusts his instincts. It takes finesse to write in details without coddling the foreign reader. In the end, “The Eurocentric reader will have to accept that there’s a world out there.”, he said.

This was the day my balak Proben and Abby’s short story were scheduled to be critiqued. The panelists and co-fellows were very thorough in diagnosing the drafts in the last couple of days.

It was pretty daunting to be under that amount of scrutiny but I felt relieved when most of the panelists and fellows received my poem well. I still have to work on it and have to put additional details to push the effect that I want to (using Sir Mac’s framework right there.) Sir Nino’s insights on it were very helpful to me. It made me figure out what sort of details to write on my next draft. (Side note: His Craft Lecture on Poetry will have an immense effect on me.)

Fourth day: “Ilabay sa Bankerohan River”                

We began the 29th with a Craft Lecture from the Goddess, Jhoanna Cruz, on the basics of playwriting. She explained how playwriting is the least solipsistic medium in creative writing because it demands collaboration; from set design, to the director, to the actors, and the production staff. There are a lot of things to be considered, both in the literary and the production side.

In the literary aspect, you as a writer must create at least two well-defined characters (at least for a one act play). A well-defined character, simply put, is a fictional entity that has its own unique voice in the script. Character must be shown through dialogue. You have to consider how the physical, psychological, social, mental being of the character in order for that unique voice to come out of the script. Not only that, you must also show character through action. After that, you can write how the story goes.

“It’s a play. It is meant to be performed on a stage, in front of a live audience.”, she said.

It has been known in the closely knit literary circles in Mindanao that the phrase “Ilabay sa Bankerohan River” is Sir Mac Tiu’s signature line. The fellows and I have heard about this urban legend even before we got into the workshop. I thought it was incredulous that someone as soft spoken as he was would say such harsh words.

And then it happened. I won’t tell you which draft garnered this comment. On a brighter note, Sir Mac only wanted to get rid of a part of the draft and not throw the entire piece in the Bankerohan River.

Later that day, we found out our batch broke a record. It usually took Sir Mac the first two days of the workshop to utter such phrase. But with us, it took him four days. I guess it’s a sign that our batch will go farther in this field. Either that or he just had more patience with us. Haha. We will never know.

Fifth day                

Sir Nino de Verya (not sure if related to Lourd) opened the day with his Craft Lecture on Texture in Poetry. He subtitled the lecture as “How not to write like Lang Leav” to make it controversial. He used Lang’s poem “First Love” and compared it to Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish” to show contrast. Lang’s poem used a familiar notion and added random imagery to support the idea. Elizabeth Bishop’s, on the other hand, vividly described the fish, as a subject, with all its detail. The description made the poem more visceral and captivating. The metaphor leaped out of the literal. The point? It had depth. It had texture.

I pretty much had to hide myself because I used to be a proud fan of Lang. Yes, the workshop changed me so much. I cannot read something without using any critical framework. It kind of sounds like I’m sort of renouncing my fandom on Lang and a bit of a literary snob. I’m not. Let’s just say that I outgrew her.

It was also the day my other balak Uniporme was critiqued. It was the last one to be under the microscope. I got a lot of insights from my co-fellows and the panelists. Like Probe, it made use of anthropomorphism as its framework. Thought, most of the panelist advised me to give it another twist. Make it not didactic and polemic. (Currently editing it as I type this.)

Fellows’ Night                

After the workshop was done, the fellows and I prepared a show. It took us almost two nights to finish the program. We made co-fellows Arjay and Neil sing their own songs. Abby, Jecia, and I did an improv called Pick-up Lines. We literally had to pick up lines written on small pieces of paper. We also gave hashtag awards to the fellows and panelists. The night and the workshop was closed with so much laughter.

Thoughts after the workshop

For the distinguished panelists, thank you for giving us your full attention and patience. For you to read and critique our amateur works for five days was such an honor. You weren’t as harsh as I expected you to be. On the contrary, you were so nurturing towards us. Of course, you all did criticize our works regarding form, framework, conflict, and the basic issue of grammar, but all of you also praised us for our own unique voices.

Ma’am Daryll even told some of us fellows, in one of our conversations in the lobby, how she enjoys coming to the South whenever she can. She appreciates how writers like us here make use of our own hometowns as settings. Such trait gives our stories its own local color.

But we still have a long way to go. We have to work hard and improve on our craft, as what Sir Nikki always said.

I also owe my learning experience to my co-fellows, for being such wonderful companions and for being honest in critiquing each other’s works. Like what Ma’am Jho said in our Fellows’ Night, “You are responsible for each other’s growth in this process.”

At the end of it, I realized how writers have an integral part in forming the mindset of our society. We, as writers, have the responsibility to show our own culture in our own works. I know the Philippines isn’t the best place to live in, what with all the corruption and shit it has been going through, but I think we should display the ugly underbelly of our own country for what it really is and show our resilience as a people. It’s what makes us Filipino.

Sarimanok in my Dreams

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I’ve dreamt of a man in white clothes with a sarimanok perched on his left shoulder. It was August 2. The day Dad got out of surgery. You see, he had been amputated due to complications in diabetes. I waited for him to come to his senses. The nurses said he shouldn’t be moved for at least a couple of hours. All I did was follow their instructions.

Mom was in Laguna. Kuya just left the hospital to do his duty online. Diko was working in Davao. Ate was living in Cebu.  Sangko was in Cavite. I was the only one left in the family to take care of Dad and my niece, Anchee.

August 14. Twelve days since Dad had surgery. Also, the day before the Davao Writers Workshop application deadline. I sent my 5 poems: 2 Bisaya and 3 English. I haphazardly made the last one so I could comply for the requirements. Abby and Summer already submitted their applications. And to think, I was the one who urged them to apply for it.

It was almost 5pm and I had to go home because Dad’s caregiver’s shift ends at 6pm. I got stuck in traffic. Had to pay her overtime.

August 30. Dad’s caregiver quit. That night, I dreamt of that man in white clothes with a sarimanok again.

September 23. Ate found someone who could do take care of Dad, Kaking. She immediately sent Kaking and her daughter to come to CDO on a ship. I fetched them form the pier.

September 26. My friends from NAGMAC (Nagkahiusang mga Mambabalak sa CDO) met for our preliminary meeting for our next Poetry Night on the 25th of October.

It was also the same day that Sir Steven Fernandez’s Sarimanok was being performed at the XU Gym.

That night, I dreamt of that man in white clothes with a sarimanok again.

September 27. Abby and I just watched The Xavier Stage’s production of 10 Little Indians – a stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It was a whodunit stage thriller. It gave me chills.

Upon going home, I had this nagging feeling that I had to check my email, but I chose not to because I just really wanted to go home immediately.

At 11pm, both Abby and Summer asked me if I’ve checked my email. Why would they even ask me… Damn it, I should’ve trusted my instincts. It’s about the workshop.

September 28. I finally got to check my email! And I got in!

October 14. Kaking had to go back to Cebu, which meant I had to look for another caregiver for my dad. 13 days away from the workshop and this happened. That night, I dreamt of that man in white clothes with a sarimanok again.

October 23. My sister and I still haven’t found anyone who could take care of dad when I get to Davao. I was this close to not going to Davao. Good thing I talked to our stay-out house help and she agreed to the temporary situation.

October 25. Poetry Night!

October 26. 11:30pm. Abby and I took a nonstop bus ride to Davao via Buda (shorthand for Bukidnon-Davao route)

October 27. 7am. We finally reached Lispher Inn. The venue for this year’s Davao Writers Workshop.

October 28. The dream became reality.

. dww

See this photo? You see, from where I was sitting, Sir John (the man wearing white in the photo) looked like he had a sarimanok on his shoulders.

I’ve had a lot of dreams that became real. But I guess this one is very much special because I really thought, in the pit of my gut, that I couldn’t go and experience the workshop. What with all the shit that happened to me. Murphy’s Law was a bitch.

But I like to believe that in order to beat Murphy’s Law, we have to be relentless.

Poem: I’m Never Gonna Marry A Writer

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I’m never gonna marry a writer
He’s perceptive
At one time
he’ll gaze and stare
into the depths of my soul
only to find out
that I’ll be one of his characters
in the next theater season

I’m never gonna marry a writer
He’s mercurial
At one point he’ll pour all his attention to me
and the next
his hands will be on his pen
scrawling the current good idea he has
on his handy dandy notebook
before it flees into the air

I’m never gonna marry a writer
Because I am a writer myself

In The Final List for the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop

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It really is true in this timeline. I really am a fellow for the Davao Writers Workshop.

It’s been a couple of days since I started reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and I’ve been feeling out of sorts. I won’t spoil you with any details but let’s just say the novel deals with time traveling. And every time I read stories about time travel, my mind goes out of whack.

Sometimes, I’ve actually felt like I’ve done a task only to hear my dad or niece say I definitely didn’t do it. Or sometimes, I didn’t do things but actually did them. I dunno. I feel like I’m in and out of some time warp.

So, when I found out I’ve been chosen as a fellow for the 2014 Davao Writers Workshop, I’ve been expecting some sort of portal where I get to go back into my real timeline when this didn’t happen.

And then they posted the list.

It wasn’t just a dream! It really did happen.I actually did get that email. I really am on the list.

I will finally get to go to Davao and visit Duterte’s city which I heard is pretty awesome since they actually practice CLAYGO (Clean As You Go) in the entire city. They also have UP Press Bookstore which sells books published by the UP Press and written by sought-after writers in the country. I’m definitely excited to visit other bookstores there as well.

But I’m much more excited for the workshops. It’s my first time to participate in one outside my hometown.I wonder how the other participants would be like. I wonder if they’d be friendly or if they have pipes up their asses. I do hope we all could get along pretty well. We’re only 14 participants so we might as well be amicable, right?

A part of me feels like it’s pretty daunting. But I’ve got Abby with me. No, no lesbo action there. We’re both straight. Plus, Diko works there as well so I’m not afraid to get lost in the city. Besides, if I do get lost, I’ll just toot my whistle. That’ll make the police running towards me, I hope.

I’m also psyched to meet the panelists and the organizers. Their reputations precede them. I wanna ask for tips and suggestions how to maintain an event such as Poetry Night, among other things.

Right now, I’m mentally preparing myself to see and hear my poems be torn and severed right in front of me. I know it’ll hurt but it’s a necessary evil an aspiring writer must undergo in order to hone one’s craft. I always take critiquing as an act of love between a mentor and a student.

Here’s looking forward to an eventful and fruitful workshop in Davao!

Peace out! 🙂

Poem: May – December

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The only wrinkles that you have

are those lines along the

corners of your eyes

when you smile

unlike her

Your countenance strengthens me

the might of

a thousand Spartans cannot match me

You hands

are smooth, unblemished by the

wash cloths and the dish soaps

the detergent you’ll be

handling soon enough

And yet beside you, I am

ancient

It is apt she calls this

May-December

You are summer

and I am at the tail end

of seasons

Soon, I hope

you, like a phoenix,

will rise

and I will remain

with her

Poem: Geyser

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This is one of the poems I submitted to the Davao Writers Workshop with a little tweaks.

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Geyser

 

I am used

to having

hands around my waist,

fingers around my neck,

different lips

pressed

against

mine.

They

chug

me

down

to

the

last

drop

 

and

then they

leave

me

empty.

 

But one night

you

– in your mint condition –

dropped

 

You kept your

 

lips

 

to yourself

 

but you

 

sunk

deep.

 

An awkward silence.

 

Your light

 

against my

 

dark

 

bubbled out

 

of the surface.

 

Followed by

 

a spectacle

 

only you

 

and I

 

share.

 

A geiser.

 

A purge.

 

And then

 

you

 

slowly

 

dissolved

 

into me.

 

They said

 

I would ruin you.

 

They didn’t

 

tell me it

 

was the other

 

way around.

What do you think about it? Please do tell me.

Peace out!

Davao Writers Workshop: What I Went Through To Check Your Confirmation

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Ever had that nagging feeling pressing you to check your email for no apparent reason? And then you found out your laptop doesn’t work. Your phone has no reception. Basically, you’re screwed.

Saturday night. Two of my closest friends, Abby and Summer, PMed me in FB asking if I’ve checked my email. Since I had a shitty reception at home plus my virtually non-existent non-compliant laptop wouldn’t do its job, I had no way of scanning through my email. Which made me ask this question: why would these two people ask me about as mundane as checking my email? And then I remembered.

Last August – Summer, Abby, and I applied for the annual Davao Writers Workshop. We had to submit our portfolio electronically through Dagmay – the online literary journal of Davao Writers Guild. I applied for the Poetry Category which made me submit at least five poems.

At the time, I only had four poems. You know what I did? I made a poem on the day of the deadline (August 15) about the fox’s perspective from The Little Prince. I named it Chapter 21 because in the novel, the fox is featured in Chapter 21. (duhdoy) I will not see the light of day on that poem because I made a stupid mistake of not saving it before sending it.

After that, every once in a while, I check my email and see if I had made the cut and each time I did, there was no message from Dagmay confirming my submission which made me a bit anxious. Some friends said they usually update a month before the workshops.

And then, at 11 o’clock in the evening on September 27, the organizer of the Davao Writers Workshop emailed the applicants.

I had absolutely no way of checking my email at that ungodly hour. I may be living in one of the Top 5 developing cities in the Philippines but I had a four year old and absolutely obsolete phone in my hands. I felt defeated.

So I waited for Sunday to come to check my email at a net cafe. As luck would have it, all of the cafes were closed. The sun was high up. The heat was as hot as it could ever be. I felt like I was living in a desert. And no way of checking my email.

I went home feeling anxious. Did I make the cut? Didn’t I? Maybe they didn’t like my last poem. Why’d I even make that one as haphazardly as I had done it. I should have edited it some more. I should have planned it out. The what ifs and should haves kept running in my mind as I walk my way home.

And as a futile resort, I tried checking my email through my phone. And wouldn’t you know! It budged. My phone pulled through just when I needed it the most. And I got in the workshop!

To the screening committee of the workshop, thank you so much for considering my poems as worthy of your prestigious event. It is a huge honor to be chosen as one of your fellows.

The Davao Writers Workshop is organized by the Davao Writers Guild (DWG), in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UP – Min). This year’s workshop will be held on October 27-31 at Davao City and will be participated by 15 delegates with 4 from outside Davao but reside in Mindanao.

And I’m one of the four lucky fellows from outside Davao!

Peace out!

Poem: In Another Existence

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A few days ago, there was this viral message about Mars’ cosmic ray scare floating around the interwebs. It said something about turning off all electronic devices as cosmic rays will affect mobile phones. Of course, being the skeptic that I am, I didn’t heed anything about it.

And then I wondered, what if my being a Luddite got over me and I actually turned off my phone? What if I didn’t get to that party my friend invited me to? What if I didn’t meet that guy down at the corner where I usually wait for my jeepney ride home? What if?

Here goes.

Me

meeting you

at that exact corner

where jeeps

and motorcycles

passed

me by

like

the flowing

river

was not

just

coincidence

 

You

with your

wild-eyed silliness

and your

inability

to keep

your bearings

in this

strange strange city

 

asking me

the girl

who basically

has

the city’s map

at the back

of her palm

for directions

was not

just

pure luck

 

It was cosmic rays

pushing us

into that corner

 

 

It was

divine providence

 

It was

a mixture

of luck

and coincidence

and decisions

all leading

to

that corner

 

to that

destiny

 

in another

existence

Poem: Countdown

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It’s been awhile since a wrote new poetry.  I know it’s no excuse but I’ve had a lot on my plate the past couple of months. But now I’m back!  I apologize for not updating you with any new poems.

Here’s my new one entitled “Countdown”.

Cut-off jeans

and flip flops

Sunscreens

and

sunnies.

Is it still summer?

No

it’s not.

I’m waiting for summer.

Wait

Christmas has to visit

with all its

frolicking

and

caroling

it seems like

it’ll last

long

But it won’t

Summer

will come by

soon

What are your thoughts? I’d really appreciate constructive criticisms. It would help me a lot.

That’s it for now.

Peace out!

Mindblowing Seminar

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Mindblowing Seminar

September 13, XU AVR 1, Cagayan de Oro City –  I was very fortunate to have participated in “Over A Cup of Coffee: A Talk with the Writers” –  ‘a literary discussion with the leading local writers of Mindanao.’ Said leading local writers who shared their journey in their specific literary field are Dr. Maria Elena Paulma , Dr. Steven Fernandez, Prof. Rogelia Garcia, and Prof. Arlene Yandug.

The talk was organized by XELLO (Xavier English Language and Literature Organization – a student organization for ELL and English major students in Xavier University) spearheaded by Kristen Senajon. (She also has a blog. Please check her out right here.)

Dr. Paulma started the talk by sharing the introduction of her dissertation. She was suppose to discuss about fiction but she ended up telling her process of writing in general. I didn’t actually take a lot of notes. I was too drawn listening to her. She has this aura that commands attention, not the kind that drill seargents have, but more like the kind Mother Mary had (if ever I did meet her).

One of the things she said that really struck me the most was the quote she shared by Butch Dalisay, “The knowing is in the writing.” Indeed, whenever I write, there’s always this sort of discovery that unfolds before me. Truths that I’ve never actually thought of in my waking moments. Thoughts that have lain dormant in my subconscious.

She also said how a writer’s best friend is the trash can. Haha! How true. Or if you’re more of the techie kind, the recycling bin, which is virtually a trash can.

There is also this dichotomy of creation and destruction in writing. I can’t seem to find the right words to explain how this phenomenon happens but let me paint a picture:

I’m writing. Pen on my right hand. A clean sheet of paper under it. I scribble words that come from my brain and down to my fingertips. Just as I’m about to put that last dot that ends the paragraph, I crumple that ink-filled sheet of paper and shoot that to my make-believe ring, which actually is just a trash can.

I know the picture I painted kinda sounded lame but….I tried.

I asked Dr. Paulma how she overcomes that fear of sharing to much of herself in her writing. She answered me with “It’s like jumping into a cliff. You just have to do it.”

The second part of the talk was about Poetry discussed by Prof. Yandug. She focused more on the structure of poetry and how line breaks are there to make the reader ask questions at the end of every line.

She used William Carlos Williams’ poem entitled Poem (As The Cat) to explain how line breaks work. As far as I could remember, she explained it like this:

As the cat                                 what?
climbed over                            climbed over what?
the top of                                 top of what?

the jamcloset                           and then?
first the right                            right what?
forefoot                                    oh okay, and then?

carefully                                   and then?
then the hind                           the hind what?
stepped down                         stepped down where?

into the pit of                           pit of the what?
the empty                               empty what?
flowerpot                                oh okay, the cat is safe. Yippee!

Now that I think about it, poetry is about suspense.

She also shared her poem entitled “Going Back to the Island”. The poem was published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. If you like to read the poem, click this.

After reading the poem, some of the participants almost cried. Even the host of the seminar, my friend Abby, almost cried.

I asked Prof. Yandug if she thought of ever performing the poem while writing it and she said she never thought of it. My first question was only a set-up to invite her for the Poetry Night and she definitely said yes! It actually pays to have a very thick face.

The third resource speaker that day was Prof. Rogelio Garcia. He’s more fondly called as Sir Roger to colleagues and students. I first met him when NAGMAC (Nagkahiusang Mambabalak sa CDO) conducted a poetry workshop back in July. But, his reputation did precede him. Most of my friends who are English majors have been fawning about him; telling me how he is such an inspiration. And I do agree he is an inspiration.

He discussed the literary genre Creative Non Fiction (CNF) – the youngest literary form in the bunch and focused on discussing the memoir CNF. He also showed the guidelines of CNF (I’d rather not enumerate them here.) and how different memoir CNFs are from autobiographies and biographies. Simply put, CNFs are true accounts of someone’s life (or in a memoir – true accounts of YOUR life) but written artfully whereas autobiographies and biographies are more informative and concerned in dates and times.

Did my explanation make sense? I do hope so.

Last and definitely not the least was Dr. Fernandez – the rock star of Mindanao drama and the DEFENDER OF OUR HERITAGE. Seriously, he actually did get an award from China.

Instead of showing slides and discussing his topic, which was playwriting, he opted to make things more interesting by making us – the participants – ask questions first.

Someones asked him when he started performing, to which he answered that he started performing ever since he was born. And he said all of us perform. We perform at home, in school, in meeting, even that time when we were in the seminar. Even he was performing before us.

Performance is a part of our lives.

He was asked many questions to which he answered very wittingly. Even fellow resource speaker – Sir Roger – asked him questions about his craft. He was asked how he deals with writers’ block to which he answered “sex”. The crowd jeered!

He shared his experiences is the source of his creativity. His quotable quote that day was “You write what you know.”

The seminar was closed by Zara, one of the organizers, with an encouragement: “Writing is for the brave. Be brave.”

I hope this seminar has sparked the young local writers of our city. We badly do need it to uplift and promote our own heritage. As what Dr. Fernandez said, “It’s our own culture. Nag-iisa lang ‘yan. We have to defend it.”

And with that, I will now jump into the cliff (figuratively, of course).

Peace out!