Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Downpour, downfalls

A HEAVY DOWNPOUR of rain normally means one thing for most of us students: Walang pasok! The joy. The happiness.

Others use the time to catch up on school work. I use those days to catch up on sleep and maybe to do some pleasurable reading without the obligation of writing a reaction paper afterwards. Many use the opportunity to catch a movie with friends.

Going out on such days always seemed weird to me. Though I’m not guilt-free when I criticize this practice, isn’t the point of suspending classes to avoid the streets because of flood and traffic? The Department of Education (DepEd) suspends classes in view of the difficulty of getting to school, the possibility of schools flooding, as well as the possibility of flooding in the students’ and teachers’ homes.

It’s odd—kind of disconcerting—that these things don’t affect most of us Ateneans seeing that we live in our suburban villages with decent drainage, and have our cars or our wallets that can afford us comfortable trips to malls if we’re in the mood. We manage to stay dry and we take advantage of the opportunity to model the new jacket we might’ve bought for the rainy season, or the bonnet that will keep our heads warm and concerns subdued in the frigid mall. (Isn’t it cute how her umbrella matches her top?)

It’s amazing the different reality others face while we dine in restaurants with service charges that equal close to half the price of the food, or drink coffee the same price as two meals for others. There are others that stay home and position buckets under faulty areas of the roof while using the remaining buckets as well as tabos to get the shin-high water out of the house.

We watch a P150 movie about some 40-year-old virgin or some lady ghost who lives in a pool, while there is a brown out perhaps in our own homes. Nearby, a shanty also temporarily without electricity is better prepared, for candle light is a staple even when the lone light bulb is turned on.

We step out of the freezing cold theater to the freezing cold atrium where hundreds like us—perhaps a classmate or two—wait in line for the next show. (Is that JC in that new sweater taking a picture of that girl in heels using his phone camera?) Elsewhere groups of kids wearing worn-out shirts and shorts and tattered slippers happily go swimming on asphalt.

We slip and slide along our status quo comforts, never splashing or falling completely, for that would bring unwanted attention unto us, entailing being drenched by conscience and concern for anonymous others who are drowning but who we would rather not think about on this God-given gift of a free day.

The following morning, everyone awaits another announcement from DepEd.


On that rather depressing note: GO ‘TENEO!

OK, I’ve never been much of a “peppy” guy but I do catch games on TV and of course I hope the Blue and White get it done tomorrow.

To those going to the game, stay safe and have fun. To those staying home, be sure to keep that TV locked on the game. To those who won’t be catching the game in any shape or form, enjoy the day off.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Emo for a cause

I WAS invited by Anne Calma to Conspiracy this past Friday to read an excerpt from “He’d Rather Be Relevant.” It was a “Rock for Guimaras” event; poets and musicians performed to help raise funds for the cause. I was sort of the opening act.

Cindy went along with me; JC and his 17-year-old cousin (whose name eludes me right now) met us there.

Reading from a piece about cancer seemed a bit extraneous in an event for an environmental cause. I intentionally chose a segment that epitomizes the message of “relevance” in the piece—relevance we were all displaying that night, lending our voices, talents, and support to an important cause.

I was into my second bottle of Red Horse when an organizer summoned me to the stage—alcohol pretty much ridding me of any potential nerves.

A poet I am not. But I read three pages of “He’d Rather…”—the three pages with the most emphatic use of cuss words—as I remembered Gelo Suarez performing a month or so ago at Mag:net, as I remembered Lourd De Verya reading poetry during Palanca night, as I remembered Ricky Abad reading Bien Lumbera verses a few hours earlier at an on-campus event honoring the National Artist.

I think I did well. That was the consensus among those I talked to after. A bottle goes a long way in easing nerves, though JC did notice how I read kind of fast.

A girl in attendance approached me after I went off stage. She asked for a copy of the entire piece. Her brother’s fighting cancer. She was moved by my piece—or at least three pages of it.

So the few minutes on stage managed to strike a chord. Mission accomplished, I suppose.

I went back to our table where Cindy and I ordered more and more bottles as we listened to more poets and bands, including Salamin, EO Marcos’ band whose vocalist is Paolo Valenciano. (EO's a friend from Reedley.)

Cindy and I haven’t been having the best of weeks individually in our personal lives so we settled for some good old-fashioned drowning. Long after JC and his cousin left, Cindy and I had “emo-ed” ourselves to sitting on the floor of the semi-enclosed smoking room with empty beer crates stacked behind us and hard rock musicians sitting on chairs while sharing the table that loomed over our heads.

Cindy and I made sure we bought “Rock for Guimaras” T-shirts (I didn’t have to pay entrance so might as well, I thought) before heading back to Katipunan for more cheesy sentimentality over burgers and fries at McDo.

It was nearing 2AM by the time I got home.


Just finished reading Butch Dalisay’s Killing Time in a Warm Place. Great book. Insightful look into the optimism, confusion, struggles, triumphs, and disappointments of what I think is our greatest generation.

Too bad little has changed. So sad the paralyzing lack of vigor in my own generation.


Belated Happy Birthday to Ada (September 23)!

“Perhaps there’s / Something to be said of the number 23, or the mere 29 / Days that separate our births. Maybe there’s significance / In complimenting inclinations towards the cadence of combining / Words and the lively lucidity of images. Or perhaps / There’s just something binding about the power of conversation / (or the poverty from losing P500 to an old lady in front / Of Quiapo Church).”

I’ll give you the rest of your birthday poem when I see you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

News & Current Affairs
Journey to Justice
By Martin Villanueva
September 2006

NORMALCY could be deceiving. It is 1:30PM, a day after the second impeachment bid against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was killed. The scene at University of the Philippines’ (UP) Palma Hall is quiet: two female students sit along the sidewalk, where, an hour earlier, they were two of many who witnessed the burning of Arroyo’s effigy.

Oppositionists took to the streets on Friday, August 25, after 17 hours of debate and voting in Congress junked the latest impeachment bid against the president.

The Caravan for Truth and Justice assembled by the main gate of the House of Representatives beginning 9:30AM, before proceeding to Palma Hall in UP Diliman.

Opposition said they had plans to make the rounds to schools and universities, parading seven cargo boxes of evidence implicating Arroyo in election fraud, corruption and human rights violations which were ignored by the House.

Wala ng available na constitutional process kundi pumunta sa mga tao. Sumasagot lang kami sa mga request at appeal ng mga tao (to hear the truth),” said Taguig-Pateros Representative Allan Peter Cayetano during the weekly Bishop People’s Forum at St. Peter’s Parish in Quezon City, where the plans for the caravan were revealed.

Various opposition lawmakers and pro-impeachment leaders spoke to students and anti-Arroyo groups gathered inside Palma Hall.

The event culminated around 12:30PM outside along the steps of the hall where an effigy symbolizing Arroyo was burnt down.


Get a copy of the September issue of Katipunan to read the rest of the article.

Also included in the issue: Sagala ng Mga Sikat 2006, Rapu-Rapu Mining Controversy, Indigenous People Fighting for Awareness, Watering Holes along Katipunan, and a Demolition of Planetary Proportions.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Week in review

Monday 11 September 2006

WHAT significance do the signatures of 100 students and faculty members hold in the realm of national interest? This was the question I asked myself as I covered a mass/candle vigil against the People’s Initiative on campus this afternoon.

When Japs asked one of the organizers what they were going to do with the signatures after, the person said that they were going to maybe leave it out on display. Great.

I’m sorry. My pessimism runs deep.

Tuesday 12 September 2006

LOW-KEY day. Both classes were kind of boring. Karla (prof sa Creative Nonfiction) had to leave class early, leaving us with a writing exercise about family. More angst-driven writing for me.

Wednesday 13 September 2006

IAN Casocot left me a message on my blog asking for a copy of “He’d Rather Be Relevant.” He published it on a web site full of this year’s Palanca-winning works.

The layout of the site’s pretty cool, complete with black-and-white photos of the writers. Casocot used my “maangas” head shot taken by either Marcee or Cindy back during freshman year. The arrogance of the photo matches the swagger of the piece, I suppose.

Thursday 14 September 2006

WENT to school early because Japs, Gin, and I were supposed to have lunch in Manang’s. Japs couldn’t make it. But it ended up being a Block E reunion of sorts with Ria, Marcee, Cindy, Lee, Carmel, and Leigh in attendance. Pepe (roommate ni Leigh) was there as well.

Have a lot planned for tomorrow. I’d like to think that today was a quiet prelude.

Friday 15 September 2006

WENT to Heights Open Mic Night where Cindy, Drew, and I hung out for a bit with Audrey (Editor-in-Chief), Fidelis (Associate English Editor), Louise (English Editor), and other Heightsers. Fidelis read my hand and said something about a meaningful marriage in my future that won’t last. I actually believed her.

Cindy, Drew, and I then went on to watch Gin’s basketball game. Unfortunately, her team, WBC, lost to YFC’s team.

The four of us went on to Kublais for a couple of bottles. We were joined by Marcee and Japs. We all then had a late McDo dinner.

Cindy, Drew, Gin, and I ended the night with an impromptu drive to Antipolo for no other reason but a few minutes of cool air, disrupted views of the city, and picture-taking in the dark.

It was 3AM by the time I got home.

Saturday 16 September 2006

FIVE hours of sleep later and I found myself in Gateway, Cubao waiting for Vince Serrano (prof sa poetry) and some others to go to Quiapo. Vince, Vica (anak ng teatro), Diane (pol-sci), Rocky (kapwang manunulat), Rocky’s friend, and I took the LRT to Recto. We then walked towards Quiapo along Quezon Boulevard, making more than a few stops to check out the CDs being sold.

We met up with Ada after she had already lost her bag, argued with a policeman, cried, and sought help at the Quiapo Church. She joined us penniless so Vince and I acted like good Samaritans to her for the rest of the day. Well, at least I did…I shared my lunch with her but Vince refused to share his two huge bottles of Chinese beer that he bought while we were in Binondo.

Later in the afternoon, Ada and I ended up sitting across from a fortune teller who screwed us over for P500. We both got vague, generic readings, and I got a small love charm thing which the fortune teller eventually charged me P100 for.

Pure stupidity. But good times, good times (di ba Ada?).

The fortune teller said that my heart’s with two different people and echoed Fidelis’ prediction of a failed marriage. Matters of the heart inevitably become cheesy, but the truth has never smelled so bad.


Hymn of Siren's first record, "Foreplay", drops tomorrow. CDs available along the Kostka Extension in the Ateneo de Manila University. This is part of the Ateneo Musician's Pool's (AMP) tie-up with the Ateneo Management Association (AMA).

Congrats to Marcee and Cindy!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Guimaras gunk, national sludge

WE'VE ALL seen it in the news and in the papers. The gunk, mucus-like, only thicker, almost gelatinized, and jet-black.

..........................................100 km to 220 km of tainted coastline.

We’ve seen the barefoot men in shorts, gloves being their only protection as they scoop bucket-loads of the stuff from the shore, out of the water. Man against the vastness of a diseased nature. No match.

............................................. 26,000 people affected in Guimaras.

We’ve all seen it, perhaps more than we’ve seen the real problem itself. Politicians “surveying.” Many making promises. Many more pointing fingers.

......................................10,000 fisher folk bereft of daily income
........................totaling between P3 million and P5 million.

We’ve seen—not enough, though—families displaced, children getting sick. Poisoned lives. They wait, for what choice do they have? Someone needs to be blamed. In the mean time, little relief for mom, dad, and children.

................................136 families (400 residents) evacuated
......from the villages of La Paz and Cabalagnan Nueva Valencia town, Guimaras (as of August 29).

We’re seeing it right now. Ill-preparedness. Unequipped to handle calamities. Well, we can’t even manage routine problems, all the more monstrosities. Environment is not even in the vocabulary, pushed aside in classrooms ever since. The problem runs deep.

.......................1,100 HA spoiled marine reserve;
........................................454 HA mangroves smothered with oil.

We’ll continue to see this. NGOs, foreign aid. We can’t cut it on our own. No wonder so many want to leave. That’s hard for someone like me to say.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


THE "FLOETRY" of Anderson Cooper is a thing to hear. His voice is deep, its cadence rather casual. There’s a heart beating behind what may initially come across as monotony.

His clauses are short. “Ands” and “buts” are less prevalent that commas, double-dashes, and periods. The meanings behind two separate clauses speak for themselves through the similarities and the disparities between them. Self-evident. Conjunctions often unnecessary.

“On the outskirts of Baidoa, in a hovel of twigs, I watched the mother lift a kettle. Squatting, she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, pouring what little water she had left over her boy's head.

His eye sockets were hollowed out, each rib clearly visible. The parents had already watched three boys die.

This was their last, he was 5 years old. He was just one boy, just one death—in Somalia it happened every day.”

He doesn’t want to editorialize. He stands behind facts, fully confident that the facts are preposterous as they are, opinions would be redundant to the ludicrous images on screen.





..........What “but” could be added when a thin kid asks for food
.....................while smiling front of the camera with a bloated
malnourished stomach?

..........What sentiments conveyed through dramatic
.....................statements are needed with picture of houses
mothers crying
...........over the loss of their living rooms?

...........What more does one need to say
....................when the fear in people’s eyes lucid? They twitch
as they sit on the subway
.............................the day before.

...........What justification, explanation, reason
....................needs to be given
.............................when he is overwhelmed by
irresponsibility and inhumanity he challenges
.............................a politician
on live television?
....................(It’s normally their fault
.............................anyway, right?)

Perhaps that SHOULD be his job. He takes on the responsibility. The burden. Not just a relater of facts and figures but a demander for answers, for the job truly is a service.

Objectivity is not human. A human Cooper clearly is, and for humans he delivers the stories.

And why?

To make us care. To really make us feel provoked. And for us to make choices about certain things that will lead to solutions to the very problems he presents.

“The pain was all around: houses, whole towns, nothing but rubble, roofs blown off or burnt down, walls crumbling, half-starved dogs skulking in the streets, women running for cover clutching the tiny hands of their kids.

And the smells: Charcoal fires, cooking fuel, mud, blood, human waste, musty and sweet; the smells stick in your throat, weave into your clothes—they become part of the fabric.

When I first arrived in Sarajevo, I wore my flak jacket all the time, slept with it near my pillow. Now I hardly ever put it on.

You're surrounded by people who don't have Kevlar vests and armored cars. You're in their homes, asking for their stories.

You want them to risk exposing themselves to you. You can't ask that if you're not willing to expose yourself, feel the closeness of another, the sense of loss in their embrace.”

He sheds light on the things we like to conveniently turn away from.


Well, perhaps it’s because, being a son of high society and celebrity, he’s grown up in a situation where turning away would’ve been the easy and an acceptable thing to do.

Trust fund kids get a bad wrap these days. Party-goers. At least many of them.

There’s the pseudo-recording artist whose previous claim to fame was a brainless reality show and a video of her sucking another rich dude’s “manlihood.”

The high society more close to home sees bums who go on prolonged vacations to Bora and weddings in Paris while they only barely pass for having jobs, calling themselves artists or photographers—talent they don’t need for their clients are their wealthy kabarkadas. Convenient lives they have in their pseudo-Manhattan lofts in Makati.

Acts of charity are done in the “radical chic” mode, to appear like the brown Angelina, to appear cool by appearing to care about people who are alien to them, of another planet—the scapegoats, the whores of false high society concern.

Cooper chose the rout of being relevant. Picked up a camera and sent himself to war-torn areas, making his own reports and giving them to any news agency that were too low-budget or too chicken-shit to send one of their own. Some work their way up, starting from the bottom of the ladder. Cooper, in a sense, carried the ladder up from the basement before making a single step up.

“On the outskirts of a town, along the side of a road, a bus has overturned. A half-dozen bodies are splayed in a ditch.

Nearby, a pickup has run off the road. It is silent except for the flies buzzing and the vultures circling overhead, waiting for me to leave.

From the truck's windshield, a man's torso sticks straight out, his legs emerge from the open passenger door. From a distance he appears to be moving. Up close, I realize it's only maggots.

I couldn't tell you if he was a Hutu or a Tutsi, couldn't tell you about the rest of the dead lying in the ditch. Did it really even matter?

There had been dozens of bodies that day, dozens of deaths. Each one a mystery, a tragedy to someone.

I stopped trying to make sense of it all. We are trained to ask why. Why did he do it? Why did he have to die? I no longer need to ask those questions."

And so he got his show, now the book, the ensuing fame, the groupies, and probably more than a few cynical frowns of haters of substance celebrity. But let us not forget that the celebrity was earned through his work. And even during this ride, which sees him in Comedy Central, People, Details, and just as much as on CNN, he still injects himself in places like Lebanon during the month of war, and immediately to London after that to cover a terrorist apprehension.

Rumors of sexuality and statements of physical attractiveness unfortunately come with the territory of gaining a reputation of any sort—telling perhaps of the insecurity of society, one that dictates us to cloud substance in shallowness.

Credibility is hard to darken, though. Just in case we think of him as a one-hit wonder, a fame-hungry hero, a brave son of a bitch riding his 15 minutes, or an asshole looking for an Emmy or a Pulitzer, Cooper goes back to places like the slums of New Orleans (at least once every month or so), making sure the story which has passed its climax and wintered in ratings hype, still comes to…well…not a resolution…but to something, somewhere better, somehow.

One hesitates to prophesize a happy ending for however great that city rises after, the memory of that hurricane will forever be haunting.

It haunts him. He wants it to haunt us all.

We’ll move on but we won’t forget. We must not forget. Cooper won’t allow us to, at least not in the near future.

..........The mistakes.
....................The wrong.
..............................The inadequate.
The powerless.
..........The at-fault.
....................The lost.
And the loss.

He cares. We all care. He just wants us to remind us to continue caring. He reminds us that he is just one of us—human—vulnerable, in search for justice, righteousness, peace, and happiness.

*Excerpts taken from articles written by Anderson Cooper for details.
*Check out the Reporter's Notebook of A.C.


Where were you on 9/11?

At Home. In my room. It was evening. Was watching MTV Cribs (I was something like 15). Turned to CNN just in time to see the second plane. I didn't sleep. The world would never be the same.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Friday, September 8

BLOCK E (PAST, PRESENT, AND INCOMPLETE) AT TUGON NIGHT: Lee-Anne Tobias, Paula Peralta, Ginny Sonico, Martin Villanueva, JC El Tayech.

LAST NIGHT began with me fighting off hard rain and ankle high floods to get to Bubble Gang Toppings, Katipunan for Tugon’s “Rock a Bye Baby Concert and Comedy Shindig.” (Tugon is a student organization of the Ateneo that aims to provide care for abandoned and sexually-abused children.)

GIN, ME, JC: "My Girl" (kamukha ni Pia Guanio?), The Writer, The Actor.

The P120 entrance got me an hour with Gin, JC, Lee-Anne, and Paula, as well as the night’s first bottle. This event was supposed to be a block reunion. It ended up just being the five of us. Typical.

LEE AND JC: Ang ganda talaga ng long-lost sister ko. Surprising na wala pa siyang guy--not that protective Kuya Martin is complaining.

Missed 6 Cycle Mind and Protein Shake; caught Callalilly’s set (o narinig ko pala; sa labas kami nakaupo). Didn’t get to catch Hymn of Siren’s set because of miscommunication between Cindy and I (akala ko 8:45 ang set nila; past 11:30 pala); had to go to my mini-Palanca celebration.

Next door at Flaming Wings, JC, Paula, and I were joined by Andre (anak ng teatro at kaklase ko sa poetry, theology, at history), Ada (kapwang manunulat, alagad ng entablado, at kaklase ko sa poetry at nonfiction) and her boyfriend Exodus, Lionel (kapwang manunulat, patnugot ng features ng Guidon, at kaklase ko sa nonfiction), Cindy, and Marcee (before their set). Gin left to go to a party with her basketball teammates.

Ended the night at Cantina with Andre, Cindy and Marcee (after their set), and Japs, while some Blue Rep friends of Andre joined us. (Blue Rep ay isang theater org sa Ateneo.) Bottles were ordered, opened, and downed until around 2AM.

Andre, Cindy, and Japs all noticed how I kind of looked down. I wasn’t really conscious of how I was feeling. It was like my emotions were on mute.

Perhaps I was just tired? Perhaps it was disappointment over those who didn’t show up? (Isang babae in particular siguro? "It's complicated" diba Ada?) Perhaps it was embarrassment over dragging along Andre and Ada—two I only recently got to know—to what was supposed to be a block thing?

(Astig talaga si Ada at si Andre. How pathetic that the two who have probably shown the greatest support during this “award afterglow” have been the two I’ve known for the shortest time?)

Being a leader of sorts in the block before, it has been frustrating to see what has become of the block over the past couple of years. I’ve given up on childish notions of unity. Now I just stick to my own guns.

Selfishness? Or maturation?

The new attitude has worked out for me (published works, awards, etc.). Those who want to go along for the ride are more than welcomed. In the weirdest and most surprising way, last night sort of proved that looking out for myself won’t be a lonely endeavor.


Would like to thank my original mentor in creative nonfiction, Queena Lee-Chua, for the article about me on the university web site (check out the article in the Features section).

It truly is an honor, ma'am.

At maraming salamat din sa mga kapwang alagad ni Queena na nag-congratulate sa e-group. Sorry, di ako nag-post ng thank-you sapagkat na wala ang subscription ko sa grupo.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A reminder from someone
I’ve never met

NIKKI CASTRO, our former batch president, passed away Sunday, September 3. He was 21.

I never met the guy—didn’t even vote for him in the Sanggunian election a couple years ago. But I knew of him.

Disease is what we have in common. We both battled cancer in high school. We both went to college cancer-free. We went along with our lives. I remained low key, preferring to keep to my fine arts colleagues, while Nikki’s face was seen in many a poster all throughout campus as he ran for and eventually got elected as batch president.

It was a bit of a surprise when Nikki had to step down from his post. He took a leave of absence from school during our sophomore year. He had a relapse. The cancer came back.

It was something like four in the afternoon on Sunday—just as I was getting ready to go to mass—when I received a text message from Gin: “Guys, nikki castro passed away… Please, let us all pray 4 d eternal rep0se of hs soul…” Time seemed to stop.

We both had cancer. We both were cured. His went back. Now he’s gone. And I’m still here.

God, it’s amazing the kind of menial bullshit I let bother me considering what could be my reality. Nikki and I never met, but his passing hits a little too close to home.

Spent an hour on Monday before class at the college chapel where Nikki lay in state. It was surreal. The “that could be me” feeling crept in. Am I taking my health for granted? There’s a difference between moving on and denying the past. That could’ve been my body resting in that chapel. Japs later admitted to thinking about me when she had heard about Nikki. Shit. Frightening.

To add salt to the wound, Aeli (news editor ko sa KATIPUNAN) asked me to write something short about Nikki’s wake and funeral for the next issue. To reduce one’s life to the details of his wake and his funeral…how utterly sad, disrespectful, and pathetic. There was no way I—cancer survivor—was going to ask the family of someone who passed away because of cancer for such menial details. Thankfully, Japs was willing to ask around the Sanngu for me.

Two days after this cancer survivor received a Palanca, another former survivor unfortunately succumbed to the disease. I wrote extensively in an essay once about how some people just can’t afford to live. Many are gravely ill and can’t pay for treatment. Nikki and I were blessed to be able to afford to fight. He lost his fight on Sunday, mine continues.

I’m an ambitious person. I have a lot on my mind. I have a lot I want to do. I’m entering my sixth year of remission from cancer. Often it’s the least thing on my mind. Nikki just reminded me how I might’ve taken survival for granted.

Thanks for the wisdom, man. Rest in peace, Nikki. Rest in peace.


Anderson Cooper of CNN gained worldwide fame and recognition for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He was once asked in an interview by a late night talk show host if it was hard to know that his career had benefited from what had been a tragedy for others.

The interviewer was obviously joking. But there's something there to think about.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Palanca on my mind

I HESITATE to write about the awarding ceremonies of the 56th Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, held last night at the Dusit Hotel Nikko. Words probably won’t do justice to everything that went on. But I’ll attempt to write something anyway, just to make sure certain things won’t be lost in fleeting memory.

I arrived 30 minutes late because of Makati traffic. That means I was on time within our cultural perspective. Last night was the first time I was ever thankful for the concept of “Philippine time.” I knew I was in the right place when I saw Marco Lopez, a former professor of mine, accompanying friends on a cigarette break outside the lobby area.

Mom and I were being led in by a hostess when DM Reyes greeted me and told me, “Don’t listen to them. Sit anywhere you want. You’re a winner.” We eventually settled for a table with winners from the regional languages categories. Neighboring tables featured Larry Ypil (First Prize, Poetry) and Ryan Chua (Second Prize, English Essay in Kabataan Division at kapwang third year Atenista).

I found out that the Board of Judges of my division (English Essay) composed of Bienvenido Lumbera, Conrado De Quiros, and Lito Zulueta. Damn. My piece impressed some big names. There’s something humbling and satisfying about getting approval from your heroes.

Sightings I have aplenty (sorry sa dami ng namedrops): aside from my former professors, DM Reyes and Marco Lopez, Lumbera, De Quiros, Krip Yuson, Behn Cervantes, Danton Remoto (i-boto mo sa konggreso), Jessica Zafra, Lourd De Veyra ("para sa tunay na lalaki"), Khavn Dela Cruz (The Brockas!), Pinky Amador, and Ricky Davao were all in attendance last night.

Highlights of the formal program included a speech by the legendary Edith Tiempo, poetry reading by Lourd (sana nagperform ang Radioactive kagabi..."gin pomelo! gin pomelo!") , and the performance of Job Pagsibigan’s “The Palanca in My Mind” (First Prize, Dulang May Isang Yugto).

When I was called up to receive my award, I was greeted by Pinky Amador (Judge, One-Act Play), Bienvenido Lumbera (Chairman of Board of Judges, Essay), and Behn Cervantes (Chairman of Board of Judges, Full-Length Play).

Then something I’ll never forget: Lumbera took a firm grip of my hand, looked at me in the eye and said with conviction, “That was a very good essay.”

Humility aside, only writers who’ve been complimented personally by a National Artist for Literature will ever know how that feels.


So many thank-you’s are in order (inuman next week mga Atenistang kapatid ko sa sining, kapwang manunulat, anak ng teatro, alagad ng disenyo, at taga-walis ng museo!). And there’s no way I’m skipping mass tomorrow.


Going to the 27th Manila International Book Fair today sa World Trade Center pero wala akong pera!