Friday, March 30, 2007

Imprisoned by the way things could’ve been …
You’re feeling alright … I’m not feeling too good myself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"The spirit is to just jump in and make it work."

A few days after one of her writers was arrested, and a couple of days after posting bail for a warrant for her own arrest filed by crook-turned-politician (and really still a crook) Chavit Singson, Marites Vitug received a text message from yours truly, asking if we could take pictures of Newsbreak’s last issue to use for the layout of the cover story I wrote.

I had interviewed Ms. Vitug, Newsbreak’s editor-in-chief, a couple of weeks before at their offices in Ortigas. No, there weren’t warrants for her arrest then, but she had the First Gentleman up her ass (as well as the asses of many of her fellow editors and writers) because of an article they ran about more of his alleged shenanigans.

I imagine hers to be a stressful position, and I’d like to think that being interviewed by a campus journalist about stuff she loves to talk about (news, marketing, multi-platform media outlets, ethical concerns, journalistic responsibility, etc.) served as somewhat of a break for her.

I found Ms. Vitug to be a warm person, and I write in my piece about how “unassuming” she is. I had spent the week before reading up on her and the magazine, and it was mostly stuff about being “gutsy” and “hardnosed.” She was an award-winning journalist with a reputation for being able to dig out dirt about powerful persons, and doing so fearlessly.

Indeed, this could very well explain her pleasant mood during the interview. Frankly, she’s been through worse, has been drilled by harder questions, by persons, perhaps, who might have not even cared about her answers.

For a half-hour or so, she entertained my inquiries openly, answered them thoroughly, in between bites of her merienda of some sort of pastry. She was uninhibited in the calmest of ways.

For someone so accomplished, Ms. Vitug was all but ready to admit the inadequacies of Newsbreak and where they needed to improve when they return to print within this year.

A month or so removed from the announcement of Newsbreak’s leave from printing and the launch of their revamped website as a means to continue what they do, I was expecting bitterness in tone. But Ms. Vitug appeared optimistic, saying that this was all part of the necessary expansion for a news outlet like theirs.

“The spirit is to just jump in and make it work.”

It’s my favorite quote from the interview. It captured where Ms. Vitug and Newsbreak are right now. It encapsulates the youthful excitement of a 30-year veteran, whose job as editor-in-chief hasn’t changed, really.

We can go on and on about cyberspace, blogging, podcasts, and the like. But in the heart of everything is still the desire to tell the story that needs to be told, the courage to uncover truths that affect a people in a nation with a history of deceit (especially among its leaders).

Those things haven’t changed. It looks like they won’t be changing any time soon.
*To read my piece on Newsbreak, get a copy of KATIPUNAN's March 2007 issue.
Also in this issue:
Mina Reyes investigates the recent Ateneo Sanggunian elections where the choice to abstain outnumbered the votes garnered by actual candidates.
Reyes also speaks with Leland dela Cruz, director of the Development Studies Program, about new ways of engraining social involvement within the Ateneo Community.
Aga Dela Torre writes about the renaissance of Ilog Pasig with a ferry transport system, and explores the bayanihan spirit displayed by the local automotive industry and the Philippine Utility Vehicle.
April Sescon reviews ENTABLADO's rendition of Rene O. Villanueva's Sandaang Panaginip, and co-writes with Sasha Martinez a piece on the recent “Chromatext” exhibit at the CCP and the “return” of PLAC (Philippine Literary Arts Council), led by founders Gemino Abad and Alfred Yuson, and a group of younger writer/poets who look to carry on the tradition.
Sasha and Dani De Castro review the recent run of Disney favorite and movie-turned-stage production, High School Musical, starring Karel Marquez and Shark Alonzo.
And finally, Mari Colinares explores off-campus housing for students in the Katipunan area.
**Accepting orders at (Php50/copy).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dear someone,

Please don't change something just because you feel that you have to change something. If you think you've changed something because the original thing was wrong, well, I'm sorry, ma'am, YOU'RE wrong. (I've personally checked, ma'am.) And I speak from the standpoint of knowledge, competence, and a track record of success here ... just thought I'd remind you.

Taste also gives you no right to change things, ma'am, for if we talk of taste, I know plenty more--perhaps some even less competent--who still have a better palette.

Just allow me to be, ma'am, for by me being, I can take you and this thing places. And YOU'LL look like the genius, and I won't complain for one bit.

I'm in it for what I think are the right reasons--reasons selfless and noble. I've already had my 15 minutes, and I know I'm due for another 15 someday, even without all this and most especially you.

Respectfully but with a whole bunch of honesty,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

True To The First Draft

Tomorrow I submit a one-act play entitled “Finding Words” to Glenn Sevilla Mas for his course in playwriting.

The play revolves around an immediate family with two award-winning writers as well as two members who have tragically passed on: the mother who passed away while giving birth to the youngest child, and a sister who took her own life. The play attempts to explore dealing with trauma, communicating pain, and the prevailing silence within a family who has gotten used to avoiding confrontation.

I printed the script out this afternoon, 41 pages in all, including the title page. There’s something thrilling about seeing those pages come out and piling them up. There’s something rewarding about reading through the play again in its entirety. Sure you cringe at some questionable lines, but you forget about it after you read a kick-ass line that you’re surprised that you even wrote.

I normally set a strict personal deadline during the day before the formal deadline of something. Without doing so, I’m perfectly the type of nitpicky writer that could change the smallest of things in a piece up until I leave the house during the day of the actual deadline. I found setting my own deadline in advance allows me to trust what’s already on the page.

Often it’s in the second-guessing that pieces fall flat. It’s normally the one most loyal to the honesty of my sentiments when the piece was first conceived that’s the best draft. But it’s also one or two drafts removed from the original, thus I find much of the clutter, angst, and/or melodrama has been tamed to readability (at least).

Having said all of this, the draft of the play I’ll be submitting tomorrow is the third one overall. The play hasn’t peaked in terms of its quality, but it’s the best that it could be considering the time constraints. I’m convinced that any minute adjustments done between now and 4:30PM tomorrow wouldn’t make any significant difference in the quality of the content, just as I’m convince that when I go back to work on it in a week or two, I’ll be able to objectively take it up at least one more notch before the idea of the entire thing completely tumbles down.

At least that’s what I hope.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Check out a new link to the blog of young published writer and fellow Ateneo CW student Sasha Martinez.

“Because I know how talented you are … because you’re my favorite ‘Zesto girl’ … and because … well, just because … "

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hail to Thee of Lit (and National) Royalty

Yesterday, during our last classroom session with Isagani Cruz (the acclaimed literary critic, not the bigot) in his Philippine Literature in English course, we were all asked to give a “creative” five to ten minute presentation on our book reports.

In the attempt of proving that all writing—even fiction—is autobiographical in a way (as I believe Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War somewhat exemplifies), I called upon the assistance of English Lit majors Carlo Rivera and Luigi Ereñeta.

Luigi I’ve known since we were Creative Writing freshmen. He decided to shift to English Lit because he’d “rather read than write.”

Carlo I first met last semester, when the two of us were in Ambeth Ocampo’s history class. He shifted from Economics when he probably realized that words make a lot more sense than numbers.

I gave both of them the following premise: Some sort of insurgency is attempting to topple Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Then I asked them, using their own interests and sensibilities, to create the general plot of a story with this premise.

Both turned to military violence. Carlo’s story involved a break into Malacañang and having a literary critic succeed GMA as ruler of the country.

Luigi’s was metaphorically emblematic of real life. Amidst all the bombs that exploded, more than one group of insurgents was set to take over Malacañang. His twist? One group in particular was led by a literature guy.

OK, so the experiment didn’t really work as I thought it would in that I don’t think there’s something autobiographical in the two students’ use of military violence in their stories. (At least I hope there isn’t.)

But they both did use literary figures, which is reflective of their biases toward their particular field of study.

And when you think about it, when you pit his name against all of them clowns in (or running for) office, King Isagani Cruz (the acclaimed literary critic, not the bigot) sure does have a nice ring to it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What Have You Done Lately?

I’m suffering a little bit from the what-have-you-done-lately syndrome. The truth is I’ve done a lot, but it’s limited for the most part to the confines of the university.

I’m still getting responses to that thing I won last September, especially after the winning piece was released in Heights. An acclaimed literary critic asked me if the guy I wrote about was still alive. A philo classmate asked me if the guy I wrote about was me. And some girl said to someone else, “That’s the guy who won the Palanca” before saying something like I only wrote about my leg and that she guessed that’s the kind of shit judges fall for.

All this further fuels my insecurity of having only won because I had something interesting in my life to write about.

People have been asking if I have an entry for this year’s awards. An eight-time winner of a teacher gave me an entry form. I probably am going to have another entry this year. I just have to figure out what that entry will be.

I have a theory: If you’ve been in the game for some time, your first win would simply be icing on the cake, a nice but unnecessary affirmation. But if you win as a young nobody, your name will always come with some doubt until you win another. I’ve had a former Filipino teacher jokingly confirm this theory. Jokes are always half-meant, right?

My last nationally published piece came last summer, and I recently found out that I should’ve been paid for it—I wasn’t. Since then, I’ve only sent out two or three more pieces—all rejected.

The most recent fruits of my journalistic endeavors still hang in the balance because of a lack of funding, so fingers are crossed, novenas would be prayed if I was really that religious.

And lastly, a prestigious national workshop has started to accept applicants. I’m currently trying to put together a manuscript without knowing what exactly they’re looking for or whether or not my pieces are even flirting with their standards.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of Mother's Birthday

I still remember a time when Dad used to sneak me into the kitchen the night before. He’d have a card with him, and he’d ask me to sign it, “Love, Martin and Dad.”

It wasn’t too long ago that it was an event—an excuse to take out the old credit card and eat at some swanky place.

Tonight, Mom will be having dinner with her Mother Butler colleagues, Dad will probably be working in his room, and I’ll probably be in front of this very screen typing away.

The good morning kisses exchanged earlier will likely be the only evidences of a mother’s, of a wife’s, 51st birthday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

(Untitled, Because It Might Hurt Others)

When you’re stuck in small spaces with people on less than four hours of sleep, and when you and your team are working hard while others do…well…other things, can true professionalism overcome a lack of personal likeability?

Well, I’ve learned that it can, as long as if you’re in the work for the right reasons and the ones fighting on with you outnumber those who are…well…doing other things.

(And one of them “others” said on our 30th hour that her job’s boring.)



To the girl who made me look for tonight on campus, I really thought you were mad at me, which was why I sort of looked for you.

Now you can’t say I never cared. =)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Antiterrorism, Antissshhmmerrorism

A so-called antiterrorism bill was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday, and thus continues the hypocritical, ironic circus we like to call politics.

By law, terrorism is defined as a criminal act that “causes widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace.”

Illegitimately holding on to power is not only a criminal act by law, but an immoral one in the eyes of human decency.

And “widespread” could use a little more clarification. Isn’t the fear many journalists have for their lives widespread? Isn't the fear of not having enough money to feed a family, own a home, and send one’s kids to decent schooling widespread enough?

Isn’t there already widespread fear, if not outright anger, over having these same problems for the longest time? And because of what? Insurgencies in the far south or the ones in the mountains?

Who’s the biggest terrorist here? The MILF and the like? Or the likes of GMA?

The antiterrorism bill denounces bank accounts used to launder money for terrorist groups. You mean like those who help fund the political campaigns of so many less-than-honorable candidates?

What’s a bigger act of terror than having leaders with five-digit salaries with a car collection in the double-digits, all of which worth at least seven-digits? The mathematics doesn’t add up somehow.

The aforementioned bill also gives the government the right to detain terrorist suspects without charge for three days. The president hasn’t spent a day in jail despite clear charges against her.

Under the law, there will be “no safe haven for terror in our country,” says the president. “Law-abiding Filipinos have nothing to fear in this law for it is a weapon that shall be wielded against bombers and not protestors.”

It should be noted that terror is not limited to explosives, for what is more terrifying that the face of our country’s leadership and of those loyal to her?

If law-abiding citizens are to fear nothing then the president should better have many sleepless nights. At least that’s what I hope for her own sake, for I truly can’t believe this thick-faced, pigheaded, cold-hearted front she’s putting on is doing any good to her health.

Not that I truly care.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

On and On, and On and On

Friday. 4:30PM. Got out from philo, dropped by a not-so-well-attended Heights Open Mic. 5PM. Went to aspirant edboard meeting, which Czar attended because of pressing issues about some senior editors possibly not graduating. 6PM. Rushed to the FA lounge to preside over general assembly for FA Fest ’08. 7PM. Supposed meeting on marketing and sales at Cantina ended up being a mini-inuman.

Saturday. 12:30AM. Finally got home, went straight to bed, with sweaty shirt and jeans still on. 5:30AM. Woke up to get to school before 7AM registration of open house for incoming freshmen. Spent morning touring students and parents around in sweltering heat. 2PM. Got home after a lunch of panis na pasta (bad catering). Worked on drama script until Lola’s birthday dinner, which was attended by a family friend and her know-it-all husband, as well as a cousin with her know-it-all husband. The beer was needed to merely survive the listening. Lola’s great grandchildren couldn’t make it so she couldn’t care less about her own party. Fell victim to her insistence for me to check on them kids.

Sunday. 1AM. Finally to bed. 6AM. Woke up. Didn’t have to, but couldn’t sleep. Too many things in my mind. Except for Tita Chi-Chi’s birthday lunch at Gerry’s, Makati, spent entire day hacking away at KATIPUNAN edboard race requirements. 9:21PM. Finally done working. Eyes are heavy. Wake up time tomorrow: 5:30AM.