Monday, June 23, 2008

Two emails


Good news from a former professor of mine, rockstar historian Ambeth Ocampo:

"On June 26 I will be conferred the rank of 'Officier' in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France. Unfortunately, I will not be flown to Paris for this; and the medal will be pinned on me by the Ambassador of France to the Philippines.

"The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Literature) is one of the four ministerial orders of the Republic of France. Since 1957 it remains one of the principal honorific distinctions awarded by the French Minister of Culture and Communication on persons who have distinguished themselves in the arts and literature or the propagation of these fields in France and worldwide.

"Given out twice a year, the Order has three grades: the first rank, Chevalier, up to 200 recipients a year, the second rank Officier, up to 60 recipients a year worldwide and the highest Commandeur up to 20 recipients a year worldwide.

"The official letter from H.E. Christine Albanel, Minister of Culture and Communication, was transmitted last April through H.E. Gerard Chesnel, Ambassador of France to the Philippines. The award is given as recognition of my work as: Writer, Academic, Cultural Administrator, and for my support for cultural exchanges between France and the Philippines.

"Other Filipinos previously honored with the Order of Arts and Letters include: Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Rosalinda Orosa, Corazon S. Alvina and National Artists Lucrecia Kasilag, Napoleon Abueva and Arturo R. Luz.

"On June 26 when the medal of gilt-green enamel suspended on a green ribbon with four white stripes is pinned on my barong I join a group of fellow 'knights' worldwide that include: Ella Fitzgerald, Uma Thurman, Leonardo di Caprio, Clint Eastwood, Rudolf Nureyev, T.S. Eliot, Sting, Gong Li, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Robert Redford, Kylie Minogue, and Carla Bruni."

Congrats, sir!


I've said it many times before & I'll said it again: the real rockstar of my Creative Writing batch is Jerome Chua, the fictionist & playwright behind more than a few thought-provoking, disturbing if not flat-out cryptic stories, w/c have seen print space in The Philippines Free Press as well as a couple of anthologies including the latest flash fiction collection edited by Vincent Groyon.

His works have also earned him a Loyola Schools Award for the Arts in Creative Writing as well as a fellowship in Australia at an international workshop for playwrights, a gig that allowed for his first staged play, also in Australia, w/c received some attention by the Australian dailies.

I don't like connecting the merit of works w/ the personality behind them but Jerome is quite a character to get to know, as we in his CW block have discovered in the 4 years we've worked/studied alongside him. His emails in our block egroup have become much-talked-about reading w/in our circles, the style of w/c more people got to realize during our individual thesis defense where he, quite frankly, stole the show in his eccentric manner w/c leaves people in the right kind of mix of being amused/creeped-out/fascinated/vulnerable.

Here, I share a less-disturbing note of his, emailed to me recently after I had told him about some of my job options. It is less cryptic than usual, but as witty & poignant as ever:

"No, I have been as if dead. No writing, no reading, no doing anything productive, just living with my parents and mooching up resources. On the other hand, I now have a level 14 Accordion Thief character in Kingdom of Loathing.

"Your job opportunities are bizarre. It's as if the universe has forced you into an archetypal decision between a dry, technical, steady job where you pore through profession-specific jargon and have no relevance outside of your narrow field; or jumping in on the ground floor with a loose coalition of artists who have no real idea what they're doing and hope to somehow make a living at it. If life were an author, it'd be a really ham-handed one with no eye for subtlety.

"My unsolicited advice: take the medical job, go through the daily slog for months on end until you gradually lose faith in your creative abilities and the value of your art, and you begin to feel like just another ultra-specialized drone in the colony who will live and die performing repetitions of this single, empty task. Then, when you're at your most angsty, start neglecting your job and spending all your free time to write the next great Filipino novel. Write on the futility and monotony of life, and pepper the text liberally with medical jargon on all the myriad diseases just waiting to befall the human body, statistical causes of death, detailed descriptions on how every organ in the human body experiences critical failure, etc etc etc; and tie it in metaphorically with the mediocrity of a dead-end job that offers no opportunities for self-actualization and just takes up your time until you die. Then profit!

"I, um, may have missed a step or two somewhere in there. Oh well.

"What's Ateneo like from the other side? My parents were suggesting (among many other things) that I become a teacher. Apparently it is what otherwise unemployed BFA Creative Writing graduates do with their time?

"Congrats on all the career choices and such. I suppose I'll get them eventually. Then again, that was what I was supposing in college."

Wasak! Some dude better give this motherfucker a job (or a book deal) soon!

Good hearing from you, Jerome.


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