Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Pambansang Photobomber and Baguio's own

JUST last year, National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) head Felipe de Leon met with some Baguio residents (including us) at Mt. Cloud Bookshop. He mentioned about huge buildings in Istanbul, Turkey that threatened the view of its western district of Zeytinburnu’s majestic silhouette of domes and spires that has remained unchanged for centuries, particularly the 400-year-old Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.

De Leon said with glee that the Onalti Doyuz Residence, a trio of condominium towers of 27, 32 and 37 storeys, already called the Turkish photobombers, were ordered demolished by the Turkish Council of State after they approved a ruling by an Istanbul court that ordered the buildings’ demolition.

De Leon said that they will do the same with the DMCI Torre de Manila, which is being built near the Luneta and already distracting the view of the Rizal monument from the sunset horizon. He said that the NCCA was one of those which have called for the demolition of the Torre de Manila because of the distraction. It was already called the National Photobomber then.

We then admittedly like his dedication but we honestly believe it will not happen. How can you stop a multi-million peso building that would help in the alleviation of unemployment and would bring in millions of pesos in tourism, if we go by the usual rant? And it is much taller than the Onalti Doyuz as it plans to reach 46 storeys.

Well, we were so wrong! The Supreme Court ordered last week DMCI Project Developers, Inc. to stop the construction and development of its Torre De Manila condominium project.

Voting 8-5, the high court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of petitioner --- the Order of the Knights of Rizal --- which filed their petition in September 2014. And to think the justice most likely to rule against the Torre de Manila, Baguio boy Justice Marvic Leonen, was even out on-leave.

The Knights of Rizal filed the petition, saying that the Torre de Manila violates the constitutional provision on the conservation and promotion of the country's historical and cultural heritage: Republic Act (RA) No. 4846 (also known as the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act) and RA No. 10066 (also known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009), as well as the Manila Zoning Ordinance. NCCA added that the building will cheapen the value of the surrounding historical landmarks, including the Rizal monument.

So what would be the implication to Baguio? A lot. We are a city of views. The Department of Tourism’s most favorite constructions are the viewpoints. They create viewpoints and then followed by restrooms. Look what they did with the Highest Point in Benguet. They created the viewpoint nook and in the process, successfully destroyed the view.

Look at what they and the local government allowed to happen with the Mines View Park. They destroyed the view by allowing the stalls to mushroom and now wanted to make the stalls into a multi-storey mall selling nothing but Baguio souvenirs.  

Look at what the city is helping to do with the football field. It wanted to raise the field into a multi-storey mall so we can have a nice view of the lake. So what did we do to the lake? We make it chocolate brown by allowing more buildings to pass their sewage there. Chocolate-brown looks better on selfies, right?

What did the LGU do with the last pine hill at the central business district? They allowed the cutting of the trees so we can have an unobstructed view of the city.

Yes, city hall has become the anti-photo bomber. It helps tourists take unobstructed view of themselves and the concrete buildings. So you mean tourists come here for the pine trees and the fresh air? That’s so baduy!

But wait! Today being Rizal Day, let’s look at our own Rizal Park and see what is obstructing the view? Yes, the city hall. The anti-photobomber is Rizal’s photobomber in Baguio.

Let’s have it demolished --- including its occupants --- if they don’t shape up? What do you think?*

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Pope Effect in Baguio

SADLY, the Pope Effect in Baguio manifested as early as Thursday morning. The central business district was already clogged that time. Queues at the Ketchup Community were long and winding. Marcos Highway experienced heavy traffic similar to the last Christmas holidays. Funny but most of the traffic was at the forgotten fork at Marcos Highway leading to the Baguio Dairy Farm. Yes, it is another reprise of La Presa fever. As for Kennon Road, here’s the text we got: Nakakaasar dito sa Kennon Road, bro. Ang daming sasakyan ng taga-lowlands na either tumirik dito or nakatambay lang along the highway na nagse-selfie, sobrang grabe tuloy ang traffic jam all the way to BGH.”
Because of the three-day “holy days” imposed in Manila because of the visit of Pope Francis, a huge chunk of the populace again went up to Baguio. As we said earlier, the reasons were: vacation, the opening of TPLEX until Urdaneta, cheap gasoline, hot weather in Manila and La Presa. Add to this the faithful throngs in Manila and other parts of the country hoping to see Pope Francis.
This is NOT the Pope Francis effect we should be getting. Here is a pope who comes from a Third World Country and seemed hell-bent to change the Catholic Church or the perception of the Church. “The most powerful yet the humblest,” as one Filipino writer tweeted.
Pope Francis preferred taking the bus instead of the chauffer driven car. He wore black shoes instead of the red designer shoes preferred by his predecessor. He slept in a small flat. In the Philippines, he decided to stay in the Nunciature instead of Manila Hotel. He refused to kiss the hand of PNoy when he arrived. He asked that the huge tarps of him be torn down, preferring the focus on Jesus.
His time as pope has been marked with themes of love, reconciliation, humility and a less-doctrinal tone of papacy. He washed the feet of the disabled and the sick during Easter time. He embraced and blessed Vinicio Riva, a disfigured man who had been shunned for his deformity all his life.
He asked, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about his position on gays. Because of this, some of the gay Filipinos wore T-shirts printed with “Who am I to judge” when they waited for him on the streets. Myke Sotero, a pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church wrote: Dear Pope Francis. Welcome to the Philippines, I am gay and I have a gay partner, Jojo. We thank you for looking at us differently from how other Catholic bishops see our love. We have been hurt for so long by the church. I believe your positive and loving ways can make a difference in bringing a more accepting and loving atmosphere in the church. Thank you for giving us something to hope for.”
This is the Pope Francis Effect we want in Baguio, please. Not the mountains of trash and the smell of clutch from our Manila visitors again. Not the wanton disregard of our local laws and culture. Are you, the tourists going to spend PhP2,500 a day per tourist, as the local tourism board insists? If so, please use it wisely by shopping responsibly and locally.
Pope Francis was on one mission actually: to help the poor. That is the core of the Pope Francis effect and the rest only fell into place.
In this regard, may we also bring to focus our local politicians to follow into his footsteps. Do not use the alibi that you are of different religion. That is also the alibi you use for not your political parties. Remember, those are not your concerns. Your concern also is to help the poor.  
I am inspired by what our friend, a Manila writer and teacher who decided to join the exodus to the city. She wrote: “The joy of the people for their pope filters through the static of the TVs near Burnham. Such pure joy. I feel the energy of our faith as I take my daily walk, and cannot help but raise my eyes to the sky and send a prayer, words of thanks, a wish.”*

Standing on the shoulders of warriors

"IN his weekend communique, Gen. Douglas MacArthur included the dramatic story of non-Christian Igorot native tribesmen who --- in an offensive over rough, matted terrain --- mounted U.S. tanks like so many half-nude jockeys to direct American drivers inside.

When the attack was over,” MacArthur wrote, “the remnants of the tanks and of the Igorots were still there; but the 20th Japanese Infantry Regiment was completely annihilated; when you tell that story, stand in tribute to those gallant Igorots.” This was how Time Magazine reported about the Bataan Battle in March  1942.

We take comfort again in the idea of the "gallant Igorots" after 13 of them died in a skirmish over the weekend in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Thirteen of the 42 Special Action Force officers, or roughly one-third of those who perished were from the Cordilleras.

Like Time,  when we tell the story, we have to stand in tribute to those gallant Igorots because there is no other way. The other stories: Why and how they died are something to be debated for the next weeks. Even what to call the incident is a question of heroes: misencounter, battle, ambush, trap, bounty hunting. All of these diminish those who died.

This being the time of selfies, yes, even in time of war, we saw videos from both sides, the SAF and the MILF and BIFF during the time of the incident. In one of the videos from the MILF, they were more relaxed, sniping and then chatting then sniping again. We cannot understand what they were saying but we grasped one Tagalog phrase, malayo pa ang umaga. Meaning the dawn is still far away. Meaning, this will take time.

Meanwhile, the video from the BFF was more of hell-fire shooting, losing bullets and one young SAF apparently injured and taking the video as a last resort selfie.  You can see a mixture of fear and courage in the SAF video.

And that is nothing to take away their gallantry. As a character from the popular TV series, A Game of Thrones, had it: "Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”

“Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They're just braver five minutes longer," said the late US President Ronald Reagan.

But the battle went on for eight hours. That is an extra pack of heroism going there.

Senior Police Superintendent Jesus Cambay, the former Baguio City Police Chief, said that many police recruits would rather join the SAF rather than the regular police force because of the idea of the Igorot warrior.

The Cordillerans repulsed the Spaniards for three centuries. We knew of the beheadings, ambush and strategies made by the Igorot warriors on these Spaniards who tried to invade in search of gold. But we also knew about Spanish officers who showed cruelty to subdue but were later driven off as well. By the time the Filipinos started the KKK, the Igorots in G-strings were among those who joined the Malolos Republic, having helped start the Candon Republic months before.

We also heard the stories of the gallant Igorot soldiers in the World War II and how  they nailed the coffin on the Japanese forces in Benguet and Ifugao.

Let us not say that these gallant Igorots died in vain. “Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero," said Ursula Le Guin.

We are all keyboard warriors now, as one journalist said.  And we are just basking in the sacrifices of these gallant Igorots. To them, we offer our respect.

Friday, November 21, 2014

4th Baguio International Arts Festival

Throwback Friday. This is an article I wrote in 1991. I was able to Xerox some of my old articles and had Sela re-type them. Here's one

Fourth Baguio Arts Festival
BAGUIO CITY (NORDIS) – Only the loyal followers noticed it but in early December the Philippine Art’s Magnetic Spot again shifted northwards. The same wind that instinctively brought foreign and local migratory birds to the mountains of the Cordillera are in cross-currents:
Internationally-known painter, Ben Cabrera, recording this phenomenon, came out with a Zen-like description of red waves lapping a seawall. Or an octopus (eight tentacles) riding a red tide.
“As our Festival symbol (visually) says, the cross-flow is no longer vertical, not top-to-bottom, but instead horizontal as as so to mark our praxis and advocacy of more democratizing art procs and relationships of an authentic daily sharing of sharing resources,” Bencab explains.
These artists, sounding like art critics and humourless ideologues. What he meant to say was, “Being the chairman of the Fourth Baguio Arts Festival. I say, “To hell with Manila’s art imperialists and Young Critics Circle, let us paint Baguio red and make the imposing Baguio Convention Center of the Baguio Unconvention Center!”
In 1987, the lost Sakay command headed by painters BenCab (Back from London (together with Santi, the only short haired of this very influential art gang), Santi Bose (Back from San Francisco), Willy Magtibay (back from Yokohama) installation artist Roberto Villanueva (back from Sagada and Penarubia), photographer Tommy Hafalla (back from Bugnay), performance art artist Rene Aquitania (back from Tukukan, Bontoc), musician Hec Cruz (back from Blank) and filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik (back from Berlin).
Joey Ayala opened the festival headed by anthropologist and now Malacanang shopkeeper Dave Barabas, and Myra Beltran of Ballet Philippines closed it with a new proactive dance. In between were film showings of Kidlat and the Sunflower Cooperative, Raymund Red and Joey Agbayani, Penpen, Diokno Pasilan and his Bacolod-Sagada kulintang band; Katreen de Guia and Shunt Verdun’s Lampas Isip (a TV screen turning into a meditation pond); Santi’s Mad Dog series and Magtibay’s excruciating pen-and-inks.
One night, Rene Aquitania sewed all the dirty burlap sacks into one very long tunic ala Copolla’s Count Dracula and walked past with Hec Cruz and the Blank Band’s Grace Nono on vocals), playing “Knock, knock, knockin’ on Sagada’s door.
The next two festivals had more artists from Bacolod, Manila, Pampanga and Davao Attending the Baguio artists getting their due. Villanueva, Magtibay, and Hafalla won the CCP 13 Artist Award in 1991. Lampas Isip came up with two mind-bending records. BenCab had a sold-out show in New York of his Earthquake series. Bose and Villanueva went to Australia as part of the Philippine delegate for the Brisbane Festival. Aquitania went to Europe and Pasilan to France. One of the most talented bands since Asin (believe me), the Blank, disbanded and Grace Nono came out with Tao Music.
Early this year, artist Jordan Mangosan of Bontoc, who belongs to the next generation of the Baguio Arts Guild together with John Frank Sabado, Perry Mamaril, Clemente Delim and Kiago Rosimo, went to the United Nations in New York not as a painter (although his painting was selected for one of the poster for the UN International Year for Indigenous Peoples) but as a member of a cultural group.
He was silently beating his gong watching the painted North and South American Indians prancing like Enrico Labayen and frightening the crowd with their war cries. Then somebody pushed Mangosan. Not knowing any better, he danced part-Bontoc war dance and part–Bruce Lee and shouted part-Bontoc prayers and Ilocano curses. He was so effective, according to Sylvia Mayuga, that Manhattan later that day experienced its worst floods in 50 years.
Which bring us back to Baguio on the penultimate day of the Artsfest when the Japanese Kodo Drummers beat the soul out of their percussions and what do you know, after a dry spell of more than a week, the rains came.
According to Baguio Arts Guild President Santi Bose, “In this age of information art and culture have become the new ideological battleground. Artists in the Asia-Pacific region are making new mythologies, reinterpreting hand-me-down histories, challenging and politicising art and artists.”
In this festival, 46 came from Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand and USA; 150 from other parts of the Philippines and 50 from the Cordillera.
The “original eight” of the Baguio Arts Guild came out languishing and uninspired. Kidlat, Cruz and Hafalla were not around and Aquitania did not perform. Bencab and Magtibay came out with single works. Bose decked a small room with wild sunflowers and TV. Even Mangosan presented an old work. Villanueva, the shaman, was still in Australia diagnosed with acute leukemia.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Kauphi Matters

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part V

So let's say you have read this column for the past weeks or so and heeded my advices (which you should). Let us then make a list of what we just discussed, and what you have right now are:
1) the guidelines for the latest Palanca contest (Yes, they have opened up)
2) A great pen name. You should thought of this a long time ago.  
3) A computer with typewriter fonts. A nice copier.
4) Great Morocco folders dipped in holy water
5) FB profile of The One aka the one who picks the judges
6) List of possible judges under your genre. Under this, we should have friended them on FB so we would know their activities. Like I said, if they went to a fancy restaurant and two others also Instagrammed about it at the same time. You can be pretty sure, they are the judges. Sometimes for convenience and networking throughout the judging, they would friend each other so just do your FB triangulation. Just hope they like to tag each other.
7) Gift certificates in case their birthdays fall from May to August. Or what the heck, just give something.
8) A severed horse head for each on August 31 in case you lose. Put it on their beds early in the morning.
9) Round trip ticket to Manila including taxi fare to CPJ Building
10) Alibi for the time you were writing so no one knew you joined. Also a secretive lawyer. Better a lawyer-priest who will notarize that you are the one who wrote etc etc.
The hard part is the waiting from deadline to September 1 when they wine and dine the winners. You must do your Visita Iglesia. Snoop around writer friends. Troll the FB of such writers like IC, RT, TA, ML and the rest of those Manila (read: available) pen pushers (yuck). They usually will tell who joined or who might be the judges if they are not.
Troll them about your suspected rivals who posted this poem or snippets of essay in their blogs two years ago and isn't that illegal? Stir the teapot.
By August, start panicking. Storm the heavens. Raise hell. By August 15, try to accept the fact that those are only three writers judging out of 1,500 so no big deal. By August 17, restart panicking. By August 20, open and reopen your email every 5 minutes. No notice? Join the Nigerian scammers. Join Anonymous and hack the Palanca website (which hackers often do, those frustrated writers). By August 27, start bingeing on GSM and Tanduay which the Palancas own anyway. Wake up by August 30. Still no notice. Do your last prayers. Beg for an invite from a writer. If you do make it to the party, drink and start heckling with the best. Enjoy the night. There's always next year. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part IV

Oh boy, I tried to open the Palanca website and it's under maintenance. I tried to Google other sites and there seems to be no back-up for this. Could this be the end of Palanca? Hope not.
Well let's pretend that after press time, the site is back and we are off again to our dreams. So why is the website important. Because in there is the guideline. It tells you what categories are open and what are the mechanics for each. It is usually a two-page guide, written in 8.5 points so that YOU, the writer, is guaranteed to miss the salient points. As all the points there are important, so important that it will guide you to the rest of your life as writer. Or waiter. Or whiter.
I Googled an article about how to win the Palanca and I got this stuff like "Write because you want to share something that may connect with other people." My friend Wendell Capili wrote that? How saccharine. But oh so true if you deconstruct it differently.
To whom would you "connect." The reader? The young student, the old librarian, the lover? No, Wendell meant the "judges." Write for the judges. What do they want? Do your own SWS.
Of course, he added, "If you keep on writing the best way you can, recognition will come later." Oh sly Wendell. Don't believe that.
The most important thing is to study the two-page mechanics. In this age of 200 automatic fonts in your computer, when it say 10 pts Courier, better believe it.
Unless you are still using typewriter. Oh man, the teary-eyed drooling charm of typewriters. When I judged the poetry in Filipino a few years ago, I received more than a hundred manuscripts and 15 of them are typewritten. I ended up compiling these typewritten manuscripts and read first their poems.
I remembered those writers who wrote only on typewriters and I found it nostalgic and truly courageous in this times (that story of Ricky Lee borrowing a typewriter of a government office at night came to mind).
The sad part was only one made it in the second round. Why? Because they Xeroxed their other copies (or the copies I got) and I thought they spent 15 centavos per page on the photocopying.
Their poems may be good but I savor my vision first. I don't want to be squinting reading them so there, Payatasville.
If it says, only standard-sized coupon bond,then abide by it. If it says, you can photocopy then do so but get the best photocopier there is. If not, email the whole thing and let Palanca pay for the printing, At least they are very legible, if I may judge the ones I got.
If it says, Courier, do it. Don't make it New Times Roman. Definitely not Comic Sans. Try the typewriter fonts. But smudge them and Liquid Paper if possible for that real typewritten look. Maybe you might hit the right judge.
If it says, double spaced, please follow suit. If it says, one inch margin on all sides, do it. I knew manuscripts which were disqualified because of this I know one writer last year who placed third because she used 1 1/2 spaced instead of 2. One drama critic was so  strict on spacing because that's how it is. I heard poetry judges are the most lenient but don't tempt them. Our point is, if you give them a chance to disqualify you they will. Judging a hundred manuscripts is no joke. Abide by them.
Now there's no rule against folders to protect your manuscripts. So that's where you woo them. Use Morocco folders. Or the most expensive leather folders using dugong skin or ostrich. At least when you lose, you would know that some writer is using your folder.

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part III

The most powerful person during the Palanca judging is among my 5,000 friends in Facebook. Look at all the profiles in my account and look for him/her. He/She had been with the Palanca Foundation for decades and one of his/her job is to look for judges for every genre.
There has to be three judges per category and one of them is the head judge. If one is not available, then he/she has to find a replacement. More often than not, he/she (OK, she's a she) would have to get from past winners in that category or if not, experts in that category.
She said she does it by random but then especially in the 1980s and 1990s in the Filipino category, it was said that she would get three poets from the LIRA and the next year from the GAT (Galian sa Arte at Tula). The LIRA was the Almario group while the GAT was the more radical ones.  I think I won during the GAT year.
Anyway you have to be aware of this. Google or research the possible judges by looking at the winners and the judges. There can be no repeat judges or at least within three to four  years.
If you are chummy chummy with many writers, ask around. The most powerful Palanca person loves to get winners who are easily available (meaning not National Artists, dean or those in Fulbright scholarships) and inexpensive (nakukuha sa pakain sa mahal na restaurants though). So don't expect Krip Yuson, Cirilo Bautista or those in the pantheon of the gods anymore although I still see grizzled veterans. If they are out-of-towners, remember that Palanca will not shoulder air fares for the judging so don't expect many from the islands although many are willing to sacrifice their own money.
My friend's father used to judge in the Filipino essay. On his birthday, which happens during the judging period (June to August), he received cakes from unnamed people.
Because we are living in the Facebook period, don't expect to be superlavish on your writer "friends"  especially the potential jurors. Like all their comments. Give them cakes and presents during their FB.  Give them life for their Candy Crush or chips for their poker. These are free but a nice gesture.   
Do some lurking especially during the judging period. Look at their pictures. if they are in a restaurant, who are with them? Fellow writers in a certain genre? They just might be the judges.  Look at their FB pages. Friend them. Praise them. Flatter them. After the end of August and you don't hear anything fromPalanca, unfriend these ungrateful rascals. Then troll them.
You got that covered? Now for the category. Let's say you are not a regional writer (Kinaray-a, Ilocano or Cebuano). Then you are stuck with the PENS (poetry, play, essay, novel, short story).
If you still have no first chapters for a novel, then forget that category. Anyway, they have that category every other year, so you can prepare for next year.
Poetry needs ten poems (used to be twelve) so if you don't have three or four this late stage of preparation, you might not just make it. So scratch poetry.
You have essay or short story to choose from. The time of preparation is just right. Is your story about yourself? Chances are, such very personal essays don't usually cut it unless you are writing for Kabataan Essay.
You just accepted Jesus as your personal savior and want the whole world to know? There usually are ten such stories every year so leave that to you next testimonial.
Your essay is about PNoy or other sinners, I mean, politicians and other important people? Remember an essay in the Palanca will be anthologized and the judges knew that. If your essay sounds like a newspaper article, then leave it in the newspaper. Essays for the Palanca must be timely yet timeless.
Also try to quote heavy writers. Forget Rizal and the hope of the fatherland thing. Pairing them means, "Hello, trashcan." Cliches can make it for one judge but all three? I don't think so. If you need to quote, use these names: Zizek, Walter Benjamin, Foucault, Said, San Juan, Patrick Flores, Neil Garcia, etc. You get the drift? Obama, Kris (unless funny), PNoy, De Quiros will not do.
Make it personal but scholarly. Creative nonfiction is the norm nowadays in the essay category. Think Sebald, Woolf, Hampl. Ramble. Quote. Anecdote. Shuffle. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part II

So you want to WIN the Palanca and not just be one of the more than 1,000 Filipinos and Fil-Ams who join the contest every year? Let us say there would be winners in all 20 or so categories of the Palanca, that means 60 winners out of the 1,000 entries or a winning chance of six percent. Bar examinees have three to four times more chances than a Palanca winner. And it is a rare year when all 60 winner slots are filled in. Theater judges are notorious on this; sometimes there is only one third place winner and none in the 1st and 2nd. Or only a 2nd place winner. Or no winners at all. Sometimes, however, the poetry judges would have two 3rd place winners. Rarer still are two 1st place winners in one category.
So that is your chance: six percent or less.
But wait, most of the entries fall on only eight of the 20 categories. These are poetry, short stories and essay in English and Filipino and the Kabataan essay. It is safe to say that these categories get 75 to 85 percent of all the 1,000+ entries.
When I judged for the Tula category, I brought home about 120 manuscripts. That meant reading 1,200 poems!
So if your objective is to WIN the Palanca. Try to avoid these categories.
If you are still in your teens, your best chance, unless you are a prodigy, is to join the Kabataan essay.
If you can write in Cebuano or Hiligaynon, join the short story in Cebuano or Hiligaynon categories. But your best bet is the short story in Iluko since you are from here. I heard that they receive only ten to 20 entries a year.
If you are dramatically inclined, join the Dulang May Isang Yugto (One-act Play in Filipino), Dulang Ganap ang Haba (Full-length Play in Filipino) and the Dulang Pampelikula (Screenplay in Filipino).
But your best bets are the One-Act Play and Three-Act Play in English. Only a few join these categories which are going the way of Wilfredo Guerrero.
Newer categories are the Children Literature category like the Short Story and Poetry (English and Filipino) for Children. I knew some people who ventured in Poetry for Children after difficulty placing in Poetry apparently for Adults. Since the judges in these children categories are adults, I think the children writers would have a slim chance here as well.
So without lifting a pen, winning the Palanca is greater if you join Short Story in Iluko, Three Act Play in English and Poetry for Children in English.
OK OK, you don’t want to compromise. You are, after all, a writer. You want to join the poetry, short story or essay, come rain or come shine. Good luck then and wait for my next installment. 

How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part I

I will be doing a weekly column on this (in this column every other week and in the centerfold in the rest). My late friend Butch Guerrero and me were about to be hired as country publishers for a big publisher in India until talks got around money. Anyway, one of the book ideas we peddled was "How to Win in the Palanca" to be written by two of our friends. Since our career as publishers was scuttled, I decided to stay with this for the time being.
The Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature is the country's version of the Pulitzer Prize, according to one broadsheet. True or not, it is the longest-running literary awards, having been established in 1950.  
So before we start, answer this: Are you in this for the money? If you answer, Yes. Go back to your line at the lotto. First prize in Palanca can get you to start a house BUT that was in 1950. The prize money has remained almost the same as it was more than half a century ago so don't bother with the money. You will be spending more for your preparation. Hope that scared half of my readers.
If you are still with me, that's good. Our emphasis is to win and not just to participate.  
The deadline for this year would be on the end of April. More specifically at 11:59 PM of April 30. The CPJ Building or wherever it is now would be filled with established and unknown writers personally submitting their manuscripts at 11:59 PM or even on the 59th second. There is a superstition that the last to submit usually places so timing is everything. Then the writers go back to their drinking.
Those in the provinces or abroad would have to submit their earlier. Now they submit it through email but back then, you have to send through registered mail or courier. Despite this convenience, I still know some writers abroad who would email their works to a trusted accomplice who would them print the manuscripts and rush them at 11:59 PM of the deadline day. Because of that superstition.
Back then, the deadline was in May 31 which was better because this was a month after the UP and the Silliman Workshops so the works had been workshopped before they are sent. The teachers also would have that time to work on their manuscripts. There is this oft-repeated story of a poet who wrote his epic poem in Dumaguete with the May 31 deadline in mind. Sending his work on time, he took the next trip to nervous breakdown land.Palanca decided to turn back the clock to April 30 there were more submissions but it wasn't the same for some.  
A writer in search of Palanca should red-letter April 30 in their Starbucks planner. And they should plan their lives accordingly to that deadline. If they lose this year, they should red letter  it in their Starbucks 2015 planner. and in the 2016 planner until it is tattooed on your mind.
I heard of some older writers who would suddenly be anxious by April and then start writing their manuscripts in time for the May 31 deadline until they were reminded by their sons and apos that the deadline has been moved to April 30. But creativity has its own deadline that reason cannot comprehend.
So you are luckier because you have yet to acquire the Palanca Deadline habit.
Starting today is just about right. You have two months to work on. Some people would take their leave on the second month and we would know among us who is preparing for Palanca when they are subdued in their drinking. Or holding a notebook or even writing on napkins. Now they must be typing on their iPads. So if you have writer friends who act like they are having a secret love affair from March to April, they are preparing for Panagbenga. If they act like they were jilted come late August, you are sure of that.
Because Palanca is a difficult lover,  frustrating, fickle, foolish but definitely worth the affair. Now if you only know where to begin.  (next column: Setting your sight)

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year


The Benguet cowboy in the year of the horse

The Year of the Wooden Horse is on us, neighing and galloping as the year progresses. What's in store for all of us, no one can say specifically as we have different birthdates and destinies.
But judging from the nervousness of China, we may see a bit of what's up for us.
The Chinese media are hyped up on 1894, a Horse year, as they recall the War of Jiawu or the first Sino-Japanese War when the Japanese navy defeated the fleet of the Qing Dynasty, the first time Japan beat China.
As both superpowers are getting testy with their respective border conflicts, we should also be aware that we have our own border conflict with China and we are not at par with them as Japan perhaps.
Moreover the Horse Year is seen as full of chaos and economic downfall. Our country is seen as the only bright hope in the otherwise gloomy regional economy but we never know.  
Bangkok Post certainly agrees saying that in this Horse Year, Vietnam, the Philippines and, to some degree Malaysia, are the only bright spots in Asean in terms of relative peace and economic growth. China, Japan, India and Indonesia will be in for a bumpy ride, Bangkok Post added.
During the media briefing here in Baguio, one of the Chinese business leaders told the media to invest in Philippine stocks particularly in banking.
One feng shui master agrees. Business World quoted Andy Tan as saying that “The only place to put money is in Southeast Asia. If you have money, it is best to invest [in the Philippines].”
But again, this depends on your individual birth rate.
BW said: "People born under the Tiger, Dragon, Goat, Snake, Pig signs will experience a good year but Dogs will be the luckiest. The Rat will experience mixed luck with regard to money while Rabbits will experience a neutral, average year. Monkeys were advised to hold on to their cash and Oxen should keep in mind the adages “cash is king” and “health is wealth” as they might experience difficulties. Those born under the year of the Horse will experience a very volatile and precarious first half. Roosters, lastly, were advised to avoid confrontations."
Among the famous Horses is Manny Pacquiao. Those born in the Year of the Horse are not necessarily favored. In general, the Year of the Horse is marked by contrasts, as the animal itself can be both energetic and stubborn. Horses have endurance, but they also have a bad temper and are impatient. An average horse weighs 500 kilograms, can run 40 kilometers per hour and is easily spooked by something it sees or hears, turning it into a raging monster.
In Baguio, we are particularly affected as we are filled with Benguet cowboys. Just listen to the airwaves and you would see that country music is the favorite, the only one in the country with such musical taste.
Back in Wright Park and Burnham, we have horseback riding as one of our tourist come-ons.
So where the Benguet cowboy goes, so goes the country. 

Cowboy Poetry and Baguio Bonfires

THE local media held its Christmas party last January, as always the case. And since we were in the midst of the Deep Freeze, we decided to hold a bonfire at the BCBC office at Wright Park.
Our journalist-singers were reticent at that time so we got the singers from Duyan Cafe to serenade us. They were good but they were the country-folk songs we were used to have.
It's been a long time since I enjoyed a good bonfire. But then when we have lots of trees we can afford to have weekly bonfires in my neighborhood in New Lucban.  Local ordinance forbade it now  so we just savor our pine scent from our memories.
We used to put our feet near the flame to warm and since we were Baguio boys, we wore sneakers. After a time, the soles of our shoes would flex like that of Roger Rabbit. Also our nostrils would be dark with pine tar.
But before our soles melted and noses dirtied, we shared stories. Stories we heard before and repeated because it made us laugh. We shared ghost stories but not too much because we still have to go home.
My gang in New Lucban was not a musical group. Of course, we had a harmonica but that soon was drowned by too much bubblegum. We don't have a guitar. I had a banjo but we only played a few songs from it. It was our older sisters and brothers who played guitars and drums so from them we learned Beatles, James Taylor and John Denver. No reason really not to know the songs before your years. You just had to listen.
Anyway our bonfire days extended to our Cub Scout and Boy Scout years. My troop then (I was leader!) always won in the performance division because one of us is a flamethrower. I used to think he ate fire but it's just a matter of engorging kerosene and blowing with all your might.  That simple trick and we got to win every time. No amount of dancing and singing from the rest of the troops can beat us then.
Our scout master also taught us to cowboy poetry although that is not what it was then. Or it was known already in the US as such but we simply don't know. He just recited  the tales of Pecos Bill and other famous cowboys.
Cowboy poetry is not country songs. It is poems about ranch life (Marlboro country), cowboys and Indians, cowboy values and memories of life long past.
I don't know but because of that I always see my youth as a cowboy youth. We would get blades of grass and chew on them. We have this weed we call the Indian pana which stuck on our woolen clothes, much more the riper ones which really stuck even after the third laundry. So we gather these along the way to school and then shoot the arrows at our favorite victims.
We had horses but this is the wooden one. We watched so many Bonanzas and other cowboy movies that the first time we tried the ponies at Wright Park, we seemed to be natural.
And so it came to pass that these things came to me at Wright Park last week. The heat of the bonfire singed my cheeks as we constantly moved our bodies so that every part gets equal burning.
The best thing about bonfires then is that we buried camotes under the wood before we lit them so when we exhausted the wood for the night, we would dig out the camotes. They would be burned wiht an inch thick of covering but the morsel inside is just so heavenly, the essence of the smoke coming into it and the camote oh so sweet and tender.
I did not bother to finish the bonfire at Wright Park. Had to meet someone for an appointment. Such is life but for a tender moment, we revisited our youth. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Celebratory Gunfire

A TWO month old was on the arms of his father as they watch the revelries probably facing Chavit Singson's Baluarte where the fireworks were always impressive. A two year old boy was asleep in their sala, after being awake since 11 PM. When 2014 finally entered, the baby is dead after being hit by a stray bullet while the two year old never woke up, a bullet in his skull brought him to a coma and he died two days later.
Both were killed in Ilocos where it was indeed a tradition to fire your guns on New year's Eve, a remnant of their Chinese heritage of making noise to drive away evil. In other countries, this practice is called celebratory gunfire. it is accepted culturally in South Asia, Middle East, the Balkans and sometimes in the United States.  But this time it was the evil-shooers who were the evil ones.
Why use guns? We have been asking that for decades and we have not come out with an answer that will stop them.
How does a stray bullet kill. When you shoot your gun exactly vertically, the bullet will come back at a terminal velocity which is slower than when it just came from the barrel of the gun. It can still kill sometimes the one who fired the gun but it is more dangerous when the bullet is allowed to fall n its natural path because it maintains its angular ballistic trajectory and so is faster than terminal velocity.  Nevertheless the terminal velocity reaches 300 ft per second or 90 meters per second; the speed that can puncture the skin starts at 200 ft per second. Most stray bullets hit the head, feet and shoulders, which was the case in the two Ilocos deaths.
In the Cordillera, there were no cases of injuries caused by celebratory gunfire but that does not mean that no one shot his gun in the air. It was just luck that no one was hit. 
We have to congratulate ourselves and yet do something that will stop this practice next New year and the years to come. The police have their annual ceremonies of taping their guns but what about the other gun holders? 
 We are recommending a gun ban during the Holidays similar to the election gun ban. The communist insurgents always declare a Holiday truce so we have one reason to stop shooting anyway. 
But unlike election gun ban, it would be Scrooge-like to recommend an alcohol ban. But we all know that alcohol and noise makes one to fire his gun in comradeship so a ban is important. Since injuries are almost always on the upper torso, we don't want to lose our heads at the start of year. 

January PicDump

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