Friday, October 28, 2005

non-speculative cover

Image hosted by

We're in the midst of final proofing on our end, just before we turn over the materials to the printers next week.

Of all the cover and design studies submitted to me, I selected this clean white one. It's more reflective of my own design sensibilities.

It's happening, it's happening - I'm so happy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

sage & god

Sage comes rushing into our bedroom, waving a booklet tied together with yarn.

SAGE: Dad! Dad! Look at this!

ME: What is it?

SAGE: It's a bible.

ME: A bible?

SAGE: Yes, God gave it to me.

ME: He did?

SAGE (nods quickly): Yes.

ME: As in he handed it to you?

SAGE: He did.

ME: And what did God look like?

SAGE: He has a bigote and beard like you.

ME: And this was in Sunday School? It wasn't your teacher?

SAGE: No, Dad. It was God.

ME: Well, that's wonderful then. Not many people get to see God, you know.

SAGE: Why?

ME: Because He's not easy to see. But there are paintings and stuff, of Him. But no one really knows.

SAGE: Why?

ME: Well, because if you were to look straight at God... Let's just say He's very powerful and shines a lot, so no one can look at him directly.

SAGE: I did. And he gave me this.

ME: That's true. But most of the time He's invisible.

SAGE: That's his superpower?

ME: One of many superpowers.

SAGE: Where does He live?

ME: In heaven.

SAGE: Why?

ME: Because that's His home. And all the good people live there with Him.

SAGE: Why?

ME: Because when good people die, they go to Heaven to be with God. Because He loves them. And everyone there is happy to be with each other, and with God.

SAGE: Why?

ME: Well, because people want to be happy.

SAGE: So God lives in the sky?

ME: Yes.

SAGE: And we live on Earth, our planet.

ME: Right.

SAGE: So let's pretend I'm dead and I'm going to Heaven and you're God because you have a bigote and a beard.

ME: Okay.

SAGE (looks downcast): I'm sad.

ME (as GOD): But why are you sad? Heaven is a happy place.

SAGE: Because I miss my Mom and Dad.

ME: Well, they'll be when they die.

SAGE (in tears): But I don't want them to die.

ME: But you'll all be together and be happy.

SAGE: But we're dead.

ME: True, but-

SAGE: And so I'm sad.

ME: ...but Heaven is a happy place.


SAGE (brightly): Do you know I can get here on an airplane? And if you're invisible, why can I see you?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

who will become...The Muppet?

I've loved the Muppets through all these years, having fond memories of growing up with The Muppet Show ("It's time to get things started..."), so it's delight that I read that they're coming back to primetime.

This time, they'll be parodying reality TV shows, along the lines of American Idol or America's Next Top Model. Reality freak that I am, I can't wait to see who will be... The Muppet.

Nikki and I are currently enjoying Rockstar: INXS, Survivor: Guatemala, The Amazing Race, plus the Trump and Steward versions of The Apprentice. Even if we know who wins in Rockstar, we're still there for the ride, not having seen the initial telecast (let me tell you, "California Dreaming" from the episode where Will got booted just blew me away). Survivor: Guatemala should be retitled "Survivor: Stephanie's Story" for the way it seems the producers are so desperate to get her to win - after a while, her whining gets to you, unlike last season when I became her fan). TAS is a bit boring because of the lack of international locales. However, the occassional bit of drama makes it viewable (a widow and her kids need to go to the racetrack where her husband was run over - yow!). Of the two Apprentices, the Stewart version is the more enjoyable, given Martha's personality (she writes "thank you" notes to the eliminated candidates).

Why do I love these shows? Let's just say that they're my equivalent of pro wrestling - complete with characters and story arcs. And just a bit of human nature.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

excision: sojourn

I arrived at Kanigaran late towards early evening, dust-covered and hungry. At the jeepney station I saw an old woman selling cashew nuts and bandi and remembered the moment of my father’s first arrival years ago. Along the intersecting streets I found manifold evidence of the influence of the Vietnamese refugees, boat people who came in waves to escape the horror of war that infested their country. The tiny Vietnamese restaurant I chose to eat at was filled with a number of Caucasian divers on their way back or heading on towards some nearby island. Two small pieces of chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and lemon grass-infused noodles composed my dinner that night, along with the inevitable Coke of my addiction.

I recall thinking about of how a people’s culture can be uprooted, carried away and planted in another place. The Philippines has always seemed to be the country other people come to, to conquer, to trade with, to rescue or to start a new life in – a nation that embraced others, willingly or otherwise, to the detriment of its own people’s identity. The confluence of cultures did nothing to merge us into a single multi-cultural people. Instead, it underscored the difference between the haves and the have-nots. This was just before I graduated from the University of the Philippines, and the often misplaced sense of nationalism, with its accompanying sense of profound outrage, occupied much of my thought life. I thought about people who left the country for a better place, in the same manner that my father left the Philippines to write in the United States.

But most of all, I thought about the reason I was in Kanigaran, and of the serendipitous mention on the PAL flight there of one of the two persons I came to visit. I took it as a positive omen, a habit my brothers and I learned from our mother. I had decided earlier to write the story of my mother and father and the tumultuous events that they separately insisted occurred. It began as a school requirement and blossomed into something intensely personal, enough to make me travel to my mother’s hometown.

Kanigaran did not at all resemble the magical place of tremendous floods, flying albinos and undeniable passion that dominated all the stories I knew. The streets and houses of my imagination were brave survivors of the storm of storms, bearing the scars of relentless rain and winds that threatened to reduce them to nothing. I expected to be overwhelmed by coconut palms by the hundreds of thousands, their branches looming with secrets they witnessed through the years. Most of all, I did not expect to see children. I was wrong in every regard, finding myself walking past sari-sari stores and gated houses, profuse vegetable plots and bowers of bougainvilla and hanging orchids, and children playing in pools of light on paved roads. I tried to keep my growing sense of dismay under control and focused on my purpose.

Before it grew too dark, I took a tricycle to the address given to me by mother and located the schoolhouse of her implacable nemesis, Mrs. Helen Brown. The building was in a sad state of disrepair, abandoned and apparently unused for many years. The main door was barred so I walked to a nearby window and peered into the shadows, making out the three blackboards on the wall. The main floor was bereft of chairs or study desks though I imagined that a few remained in one of the inside corners, away from my vantage point.

I traced the perimeter of the building and found the remnants of the annex where Mrs. Brown must have lived. There was nothing but a broken outline of hollow blocks and the unmistakable evidence of a fire. I stepped into the emptiness and tried to feel the venomous abhorrence that possessed the lonely woman, imagining that such a potent force should linger in the place where it was nursed for years. I sensed nothing and left disappointed, avoiding the questioning stares of some children that followed my visitation.

Another tricycle driver helped me find the house of the Abalos family. Kanigaran, though it had grown in leaps and bounds in the past decades, still clung to many of its old ways, and that included the near impossibility of an established family changing residences. The house was two storeys tall and made of wood, black iron, cement and GI sheets. A balcony overlooked a fragrant garden of ilang-ilang and sampaguita plants. Over the main door, flanked by a pair of gasul lamps, was a plaque of the Blessed Virgin Mary was, one arm raised in benediction, the other hand holding her Sacred Heart.

A young girl woman peered at me through the jalousies of the ground floor. She asked me who I was and what I wanted. I told her my name and said that I was looking for a certain Cesar Abalos, that he was a friend of my mother’s, and that I just wanted to pay my respects.

The girl opened the door with a smile, explained that she was Lolo Cesar’s granddaughter and told me to sit in the narrow living room before leaving me to call him. I noticed a black armband around her left arm and remembered that this was a family mourning the loss of one its sons.

I sat on the red sofa, still covered in the its original plastic now yellowed, brittle and missing in places and absorbed the details of the room: framed photographs of faces that rarely offered a smile in sepia and black and white, the small recessed shrine to the Santo Niño, the interrupted chessboard near the window, the serrated buntot pagi and the American and Philippine flags that were suspended side by side on a wall.

“Good evening, sir,” a strong voice began in the accented English unique to persons of the immediate prior generation. “I understand that you are looking for me. Who are you, sir?”

I stood up and walked to the speaker, an old man leaning on a cane carved with spirals. Cesar Abalos’ body carried strong echoes of his lost youth. His shoulders were still broad though much of his vaunted musculature had been eroded by time, a black armband loose around his left arm. But his eyes and face retained the handsome qualities that must have played a part in attracting my father if the stories were true.

“Good evening, sir. My name is Antonio Rivera ,” I said, taking his free hand and pressing it to my forehead as a sign of respect. “I’m here from Manila. I think you knew my parents, long ago. I would like to talk to you, if you have some time. If you don’t mind.”

“Sit, sit,” Cesar said, pointing with his cane to the sofa. “You already know my name, I know. Oh, would you like something to drink? Have you eaten dinner?”

“No, thank you, sir,” I replied, shaking my head. “I ate at one of the restaurants along the Plaza.”

“Coffee, at least,” he said, gesturing to one of the faces that watched us from the newels of the stairs. “Who are your parents?”

“My father is Gaudencio Rivera,” I told him. “My mother’s name is Jacinta Cordova.”

“Are they dead?” he asked, meeting my eyes.

“No, sir,” I said. “Both are alive.”

“That is good to hear,” he smiled, revealing a set of teeth that would be the envy of any younger man. “When people ask me about people I knew in my time, I am always afraid that it has something to do with death.”

“My condolences on your loss, sir,” I offered.

“Thank you,” he said, touching his armband briefly. “Did you know my son? Did you know my Carlito?”

“No, sir,” I answered.

“He was a good boy,” Cesar said.

Silence settled upon us, the palpable stillness of grief too raw and fresh.

Lolo Cesar, were you close friends with my parents?” I asked after a few moments.

The old man did not reply, his face frozen in its last cheerless expression. His motionlessness was only broken by the coffee’s arrival, served by his granddaughter, still steaming in porcelain cups on a tray.

“I knew them well,” he said softly. “Yes, I knew them both.”

My heart thundered at his admission and the questions I had prepared, worded discreetly taking into account sensitivity and the passage of time, vanished in the turbulence of my excitement.

“It was a long time ago,” Cesar said. “The world was a different place. We were so young.”

I waited for him to continue, sipping the hot coffee. When he spoke again it was as if all the other household sounds and those from streets gradually muted, diminishing in deference to the old man’s recollections.

“It’s all about love,” Cesar Abalos said with a sad smile. “The love between Dencio and Intang. It was too large, too big, for just two people. It swallowed everyone, in the end.”


Note: These excisions are passages that never quite made it to the final version (in this case, of the novel) for a variety of reasons. While it is painful to think about just cutting bits and pieces that represent hours of work, it is a necessity - don't fall in love with your text. Early on in Salamanca, I thought about changing POV when the narrator (I had one then) was in the present time.


I'm amused by the sporty-looking cannister of Lay's Original Stax potato chip, but still prefer the thinner, crispier and slightly saltier Pringles Original (the red can). Still, it's better than the simply awful local Spuds, which is chameleon-gene spliced to look like Pringles (it's a sad but useful strategy, like the time Beer na Beer masqueraded as San Miguel).

Monday, October 24, 2005

the craft century

One of the comic book anthos the gang put together for release in December is called Project: Hero. It's a tip of the hat to the Silver Age and the sense of wide-eyed wonder that got all of us loving comics in the first place.

My story is a bow to the Legion of Superheroes. The Craft Century live in the distant future (the 36th century, to be precise), and are composed of 100 young heroes possessed of unique powers. Through teamwork and derring-do, this bunch of good-hearted kids represent the best and brightest of tomorrow. Each is codenamed after an ancient Earth “craft” or skill (Numeric, Danseur, Soldier, Mariner, Archivist, Mendicant, Hunter, Chirurgeon, etc.). The Craft Century has a hundred members, which gave my artistic collaborator a near heart attack. Here's a peek at the first two panels (incomplete because more people appear in them).
Image hosted by

What to expect from my little tale? Membership tryouts, time travel, mistaken identity, lots of superpowers and, well, a broken heart (it just wouldn't be an Alfa story without that now, would it?).

Thanks, El!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

gaiman on filipino unrealism

“There is a strong tradition of Filipino realism in literature; I want to encourage Filipino unrealism.” - Neil Gaiman

All I can say at this time about the upcoming 1st Philippine GRAPHIC/FICTION AWARDS is that I am so happy that the two awards will be named after each genre's strongest Filipino exemplars: Alex Nino (for comics) and Greg Brilliantes (for genre fiction).

I'm sorry I can't release any of the contest details until Fully Booked does, but let me reiterate that its real and it will have a mid-December submission deadline (and that there will be more than just one winner per category). And that at the end of all things, there will be a truly stunning end product... I kid you not.

Stand by for more details when I get the "go-signal" to go all out with what I know.

what do you remember?

One of the publications I feel strongly about is the Warm Bodies series, edited by Oscar Alvarez Jr., Noreen Capili and Jonathan Catalla. The latest volume, "Nostalia Galore", looks back at the wild decade of the 80's, through the perspective Filipino bloggers. It's a great mix, as the editors cast their nets wider, coming up with gems from new as well as established writers (there's the power of the blogosphere for you).

Image hosted by

Cover by Oliver Pulumbarit (Lex, Nance and Argus); introduction by me.

Click here to download Warm Bodies 3! It's fab and free!

Friday, October 21, 2005

poems from the metro

A City Poetry Reading

featuring performances by

Gemino ABAD
Catherine CANDANO
Mikael CO
Alfred YUSON

Monday, October 24, 8:30 p.m. at Mag:Net Katipunan.

Go, go, go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

salamanca: the road of publication

Let me shed some light into the process of getting a book published, for the curious.

The hard work of actually sitting down, completing a novel and editing it is just the beginning. As a publisher myself, the option of self-publishing was always present, but for "Salamanca" I really wanted an established outside publisher, like Anvil or one of the university presses. Why? Because there will always be the accusation that self-publishing is just vanity press - that you publish yourself because no one will touch your material because it's terrible (which may be true for some, but certainly not for all cases). Award aside, I also wanted the validation from a publisher, someone I did not know from Adam, and to experience actually having my first novel published by someone other than myself because they believe in the property.

After an exciting series of emails, I decided to visit the Ateneo Press and give them first refusal. Why not UP, my own alma mater? Because of my natural impatience - I need for things to move at my quick pace, and I heard that even the act of submitting material for consideration to them took forever (to be fair though, I would have been armed with recommendations from the former UP Press director and the UP President, so arguably, their clout would have lessened the time - but taking advantage of that would have obliterated one of my goals, which was to get validation for the novel on its own merits, and not because of who recommended it).

Ateneo was open to the idea and informed me that the decision process included letting mystery readers review the novel. If they didn't like it, Ateneo would not publish. If they did, they would go and recommend it to the board. If the board agreed, then it would go on the publishing schedule for the coming year.

So, the first real step was to convince these mystery readers and get their thumbs up. I submitted copies of the manuscript, both soft and hard copies and, like any literary competition, went back to my regular business and secretly hoped for the best. Once again, my novel would be judged. I reasoned that if Ateneo declined, I would go talk to Anvil and everyone else (first time authors have stories about numerous rejections from publishers, persevering until someone finally bit - rejection washes off my back quickly, I'm not one to be utterly desolate for as long as there are other options to look into).

After around three to four weeks, I got a call from Ateneo that they would publish my novel. Apparently, the mystery readers gave Salamanca a thumbs up. Without asking for their identities, I asked my publisher to tell me about who, generally speaking, their readers were. "A cross segment, young and old, 20's to 60's," she said. And what did they say? I begged to read what they said:
Salamanca by Dean Francis Alfar presents, perhaps, the latest addition to the growing roster of Philippine fiction in English that has evidently been shaped by the influences of magic realism. More recently, for example, the works of Rosario Cruz-Lucero (Feast and Famine) have also adapted this same technique of stretching the “consistencies” of realism, bending the premises of much of contemporary Western (continental) fiction, and integrating heretofore unrecognized modes of storytelling (fables, rumors, magical tales) into the capacious space of a novel, all to the effect of not only expanding notions of the possibilities (and goals) of fiction but also capturing “more accurately” he non-Western (Philippine) experience of multiplicity and the supernatural.

While it may be contested whether or not the adaptation of the mode of magical realism to the Philippine context does in fact accurately capture a more “Filipino” experience of reality (and not merely an exotication of our Hispanic-influence culture), Salamanca certainly offers a notable contribution to this enterprise. It is, without a doubt, well-written, and entertaining. Its main character Gaudencio Rivera presents perhaps one of the most unforgettable characters in Philippine fiction (certainly one of the most memorable I have read in a long time): a portrait of the Filipino as an irreverent, if not delightfully sexually ambiguous writer who in his travails of betrayals and reparations spans an exciting aspect of our experience. This is not to mention the other characters in the novel: a Japanese veteran and his tripod-dog; Jacina, the love of Gaudencio’s life, and the muse of Gaudencio’s writing, whose beauty blinds with its capacity to elicit not just a hard-pronged lust, but a hard-tongued river of words; and the albino teacher Mrs. Brown, to name a few.

While it may be typical of magic-realist fiction to conflate historical events with imagined renderings, this novel also certainly does it in a fresh way. In its mix of Palawan history, the Philippine diaspora and what may be considered a quick cross-section of the life of the Filipino writer, it offers an expanded notion of what it is to tell a story and (without sounding too mushy) to live a life. In the end, it reminds us ultimately in its expansive scope of historical retelling and fable making, fantasy and “reality”, what good novels, when they work, can do.

Without reservation, I recommend the publication of Salamanca.

The work under consideration has successfully employed language for the exploration and delineation of a romantic-realistic world that defines the main characters Gaudencio and Jacinta. In most instances, the author impresses us with his ability to imbue common details with astonishingly inspired perceptiveness, as when he says, “He was informed that her name was Jacinta Cordova, and that her beauty was of such purity and perfection that he walls of the house she lived in had turned transparent long ago, to allow both sunlight and moonlight to illuminate her incandescence.” Or, “She arrived a young woman with impossibly blue eyes and hair the color of corn; but with startling rapidity obvious to her students and their parents, she began to fade until, after some years, she became an albino, with the sole exception of her eyes that did not turn pink, but were watered down by her nightly tears into the weakest blue.”

Alfar’s romantic-realistic world is configurated by the perspective of magic realism. Through this, verisimilitude is achieved with the imaginative fusion of the historical and the probable within the context of a Philippine experience. The descriptions, narrations, and dialogues are meant to strain our credibility but, in the end, they are orchestrated to convince us of their aesthetic acceptability. Indeed, Alfar has created a love story that is memorable for its emotional restraint, sustained interest, exceptional characters, and well-conceived plot. The narrative moves at an appropriate psychological pace to give us an interpretation of a slice of Philippine life that is both common and unique. The unique is a result of Alfar’s creative adventurousness with language and the techniques of the genre. All these show why “Salamanca” contributes to the enrichment of our small body of novelistic literature.

Also, Alfar shows us that he has a fictive consciousness – a proper grasp of the magnitude and depth of the novel form, of its “literary architecture.” His novel should be printed.

Based on the recommendations, the board approved the proposal to publish (and of course, I'm delighted with the comments, sabik sa feedback LOL)

Now I have a few days to tweak and edit, then I submit my final MS. Next will be cover design, book design and typesetting (which the publisher asked if I wanted to do, deferring to the fact that I do have a design company - I declined with a smile, since we're doing the Spec Fic Antho already). Then printing, binding and a book launch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

publishing schedule

December will be a doozy, as four publications I'm involved in one way or the other are projected for release: two comic anthologies, one speculative fiction anthology and one novel (yes, my name is all over the place for this post, humor me).

On December 10th, at Fully Booked Greenhills & at Comic Quest Megamall, we will launch:

Image hosted by
1. Siglo: Passion edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Vincent Michael Simbulan (Nautilus).

This massive full color anthology follows in the footsteps of Siglo: Freedom (National Book Award for Best Comic) and showcases 12 grafictional stories of passion spanning a century plus new art and poetry from the some of the country's finest creatives.

Storytellers and artists include (alphabetically, by first name) Andrew Drilon, Angelo Suarez, Antonio Abad, Ariel Atienza, Camille Portugal, Carlo Vergara, Cyan Abad-Jugo, Dean Francis Alfar, Edgar Tadeo, Elbert Or, Gerry Alanguilan, Hiyas de Guzman, Honoel Ibardolaza, Jac Ting Lim, Jamie Bautista, Jason Banico, Jeremy Arambulo (sorry for the initial oversight, partner!), Joel Chua, Jonas Diego, Lan Medina, Leinil Yu, Luis Katigbak, Ma-an Asuncion, Marco Dimaano, Michelle Soneja, Nikki Alfar, Oliver Pulumbarit, Paolo Manalo, Quark Henares, Rafael Kayanan, Red Berger, Reno Maniquis, Vin Simbulan and Vincent Groyon.

It feels like it took a century to produce, but thanks to everyone's unflagging dedication, it will be available.

2. Project Hero edited by Elbert Or & Andrew Drilon (QuestVentures).

We return to the elements that made us fall in love with comics in the first place - superheroes, incredible stories and fantastic elements. I team up with El to present The Craft Century, my homage to the Silver Age Legion of Superheroes.

The line-up includes startling stories and all-ages adventures from Jaime Bautista, Marco Dimaano, Nikki Alfar, Jason Banico, Ner Pedrina, Vin Simbulan, Andrew Drilon, Elbert Or and Dean Francis Alfar. Full color cover, black and white interiors.

3. Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 1 edited by Dean Francis Alfar (Kestrel).

All prose, all spec fic smorgasbord of wonder by Andrew Drilon, Cyan Abad-Jugo, Dean Francis Alfar, Douglas Candano, Francezca C. Kwe, Gabriela Lee, Ian Casocot, J. Pocholo Martin Goitia, Jay Steven Anyong, Joseph Nacino, K. Mandigma, Khavn, Nikki Alfar, Pauline Orendain, Sarge Lacuesta, Sean Uy, Tyron Caliente, and Vin Simbulan.

The first of its kind and hopefully not the last. I'll do my best to do get funding to make this an annual showcase, supplemented by online content next year courtesy of Ian Casocot and Literatura.

And also in December, though details are still being finalized:

4. Salamanca by Dean Francis Alfar (Ateneo Press).

I just spoke to publisher Maricor Baytion who told me that the Ateneo board and their readers agreed that the story was lovely (yay) and that the manuscript was so clean it was practically ready for typesetting and printing. I asked for a few days to do final tweaks, just small spelling and grammar errors and it's good to go.

What surprised me was that I expected this to be published sometime next year, not thinking we could make it to press on time this year. I hope it all works out.

So that's it for my official output this year (unless the other two anthos that have my stories are also published this year). Everything else is in development.

writing for the dream king

At the end of this month, Fully Booked will launch a very interesting writing contest: Neil Gaiman has pledged $15,000 as top prize.

So what's the skinny?

Two categories: 0ne - graphic novel; two - prose scifi/fantasy.

Imagine that. Comics and speculative fiction. Can you tell how stunned I am that this dovetails into my areas of interest/agendas?

Clearly, this is worth writing (and fighting) for.

Details to follow, but do spread the word and get started early.

Monday, October 17, 2005


There are certain things, like hope or a deep desire for change, that cannot be easily doused by water.

In keeping with the elemental theme, the government should next attempt to burn, bury or suffocate.

Friday, October 14, 2005

small shots

My shoot day started at 7AM at a finishing school in Rizal that offers advanced courses in electronics, IT, chemistry, physics and all these things that are so alien to my usual artsy frame of reference. I had a number of layouts to complete, quite challenging in terms of how I conceptualized them and it was good to start early. While my models were being made up, I conferred with my photographer to begin setting up his lights. For the first shot, I wanted green gel to give the photo a certain ambience - it worked (by the photos here are taken with my PDA and are not what I will give client - I use them as test shots for angles, lighting, etc.)

Image hosted by

During the chemistry set-up, I raided the school's supply of materials because I wanted color. I wanted what people imagine chemistry labs to look like: exotic powders, bubbling beakers, chromatic metal filings, esotoric flasks and beakers. I even threw in a little "blue salt" direct from my weekly RPG game, Isle.

Image hosted by

After all the required shots, we drove to Novaliches (which Nikki insisted is where the New Undead folk roam, tearfully commending her husband on his bravery). I was there to shoot a children's library and its wormy mascot and did not encounter the undead.

Image hosted by

While setting up the shots, this little boy in a Spider-Man costume plopped down on a couch and began to leaf through a book - an irresistible subject to shoot. I managed to breeze through the mascot shots because I was very concerned with the guy inside the padded costume. Mascoteers have it rough - they get dehydrated quickly, have difficulty moving and oftentimes are as good as deaf and blind. This poor guy was all of the above and, in addition, almost got his eyes pierced by faulty wiring in the inside of the mascot's head. It's an interesting exercise, directing a mascot who cannot hear or see you plus handling the gaggle of kids.

Image hosted by

All of the kids in my shoot come from public schools and I learned that they were all on half-day sessions throughout the school year, for both grade school and high school. The morning session starts at 6AM and ends at around 12. The afternoon session is from 1PM to 7PM. Why aren't they in whole day sessions with more reasonable times? Because we do not have enough schools and teachers, that's why. So we educate our kids in shifts. It's appalling.

Image hosted by

I'm thankful we are able to give Sage better educational opportunities. But my heart bleeds for all the other kids. Where Sage gets new books every week, very few of these kids own their own books. This is where the idea of a children's library makes a difference. Now I feel terribly guilty about all the books cullings Nikki and I have performed all these years, when we'd simply throw away the books we no longer wanted instead of donating them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

death to your father

Someone wrote (and I paraphrase roughly) "I put my arm in my sleeve and out came the hand of my father". In writing, we all have the equivalent of a father or fathers. in much the same way that my daughter Sage is picking up on my speech mannerisms, attitudes and values, the works of an author that we enjoying reading influences how we write. It could be a general tone or a method of discourse, a way with phrases or a writerly frame of reference that we find compelling - and we learn from it. This author becomes our favorite writer, and his style or manner pervades our writing - after all, we learn to write from what we read.

But there comes a time in the personal evolution of a writer when you must deliberately engage in subversion, and, in effect, deliberately misread the text of your predecessors. This is one of the ways you can begin to grow beyond their influence, by finding flaws in something you once held sacrosanct and lacunae in what was once (to you) impervious. You learn to question and seek errors, and engage in act of misprision.

Without this act, you cannot progress as a writer, will never find your own unique voice, never develop your own words. While it is impossible to be completely devoid of influences, you can determine to be conscious of just what is affecting you and take steps to distance yourself – aesthetically, intellectually, stylistically – or be condemned to act like your father (or fathers).

If you are perfectly fine growing up like your father, then misprision is not for you. I can think of schools of writing or cadres of stylists that all write in the manner of their leader, and in the context of a movement, that's fine. But even in that context, people will yearn to be unique. Think of it in terms of a uniform: if everyone needs to wear greys, there will be someone who will jazz up their attire with an accent. A writer who writes exactly in the manner of someone else is being grossly unfair to his own potential.

And for me, this is an ongoing process, because occasionally I realize that I’m being influenced by so-and-so writer (Marquez's influence is strongest, but I know I've diatanced myself in many ways, but I cannot hide my origins in the same way I cannot unchoose my genetics). It triggers a reaction in me. I read and reread the work of that particular author and compare it to my current work and try to see just what and how I’m adapting. Then I take steps to put some distance, not out of fear of being a clone, but out of respect for that author and because I need to fine tune my-own voice.

For people who do not write, such concerns seem trivial. But for me, the self-inflicted self-aware agony of growth is part-and-parcel of the entire process.

Then again, you could just write and not worry about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

archived fiction: and i will, i will

And I Will, I Will
by Dean Francis Alfar

standing on the balcony
with eric i watch the people at the garden below plates in hand plates filled with food threatening to topple don’t know why everybody pigs out on the birthdays as if they never knew what food was before as if they knew they’d never have food again just pile pile piling up up up towers of this and that and this and that with some more of that please yes thank you and not just birthdays but all the holidays people people please what am i doing here can’t believe i let myself be talked into coming as if i wouldn’t as if i could stay away from

eric holds a small bottle
one of those very expensive drinks named for a barn animal that everyone who’s anyone simply must have clenched in hand while the other holds a cigarette reds of course what else is there to smoke (push) which reminds me of those tv ads that actually try to make you believe that you can simply ask someone to put out snuff out their ciggie yeah just try it

he thinks he looks so cool
with his black shirt and levis and docs and kick-ass drink and supersmall take-your-picture cell yeah yeah yeah seen it all before buddy if you think branding makes you a better person(push) then fine fine fine

leaning over the balcony i see her
moving in the crowd greeting friends family driver caterer so perfect it makes me want to spit poetry and yes yes it hurts seeing her but i can’t stop must stop can’t stop myself she’s just perfect and what kills me is that i once upon a time in a land far far away cue the music john williams held her in my thin arms and told her i loved her more than anything anyone anywhere together forever and never to part stupid rick astley go away i’m in the middle of my memories here thank you very much i just want (push) to

“Hey, Jovy’s still coming, but he’s picking up Kim, so they’ll be late. Wanna read?”

eric is holding out his can't-you-see-how-expensive-this-is
cell to me as if i gave a fuck if or when jovy was coming or not and who the hell’s kim anyway but some flavor of the month courtesy of your friendly neighborhood blind date pimp duh all these people pretending(push) they care about strangers acquaintances friend of a friend’s cousin of my armpit’s nephew’s ex-lover’s officemate’s blockmate’s sister’s dalmatian for all i care


great can’t believe i said that
but then again anything just so i don’t have to (push) talk to you directly nothing more than a syllable in case you brain blows up from overload you faker you liar you scum of the earth judas traitor ass(push)hole think you’re so cool so smart and she’s still below us and whatshisname is in my brain feeding me words she walks in beauty like the night something or other but it’s just perfect for her she’s so beautiful she’s

“Do you have Marco’s number?”

what the fuck (push) moron
do i look like i have marco’s number i don’t even have a funky cell like yours and if i did do i look like i’d tell you after all marco is my brother’s friend technically my friend first so why do yo(push)u want to call him bastard thief


damn right no
since you walked into the barkada from wherever the hell in the states you came from you’ve taken everything away from me i was the funny guy before i was the one they wanted to be with i had her (p(push)ush) but no you had to be taller better richer everything-er nice car nice clothes nice wallet nice shoes nice stubble nice nice nice nice and so they follow the man follow the man with his pockets full of the jam

“Hey, Tanie! Up here!”

she looks up at us
but doesn’t see me because my pale shadow is drowned by e (push)ric’s halogen brilliance she smiles and my heart breaks again and again and again and she’s frozen for a moment framed by her birthday crowd like royalty among the unwashed masses and it makes her even more perfect more beautiful oh oh tanie but now i’m all alone again nowhere to go no one to turn to feeling like epo(push)nine standing on the balcony with


“Happy birthday! I have your gift - look who’s with me!”

once i held you in my hairless arms
and we laughed together when i tried to lift you up and remember you said i should maybe go to the gym if i wanted but that you loved me just the way i was because of my mind because of my dreams because i made you laugh made (push) you feel more special that you already were and we talked until four in the morning on the front steps of your house and we said no o(push)ne would come bet(push)ween us

“What? No, no, I’ll go down!”

i’m up here too you know
i’m not invisible remember me the guy who (push) once held you and told we shared something better than jean and scott’s psychic rapport

“O, ano, Mike? Shall we?”

then you ba(push)stard bamf into our lives
with your am-boy loo(push)ks and your dad’s harley and stupid jokes and nokia-of-the-month and money to pay for gimmicks and outings and dinner and coffee and conversation flexi(push)ng your thick arms and stu(push)dly chest and showing off your tattoo from wherever an(push)d listening to music from bands I’ve never heard of just stupid stu(push)pid senseless soun(push)ds she used to like my music you know especially elvis this sad burlesque costello and the older music the dee(push)per kind that says something ab(push)out like not your skanky

“Are you okay?”

you’d (push)probably type(push)that like r u k
why the hell are you even asking me as if you cared you thief deceiver because it’s not her fa(push)ult it’s all your fault drowning her in stuff suffocating her un(push)til the only breath she could take was you (push)bastard she doesn’t love love ne(push)ver has never will never never ever never it’s me it’s it’s me it’s me me me she loves loved will love no(push)w and forever jellicle cats a(push)nd stay the hell away from me you musc(pus(push)h)lebound oaf you don’t know me but you’ve always envied me so you take away everyth(push(push))ing everything and fine fine i let y(pu(push)sh)ou then you turn ar(push)ound and take her you took her and (push)you have the gall (push) to ask me if i’m okay where the hell do you co(push)me from i said stay away don’t you touch me (push)it’s so easy to leave me all alone with the memory stop(push) stop (push)stop it andrew lloyd not now this as(push)shole thinks he’s better than me well you

“Mike? What’s wrong?”

can’t (push) me around like(push) i’m nothi(push)ng
as if you were lor(push)d and king rolled into one you s(push)hit can’t believe i’m stan(push(push(push)))ding on the balc(push)ony with you bastard what are doing let m(push)e go just let me go stop stop what w(pus(pu(push)sh)h)hatwh(push)at stop let me go there go my glassesmy glasses don’t step on them eric (push)don’tdon’t(push) (push) let me go just let me go ever(push)yone is looking ano ka ba a(push)no ka ba let(push) (push) me go you no (push)nononono no(push) no just stay away ano ka ba(push) get awa(push)y from me don’t to(push)uch me do(push)n’(push)t don’t d(push)o(push)n’t don’t(push) i thi(push) (pus(push)h) (pu(push)sh)nk i’ll just(pu(push)sh) think i’ll but i can’t(push) ca(p(pus(push)h(pu(push)sh))ush)n’t can’t(push(push)) I will okayokay(push)ok(push)ay ok(p(p(pu(push)sh)us(pu(push)sh)h)us(push)h)ay here we(push)go(p(push)ush)onetwo


novel 2

Image hosted by
Okay, I've registered and will begin writing whatever it is I'll be writing on November 1st.

I'm thinking either high fantasy set in a world where Craftwork is magic, or a modern socio-political magic realist take on beauty pageants, or some seriously convoluted young adult speculative fiction with kids running and being chased as they go on a quest for Jose Rizal's lost airship designs. Or something sexy. I'll know when the date hits.

And somehow, I need to get started on the comissioned novel for next year. Bah! We'll get through this with sheer willpower - and the promise of something desirable at the end of things (last year it was unlimited Pokemon play that was my carrot, plus a bunch of lovely books).

If you haven't yet, go and register (or reactivate your account if you were a previous year's participant) here. As far as I know, Banzai Cat, ">Anton , Charles, and Inez are going to hunker down with me next month.

Sali ka na.

inside deep throat

Image hosted by
I was three years old when Deep Throat was released in the US, triggering a profound shift in how pornography was viewed. I would not see it until I was around ten years old, along with Behind the Green Door and The Devil in Ms. Jones (courtesy of my Uncle Meroy who brought the Betamax tapes to share with my mother, and, unknown to him, his very curious young nephew). They held a private screening for a small group of friends and I remember wondering what all the fuss was about, wondering just what exactly it was that the adults were watching in the locked room. That night, when everyone had gone home or slept, I snuck down to the den, popped in the tape and was blown away.

I had my own secret stash of men’s magazines, but it was the first time I saw sex in motion, and it was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes – blurred by inchoate imaginings – and I was inducted into one of life’s hidden mysteries. I remember my impossibly hard erection and the savage sense of guilt that accompanied it, the feeling that I was not supposed to be where I was, not supposed to see what I was seeing. I fast forwarded the tape to get to the best parts, patiently skimming to see what else I did not know, wanting to devour all the illicit information I could before I rushed back quietly to room to explode in carnal delight. Since then, I have collected porn, becoming quite open about it as I grew older, with magazines and books as staples, then starting my own video collection, altering formats as time passed and technology evolved: betamax, VHS, VCD, DVD, digital formats via internet to my laptop and PDA - while I never need anything more than spit, palm and fantasy to enjoy myself, I like the visual stimulus of porn.

Which brings me to Inside Deep Throat, a documentary by filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (the same team that presented the story of Michael Alig and the decadent 80s club scene in Party Monster), that brings to light the production and effects, both personal and societal, of the most profitable blue film of all time. Shot in 6 days and produced for only $25,000, Deep Throat went on to gross over $600 million, debuting in New York’s Times Square and leaping past the big screen into the (then) new home video format. With commentary from the likes of Gore Vidal, Normal Mailer, Wes Craven, Camille Paglia, Hugh Hefner and more, the docu shows how America divided into two camps over what was considered obscene.

For me, it always boils down to a personal choice. As an intelligent human being in full possession of my critical and moral faculties, I do not need anyone to tell me what is appropriate for me to view. I have never considered sex as something to be hidden or lied about; on the contrary, it is something to be enjoyed in appropriate circumstances and contexts – again, all by personal choice. Porn, for me, is a combination of many things, going beyond the merely prurient. Watching it is an act of liberation, simply exercising my freedom to amuse myself privately; it is a raised middle finger against those people who insist on forcing their own mostly Christian self-righteousness on me and other people, as if their convictions were the only proper worldview, as if there was such as thing as a single “correct” perspective to all things; it is a celebration of the sexuality that is a deeply ingrained part of my psyche and character - because life, for me, is incomplete if lived only on purely mental, creative, familial and business planes; and it is a barometer of the changing times: the evolution of sex play in pornography and society’s reactions to it trace provide much insight into who we are and how we think – from the time that vanilla blow jobs were considered the be-all end-all of porn (as in Deep Throat’s conceit of Linda Lovelace’s needing oral sex to tickle the clitoris in her throat – yes, you read it right) to the increasing complicated contortions and conceits of present day porn (right now, there’s a lot of ass play) and the entry of the concept of responsible sex in the light of AIDS (men wear condoms except in those “barebottom” films that rebel against safety).

Oh, and it’s educational too, as my wife will tell you after I learned from my porn sensei, the Helicopter Man. LOL

Monday, October 10, 2005

playing catch up

How I long for the end of the month, when my work schedule somewhat rationalizes itself and shifts towards a more managable (in terms of time to write or blog during daylight) mode.

Anyhow, some notes on the past few days:

salamanca a go

The Ateneo De Manila University Press will be publishing my novel, Salamanca, sometime next year.

You have no idea how happy this makes me - set deep inside me is the conviction, rightly or wrongly, that one is not really a writer until one has a book. And while I may have been published in various magazines and books, this will be the first one which has material which is 100% mine (I exclude my comics because apart from the fact that it is not pure prose, comics are a collaborative effort since I do not lllustrate my own work). It's very different from helming and editing an anthology. It's both scary and more gratifying.


It seems apt that I got confirmation from the publisher at around the same date when, last year, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo and began the process that would ultimately lead to a series of incredible firsts: writing my first novel, ; writing it in the mindboggling period of under one month; winning the Grand Prize for Novel at the Palanca Awards this year; getting Salamanca considered for optioning as a film by Viva; and getting it published next year, therefore, my first book.

I exchanged emails with Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo, telling him how grateful I was for the experience. A link should appear shortly in the site's FAQ section.

And for signing up for another month of madness to produce a new novel... why not? I think my schedule will be more forgiving by then. Or at least I hope it will be.

Testimonial time: go and sign up for the National Novel Writing Month. Give it a shot. At the very least, you will learn about discipline and the fact that writer's blocks can be overcome with sheer effort. And the reward for completing your novel may go beyond your wildest expectation.

philippine speculative fiction antho

I'll be getting back to the task of finishing the process of editing all the pieces that will appear in the antho by the end of this week. I'm done with half, using guerilla editing (LOL). The good thing is that the material from the established writers is practically ready to publish, since these folk are more or less used to polishing their own work.

After that, I need to comission a cover, layout the book and prepare the final art for the printers. I'm projecting a three-week publishing timeframe ending in late November, with a launch and release of the anthology by early December. When that's done, I hope to make time to edit another set of stories for the special Spec Fic issue of Literatura magazine Ian Casocot and I are thinking of putting up - but most likely that will be sometime early next year.


Let me digress from all this literary reportage and tell you what has helped keep me sane during this hectic time - prawns.

I love prawns, especially in garlic butter. So Nikki and I have gone several times these past couple of weeks to Dampa Sa Libis, where we purchase fresh prawns from the seafood market and bring them over for a resto to cook. I make sure to get some liempo (pork) seasoned with salt and pepper, which we have grilled. In previous excursions, we've had squid, crabs, fish, scallops and much more.

A kilo of prawns swimming in butter is a sanity-restoring sight for me. And I pig out. Happily. Guilt-free. Because I'd rather put on a few extra pounds and keep my mind intact and my spirits high.

And they're just so irresistably yummy. And I love to eat.


Ah, forget about the structure of this entry making any sense. I'll write free flow.

I love the new Showcase series of collected trade paperback books that DC Comics is putting out, three so far: Superman, Green Lantern and Metamorpho (I know, it's not the first three I'd put out if I were the publisher, but hey, what do I know?).

Each volume clocks in at over 500 pages of Silver Age goodness, in the black and white format pioneered by Marvel Comics with their Essential line. The Superman volume contains seminal stories such as the shrinking of Kandor City and the beautifully absurd tale that traces what would have happened if Krypton had not exploded. Price point-wise, the first two volumes retail at just under $10. Incredible value.

I'm also completely addicted to the Infinite Crisis event happening over at DC (and OMG, Infinite Crisis #1 arrives on Wednesday!), with the massive character-defining changes shown in various titles. I like a universe that changes.

I also picked up a another batch of books since I last posted, including Gaiman's Anansi Boys and the lovely Legend of the Five Rings 3rd Edition book. I'll list them as soon as I remember the titles.


Nikki and I were blown away by two films recently, for different reasons.

Napoleon Dynamite (directed by Jared Hess)looks like something I'd immediately dismiss as pretentious or stupid. However, actor Jon Heder creates a character who is so pathetic and unlikable that he is somehow compelling. Really. We could not stop watching this anti-John Hughes film. It's not even really a comedy as we understand it nor is it deep or meaningful. It's just...watchable.

Final Fantasy: Advent Children (directed by Tetsuya Nomura & Takeshi Nozue) was just visualy awesome, especially for fans of the game (Final Fantasy VII) who lived the adventures of Cloud and crew. Every action scene is spectacular and breath-taking, ranging from high speed motorcyle sword duels to a one-on-one with a Guardian Force summoned by materia. And Tifa is just scorching (but why does she look like Rinoa of FFVIII?).

My big issue is the subtitles, obviously done by someone who wants to drive the wordsmith Alfar couple insane. I can't wait for the official translation, but Pirate Billy did his best. I got more films and more porn (I know, I haven't event dented the cache of porn I inherited from a friend, but I'm an inveterate porneaste), so when the long weekend holiday comes, I'll have things to entertain me.

shoot me

I have a number of photo shoots lined up over the next two weeks and one of horror scenarios is going to happen. One of the tasks is to shoot a whole bunch of 3 year olds - and I can feel my sanity slipping away again (quick, bring me prawns)! Directing kids is a nightmare job, but I will find a way to do it, somehow.

The other shoots are a cakewalk: various product shots, location shots and situationals - oh, and a print ad.

political animals

I've shown my colors and written a speech for one of the country's senators. I'll let you know what this turns out. It's interesting because I'm highly opinionated but usually keep quiet on matters of the nation and governance (I turn down offers to write about anything political). But I like this Senator. Of course, the question is will the Senator like the speech enough to ask me to write again. LOL

Ok, break time over.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

swamped thing

Gah. I'm practically buried under work. It's a busy time at Kestrel - which is always good, since it's my primary business.

I was hoping to do a bit of writing, guerilla or otherwise, but my phone permits no such thing for now.

Now I wish I spent more time last Sunday, having coffee and talking about writing (and gossiping) with poets Joel and Naya.

To borrow a much-used phrase from my friend Marco, it's back to the salt mines.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I'm the featured Unsung Blogger over at Sast Wingees Speaketh - thanks, Sukumar!

Truly, blogging makes the world only words (and few clicks) away.