Thursday, October 25, 2007


Today and tomorrow I'm at the Sacred Heart Novitiate at Novaliches as a panelist for the 7th Ateneo Writers Workshop. It was a wonderful morning session as I gamely attempted to critique Filipino poetry and short fiction in English. Tomorrow, we'll tackle around 4 texts, again a mix of genres and languages.

Because of my anxiety about locating the place, I left home at 5:30 AM and took a cab. We were at the outskirts of the UP Diliman campus when the sun rose and it felt like some sort of epiphany was waiting for me to discover it, what with the dim grey horizon slowly transformed by the muted colors of dawn - but I was too sleepy and anxious.

The Sacred Heart Novitiate is a lovely venue. A long driveway leads up to a cluster of buildings, in one of which the workshop was held. I was hoping to see Marge and Joel but it turned out that they had attended earlier sessions - but I was happy to see Mike Coroza and Luna Sicat-Clieto, as well as meet the other panelists and the fellows themselves (as well as workshop director Egay Samar - and PSF3 author Marguerite de Leon).

The atmosphere of critique is different from what I thought it would be (my personal experiences being only with the Silliman and UP workshops in the remote past - 15 years ago, in fact). But it was still fun and stimulating to hear other panelists voice their opinions (though it underscored my bias against prescription, but it could be argued that prescription is just what the fellows are asking for - and need - at this point in their writing life).

In critiquing the Filipino poem, I found myself hampered by the double whammy of my inadequte Tagalog language skills (which includes the Filipino words for critical terminology) and the fact that I did not consider myself a poet in the first place. Naturally, my LitCritter trainng took over (haha). I felt better during the session I moderated, and threw in a mini-lecture on story vs. discourse, to help the author out. It felt like a high-level LitCrit session, only more formal, with critical terms whizzing about everyone's heads once in a while.

We were all relaxed by lunch, and talked about PBB and why there isn't a reality show for writers, over grilled liempo, tinola and pancit and lots of laughter.

The last day of the workshop is tomorrow and the story I'm moderating is quite impressive. I hope these young fellows write up a storm in the future - I'll be happy to read.



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