Tuesday, August 30, 2005

it's being read that matters

Awards are great, but for me, what really matters is if someone else reads my work. Preferably someone outside my family or readers that I know personally - not that their opinions mean less, but simply because I'd like to know how the story works divorced from any knowledge or awareness of who I am (yes, I'm rather formalist that way).

So I was happy to read that my latest US-published story, Terminós (from Rabid Transit: Menagerie) made a couple of recommended reading lists, made by fellow readers and writers that I do not know personally.

AndyHat's Recommended Reading for 2005 also has two other stories from the Ratbastards' chapbook (the Cheney and the Singh). Me, I'm slackjawed at being on a list with Murakami and Ford - and so want to have copies of all these publications.

"Terminós", Dean Francis Alfar (Rabid Transit: Menagerie)
"The Life of Birds", Jo Van Arkel (Things That Are True 3/05)
"The Little Tailor", Stephanie Burgis (Say...Have You Heard This One? #5)
"Fragments", Matthew Cheney (Rabid Transit: Menagerie)
"Mudder Tongue", Brian Evenson (McSweeney's #16)
"Boatman's Holiday", Jeffrey Ford (Book of Voices)
"You and I in the Year 2012", Eric Gregory (Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet 7/05)
"Beyond Each Blue Event Horizon", Andrew Hook (Book of Voices)
"Degrees of Separation", Richard Kerslake (Borderlands #5)
"The Flame", Tanith Lee (Book of Voices)
"Chance Traveler", Haruki Murakami (Harper's Magazine 7/05)
"Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels", Audrey Niffenegger (Amazon.com)
"Three Urban Folk Talks", Eric Schaller (Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet 7/05)
"Flash Bison", David J. Schwartz (Rhapsoidia Winter 2005)
"The Sign in the Window", Vandana Singh (Rabid Transit: Menagerie)
"Running Years", Jessica Stong (Things That Are True 5/05)
"Triceratops Summer", Michael Swanwick (Amazon.com)
"Strange Incidents in Foreign Parts", Anna Tambour (Electric Velocipede #9)
"The Psalm of the Second Body", Catherynne M. Valente (Book of Voices)
"The Euonymist", Neil Williamson (Electric Velocipede #9)

Pam McNew has also listed my story on her Reading Recommendations (there's Murakami again - how do I get a copy of Harper's?):

August's Asimov's Science Fiction, Paul Melko's story, The Summer of the Seven.

August's The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction: Eugene Mirabell's The Woman in Schronginger's Wave Equation; Claudia O'Keef's Maze of Tree; M Ricket's A Very Little Magic Goes a Long Way.

Lady Churchill's Rose Wristlet # 16: Eric Schaller's Three Urban Folk Tales; Sean Melican's Gears Grind Down; Eric Gregory's You and I in the Year 2012.

Things That Are True--Volume 2, The Sun on Your Back; Jessica Strong's Running Years; Amy Bowers' Aggie Leaves.

Rabid Transit Menagerie, Dean Francis Alfar's story, Terminós.

The Atlantic Fiction Issue 2005, Joyce Carol Oates' *BD* 1 11 86

Harper's July 2005, Haruki Murakami's story, Chance Traveler

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Stone Animals.

I commented on her post to say 'thank you' and what she wrote back really made my day.

I also found out that Anna Tambour has included my story "L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)" as one of the Monthly Specials on her site (for August).

Being read is the reward of being a writer. Money, awards, recognition and everything else - gravy.

Which reminds me (to brutally segue), a piece I wrote for Our Own Voice should come out in a couple of weeks. "Writing: A Blog Abecedary" is a long essay structured as blog entries, allowing me to go all over the place as I write about writing, the death of my cousin BJ, appetite and other things that bump around my head.

macho guapito

"Machos in the Mirror", my piece about Pinoy male vanity, appears in the latest issue of i Report, the publication of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. It should be available now.

Here's a little bit from the article:

"Can all this male vanity be laid at the door of celebrities like these and metrosexual poster boy David Beckham? Apparently not. For one thing, as I mentioned earlier, the Filipino trait of being vanidoso well predates Becks and his ilk. Besides, a metrosexual, by definition, is “a male who has a strong aesthetic sense and spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance.” While it seems that we Pinoys certainly do make the time and shell out the cash for our looks, we don’t always have enough of an aesthetic sense to know what we’re doing… unless there actually is a segment of the female populace I don’t know about that really does swoon over pink, manicured fingernails on a man. I can’t be sure there isn’t, having never tried the look myself.

As for why we’re willing to spend so much time and money, it may, surprisingly, be a product of social and economic factors. During the U.S. recession, it was observed that lipstick sales shot up, only to taper down again once the recession was over. Consistent repetition of this phenomenon led economists to conclude that, when consumers feel less than confident about the future, they tend to purchase small, comforting indulgences such as lipstick rather than splurging on larger items like appliances and electronic gadgets. Correspondingly, Ricky Reyes has noted that more customers flocked to salons during the 1997 economic crisis in the Philippines, turning to relatively low-priced services like haircuts in order to make themselves feel better in an unstable living environment."


I visited the site of where, perhaps, the new branch of my pet store will be located. Bound by three roads (Ortigas, E. Rodriguez and Julia Vargas) is a huge property which is partially being developed by SM and the Greenhills Shopping Center. On that property is a new structure patterned after the charming micro retail/tiangge/flea markets of Thailand. It’s called Tiendesitas and it looks great. The vast area is divided into zones or sectors such as Garments, Leather Goods, Furniture, Novelties, and Personal Care; my store was offered a spot in the Pet Zone.

The rent is not bad for the location and the terms are quite agreeable. However, there is still the costs involved with starting up a new store, including the investments on improvements and the like, plus new overhead for staff and inventory. Despite the fact that the contract will tie us down for a year (thus calculations except for initial investment is multiplied by twelve), it looks good. In fact it feels good.

I may regret this bullishness down the line but that one thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur – you’ve got to look at the opportunity in the eye, make an informed decision and take a managed risk. I’m almost certain to go for it, more or less, because there is only so much value to conservatism and fear of loss and failure. I could just sit with what little I’ve banked and invest in the standard things, but I actually like working, doing something, getting my hands dirty. If I ever get a zillion pesos, then I can just put it in placements or bonds and live on the interest. But I don’t have anything like that.

So now it’s a matter of sleeping over the matter. I’ll see if I feel differently about it in the morning.

Monday, August 29, 2005

vignette: shooting star

That last September afternoon of his brief life while he sat on an unmoving swing suspended from an acacia tree many times his age, Matteo Crisostomo, age 7, had his heart's desire come true. He was chewing a chunk of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, most definitely against the will of his indomitable mother, and thinking about nothing in particular, when he first noticed the shooting star, its pale tail almost invisible against the afternoon sky. Matteo knew instantly that this was his opportunity for an unexpected wish, ceased his industrious mastication, and thought about his dead father. In his mind's eye, he wished his father was alive again; specifically, that the man known as Antonio Severino would come back from wherever he went after he passed away, dressed as he had always dressed when he'd come home to his loving son - a stained white shirt under stained mechanic's coveralls, reeking of oil and paternal devotion.

What Matteo could not have been aware of, what he could not possibly have known, was that the shooting star was not, in fact, a shooting star, but a device of miraculous contrivance, older than the oldest thing on earth. It heard the young boy's silent wish as it fell helplessly into the embrace of unwanted gravity and responded as it only knew how - by granting desire and making the impossible come true.

The last thing Matteo Crisostomo saw, before the tree that supported the branch that supported the swing that supported him gave way to a sudden earthquake, was the image of his father, standing in tears in his soiled clothes, extending his arms in a moment of sheer bewilderment and restored life.

When the tree fell on the young boy, his father, the newly-resurrected Antonio Severino, was swallowed by the earth once more. The falling machine continued on its inexorable path past two provinces and a dried-up lake to the north, to the ill-kept backyard of Alejandro Santos, age 27, known ladies' man, never-do-well and suspected leftist rebel.

That was how the season of miracles for the town of Pilansa began.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

reading and viewing

Over the past couple of weeks, my wallet has bled as I’ve willingly purchased books, comics and films.


The best bookstore in town is the newly moved Fully Booked over at Rockwell. I tell you, despite its insane layout, it’s a book lover’s dream. There are so many books I want to buy that I have to exercise incredible restraint. The two times I visited this week were somewhat painful. I’ll go back this weekend, when I have a little more cash and plan to indulge/reward myself. There are also ongoing sales in practically ever other bookstore, so Powerbooks at SM Megamall has most of my purchases.

Most of the books new to my bookshelf are anthologies (I do love anthos, not being able to commit much time to sitting down for a novel unless it’s a new Marquez or Rushdie). The anthos on Che Guevarra and Harlan Ellison’s previously uncollected short fiction are great reads:

Che Guevarra: An Anthology edited by Joseph Hart
Slippage: Previously Uncollected, Precariously Poised Stories by Harlan Ellison
The Rule of Four by Caldwell and Thomason
Year’s Best SF 10 edited by David Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer
Mystery: The Best of 2002 edited by Jon L. Breen
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum
The Marvelous Land of Oz by Baum
Ozma of Oz by Baum


The truth is that I’ve backslid terribly and am now buying pamphlets regularly, but I really prefer getting trades, collections and original graphic novels. I like reading a complete story, for one, and these books can be added to the bookshelves.

I really liked the 4th hardcover volume collecting the run of Brian Michael Bendis on Daredevil (Paulo Manalo apparently does too, he’s even written a paper about Marvel Comics and how current superhero comic books relate to a post 9/11 world). The other hardcover is the first hardcover collecting the first issues of classic The Teen Titans run by Marv Wolfman and George Perez – I actually remember buying my first Titans comic book from Crishareth at the Padilla Arcade in Greenhills when I was in grade school in La Salle Greenhills). And finally, the new Catwoman trade is a hoot.

Tricked by Alex Robinson
various Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disneys
Daredevil HC Vol. 4 by Bendis and Maleev
Noble Causes: Blood & Water by Faeber and Bueno
JSA: Lost by Johns and Various
New Teen Titans Archive Vol. 1 by Wolfman and Perez
New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Catwoman: Wild Ride by Brubaker and Stewart
Batman: Faces by Wagner


Pirate Billy was late arriving at his stall at Metrowalk today. There was some violence during the previous day’s raid and two people got shot by the CID. I felt my hackles rising as he described the violence and how oppressed the Muslims there felt. “Sino sa inyo ang Muslim?” he remembered the gun-wielders yelling, and he felt the terrible stab of discrimination. Shooting the sellers of pirated films while more blatant criminals, especially those in government, get slapped on the hand – you tell me if that’s justified.

I picked up a few films, and just finished watching Millions. It makes my Top Ten list for the year so far, imaginatively directed and well-structured, with a pinch of magic realism and a touch of the surreal (and of course, the unavoidable dash of sentimentality). Other additions are films from Germany, Korea and France.

Millions directed by Danny Boyle (2004)
Birth directed by Jonathan Glazer (2004)
Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken directed by Achim von Borries (2004)
Baramui jeonseol directed by Jeong-Woo Park
Comme une image directed by Agnes Jaoui

Thursday, August 25, 2005

bottled places: dying in greenhills

Image hosted by Photobucket.com: Dying in Greenhills

I fluster the guard at the lobby of the Atlanta Centre, flashing IDs as I speak loudly into my cell phone, heading directly to the elevator bay. Inside, I press the button for the 6th floor, slipping my mobile back into my pocket, my pretend conversation over and done with. This is where the actress Nida Blanca was found in a bloody car a few years ago, stabbed multiple times and left to alone to die.

The parking level is sparsely populated with cars; I count five. I cross the yellow lines towards where I know she sat, bleeding in solitude. It is an empty space, discolored by grease and stained with tire marks. There is nothing else.

I squat in the center of the parking space, pull out my notebook and pen and begin to write. I begin with first impressions, about how much time has passed and how everything is both cold and hot, and soon my stacatto notes create a jostling rhythm. Words come in flashes and I let them, and again I feel the uneasiness that I think I will never get used to, as if my hand were not my own, possessed by automatic writing like the soi-disant mediums of earlier centuries.

Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy

I am wracked by a smile.

I am pierced by betrayal.

I am writing.

I am writing about love.

Pages flip by before I am finished, before it is finished, before everything about this small space, this small place is rendered into words, and my legs cry to straighten out. When I finally stand up in relief, I look at everything I've written down, phrases that seem disjointed, unconnected, ugly, terse. I restrain myself from editing then and there, to try to make sense of initial notes and work them into the semblance of something, something else. There'll be time later, I know. Experience has disciplined me to rewrite later.

I look at the empty parking slot before I leave, thinking about how oil leaves indelible stains on certain things.

"Why just this small place?" The voice grates, stone against stone, all tectonic shifts and intimations of languages.

"This is all I need," I reply. My legs are tired and I just want to go somewhere else.

"Come closer to my heart," the voice rumbles. "I have more interesting places to show you."

I shake my head then end the conversation with a slight nod. I have never liked Greenhills and what she offers.

Outside, along Annapolis Street, I realize that only two buildings down, another actress fell to her death, her broken body bearing the details of her multifloor escape from possessive love. Part of me wants to visit that building, to look at the stairwell and plot her fatal velocity in reverse, but I have what I need for today. No one is interested in what is redundant.

Before I cross the street to my red car, I add a note at the end of my earlier furious scribblings:

No one is truly gone until everyone forgets.

And I am done until midnight.


Visit The Brass Buddha Machine next Thursday for the next installment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

homework and a wish for a sister

Sage told me that she needed to bring a picture of her family for school the next day.

No problem, I said. But as we rooted through all the pictures we had - over three years worth - I couldn't find any of just the three of us. How can this be, I thought. Then I realized that it was because I took most of the pictures, and for some odd reason, the three of us rarely posed together (perhaps it seems so...forced, in the way my mother would always have the entire family pose for a picture - none of us were particularly thrilled).

Sage and I spent some time looking at her baby shots and laughing and marveling at small she was.

SAGE: Dad, look! That's me!

ME: Yup.

SAGE: When I was a baby I fit in your arm.

ME: And I would sleep with you on my chest.

SAGE: I was so small, Dad.

ME: I think you'll be taller than your Mommy when you grow up.

Finally, Nikki found a picture of three of us in New York, with Sage something like a year old. I asked Sage if that would do and she said okay, so she's lugging around the entire album to school.

What completely slipped my mind is the existence of all the digital photos I took when my camera's battery was still in vogue - plus the digital shots our photographer friends took of us from time to time.

Next time, I'll just print out copies in the office so the little girl has more recent shots of her family to show.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Before we all went to sleep, Sage said something that gave us pause.

SAGE: I want a sister.

NIKKI: A sister?

ME: How about a puppy or a rabbit instead?

SAGE: No, Dad. I want a sister. A little girl.

ME: . . .

NIKKI: How about a brother? Sometimes, we can't control these things you know.

SAGE: No, Mom. I want a little sister. I will play with her and share my things.

ME: . . .

NIKKI: Where will she sleep?

SAGE: She can sleep with me on my bed.

NIKKI: Who will take care of her?

SAGE: I will, Mom. Okay, Dad?

ME: . . .


NIKKI: Husband, snap out of it!

ME: . . .

bottled places

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
This is a new series of short fiction pieces, blog-published, by Andrew Drilon and myself. We'll be going around the real and imagined city, looking at things in a new (or old) light, and writing through the lens of our shared narrator. We don't know where this will go - except that we'll try it for a year.

The Brass Buddha Machine and Notes from the Peanut Gallery will alternate writing duties weekly.

The first piece Going into new Manila is already up.

The next one, my first, will be up here tomorrow.

Just a little experiment, fiction-wise (and I just love that logo).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

writing-related stuff

the best carlos palanca website

Ian Casocot has completed the full listing of every Don Carlos Palanca Awardee in every category and division since the Awards began in 1950 - plus other related information and useful downloads. Thanks, Ian! It was a huge task, but now researchers and those interested in the evolution of Philippine Literature via the lens of the Awards have the best online source to go to. Go and check it out.

sneak peek at the winners

I managed to sneak an hour of my morning visiting with Babes at the Palanca Foundation and got to see the full listing of winners - kudos to you guys! Sorry, I'm not posting it here, out of respect for the Foundation (Ian will post the complete thing by the first week of September, I'm sure), but it's quite a list. I found out that the youngest winner in the regular categories is 19 years old (Futuristic Fiction in English), while the youngest winner in the Kabataan Essay (English) is 14 years old. Wow!

Sadly though, the percentage of new winners has slipped. In previous years, new winners have been equal or over the number of old hands. This year, the in 55th Awards, 45% of the winners were first-time winners. It's still a respectable percentage, and tells us that new voices are represented and recognized (and that dinosaurs like me need to keep fit or face extinction).

I also found out who the board of judges were for the novel category: Dr. Cirilo Bautista, Antonio Hidalgo and -ironically- Azucena Grajo Uranza. The mindbending good news? They were unanimous in their decision.

Ian and I later exchanged guilty texts about the nasty things we said about Uranza's novel.

So now I really have to buy and read it. ;)

short time

The contract signing for the film version of my play, Short Time, will be sometime next week. My story will be paired with one by Rene Villanueva, to create a double feature. The shoot begins in September.

Piolo Pascual has agreed to play one of the two characters - and it really looks like this thing is happening (forgive my reservations, I've had two previous less-than-incredible experiences with film).

I'm getting an upfront fee plus points (a percentage of profit). Not bad for a play from 1991.

word gets around rather quickly

Viva Entertainment has requested for a full copy of Salamanca. During my meeting yesterday with head honcho boss Vic del Rosario, I found myself suddenly having to summarize the novel (I tried, with much gesticulation and impromptu editing), after which he began to think of casting choices (something like three pairs of actors, to take on the roles of Gaudencio and Jacinta through the years). Apart from that, he wants to see everything I've written. It's fun to play around with possibilities, but -again- nothing is set in stone. We'll see.

Me, I was busy fantasizing about what I would ask for in terms of compensation - like a week in an exotic resort with everyone who is or has ever been a Viva Hot Babe. And my name added to the comp list for all future Viva films (though really, I just want the Sex Guru series). LOL

I was asked if I had issues should the film be different from the novel - as it obviously will be. As fas as I'm concerned, Salamanca retains its integrity as a novel, as the source material. A film adapted from it is its own creature. A book and a film inspired by -or based on it- are two different things, so no big. It's a funny thing to think about though, since everything is speculative at this point (vaporware, as my friend Jayce would say), but the novel will always be the novel.

Interestingly enough, another independent filmmaker has queried about Salamanca and possibility of transforming parts of it into a short film. Suddenly, I have a "property". Which is cool, of course. I honestly didn't expect all this attention, but hey, I've never been one to shy away from opportunities - so, as usual, we'll see.

Gah. Have to get back to work.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Sometimes, the porn gods smile and reward the prurient faithful. To my delight, I inherited a friend’s porn stash –DVDs, VCDs, CDs of action in digital format (clips and photos), plus printed matter. Really, it’s amazing how much one person can accumulate over time – and it takes another pornhead to appreciate the effort.

It took two people to carry the hoard into the condo, and I haven’t been able to summon the strength (the libido?) to sort through it all (though naturally I have done a cursory inspection). Suddenly, my personal porn collection has expanded dramatically and I now have space issues (I never thought one could have too much porn). I also need to tame my initial urge to somehow watch them all (an act that would entail my vanishing from the real world for a couple of weeks, and upon my return be unrecognizable due to certain physical exertions) but a porn marathon is not the same as say watching 56 episodes of Pokemon in one go.

An interesting thing to me is the fact that there are almost no duplicates; nothing I inherited already exists in my own collection – because the world of porn is vast and we pornheads tend to restrict ourselves and collect mostly a certain type. The only crossover is with pinoy porn, because, of course, we must patronize and support our very own (like “legitimate” Filipino cinema, pinoy porn is usually badly acted, lit, directed and edited, but it is ours).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

in the creative pipeline

My plate is happily full for the rest of the year.  I’m dividing my creative time among my interests in prose and comic books (and possibly a film project).  

prose 1: phil spec fic table of contents

The final selections have been made for the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, after an agonizing weekend regarding the last two slots.   The process of coordinating editorial efforts with all the authors has already begun.  

Before I list the table of contents, I’d like to run down the stories that –if I had the space and budget to include, with some judicious revisions and editing – I would have included.  

Honorable Mentions:

The Doppler Effect by Tyron Caliente
Before the Rain by Rebecca Arcega
Instructions on How to Disappear by Gabriela Lee
The Essence of Dream by Charles Tan
The Wings of the Star Maiden by Jonathan Catalla
The Three Islands by Crystal Koo

The six stories listed above are amazing efforts, no doubt about it – all written, if I’m not mistaken, by new unpublished authors.  Again, thank you to everyone who sent a story for consideration.


As for the selected fiction that will appear, I’m especially happy with the final mix.  Remember that part of my agenda is to seek out new voices and provide a venue, albeit humble and limited, for imaginary words that have, for the longest time, been consigned to the ghetto by the dominant mode of relevant, social realist texts. It is my hope that big publishers will take notice and accept the fact that speculative fiction contributes as well to the growth of Philippine literature.

Of  the 16 stories to be included, 8 are by first-time authors and 8 are by previously published/awarded writers (National Book Awards and Palanca Awards for Short Story, Short Story for Children, Essay, Poetry, One-Act Play, Full-Length Play, and Novel).  4 stories have been previously published or are slated to appear in other collections within the year, while the other 12 are originals marking their debut in this antho.  Also of note: 6 stories are by women, the youngest author is 20 years old,  and more than half of the authors have an online presence (website or blog).

Here’s the TOC of the first volume of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, pending final sequencing.  Note that the titles are subject to change by their respective authors.

Introduction to an in-depth study of The Luminescent by J. Pocholo Martin Goitia
Walking Backwards by Joseph Nacino
Tendress by Andrew Drilon
The Coward's Quest by Jay Steven Anyong
Room Three by Pauline Orendain
Regiment by Sean Uy
The Catalogue of the Damned by K. Mandigma
In the Arms of Beishu by Vincent Michael Simbulan
The Life and Death of Hermes Uy by Douglas Candano
Door by Cyan Abad-Jugo
“Working Title” by Sarge Lacuesta
EmberWild by Nikki Alfar
Lovelore by Francezca C. Kwe
The Pepe Report by Ian Casocot
The Family That Eats Soil by Khavn de la Cruz
L'Aquilone du Estrellas by Dean Francis Alfar

And yes, I’ve included myself.  Many other anthologies’ editors here and abroad have done the same thing.  My story first appeared in Strange Horizons and subsequently in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Seventeenth Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant (2004).  In the form of a one-act play, it won a Palanca Award (2nd Prize) also in 2004.  

prose 2:  …and other stories

I’m compiling a set of my own short fiction for publication.  I was offered this opportunity a year or so ago by a publisher (who also offered to publish a collection of my plays) but I dragged my heels because I felt I didn’t have enough of a certain quality (an aside: my dream of publishing a personal anthology actually predates the desire to publish Salamanca, which I only seriously began to consider early this year).  I still feel I don’t have enough good stories and will probably attempt to write 2 or more new ones so that the book is not a purely a collection of 12 or so older and previously published stories.  Perhaps I will finally, finally write that damned Graveltown story.

prose 3: ultraviolins

I’m also in the process of selecting material for “Ultraviolins”, a collection of works by filmmaker/fictionist/poet Khavn de la Cruz to be published by UP Press later this year.  I’m involved with the fiction pieces (about 1/3 of the book) and will write the introduction to that section.  I like Khavn’s maverick surreal sensibilities and took one of his stories for my spec fic antho.  

We first met when he, myself and Kidlat Tahimik spoke about alternative media last year. The time was rather memorable to me because envy of Khavn’s wild mane got me to color my own.  I wanted to go for Japanese shock-white, but ended up with an odd greenish thing that quickly turned the color of corn.  I eventually shaved it all of when Sage tearfully insisted “I want it black, Daddy!  Black!”

comics 1: siglo

We’re working on the details of the release of Siglo: Passion, the sequel of sorts to the National Book Award-winning Siglo: Freedom.  A major publisher has signified their intent to publish the book as well as distribute and market it.  There is also word of a third book in the Siglo series, but I will probably step down from my editing duties and pass the flame of agenda to the younger guys.  The very thought of doing something on Passion’s scale again causes a certain amount of fatigue and stress – I’d rather write comics for a while.  I just want the book out, really.  It’s been too long in the making.

comics 2: awesome adventures

The Craft Century, the team of futuristic teens I created in homage of my favorite superhero group of all time (The Legion, of course), will see their first time-traveling adventure come to life.  Elbert Or, children’s book artist and of Cast fame, has begun to pencil the impossible demands of my script (I want him to fit something like 60 characters, in full costume, in one panel).  With a spate of other silver-age type heroes, our little group will attempt to recapture the fun and sense of wonder that got us all reading and loving comics in the first place.  Awesome Adventures Annual, edited by Andrew Drilon and Elbert Or, comes out towards the end of the year.

film: blind(ish) item muna

I got a call from a group who are planning to transform and produce one of my early plays as a film (those who know me well can easily guess which play this is, it being staged multiple times over the years).  It’s too early to give details, but it is certainly exciting.  The budget exists and the principal actor has agreed to the part (clue: tearfully, on a gossip show on national TV, he angsted thusly – “Hindi ako bakla!”) and we’re in the process of hammering out the small things.  

If all goes well, it will be part of a double feature (the other material is by a Palanca Hall of Famer whose body of work I admire) and will be distributed by a major movie studio with whom I am meeting tomorrow.  We’ll see if the entire thing actually pushes through.

Of course, there is still all the little writing on the side, as well as the fiction and plays I’ve left unattended for so long.  I’m just glad that somehow there is time to write.  

There are times when I tell myself that my writing life is my real life, but then real life coughs discreetly and beckons me to get back to work.  It’s a nice illusion though.  It keeps me happy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

blogger for word

blogger for word

I just downloaded and installed Blogger for Word.  It’s a neat little thing that allows me to write, edit and publish to my blog direct from Word.  

Download it here.

smaller and smaller circles

(I wanted to write about Felisa Batacan’s “Smaller and Smaller Circles” but something took over and I ended up with this. Bear with me or skip this post completely. It’s badly constructed and rather inchoate. But also very true.)

Fifteen years ago, I encountered my first Palanca novel(ist). I was at the 1990 Palanca Awards, a dazed first-time winner, trying not to look too awestruck. That was the year that Azucena Grajo Uranza’s Bamboo in the Wind won the Grand Prize for Novel in English. I promised myself that I’d pick it up when the next opportunity came. When it did, I remember my heart sinking as I leafed through her book, picking out words and scenes of events. I left with the book unpurchased, my heart torn by guilt. I didn’t buy it; hence, I didn’t read it. My reading tastes, even then, veered away from social realism, and it was the kind of book that I didn’t want to plod through. Sadly, it also consolidated what, for me, the Filipino novel was about: pessimism, melancholy, relevance, and socio-political discourse, all wrapped in the dull (but angry) colors of realism, pinoy-style (but in English – which is another guilt issue for me, as for many Filipino writers who write in English, but that’s for another day).

I’ve read a few Filipino novels in English, of course. High school and college requirements saw to that. But I found that none of them stoked the fires of my imagination, being mostly didactic, with the authors more focused on the same old messages – the plight of the poor, the divide of the social classes, hope for something better, the struggle with whatever governmental regime but with special emphasis on martial law and the third quarter storm and the horrors of existence under that rule, freedom for one and all, justice for the slain and the farmers and women and ethnic groups, reverence for the past, reverence for tradition, reverence for our culture, nationalist tenets, and politics, politics, and more politics - than the story, characters or the form. These are all valid things and experiences to write about and are definitely part of the Filipino experience, but they are also not something I’d line up in a bookstore for and kill to read.

I’ve long struggled with my guilt. I love to read. I read a lot of novels of various types, from literary novels to shit lit, from all over the world, but didn’t care much about the output of my own countrymen. I’ve long asked why we can’t write novels that are not social realist. Must the "Great Filipino Novel" be about these things? ("Of course!" I hear the Philippine Literature teachers resound.) Where are the mysteries, the horror novels, the fantasies, the science fiction, the erotica, the genre novels, the alternative fiction? Is the only alternative the romance novel?

The (partial) answer is: in short fiction. Since the form is shorter, writers are more willing to experiment (and I also suspect that writers who are conscious of being writerly are afraid of spending so much time pounding out a novel that isn't, in some way, social realist and relevant - "You're writing what? Why waste your time on that?"). So great for the short fictionists - although social realism is also dominant there, serenely vast and unperturbed by the other types of stories that eke out a timorous existence at its edges. Despite the entrenched goliath, short fiction is where much growth will happen.

But what about the novel? Am I being fair in my assumptions or just foolishly blind? My exposure has been primarily where one is supposed to be able to buy them (i.e. bookstores, book fairs, etc.). In college, I don’t remember really taking up an intensive course on Philippine literature with an exclusive focus on the modern Filipino novel in English (which is why I am probably so ill-informed). What was written after Rizal's Noli and Fili? Who is writing? What are they writing about? Just how many Filipino novels in English are out there?

the social fantasist

Last year, Elmer A. Ordoñez observed: “Since the Zoilo Galang’s A Child of Sorrow (1921), the first Filipino novel in English, there have been a hundred novels, with only a handful of writers having at least six novels to their name: Francisco Sionil Jose, with 12 titles; Linda Ty Casper, 10 novels; Bienvenido Santos, Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, with six titles each. Another handful have at least three to four novels each: Carlos Bulosan (3), NVM Gonzalez (4), Eric Gamalinda (4), Paulino Lim Jr., (4), and Azucena Grajo Uranza (3). Nick Joaquin and Ninotckha Rosca have two each. The rest are single novelists.”

A hundred published novels in English, by Ordoñez’s estimate. Can this small number be true? And regardless of the actual count, how could I possibly be so unwilling to read any of them? Could it be that they are all by serious literary writers and that, in my heart of hearts, I’m afraid that they will all ultimately be of the sort that makes me doubt my own patriotism? Is the unspoken requirement thus: to be a “serious” writer of Philippine literature, one must kowtow to nationalism and social realism? Is it my responsibility? Is the onus mine? And if I choose to do otherwise, does it make my writing less valid, less important, less Filipino?

Early in my writing life, I rebelled. Or thought I did. I’ve been mostly a playwright and a writer of short fiction. I wanted to write speculative fiction, things I’d like to read myself. But my early fiction reveals that I was what I call a “Transformer”, a social realist in disguise. Strip away the fantastic elements and batches of my stories (The Last Mermaid Story, Spark: The Sad & Strange Tale of The Nun who Exploded, The Secret Measure) reveal my leftist leanings, which was practically a necessity for someone who studied at UP (and again, the guilt: was I was so void of sympathy for the struggle of the farmers who marched to Malacañang that I had to construct a tenuous - albeit arguably well-written - position and insinuate it in my fiction just so I could claim relevance?). Even my occasional plays betray me, some being read as allegories of struggle or being out-and-out statements about, well, outing. So am I writing the very thing I don’t want to read?

When I began to write the Hinirang cycle of magical fiction a couple of years back, I thought I could escape my guilt. But a number of these stories are indicative of the struggle against Spanish rule. So I’m a social fantasist. Or something. The mind reels.

After I found out that my novel Salamanca won the Palanca Grand Prize for Novel this year, after all the good feelings and congratulatory back patting, I was struck with the old profound sense of guilt of not having read a single Palanca novel (you might think I get struck by a profound sense of guilt a lot; I don’t, so when it happens it really big).

So I decided to rectify the situation.

on the shoulders of giants

I remembered my first encounter with Uranza’s novel and decided to find out just what the previous winning novels were and who wrote them. I discovered that apart from the best online sources (Ian Casocot’s Survey of Philippine Literature site and the Carlos Palanca Awards wiki), there were no other sources of consolidated information. Ian’s site and the wiki were incomplete (an aside: perhaps I’ll get my web team to do a site that has all the Palanca info, with a database server - I’ll see if it’s okay with Ian and the Foundation). I found out that the Novel prize in English is given every 3 years (I thought it was every 2 years) and that the category was established in 1980.

I compiled a list of the winners but I suspect that there was co-winner or two that I missed (like F. Sionil Jose – I’ll just have to pester poor Babes at the Carlos Palanca Foundation):

1981 - Wilfrido Nolledo - Sangria Tomorrow
1984 - Wilfrido Nolledo - 21 de Agosto

A back to back win by Nolledo. I put both on my must-find list. I want to see if his novels were linked and just what this great writer was concerned with. None were available at the three bookstores I went to recently.

1987 - Krip Yuson - Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café

I did read part of this before but didn’t finish it. And worse, the book was victimized in one of the Alfars' annual cullings. Gah. I owe it to Krip to get a new copy and finish it – he has always been an encouragement to me through the years. I couldn’t find it where I looked. What’s going on?

1990- Azucena Uranza - Bamboo in the Wind

I found her book and I picked it up. I felt like I was watching my past self because I did precisely the same thing I did before. I put it back. But only because I wanted to see if the others were available. I’m picking it up (mahal pala) this weekend, during our scheduled bookstore sortie.

1993 - Butch Dalisay - Killing Time in a Warm Place

It is with no small amount of embarrassment that I confess I haven’t read Butch’s novel (Nikki has). I am a fan of his short fiction though. And he is one of the few UP writers I actually look up to. So obviously, this state of affairs will change (my not having read his novel, not the being a fan part). It was shortly after this year that I vanished from the literary scene, focusing on work and real life.

1996 - Christina Pantoja Hidalgo – Recuerdo

I was not reading anything literary during this time (and definitely not writing). I wouldn’t have anything to do with the Philippine literary scene until 2003 (apart from comics, my other advocacy), so my guilt over not having a copy of Jing’s book is somewhat justified. She is also an encouragement to me (and especially to Nikki). I also had a schoolboy crush on Jing back in college. Sigh. I saw a copy and will get it. And such a lovely title.

1999 - Felisa Batacan - Smaller and Smaller Circles

This book blew my mind and was the original point of this entire post, now sadly reduced to a few sentences (intent and the final written product are always two different things). I picked it up a few days ago, to read in Tagaytay. This is a genre novel, a rarity in the Philippine letters. A detective novel about two Jesuits priests investigating a serial killing in Payatas. Deft, well-written and fluid, both Nikki and I loved it. More importantly, it showed me that the Palancas were not a bunch of old fogeys determined to steadfastly uphold the torch of social realism. There is hope.

2002 - Vincent Groyon III - The Sky Over Dimas

I first met Vince during a workshop and was pissed that he was both taller and a year younger than me. And brilliant. Since then, we’ve had sporadic communications but recently reignited our correspondence – he wrote one of the stories for the upcoming comic book Siglo: Passion that I'm editing with Vin. His book is wonderful.

And this year, there is me.

I have high hopes for Salamanca's publication, with higher hopes that it will be read - and that some guy will not accuse me of being a boring old social realist fart (I do fart, and I am older, but I am certainly not boring and as for the social realism, well, ewan) and see that the novel is about many different things.

So that’s how things are. I’ve read the most recent winning novels and so far the genre is neither as moribund nor as fixed as I thought it was. We’ll how things go as I travel back in time, but the future looks bright and open and free.

I’ll continue to write about what I want to write about, just as long as it makes me happy (this is me assuaging my trepidation about following up Salamanca with a fantasy/sci-fi/western novel set on a planet with three alien races fighting for mining rights with nary a Filipino nor melancholic Filipino sensibility within a billion parsecs).

UPDATE: After this, go and read Ian Casocot's post entitled "A Dream in Novels: Some Notes on the Reading of the Filipino Novel in English, or Ditto to Dean's Blognote".

Thursday, August 18, 2005

notes on editing the spec fic antho 2

Some have asked about my process, so, sure, I'll share how I made my choices.

First Pass

After all the sorting and preliminary reading, I put myself in a critical mode, much the same as my reading mode when I'm judging for literary competitions. I went through all the submitted stories again, and created three new piles (mostly I read the digital files but certain stories I print out).

Pile A: Reject. These stories did make the cut for various reasons. Some suffered terrible grammar, while others, though well-written, did not fit into the framework of what I intend the antho to be. So just because your story is rejected does not mean you wrote poorly, only that it was not the type of story that I was looking for.

Pile B: Must-Have. There are some stories that hook my eyes and sensibilities from the first sentence and never let go. These stories immediately demand attention and rise above the others.

Pile C: Consider. Some stories I am initially ambivalent about. Certain stories require a second or tertiary reading to appreciate. Some have some small flaw that keeps me from putting them in Pile B.

Short list

My next step is to create a short list. This is a list of the stories that are going into the antho, along with details on their page count, authors, and my initial commentary. I do this on a Excel spreadsheet.

My commentary functions as reminder text for my review. I rationalize to myself why I am selecting this story. It is never "I like it"; more of "good slipstream sensibility, good imagery and surreal tone", or "crap, I wish I wrote this- good narrative flow".

The word count is important because I have a maximum of 60,000 words for the entire book. Why the cap? Because that is all I can afford. I am publishing the book, not Anvil or UP Press (at least not yet, bwahaha) and I've allocated around P70k for production. Going beyond my word count is an expense I cannot afford.

So I created my short list, the first of many. Over the course of hours, the roster changed, as certain stories from Pile C migrated to Pile B, dislodging them, changing places, stunningly consigning a favored story from Pile B to Pile A. And this goes on even when I'm not in front of my laptop. My PDA takes care of that.

I agonize and sleep over it. Then I begin to inform the authors of the works I've selected.


Why do I inform people in batches? Because there are, after all the jostling, a set of stories that survived unmolested - those stories are definitely in. So their authors should know (I myself hate waiting). Some stories make it to Pile B after a bitter struggle.

Why not inform everyone at the same time? Because certain stories are still fighting over the last two slots in the courtroom of my mind and it looks like we'll all need the weekend to resolve their conflict.

66 stories were under consideration, and, with the exception of a handful, I knew if they were in or out. So I wrote letters of acceptance and rejection, trying my best to give some kind of positive criticism to those stories which fell short. But it is difficult to offer indepth critique over email, especially when there are so many. I do try to be helpful, but given the constraints, I partially retreated into formality. I am approachable - people do ask me for critiques and I answer when I have time - but in this case, I am defeated by the volume.

Writing a rejection letter is always painful. I know people spent time and effort writing and it is not pleasant to be told "no". It is also painful when I know the authors personally. I've had to reject friends and colleagues, people I've had a history with, because I'm not putting out an antho for friends. Each story has to fight to be there - even my small contribution. I just hope that the authors whose work did not make the cut keep in mind that a writer's life is visited by rejection slips (I have my own collection) - and that just because a single editor declined doesn't mean you're worthless.

On the other hand, I've had the pleasure of informing first-time authors that their work is accepted. Part of my agenda is encouraging new writers, new voices - the last thing I want is some sort of domination by an elite of the Filipino spec fic. So I'm happy to say that half of the anthology is composed of stories by new authors. Their stories stand shoulder-to-shoulder in terms of imagination and quality of writing with the Palanca and National Book awardees that comprise the rest of the book. And in case you're wondering, an award or 8 do not guarantee inclusion. You are only as good as the story I'm reading right now. It's incidental that the story I liked was penned by an awardee of some sort.

So in the end, I have a collection I'm happy with. I'm making no claims for it being "The Year's Best Philippine Fantasy and Science Fiction", but in my eyes, these stories certainly deserve to be read by a wide audience.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

notes on editing the spec fic antho 1

Because (1) I am a fast reader; and (2) I read the submissions as they came in, I'm actually done with reading all of the 66 stories submitted for consideration. I am delighted by the sheer number of submissions - it proves to me that speculative fiction is hardly a dead thing and that well-written spec fic is not impossible to find. Thank you to everyone who sent a story in. I am so revved up that I'm thinking of making this book a series of annuals or something like that.

I sorted entries as they came in, in an effort to categorize genres. I found the following (subjective categories all mine, used to sort, not open to argument):

1. Philippine fantasy. This sort of fiction is set in the Philippines, usually in the past (ancient or Colonial), and uses the abundance of local lore, legend and myth. Subcategories: Serious Philippine fantasy, Children's Story, Pastoral fantasy, Alternate History

2. Modern Philippine fantasy. These stories are set in the modern day and juxtapose elements of popular culture with myth and legend. Subcategory: Magic Realism.

3. Imaginary World fantasy. Set outside the country in lands made from whole cloth. Little or no Filipino element or sensibility, mostly European/Occidental mode, usually written in approximation of US fantasy bestseller, complete with conventions (and lots of snow). A few stand out, wrenched from accusations of being generic by incredible writing. Subcategory: More snow.

4. Manga/Anime fantasy. Thinly disguised variations on Japanese manga/anime, with cute girls with cat ears. Painfully reminiscent of badly written and creatively bereft fan fic.

5. Slipstream fantasy. These stories take the Modern Philippine Fantasy and kick it all over the genre divides, creating new patterns. Some are sexy, some are ugly. Subcategory: Literary fantasy or "Look at me, I'm Lit'ry!"

6. Futuristic Fiction. Direct from the Palanca category, imaginings of our country distant years from now. Subcategory: Transformers (Social Realists in Disguise)

7. Funky Scifi. Almost exclusively submitted by a core of UST-based writers, this type is exciting and well-written.

8. Interstitial. Stories that defy categorization, that fall between the cracks of definition. Some are surreal and beautiful, others are just masturbatory excesses.

9. Horror. Scary. Subcategories: Lovecraftian, Body Count, Monster Mash.

10. Crime. Bad thing happens, detective-type solves it. Speculative in the way I did not mean the term to include, but what the hey. Subcategory: Crime Noir

11. Modern Short Story. No spec fic element. Subcategory: Social Realism.

I think that about covers them all, though I may have missed one or two.

I'm happy to say that in terms of quality, I am frustrated to have a cap of 60,000 words for the book. There are many deserving stories that will be cut.

I've made my preliminary selections, thought about them, and altered my short list many times. Since I'm doing the notification in batches, I've begun the process of sending out letters.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

fiction: how rosang raba won a race

Kung Paano Nanalo Nang Karera Si Rosang Taba
by Dean Francis Alfar

I. An Introduction

Down in the busy markets of Binondo is a drinking place, Rosa’s, where visitors and roughnecks are often found making trouble, noise or love. In that place inebriated men circulate a story, repeated with delight and embroidered with each telling. The Katao of Hinirang enjoy telling it most, because it features the stunning victory of one of their own against an Ispaniolan gentleman.

Today, one hundred years from its first incarnation, different people continue to assign different meanings to the story, but all hold in common its having essentially occurred: as a subversive comment on the conqueror/conquered status quo, as an anecdote on gender role reversal, as the first shout in the inevitable revolution that would return Hinirang to its own people, as a cautionary tale of arrogance and comeuppance, or as a simple tale of a woman who used her mind to achieve triumph in the face of an impossible foe.

What follows is a retelling of this famous tale, rendered from various records, sources and interviews, both anecdotal and established, but replete with the embellishments, speculations of dialogue and motive, and internal sidebars accumulated by its continuous evolution as a narrative.

This is the story of Rosang Taba (who gained a certain notoriety among the pale-skinned elite as Rosa Gordura, and among the foreign merchants and traders as Rosa the Fat) and how she won a footrace against Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal - champion fencer, marksman, runner, swimmer, horseman, and the pride of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang.

II. A Challenge and A Wager (1)

It began one afternoon, during a special merienda held at the residence of Alejandro Baltran Alessio du Verrada ei Ramirez, Guvernador-Henerale of Hinirang. The occasion being celebrated was the defeat of a small force of insurgent natives north of Ciudad, and the hero of the hour was the young commander of the Ispaniola force, Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal. The two men sipped chocolate from Mejico and discussed things only men-of-action particularly cared about, and were later joined by the Guvernador-Henerale’s mistress, Andreia Carmen Jimenez ei Rojillo, freshly returned from confession from the Katedral Grandu.

They were seated at the spacious courtyard of the Guvernador-Henerale’s residence, a pleasant arbor of shady trees, flowerbeds and smooth-stoned paths, where the breeze was the most aromatic and the heat less oppressive than elsewhere.

“Ultimately, I must concede to the fact that the lovely Seóra has pointed out to me,” Ser Pietrado said, looking at Andreia directly in the eye. “These Katao du Hirinang, these indios, are not much of a threat at all. Certainly not for the flower of Ispaniola. They are lazy, boorish and unorganized. They have no courage, no morals, no civilization. If not for us, they would burn as pagans.”

“Ser Pietrado, you have misunderstood my words,” Andreia met his gaze evenly. “If the Katao were given equal opportunity, then I suspect your words would be emptier than they are now. Any one of them is your equal.”

“I can defeat any one of them in anything. At any time, anywhere,” Ser Pietrado boasted. “They are like animals.”

“Ser Peitrado!” the Guvernador-Henerale admonished him. “Those are words not in keeping with the character of a gentleman.”

Before the young man could reply, another voice interrupted their conversation.

“I could beat you in a race.”

The three turned to see who had spoken. A very fat serving woman, carrying a tray of cold refreshment for them, was biting her lips in despair.

“Forgive me, my lords, my lady,” she spoke in halting Ispaniola, “I did not mean to speak my thoughts out loud.”

“No, no,” said Andreia, gliding to the woman’s side. “But did you mean what you said?”

Opo, Seóra,” the woman replied, “I want to show the gentleman that we are not all stupid. And we are certainly not animals.”

Ser Pietrado turned to the Guvernador-Henerale. “Ser, if this is the kind of servant you keep, I-“

The Guvernador-Henerale, impressed by the fact that the woman had courage to speak, silenced him with a gesture. He turned to the servant and asked her, “What is your name?”

“I am called Rosang Taba, my lord.”

Ser Pietrado’s aristocratic lips lifted in a sneer. “Rosa Gordura. How appropriate.”

“And what do you do for me?” the Guvernador-Henerale asked her.

“I am one of the house servants, my lord. I thought my lords and the lady would like some more chocolate,” Rosang Taba said, glancing at the cups and saucers on her tray.

“And do you think you can actually defeat this gentleman, Ser Pietrado, in a… what did you say?”

“In a race, my lord.”

“A race?”

Opo, Ser.”

“And you are certain of this?”

Opo, Ser.”

“Then you shall have your chance.”

Ser Pietrado raised his eyebrows. “Your Excellency, certainly you jest! This, this obese woman is no match for me in anything, especially in a race!”

Andreia fixed him with a glance. “You can beat her, yes?”

“Of course I can!” Ser Pietrado nearly shouted. Andreia simply smiled.

Rosang Taba cleared her throat timidly. “I just ask two things, my lord. As the noble gentleman has said, I am hardly fit. May I ask him for a head start of fifteen paces?”

“Take fifty paces!” Ser Peitrado laughed at the absurdity of it all. “What is your other request, that I race blindfolded?”

Hindi po, Ser. But that you allow me to choose where we shall race.”

“Then do so. We shall race tomorrow afternoon. Let me know where,” Ser Pietrado said.

“Jandro,” Andreia said to the Guvernador-Henerale, “How about a small wager?”

“Ah, certainly,” the Guvernador-Henerale smiled at the woman he loved.

“I cannot possibly fail the Seóra’s expectations,” Ser Pietrado told Andreia.

“Who said I’m wagering on you?”

After Ser Pietrado left in a huff, the Guvernador-Henerale wagged a finger at Andreia and moved to comfort his favorite commander. And the most beautiful woman in Ciudad, without looking directly at the fat serving woman, whispered words only Rosang Taba could hear.

“Manalo ka.”

(1) Esperanza Luisa-Artemio, ed., The Collected Letters of Andreia Carmen Jimenez. (Lu Prensa Universidad, 1863)

III. Rosang Taba, in brief (2)

Rosang Taba’s parents had longed for a child. Her father prayed to the spirits of his people, those whose names were forever etched in the collective memory of the mountain tribe he had left behind when he sought his fortune in Ciudad. For many years, he called out to the gods of the wood and sky but it was as if his gods chose not to hear his prayers. He always thought he was being punished for abandoning the ways of his father, grandfather, and all those who came before him.

Her mother, a kitchen servant in the service of the Residencia of the Guvernador-Henerale, offered prayers to the icons of her masters. She would stand outside the Katedral Grandu and silently implore the Tres Hermanas, that inscrutable Trinity of Women in whose name the Ispaniola had come. But they also seemed deaf to prayer, and the poor woman decided that perhaps the Tres Hermanas suspected that her piety had an ulterior motive.

It was after they ceased to pray to both the spirits of the Hinirang and the goddesses of the conquerors that a child came into their lives. In the endless delirium of joy that characterized their love for the child, they named her Rosa and proceeded to give her everything their meager stations in life allowed them.

Her father, riddled by the guilt of having left the mountains, taught her all the stories of his people and instilled in her a pride in her ancestry. Rosa’s heart grew rich with her father’s every telling of legend, fable and myth.

Her mother established Rosa’s presence by her side in the kitchen and taught her the secrets of the Ispaniolan sideboard – its medley of rich sauces, creams and spices, and attempted to share with her child her appreciation for the language, culture and faith of her masters.

It was thus that not only Rosa’s heart grew, but her mind, spirit and body as well, as if her external nature struggled to keep pace with the leaps and bounds her inner nature knew. She drank deeply of her father’s tales and devoured the fruits of her mother’s suspect conversion. By the time she was a young woman, it was inevitable that her name would change to reflect what to all who saw her was obvious. She became Rosang Taba – of broad shoulders and massive girth, insatiable appetites for food and learning, and an almost overwhelming pride in her mountain ancestry.

(2) Fr. Fernando Carlos Barraquias, ed., Immacolata: Origins and Speculations (Illustrado Press, 1845)

IV. Rosang Taba and her father converse (3)

“Bakit mo ginawa iyon?”

“Hindi ko po masikmura ang mga sinasabi niya. Tinawag niya tayong mga hayop!”

“Bigkas-hangin lamang iyon.”

“Hindi po tayo hayop! Hindi po tama na tawagin nila tayong ganoon, na parang mas mababa sa kanila.”

“Rosa! Hindi mo ba naiintindihan ang nagawa mo? Hindi mo ba kilala kung sino ang napili mong-”

“Kilala ko po, Tatay. Kilala ko po.”

“Hindi ko ipinagkakaila sa iyo na magsabi ng nilalaman ng puso mo, nguni’t… paano-?”

“Mayroon po akong naisip na paraan.”


“Kung magawa po ko ito, kung manalo ako –”

“Sa tingin mo ba mapapalitan mo ang pagtingin nila sa Katao? Sa isip mo ba mababago mo ang pagiisip nila?”

“Kung hindi ko po subukan-”

“Kung matalo ka-”

“Kung manalo po ako? Tulad ng mga bayani sa mga kuwento mo?

“Hindi ito kuwento, Rosa! Alam mo ba kung ano ang nakataya?”

“Opo. Ang pagkatao ko.”

(3) Caridad Soriano-Cortijos, Pangako: Mga Dulang May Isang Yugto, trans. Jose Jimenez Magallanes (Diuata House, 1826)

V. At the Plaza Binondo (4)

Word about the impossible race, fueled by both Ser Pietrado’s celebrity and Rosang Taba’s absurd temerity, spread throughout the districts of Ciudad, and the extraordinary crowd that gathered to watch divided into two camps alongside the Plaza Binondo, one of the oldest sites in the city.

On the side of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang, rich velvets, silks and fine brocade created a sea of color, punctuated by gaily hued parasols and glittering jewelry. The entire Cortes was present, resplendent in their hastily constructed pavilions that shimmered in the afternoon sun. The Mother Church, foreign envoys and diplomats, visiting artists, guildlords and the highest members of the Guardia Civil added to their numbers.

Across from them, the Katao of Hinirang stood shoulder-to-shoulder – uniformed tradesmen, laborers and servants, forming an expanse of white, blue and red camisa, brown salakots and lilac bellos. Hawkers moved among them, offering bibingka, turon and cassava cakes, as the crowd’s collective heart beat in fervent anticipation of the incredible event.

When Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal arrived, dressed in turquoise doublet and breeches, the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang burst into a thunderous applause. Ser Pietrado gave a blinding smile and an ill-repressed moan escaped the lips of many young women who dreamed of sharing his bed.

When Rosang Taba made her appearance, dressed in cloth and colors of her father’s mountain tribe that magnificently displayed her unabashed health, the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang began to laugh. But the spontaneous cheer of the Katao of Hinirang robbed their laughter of its cruel power and shook the very foundations of the Plaza.

The Guvernador-Henerale approached the two contestants, accompanied by the most exquisite woman of Ciudad.

“Rosa,” he spoke as the crowd strained to listen. “I assume the Plaza Binondo is the start of your race course. You will now tell us both the middle and the end.”

“Opo, Ser,” said Rosang Taba replied. She raised a huge arm and pointed eastwards. “Ser Peitrado and I must go through the length of the Street of Lost Hope and return here.”

A gasp escaped the side of the Katao of Hinirang, and Rosang Taba’s father began to laugh, and was almost immediately followed by another, and another and soon all the crowd on that side was laughing with tears in their eyes.

All of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang did not know what to make of it. The Guvernador-Henerale raised his hand for silence.

“Ser Pietrado, do you understand the course?” he asked the handsome young commander.

“Of course, Your Excellency,” Ser Pietrado bowed. “That street over there. No doubt it loops back to this Plaza.”

Rosang Taba nodded.

“Very well. Proceed to the mouth of the street. You may then take your fifteen paces, Rosa,” the Guvernador-Henerale instructed them. “At my signal, the race will begin.”

“You are a foolish woman,” Ser Pietrado told her as they moved towards the mouth of the Street of Lost Hope, “And have chosen an appropriately named street for our course.”

“Opo, Ser.”

When they reached the street, Rosang Taba counted fifteen steps from its beginning and Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal, the pride of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang, realized that he would lose.

(4) Gabriel Ternate Mayor, ed., Lu Viajes ei L’Anécdotas (Gremio Traductores, 1801)

VI. The Street of Lost Hope (5)

VI. The Street of Lost Hope

The Street of Lost Hope is the narrowest lane in Ciudad, averaging five handspans in width. No more than one person can navigate its length at a time.

And Rosang Taba was no ordinary person.

(5) Eloisa Villareal-Perlas, The Streets of Cuidad May’Nilad (San Roque Publishing House, 1822)

VII. The Race (6)

Rosang Taba ran as fast as she could, and Ser Pietrado, with an animal roar quickly closed the fifteen pace gap. But he could not pass her – so tightly was her bulk wedged along the slender path that he could not even see where they were going.

She endured his curses and threats and maledictions, squeezing through the wickedly narrow lane. Her shoulders began to bleed as she scraped roughly against the constrictive walls.

“Let me pass, you pig!” Ser Pietrado cried, savagely planting a boot in her back.

“Hindi!” Rosa shouted, biting back the sting, refusing to allow even one tear to escape her eyes, as she fought to maintain her position and balance.

“Let me pass!” Ser Pietrado screamed, as he attempted to clamber over her, only to be frustrated by the low ceilings formed by the lane’s old arches.


Each time he struck her with his fists or feet, Rosa voiced her passionate denial of his demands, fueled by a conviction whose depths only her heart understood.
“Jódalo! Let me pass!”

Ser Peitrado howled in anger and hurled at large rock at her head.

“Hindi!” She cried, ignoring the red-tinged pain and sudden warm wetness that engulfed her senses.

He tried pushing her, biting her, clawing at her, ramming her, tripping her, entangling her, everything he could possibly do, but she was a natural bottleneck all the way around and back to the Plaza Binondo where they began, to the deafening roar of the Katao of Hinirang, and the stunned silence of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang, sparkling mutely in the sunset.

(6) Diomedes Makabata, Tandang-tanda Ng Lola Ko Ang Lahat (Maharlika, 1841)

VIII. A Drinking Song (7)

Nasaan ka nang kumarera si Rosang Taba? (Si Rosang Taba!)
Sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo
Ay, nakita ko ang Ispaniola mapahiya (wala silang nasabi!)
Sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo

Itaas, itaas, itaas
Ang baso, alak at tuba
Kung kaya niya, kaya ko
Kung kaya ko, kaya mo

Nasaan ka nang nanalo si Rosang Taba? (Si Rosang Taba!)
Sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo
Ay naku, ang bilis kumalat ng balita (makinig ka sa sinasabi!)
Mula sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo

Itaas, itaas, itaas
Ang baso, alak at tuba
Kung kaya niya, kaya ko
Kung kaya ko, kaya mo

Nasaan ka nang tumawa si Rosang Taba? (Si Rosang Taba!)
Sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo
Ay, ay, ay, at tayo lamang ang naki-tawa (wala silang masabi!)
Sa Binondo, sa Plaza ng Binondo

Kung kaya niya, kaya ko
Kung kaya ko, kaya mo

(7) Salahuddin Alonto-Lukman, Awit at Tugtugin ng Lupang Hinirang. (Ma’Gindanao Books, 1796)

IX. Dénouement (8)

With the gift of gold given to her by the amused Andreia Carmen Jimenez ei Rojillo, Rosang Taba did three things: she purchased her family’s freedom, visited a mountain that figured prominently in her dreams, and married a man who could not drown in the irrepressible bounty of her heart. She had thirteen children, numerous grandchildren, and died surrounded by her massive family when she was ninety-four, continuing to add to the girth of her insatiable body and spirit. She never raced again.

Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal left on the next outward bound galleon and vanished quietly into the sea.


(8) Rowena Angela Go “Rosang Taba: A Race of Race, A Critical Reading,” in Jacinta Reyes-Jamlang, ed., Hinirang: Beyond the Margins of Race and Gender ( Silliman University Press, 1842)

Monday, August 15, 2005

raining stories

So within the hour of my return from a great and relaxing weekend at Tagaytay (thanks again, Jaime!), I check my email and am astounded - literally floored - by the number of submissions for the spec fic antho I'm putting together.

As I started to sort and file (and sneak-read) the latest batch, I was happy to see manuscripts from all over the Philippines (and the US), from a variety of authors, some I knew personally, but more were - happily - new to me.

With the midnight deadline later, we'll see if more show up. Me, I'm gearing up for a lot of reading.

Friday, August 12, 2005

takbo, takbo

Not much time to write today, am rushing to a fashion show then another meeting to discuss terms of the new franchise I'm looking at acquiring (it's a resto/food thing), after spending part of my morning juggling the other projects on my plate, the most interesting of which is writing game scripts for a new online game from Korea. The pet store also needs certain things to be decided upon, and I completely forgot about the dwarf rabbits that I wanted to get, sheesh.

Even guerilla writing can't help me now, especially since I have this new idea for a short story which is jockeying for position on the totem pole of "what-to-write-next" with the play and the other stories. They will all just have to wait until there's actually time to just sit down and write.

Again, no complaints from me. My businesses provide my family's living expenses and growth is always welcome (the "problems" become challenging opportunities).

Besides, doing things other than writing keeps my mind sharp, always learning something new, pondering something else, such that when I do sit down to write, it's like falling hungrily into the arms of a lover I have long luster after.

So it's all good. Besides, Nikki and I are going out of town this weekend to Tagaytay with some friends. That should give me a breather of sorts.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

pinoy blog community

We Filipino bloggers are an online community - so if you haven't already, head on over to Pinoy Top Blogs, register, follow the simple procedure and get counted (you get a neat button for your site).

This is interesting because creator Abe Olandres' list acts like an aggregator of sorts, displaying the different sorts of blogs Pinoys maintain. The site has a master list which has everyone so far (over 300, I think) as well as the ability to look at blogs by category (such as personal journals, if, like me, you are not that brazen about your politics). I've taken some time looking at the different blogs and made a lot of discoveries. It's like browsing a library or a bookstore where Filipiniana is not a derogatory category term (because that really pisses me off).

The ranking feature, which may not be to everyone's taste, gives you an idea of what the most frequented blogs are. If you're determined to get ahead in popularity, you will know what to shoot for (and I suppose that, as in real life, there are those among us for whom blog rank is paramount - not that I'm against that idea, just as long as you gain real readers because of your content and not through other dubious means). The ranking are reset every month to give an opportunity for newcomers to catch up, but you will see that the really popular blogs are really...popular.

But so much better than the notion of being popular (which is really subject to question, what with various mechanisms for ensuring popularity which even the non-tech part of me is barely cognizant of) is the sense of belonging to something big, and blogging is part of our common zeitgeist. I want this number to grow and grow.

For more information, read this.

Join ka na.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

thanks and a reminder

salamat po sa inyong lahat

I am grateful to everyone who commented, emailed, texted and called me and Nikki up for the Palancas. Really, it means a lot to us that you share our happiness (wow, parang speech sa kasal). If you bump into me, let me buy you a drink ;)

For those who asked: well, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that "Salamanca" is picked up by a publisher. Talks are already happening, so we'll see.

huling paalala

The deadline for submissions for the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology I'm putting together is on Monday, August 15th. No entries will be accepted after that date.

I already have a number of interesting stories - except yours. So finish up and send it over.

mama and papa

In an odd and rare confluence of events, I was able to have lunch with my dad (visiting briefly here in Manila, he lives in Las Vegas with his new wife) and share one of my life's happiest moments - especially since my mother joined us for a while.

Remember that they've been divorced for years and married to other people - but to me, their only son, the sad fantasy of a reunion has always been a tiny impossible hope, kindled by a little boy who longed for a whole family. I know of course that it's not meant to be, that choices they made cannot be unmade and that the trajectories of everyone's hearts and lives have gone every which way.

But you know, for the fifteen minutes my mother and my father and I were there, I was like a little boy again, happily telling them about my novel that won the Palanca, showing off like I was eight years old. It may sound a little pathetic, but to me, it meant the world seeing the pride in my parents' eyes. It was first time I was able to share - with my parents, both physically present - my small personal achievements.

Then the spell was over and it was back to reality. Papa left with his new wife to go to Baguio before flying back to Vegas, Mama went off to the Hyatt to meet her ladies group and later link up with my stepfather - and I went to work.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

palanca awards news

Okay, a few days after my "fear of failure" post recounting how I thought I lost in this year's Palanca Awards (and that the act of writing is, in itself, its own reward), I am interrupted during a client pitch by a phone call from Nikki. I excuse myself and listen to her happy screaming agitation. I couldn't understand what she was trying to say at first but her words suddenly resolved themselves into something quite distinct.

NIKKI (shouts): Your novel won a Palanca!

Reeling from the unexpected news (since I had conditioned myself to gracefully accepting the fact that I had lost and was getting ready to hunker down and write new stuff), I told her that I couldn't talk but would call her later. I returned to my meeting and had a silly happy grin plastered over my "game face".

After the meeting, I finally got to call my wife again to confirm her news and ask how she knew. She told me that she received two letters from the Carlos Palanca Foundation that afternoon.

ME (stunned and puzzled): Two?

NIKKI: I won too!

Wow! My joy was doubled, then trebled then multiplied some more and spilled out into the busy streets of Buendia as I struggled with phone and umbrella in the light rain of rush hour. I rushed home and jumped up and down with my girls.

Nikki's "Menggay's Magical Chicken" won 3rd Prize in the Short Story for Children in English category of the Carlos Palanca Awards 2005 (a wonderful story, recently shared by Nikki with Zarahg and her schoolkids). I am so proud of my wife, I really am. She's over here if you want to share her happiness.

As for me, "Salamanca", the novel I wrote in 30 days last November as part of the NaNoWriMo, won the Grand Prize in the Novel category. I'm very very happy for a number of reasons: first, it's the longest thing I've written in my life and I wasn't sure I could really do it; second, it's written in my version of Magic Realism and fits somehow into my entire "let's write Speculative Fiction" agenda; third, it proved to me that discipline is the key (try the madness of writing a novel in 30 days and you'll see what I mean).

So yes, I guess the missing part in my earlier post (and here too) is that you only have a chance of winning something if you try in the first place. And while it is vital to keep things in perspective, it's a rather nice pat on the back for something I worked hard for. And P30k (the prize money) and an 8th Palanca Award are pretty nice to have - but don't worry, it won't go to my head.

Well, just for today - because I feel like a million bucks - and on September 1st when Nikki and I attend the awards ceremony at the Manila Pen.

Thanks to the Big Guy above!

Monday, August 08, 2005

briefly noted

I'm on my way out for a long meeting, so here's a little guerilla writing.

google forever

Just downloaded the Google Desktop Search. Now my search is integrated, going through Outlook, Powerpoint, Excel and everywhere else. It takes a while to index all my stuff, so I'm leaving my laptop at the office and going only with my Xda II.

The other application I'd like, but cannot have due to the system requirements, is Google Earth. This broadband app let's give you Big Brother OMAC satellite views of cities of the earth. You can pretend to be a covert black ops Warren Ellis team member getting ready for some nasty things.

horny pinoys

One of our esteemed Congressmen is shocked at the number of Filipinos registered over at Adult Friendfiner, The World's Largest Sex & Swinger Personals site. According to the Philippine Star today, over 200,000 Pinoys are on the prowl. The official (I forgot his name, sorry) thinks that certain cybercafes are actually cybersex peddlers in cyberdisguise.

Good grief, sir. With a population of over 80 million, you'd think it was obvious we like a little roll in the hay. We also appropiate technology to do what we want. And as for the cybersex-peddling cybercafes in cyberdisguise, um, any person with access to a computer with an internet connection can go to the site and register.

online gaming

There are around 3 million Filipino online gamers exploring the virtual worlds. This number (and market) is expected to grow by 18% over the next four years.

And to think I sold my shares in Netopia. Gah.

book meme: owned and loved

Filipino Librarian tagged me a while back and so here goes:

Number of books I own: Too many. Nikki and I love books and I am an inveterate buyer. When we run out of shelf space, we either cull them or give them away, keeping the treasured few. We also have several tightly packed shelves for comic book trade paperbacks.

Last books bought:

The Dragon Quintet, edited by Marvin Kaye. Ever since I read Michael Swanwick’s “King Dragon” (in one or the other of the Year's Best anthos), I’ve been wanting to pick up the original anthology where it came out originally. This antho collects five (hence, quintet) short novels by Orson Scott Card, Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Moon and Swanwick. I have high hopes that the dragon trope can still be made interesting - if not, then we'll give it a shot in Vin's dragon antho.

Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman. I’m a big comics fan and a novelization of the classic 1985 series that blew my mind away looked like a great buy. Sadly though, as I start reading, my heart is already disquieted by the tepid prose. Hopefully though, it improves (just like the Star Wars fans plowed through Episode Three, so will I with this - The Flash, as Barry Allen, was my childhood superhero). Besides, I got it a bargain at Powerbooks. The original price was around P1200, but with my discount card and judicious use of accumulated points, it cost me around P400 – incredible for a hardcover.

Last comics (trade/collected editions/original graphic novel)purchased:

Trade/Collections: DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore, The New Avengers: Breakout by Bendis, Uncle Scrooge. Bargains at P150 each: Batman: Son of the Demon and Mr. Majestic TPB.

Standouts are Alan Moore's Top Ten: The Forty-Niners and DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories. Both are looks back at the past - Moore to the policemen who predated the eclectic characters in Top Ten; the other a compilation of classic Silver Age adventures that occured out-of-continuity, all of them wonderful reads, my favorite being the one about Superman's two sons.

Last books read:

The Life of Elizabeth I
by Alison Weir. This was part of my haul from last year’s book binge in the US and I finally got a chance to read it. It’s a good book – clever use of historical research and workmanlike prose plus the interesting nature of Elizabeth’s character got me going through the end.

Prince Of Europe: The Life Of Charles Joseph De Ligne by Philip Mansel. Much better than the other book, replete with tons of historical detail. Engrossing.

Five (or so) books that are important to me:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book acted as my personal Road to Damascus moment. Literally life-chaning, it showed me how the magic I loved could be used to write stories grounded in realism. From there, his other works beckoned, then the other writers of the Magic Realist mode.

The People’s Almanac 2 by Irving Wallace. This battered hardcover from 1978 is still with me. Every so often, I discover something new within its pages, altering as I grow older and my interests shift. My favorite reference.

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton. This is the first novel I ever read read as a child. The copy is still at the library in my old house, complete with the words I underlined and looked up because my vocabulary was much simpler then. I enjoyed the action (set in Victorian London in 1855) and the characters - it made me a Crichton fan for life.

Simple Prayers by Michael Golden. Very few books have completely wowed me in the past seven years. This is one of them. Beautifully written, intelligent and wise, this little magic realist novel set in 14th century Venice.

The Earthsea Trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore) by Ursula Le Guin. These books were my passport to the world of fantasy - yup, I cut my teeth on Le Guin and have loved her ever since (but sadly, not her socio-scifi).

And a book on myths and legends I found in a library when I was in second grade that got me so jazzed up on the sense of wonder that I ended up praying to Zeus and Aphrodite in the church (yes, even then I was a little pagan)

People I infect with this meme: Anyone who loves books.

Friday, August 05, 2005

friday at last

Nothing profound, just relief. It's Friday and a long-needed restful weekend beckons.

I have my long-running "Isle" game/campaign to run tonight with my wife and a couple of good friends, but after that, I'm done for the week.

I look forward to staying at home on Saturday night, curled up with my lovely girls and some films or a book, then supper with my sister who just flew in from New York. No writing, no deep thinking, nada.

Just a recharge before the madness of Monday and the upcoming week.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

notes on "fear of failure"

Last night, columnist/poet/fictionist/Manila Critics Circle Ruey de Vera and I were talking about comics and writing and inevitably, the the conversation veered towards the 2005 Palanca Awards (it's August, and there are already rumors buzzing around about who won - but formal telegrams will most likely be sent our around the second week of the month, with the results announced on September 1st, as always).

ME: I think I lost this year.

RUEY: I know I lost this year.

And we both laughed, neither of us particularly paralyzed by failure this year, because all it means is that we get on with our lives and write some more.

As Hai said in response to my earlier post "Fear of Failure":
Awards don't mean a thing except that 2-3 people liked your story enough to decide to make you win. Impressing a panel of judges is not and should not be looked at as an accomplishment. The real accomplishment lies when people actually buy your books. That's what terrifies me.

He's right, of course. The Carlos Palanca Awards are judged by 3 judges per category. Impress them, like Hai did a couple of years ago with "The Greediest of Rajahs and the Whitest of Clouds", 1st Prize for Short Story for Children, and you win. So there is the matter of somehow playing to the judges' sensibilities, whoever they are in a given year. You would think that things can get really wild in a given year, if 3 judges of strange sensibilities are chosen, but that's not really the case as (from my experience as a Palanca judge) one of the judges usually reprises his or her position from the previous year. That, in a way, maintains a certain sense of consistency. Naturally, my big issue here is that there are too many old school judges (watch me bash social realism yet again), or if they are young people, they are not sufficiently well-read and, like the elders that formed their consciousness, worship at the altar of 1950's sensibilities.

Looking back at my post, I realize that it would make better sense, perhaps, as a series of essays, because what I wrote deals with writers who have won things or been published to acclaim - and does not, in fact, deal with beginning writers. Banzai Cat wrote:
I would have thought that as writers, the hardest part is the beginning when he/she thinks: "Is what I'm writing worth it? Will people like what I'm doing? Am I really a writer or just a wannabe? Am I really saying anything, much more saying anything new?"

I figure that once writers have begun the cycle of being published and writing once more, the idea of failure becomes less harsh since at the very least, he/she can say that they've reached the first milestone.

Thus, it's a sad thought if writers become afraid once they've reached their goals to reach past their limits, considering most people never even try to reach for their own dreams.

He asks the questions that all writers ask, as they sit down to write, regardless of pedigree, "level" or achievement. There is always that moment of doubt, questioning the very reason for writing, scrutinizing just what we are trying to say.

It does not stop when you are published or get a medal or see your name on the shelves of Powerbooks. It's just that more experienced writers speak less about it, or do their angsting in quiet solitude, or just ignore the thing and plunge on, trusting their talent and craft to get them through. Some writers write without deliberate agenda - and it is only the process of literary criticism that reveals what the subtext of the author's text was. Some cannot write without knowing just what they are trying to say. But the important thing is the act of trying, of writing anyway.

Beginning writers who are paralyzed by fear of failure are afraid of rejection, of the being informed of the unsavory truth that their writing needs more work, of losing a competition. Like veteran writers, they fear bad news, but in the end all they need to do is to act.

Some, as Jonas writes, are fearful of another thing:
One of the things I'm scared of is running out of things to say (or draw). Which I guess is the main reason why I try to make it a point to try out new things or look at stuff from a different point of view.

There is tremendous pressure on writers and artists to always be new, to have create something previously unread or unseen, to express startling new insights about the world around us and our experiences within it. I share a similar perspective with Jonas: we both look at stuff from a different point of view. I don't think there are really any stories in the world. Once you strip them down to their bare essences, you can list and catalog each story type and trope and see that what makes stories interesting are the variations, combinations, and ultimately, how something old is told anew. Fear, for me, would be justified, if we tell stories in new ways, and instead, like prayers by rote, recite the same old things in the same old ways.

Sean brings up another point - financial viability:
Ironically, I've run into a number of talented, aspiring writers who don't quit because of fear or embarrasment, but because they don't find writing to be worth as much time and patience as other endeavors. I know a very good poet who gave up writing in order to sell insurance, for example.

The big question here probably involves exactly who we are, why we write/draw, and how the form changes us. That ultimately determines whether or not we actually belong in the field, I think.

Creative writing - pure and not helped by various sidelines and non-creative freelance writing- in the Philippines is not a viable means of supporting yourself and your family. That's the sad truth. Unlike first world countries were authors can live off the royalties of their books, here, like Sean's friend, you've got to eat, so you're better off selling insurance.

There are two attitudes we can espouse, given the Filipino context: First, to write for love, not money. Write because your spirit demands it. Write because you are a writer. Damn the realities of life.

And second, simply accept that fact that a pure literary writer cannot survive by creative writing alone and keep on writing anyway, making sure to supplement your income by other means.

There are other variations too, like getting a sponsorship or a kind of literary "Papa" (haha) who will provide for you while you write.

I live by the second option, because, really, there's no other way to go about it. I have a couple of businesses that generate funding for myself and my family's needs, and they permit me to write without being fraught with worry that I need to write X number of books, stories, articles and such or face starvation.

Rolly asks and opines:
What about being burnt out? (Is that the correct form? You know what I mean, right?) There have been singers I used to admire who never created anything for a long time. Maybe that's just another big word to justify the fear of failure, huh?

Yes, what is all the accolade about? It's not really that lasting. You stand up and they clap. Andy Warhol was even more generous to give us fifteen minutes, wasn't he?

Burn out is also a reality. It's similar to my "Silver Bullet Theory" that I shared with my best pal Vin, stating that you only have a small number of non-regenerating Silver Bullets (works of art that are absolutely earth-shaking) - and that after you've exhausted them all, you have nothing more to say or write or create. It's just a funny little thing (I don't believe it myself) but it does bring light to creatives who, after a dazzling run, have suddenly nothing more to give, despite their best effort.

Or, as Rolly wrote, it could just be another expression of the fear of failure.

Now after all my accolade-bashing you might think I'm anti-this or anti-that. I'm not. All I'm saying is to keep things in perspective and not to let awards or fear of failure get to your head. It's one thing to actually compete and fear losing, and it is another thing to not compete or write or try at all. I'm all for trying, competing, writing, fighting. In the end, no one but you can make you write. You motivate yourself. You find or create your own reason and rationale for writing.

By the time I went to bed, I was dizzy thinking about all of these things - a had the beginnings of a new play and was excited about the new novel. But what really made me smile was the memory of this comment, this gem from Anonymous:
Wow! Makes me glad people think my work is crap. :P

Now there's a note from the peanut gallery.