Saturday, December 23, 2006

dumaguete bound

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the city of Dumaguete in Negros since the first time I visited. That was way back in the summer of 1992 for the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop. I was directionless writer. At that time I had written only a couple of Palanca plays and published around three or four stories (in MOD magazine and in the now-defunct National Midweek). All I knew was that I needed to be there, that there was more that I had to learn, and I hoped for some sense of direction. I got all that in spades when my stories were critiqued by Doc Ed and Mom Edith Tiempo and the panelists. The things I learned from them, craftwise, altered my writerly mindscape. Equally important was the fellowship of the other young writers, in particular Sarge Lacuesta who is a friend and compatriot to this day (he was still a poet then, not the prose powerhouse he is today). I learned that as much as writers attack each other (it's true; I was involved in a physical incident there LOL), we also need to support each other. I remember being depressed when my return flight touched the tarmac at the airport back in Manila; how polluted and noisy and bereft of intimacy everything was.

It would be 14 years before I returned to what I consider to be my Visayan home. In the interim, I quit writing to focus on love and work. I honestly thought I had nothing more worth writing about, and my maverick nature precluded staying in touch with the literary circles (so much for lessons learned then). It took the death of my cousin (BJ, I loved him like a brother) to open the floodgates again, and I began with comics, wrote some plays and then fiction. This year, I decided to visit Dumaguete again to pay my respects to the woman whose words of encouragement were of paramount influence to me. I also wanted to meet an author whom I knew only via the internet. So I took a plane to Dumaguete and got my wish. I got to talk again to Mom Edith (who had become a National Artist since I last saw her) and got to meet Ian Casocot in the flesh. I told Mom Edith that I thought I finally found the direction I was looking for as I gave her a copy of Salamanca and told her about speculative fiction.

While I was there, I delivered a lecture on speculative fiction to a large crowd from Silliman University (Ian is a magical creature), saw a huge mural of the characters and events of my novel, meeting the latest batch of talented workshoppers, had drinks with the wonderful students and simulatenously renewed my acquitance with/built friendships with some of the very best creative writers Dumaguete has created: Marge Evasco, Susan Lara, DM Reyes and many others. I wandered around the sitting with my camera, crossing paths with the infamous pimp Red Red, eating chicken as only Dumaguete cooks it, and enjoyed the view from a mountaintop home. I even managed to write a new story from scratch. The week I spent was like coming home.

So I told my friends how happy the place made me, and ultimately we agreed to spend a week of our Christmas break there. The entire roster of the LitCritters (along with Sage) are hitting my hometown - and frankly, I can't wait. We're even taking 4 stories to critique (because our critique schedule - every Thursday- seems happily writ in stone), as well as several laptops (in the event of delightful inspiration).

I look forward to the quietude, the conversations, tempura on the Boulevard, and just recharging in an atmosphere that is unlike any other in the world.

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