Friday, August 29, 2008

Free Press Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the 2008 Free Press Awards:

Short Story

1st- FH Batacan
2nd - Celeste Coscolluela
3rd - Mads Bajarias


1st - Cesar Ruiz Aquino
2nd - Marjorie Evasco
3rd - Lourd de Veyra


1st - Wilfredo Pascual
2nd - Larry Ypil
3rd - Lakambini Sitoy

I was one of the judges for the Short Story and Essay categories (along with Vince Groyon and Kimi Tuvera) and this year brought many strong contenders.

After the awards, the LitCritters went out for dinner with Ichi Batacan and her sister, Coke - and, as is the case when writers get together, we ended up talking shop.

Many thanks to Kenneth Yu for the pictures!

(updated: sorry, got mixed up with the winners and categories when I posted early this morning!)


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Unlike One Republic, it's never too late to apologize, Sage.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

workshops rescheduled

The workshops slated for this week at A Different Bookstore have been postponed:

Angelo Lacuesta's fiction workshop, "Telling the Untold," will be moved to September 18 and 25 (Thursdays) at 5pm to 7pm.

Mookie Katigbak's poetry workshop,"Lightning in the Mind," will be moved to September 19 and 26 (Fridays) at 5pm to 7pm.

Workshoppers are requested to reconfirm their attendance by sending a short email to

canvas finalists

Kudos to the finalists of the CANVAS storywriting competition for young children:

Daisy Chain by Becky Bravo

Tala, the Star that Could Not Sleep by Augie Rivera

Why the Sea is Blue and Salty by Agay Llanera

The Comet, the Cloud and the Rainbow by Raissa Rivera-Falgui

My Big Sister Can See Dragons by Rocky Tirona

All five stories, which can be read at, have been sent to the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency for comment and feedback, following which CANVAS shall select and announce the overall winner.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

philippines free press awards

And speaking of the Free Press, come on over tomorrow for food and fun! I was one of the judges and will write more about it after the awards.


fiction - new and upcoming

I have a few new stories out and upcoming.

"The Many Loves of Ramil Alonzo" appears in the latest issue of the Philippines Free Press (Aug 23,2008). While definitely not a poet, I wanted to try writing a story that had poetry in it, and experimented with a few forms. The story is about a man and his menagerie of monstrous lovers.

"I, D.I." appears in October in an antho edited by Erlinda Panlilio and published by Anvil Publishing entitled "Belonging: Stories of Relationships". It's a non-fiction extravaganza with contributions from Edith Tiempo, Rowena Torrevillas, Joi Barrios, Sarge Lacuesta, Ricardo de Ungria, Krip Yuson, and a lot more. My CNF (creative non-fiction) piece is about a dance instructor whose oscillations go beyond the ballroom. Writing it was quite an experience for me, and I deployed fiction techniques to get the story done.

I have a story in "Exotic Gothic 2" edited by Danel Olson, to be published later this year by Ash-Tree Press. Danel, who selected stories from seven continents, provides the links to the table of contents as well as his preface. Here are some advance reviews.

Fingers crossed for a few other submissions out in various markets.

Writing is a bit slow these days, but with an unexpected letter from Night Shade Books, I'm more jazzed up to work on the novels I want to finish.

But, but, but, there is still Philippine Speculative Fiction 4 to get done - so send in your best stories!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

rowan's baptism

Me, Nikki, Sage and little Rowan


open call for submissions - philippine speculative fiction IV


It's hard to believe, but it's that time of year again (even harder to believe that this is our 4th year)!

Nikki Alfar and I are now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology "Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.4".

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first three volumes, there was a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 1,500 words and no more than 7,500 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: PSF4 Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example - PSF4 Submission: Magdalena Brings Fire 3500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous publications (if any). Introduce yourself.

12. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2008. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13. Target publishing date is December 2008/January 2009.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

Kindly help spread the word. Feel free to cut and paste or link to this on your blogs or e-groups.

Thanks,Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

carlos palanca award winners 2008

Word is slowly (verrrry slowly) getting around about this year's crop of winners of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Like last time, I'll be posting the names and works of the happy winners - assuming, of course, that you share your news with me.

So this post starts empty, but may blossom into a small list of happy people within the next couple of weeks as the Sept 1 awards ceremony draws closer.

Let me get things started (please note that this list is NOT official nor necessarily correct) - kudos to all the winners!

Novel, Filipino
Grand Prize - Norman Wilwayco

Novel, English
Grand Prize - Miguel Syjuco

Short Story, English
1st - Ian Rosales Casocot
2nd - Tara FT Sering

Short Story for Children, English
1st - Celestine Trinidad
2nd - no award given
3rd - Kate Aton-Osias

Poetry, English
1st - Francis Macansantos
2nd - Mookie Katigbak
3rd - Marie La Viña

Essay, English
1st - Butch Guerrero
2nd - Ina Stuart Santiago

One-Act Play, English
2nd - Percival Intalan

Poetry, Filipino
1st - Mikael Co

Short Story for Children, Filipino

1st - no award given
2nd - April Imson
3rd - Allan Derain

Essay, Filipino

1st - Jing Panganiban-Mendoza
2nd - Michael M. Coroza

Short Story, Filipino
3rd - Rommel Rodriguez

One-Act Play, Filipino

1st - Floy Quintos

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

vignette: Ven

from Strange Weather
forthcoming from Story Philippines

Ven bent over the line of small wet stones, flecking away the rainwater that dripped down his cowl, trying to gain a sense of the muddied oracular tidings. When he had awakened from his once-a-decade month-long druidic sleep, he had been perturbed by the news - word of which reached him through the gossip of winged insects - of an unexpected drought in lands east of his stead. For a moment, he considered not investigating the oddity; the lands outside of his domain were not his responsibility; and those very same lands where considered wild, insomuch as they fell under the influence of neither king nor state. He dismissed a more general feeling of obligation to all of nature at large – he wasn’t the kind of druid who felt the need to respond to the cry of every living thing.

In the end, it was the anticipation of activity that moved Ven to take the journey; the quotidian nature of his druidic routines made him feel older than his twenty eight years. He dressed himself in simple garments meant to deal with the anticipated heat of the land he journeyed toward, leaving his well-muscled arms uncovered. At the periphery of his stead, he dismissed his wide-eyed animal companions, opting, as usual, to travel alone. The animals, their hopes crushed yet again, lumbered, skittered or flew back to their own dens, holes and nests. It was the old one-eyed ferret who waited until his master had gone beyond his limited range of vision that was the last to abandon optimism.

Days later, Ven considered the readings his fatidic stones suggested in the muddy earth and shook his head. His confusion stemmed from the fact that the stones warned against an unnatural drought, which he fully expected, yet the evidence of rain falling around him with unabated abandon disputed the oracle. Irritation trumped confusion as Ven plucked each damp stone from the wet earth, placed them in the pouch at his belt, and moved eastward in the heavy rain, silently cursing his sodden choice of attire.

He stood shivering at the crest of a wet hill overlooking a small village that seemed to have dealt well with the unnatural rainfall. Furrows had been dug into the flatter areas of the mountainside, creating channels for the fallen water to follow, leaving a handful of less drenched paths.

Ven attuned his senses to the surroundings, seeking impressions from stone and sky and water, and affirmed his suspicions. This was, in general, where the strangeness centered, where the sky’s waterlines bent toward. Somewhere in this village, something was very wrong. This was where his power was needed.

He decided to begin with the rain. Where prior to his departure his interest had only been in action, by the time Ven began his incantation the entire set of circumstances had gained a very personal veneer. He wanted, more than anything, to end the irritating rain which had no business falling where it did and in such vast quantities, upsetting the balance of water tables and aerial waterlines in many different places. He used powerful words, repeating the secret formulas he learned at the feet of the dead druid Itus, admonishing the elements for their unruly conduct, seeking to restore matters to how they were before the unnatural rain. At the height of his incantation, he felt a degree of resistance to his will which caused his eyes to widen and his body to straighten up. With a hoarse shout, he extended a fist into the sky, scattering dull-colored powders as he opened his hand a finger at a time, and broke the unnatural pluvial pattern. By the time he lowered his arm, the rain had ceased falling.

Satisfied, Ven began to negotiate the muddy earth in the direction of the village, seeking the true cause of the anomalous precipitation.


publish or perish

I'll be part of the "Publish or Perish!" panel slated for 1-3PM on September 14th at the 29th Manila International Book Fair next month. I'll talk about spec fic and how we need to be working writers.

I'd be there anyway, even without the panel - the bibliophile in me cannot resist the lure of so many books, and the hope of finding something extraordinary. Besides, there is something oddly wonderful about the outrageously expensive hotdogs there.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

novel ideas

Butch Dalisay wrote me while I was at hospital waiting for Rowan to be born - and believe me, I was happy to answer him to take my mind off my anxieties then. He was prepping for a talk on novels by Filipino authors and decided to publish the responses from Charlson Ong, Jing Hidalgo, Vince Groyon and myself.

Part One is over here.


Monday, August 04, 2008

learning to love the dentist (no, not really)

My fear of the dentist is actually more like aichmophobia, an irrational fear of needles, specifically, the injection that deliver the anesthetic. When I was a child, I imagined the needle to around 12 inches long, supported by a huge metallic syringe designed specifically to hurt me. My mother hated taking me to the dentist as much as I hated having to be taken: this involved much weeping, wailing, struggling, imprecations and – when I was at the dentist’s office – kicking. It was kicking the dentist that provoked the most spectacular reaction from my mother, a profound silence that I imagined had the flavor of murder, and from the dentist, a kind of shocked hurtfulness, from a man who had been wronged for simply trying to do his job (I’m so sorry, Mr. Dentist). After the kicking and screaming and braces, the mother-driven dental visits simply stopped, much to my overall happiness and peace of mind. I swore I’d never go again, as long as I lived.

Of course, that was impossible (though I tried, dammit, with toothpaste and floss and toothpicks both wooden and aquatic). As a self-professed dentophobe (believe me, my dental mentality goes beyond mere anxiety), I have managed to somehow limit my visits to the dentist to a handful of tormented instances during my adult life. Those visits, with vast gaps of years in between, were only because I finally succumbed to maddening pain and decided, with the fatalism that accompanies a man en route to the electric chair, that I had no choice.

During those visits, I’d calmly explain to the dentist what I felt was wrong and articulate that unlike other people, pain hurt me. And in particular, injections were my bane. Each dentist would nod, some dismissively, some sympathetically, before asking me to open up. Then they would marvel at the shocking condition of the inner workings of my mouth (and I can tell already, in their heads, that they could hardly wait to recommend with unholy gusto a battery of root canals, deep scaling, realignment surgeries, fillings, gum therapy and whatnot).

The necessary needle or needles would come next. One dentist was concerned that I was having some sort of heart-related condition, given my sweltering state. Another treated me like a little child and chattily told me that it wouldn’t really hurt (not knowing that this little boy knew exactly how much the damn things did hurt, and had savagely kicked a dentist before). Others simply injected.

The topical doesn’t really do anything, as far as I’m concerned. I can feel the painful entry as my entire body stiffens and my neck and shoulders threaten to sprain into knots. I can feel the needle go deeper into my gums, bypassing the pathetic little mental tricks I feeble attempt to rally to reduce the pain. I can feel the liquid force itself from syringe into the impossible spaces inside my gums, and I am, of course, in tears, manfully stifling sobs and my fight-or-flight response.

Things are worse, when, like the last time, I had four injections, a combination of long and short needles, up the roof of my mouth and right in front, above my front teeth, where the needles went sideways.

Everything that happens afterward doesn’t really matter, because I’m already in shock anyway, and soon the anesthetic does its work, so deep scaling, filling, root canals, extractions (though rarer now because dentists nowadays insist on saving every tooth, I had to have an upper molar removed), whatever, go ahead, do it, there’s not much more to bear anyway.

A few weeks ago, I was visited by intense pain that nothing could assuage (in prior times, simply ignoring it for a few days would make it go away). I finally went to the dentist in my office building and begged the receptionist for an immediate appointment on purely humanitarian grounds, since I felt I’d keel over in the next half-hour. After taking my name, she revealed that I actually had a record there, from four years ago: it noted an extraction and a string of dental appointments, all cancelled, until I changed my cell number. Gah. I apologized and waited for the dentist – who actually remembered me as the big guy who was afraid of needles.

I begged her to yank the tooth, bravely saying that I’d take a needle or two, anything, just to live another day. She coolly nodded an offered a deal: she’d help if I promised to let her do future painful things to me (that, of course, is my wording of her offer; everything she said sounded hurtful but… beneficient). With the killer toothache of the century like a cocked gun against my head, I agreed to her terms, defeated.

I’m scheduled for my fifth visit next week, having kept to my word and the schedule and undergone a staggering variety of dental things. She’s working to restore my teeth to the closest possible facsimile of humanity and has her job cut out for her.

I’ve had to be brave, taking in the needles, one, two or four per visit. It’s still painful, and I still feel violated, and my body still tenses up so much that I have muscle pains for days afterwards, but I’ve bought into the preventive aspect of dental care.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting to be a responsible adult, and need to be an example for my kids (I cannot take Sage and Rowan to dentist and then abandon them there when a needle is displayed).

Or maybe it’s because I found a greater pain than my fear of injections that takes my mind of the throbbing areas of my ravaged mouth – the dental bill, presented to me after every visit, is in the thousands of pesos (and the bridgework which I’m looking at costs P15k per tooth).

The pain of my wallet trumps the pain of mouth.

I grimace and take it.

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