“A Dictionary of Devotions”: Up Now in WORD RIOT

Below, a tiny excerpt from self’s “A Dictionary of Devotions,” currently up on Word Riot


Ask.  Ask and thou shalt receive.

Assumpta est Maria, you sing every week in the auditorium.

Angels.  Angelus.  Angelic.

Admit.  Admit this was all your fault.

Against.  Must you always — ?

Altar.  Assess.





Her piece is about being convent-school bred.  And about praying.  And about hope and damnation and salvation and all those heavy things that occupy the mind of a young girl growing up in Manila.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Visayan Daily Star, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012: “Token” This and “Token” That

There is a run taking place tomorrow, at 5 a.m., part of a charitable foundation’s effort to harness the MassKara festivities to a good cause.  Anyone can register, if they bring along a few children’s books.

The real difficulty will be whether self can get up in enough time so that she can make it to the race’s starting point (in front of the Bacolod New Government Center) by 5 a.m.

The driver, Joel, was hired by Ida Jinco, the family company’s secretary, or “Token Villanueva.”  This is still a feudal country.  Likely he passed on information about her to Ida.  Self sometimes wonders how Joel can live with himself, but figures that when you are poor, you can’t afford to feel shame.

Ida was hired by self’s Dear Departed Dad in 1973.  Recently, self learned that Ida has land, in Mambucal.  She also appeared on the slate of a retired general who is running for Mayor of Murcia (Murcia is where self’s family has their farms).  No wonder, the last time self had to bring piyaya and other Bacolod delicacies back to Manila for Dearest Mum, no less than a colonel accompanied her to her plane seat, toting the big, heavy, overweight box of delicacies.  Uggggh.  There was no way self could get away from this military guy’s oppressive presence.  He was quite overweight.   In Bacolod, why are so many people thin, and military guys so plump?  It turns out Ida, through her husband, has ties to the military.  Wow, way to show off your clout, Ida.  Yeah, let’s just send over more boxes of barquillos, caramel tarts and what-not to self’s loving Manila familia.

A writer from California cannot hold her own against this “Token Villanueva” with military connections.  The only thing she can do is blog.  Even the entire Daku Balay, with all its different branches of actual Villanuevas, are helpless before Ida’s relentless ambitions.

It’s wrong, self knows it’s wrong.  Even if she hadn’t spent the last 30 years in America, she would know it was wrong.  Oh, how far away fun trips to Dumaguete and Siquijor seem, at this very dark moment!

Luckily, self can still be distracted by reading the Visayan Daily Star.  On p. 8 is an article about a Bacolod singer, “Bacolod’s charity diva,” whose name, of all things, is Token Lizares.

Lizares is a big name in these parts.  Self wonders if the singer is exhibiting a wry sense of humor by choosing to call herself “Token Lizares.”  Or maybe she really is a Lizares, whose parents chose the name Token?

Ms. Lizares’s charity concert on Nov. 4 is to benefit “22 babies” recently admitted to Manila’s Philippine General Hospital and suffering from such ailments as “imperforate anus, Hirschsprung’s disease, intra-abdominal tumors, bowel obstruction, hypospadias, biliary atresia, gastroschisis, omphalocele . . . ” Self has no idea what those ghastly-sounding illnesses are actually like.

On top of everything, self is still sporting a black eye (Really, from falling asleep and having her face meet the sharp edge of a side table.  Self is not making this up!).  She has to wear these huge Jackie-O sunglasses, which a bellboy bought for her from a store across the street, for 100 pesos (around $2.42).  Today, she slipped up and answered a knock on her room door without putting them on, and the poor young waiter, who’s known her from all her previous visits, really could not restrain his shock at the black and purple and yellow colorations on the right side of self’s face!  The Man tells her she’ll probably still have the bruising by the time she’s scheduled to return home to California (What a comforting thought!)

Perhaps she should simply return to California, and spare the nice people of Bacolod from the extreme tension of having to decide whose side they are on:  hers or her putative family’s?  Gad, this is sounding even more dramatic than the second Obama-Romney debate!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Alan Bissett, From the Introduction to STONE GOING HOME AGAIN: NEW WRITING SCOTLAND 28

In the plane going to Bacolod, self began thinking of Hawthornden.  She remembered the low-ceilinged room where she and the other writers and Hamish had breakfast and dinner, and she remembered the taciturn cook Alasdair, and the Pictish caves beneath the castle, and the Lothian buses.

In her suitcase, along with a number of books and literary journals, is a volume of new writing from Scotland which self acquired from Blackwell’s Bookshop in Edinburgh for a sale price of 3.95 British pounds (about $6.38), a few months ago.  The volume was edited by Alan Bissett and Carl McDougall.  She remembers asking the guy at the cash register whether he recommended it.  He glanced at the name of the editors and said, “You can’t do much better than something edited by Alan Bissett.”

Why she should be thinking especially of Hawthornden and Edinburgh when she is here, in her father’s hometown, is a mystery, as most of her process is a mystery.

She took the volume with her to breakfast on the roof.  There, while she munched her way through beef tapa and garlic fried rice, she read poems about apples (Kate Armstrong’s, of course called “Apples”), hares (Jean Atkin’s “Familiar”), Banff bailies (Forbes Browne’s “Rummle”), and post office queues (Tom Bryan’s “Post Office Queue, Before Christmas”).

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to New Scotland Writing 28:

To be a writer is to be a focused skiver.

It’s not that it isn’t hard work.  Ask anyone stuck arse-about-face-halfway through the long tube of a novel, hauling mechanical bits and sprockets, both start and finish mere pinholes of light at either end, whether or not it feels like a nap.  The skiving comes elsewhere.  It is attitudinal.

An artist must live at one step removed from everyone else, curiously observing the ebb and flow around them.  You have to be close enough to empathise with society, and yet not be consumed by it entirely —  Mortgage!  Career!  Keep the profits coming!  Work!  Work! —  and watch your soul disappear into the office shredder.

Also, a matter of great excitement:  Self opened her e-mail just a few minutes ago, and there was a message from one of her cousins.  Apparently, E_____, one of the adversary (BWAH HA HAAA!), mentioned to another cousin that self has a black eye.


The gossip making the rounds is that she had it before she got to Bacolod.

No one believes self, that she acquired it her first night in Bacolod, when she fell dead asleep in the middle of reading her book, and fell from the bed, in the process hitting her head on the corner of the side table.

Self knows that sounds crazy.

But it is the honest truth.

When she skyped with The Man, he didn’t even notice.  Finally, self asked:  “Don’t you notice anything different about my face?”

He responded:  “Yes.  The right half of your face is black.  How’d you manage that?”


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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