Manila, Its Surreal Glory (Courtesy of Linmark)

Self is so spoiled.  She got to listen to Zack read, two nights in a row:  last night at Skyline College, tonight at Yerba Buena.  It rained buckets while self was driving to the City this evening.  In spite of the nasty weather, there was a good-sized crowd.

Yerba Buena is such a great space. Sort of like the Negros Museum, only modern. Self means: a great place to hang out in, to let ideas formulate. But she knows she only feels that way because Joel is there! Joel, you do such a great job as Director of Community Engagement (Did self get your title right?)

During Q & A, self discovered that Zack and Joel T call Manila “Paris.”

Self got to see a short by a young Read the rest of this entry »

Solidarity in Literature Without Borders: Philippine PEN Congress Ends

One cannot speak to everyone, but here are the people who self enjoyed spending time with, the past few days:

  • Karina Bolasco:   Anvil Publisher and Star, star, star.
  • Nguyen Bao Chan from Hanoi:  She read after dinner last night.  Her voice is magical.
  • Jose Wendell Capili:  Self hung with him today.  Wendell, you make everything fun.
  • Erma Cuizon:  Self of course knew of Erma’s work because she included one of Erma’s stories in Going Home to a Landscape.  Yesterday, self bought a copy of the anthology Erma edited, The Cebu We Know and has been avidly reading it.
  • Marjorie Evasco:  Self listened to her read, with awe.
  • Shirley Lua:  One of the conference organizers, and absolutely tireless.  Today tried her to the max, as she had to hand each writer their honorariums and collect receipts, a thankless job if ever there was one.  But she was still smiling in the late afternoon.  Thanks a bunch, Shirley!
  • Ruth Elynia Mabanglo:  Even though self and Ruth were both listed as writers from the USA, Ruth demonstrated that Hawaii is a world unto itself —  and she gave a powerful reading.  Self knew her from the time she attended a conference at the University of Hawaii.  Ruth, it’s been too long.
  • Charlson Ong:  Self has been reading him for ages, ever since his very first book.  She finally, after all these years, got to meet him in person and he is just so nice.
  • Carmen Sarmiento:  She was on the same panel as self, the panel on “Writing and Writers in the Americas.”  Her topic was Filipino komiks, a topic self found absolutely fascinating

The two people who self met for the first time and who made self feel immediately welcome were Susan Lara and Danny Reyes.  To tell the truth, self arrived in Cebu severely jet-lagged and more than a little tired.  She probably wouldn’t have made it through the first day without the welcoming presence of these two generous writers.

The Celebrity Ballroom of the Montebello Villa Hotel was full to capacity for practically all of today’s sessions.  Hardly anyone left, even during the Q & A, which self considers a really hopeful sign and bodes well for the Filipino writing community.   Self would also like to thank the waiters who were so conscientiously passing out snacks (ensaimada , ube!  A bowl of Batchoy!  Dinner rolls!) and serving lunch and drinks throughout the day.  One, without being asked, placed before self a hot cup of tea minutes after she sat down after finishing her presentation!

The Montebello Villa Hotel people were so sweet.  This afternoon, after her panel, self found a woman standing in the lobby, preparing puto bumbong from a cart.  She seemed pretty lonely, so self ordered a plate, which came with hot tsokolate for only 35 pesos!  This woman even brought self a copy of today’s paper (The Philippine Star), and self got to peruse it while sitting next to a window overlooking the hotel’s lush garden.  There was a bougainvillea bush that was about three stories high and just bursting with magenta flowers —  the biggest and most beautiful bougainvillea self has ever seen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Birds of the Philippines, and Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

The maids packed for self.  That suitcase was pretty heavy.  After self lugged it into her hotel room last night, she found out why:  gorgeous tunics and silk blouses, courtesy of Dearest Mum, enough to keep self in soignee look for at least a month.

The writing conference is only two days.

Self greatly admires the sheer, feminine blouses of a Vietnamese writer she met last night, at the dinner.

Today, she is hard put to keep her eyes open.  The last thing she did before going to bed (2 am again, aaargh) was read a student piece about grandparents.    The piece was so wrenching, so absolutely moving and well written,  that it kept her awake half the night.

So she presented at the conference registration this morning with tremendous eyebags (She will never be able to go a day in the Philippines without tremendous eyebags.  But self knew this, even before she left)

Here’s the thing:  The keynote address this morning was delivered by a courtly judge named Simeon Dumdum, Jr.  Self had never heard him read before.  Now, listening to him in the Celebrity Ballroom of the Montebello Vista Hotel, she fell in love with his graceful cadences. Quite a spellbinder he was (Yesterday, the spellbinder was Marjorie Evasco)

Suffice it to say, Dumdum’s address was such that not even a minute after he had uttered his last sentence, self rose and went to the book table to buy his newest collection, If I Write You This Poem, Will You Make It Fly.  There were less than 10 copies on the table.  Self was perhaps second to buy one.  In less than ten minutes, all were gone.

Let’s see if self can summarize a little of what he said (She wishes the address had been taped).

It seemed the judge had hoped to keep his schedule clear so that he could devote sufficient time to prepare his speech.  Reality, in the form of a murder case, intervened.  And so went the speech, which wound seductively around the topics of writing as healing, a man who beat his wife, wholeness, thoughts, writing two bird poems a day until he had exhausted the entire list of Philippine birds (of the 600 bird species in the Philippines, 400 are migratory, according to Dumdum).  And he then began to name the birds of the Philippines —  not, of course, all 600 species, but:  egrets, sandpipers, terns, plovers, spot-billed pelicans and blue-back parrots.

Self can never forget this address, dear blog readers.  Never.

Stay tuned.

Really Good Ideas for Christmas

Subscriptions are the best!  Subscriptions, or books.  Subscriptions, books, or writing classes.

Buy someone a subscription to Calyx Journal:  beautiful inside as well as out.  Do women of the world a favor and subscribe

Buy someone a subscription to Women’s Review of Books:  consistently publishes the most interesting book reviews in America:  Self knows whereof she speaks, since she’s been subscribing for decades to the New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker, and writes book reviews herself. Why not check out one of the three short story collections self reviewed for them, not too long ago:  Marilyn Krysl’s Dinner With Osama, Jeanne M. Leiby’s Downriver:  Short Stories, and Joy Lisberger’s Remember Love.

Buy Valerie Trueblood’s new short story collection, Marry or Burn.  Self reviewed her novel, Seven Loves, a few years ago.  The stories in this collection are superb.

Buy Jon Pineda’s collection The Translator’s Diary or his new memoir, just out from University of Nebraska Press.

Buy a copy of Zack Linmark’s collection Primetime Apparitions (and stay tuned for his new novel, Leche, coming 2011) and be transported to the city of self’s heart, Manila.

Buy Luis Francia’s newest book, From Indios Bravos to Filipinos:  A History of the Philippines, because you know you want to know all about it —  how Filipinos got where they are, self means.

Buy Karen Llagas’ Archipelago Dust:  your heart will ache, her words are so true.

Buy Barbara Jane Reyes’ powerful new collection, Diwata.

Buy Karen Tei Yamashita’s I-Hotel, recently short-listed for America’s National Book Award, and lose yourself in the language of one of the fiercest experimentalists of our time.

How about Charles Tan’s Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009?  It was reviewed in io9.  io9, people.  Part of indefatigable blog creator Nick Denton’s far-flung blog empire.

Buy/register someone for an on-line creative writing class.  Self knows it can change lives.  Try UCLA Extension Writers Program.

“At the Embassy”

A (very old) poem by Jose Dalisay, Jr.

At the Embassy

Name: dickhead
Date of Birth: you keep filling out
Place of Birth: this same stupid form
Country of Citizenship: only to be thrown out of
Permanent Address: this goddamned embassy
Purpose of Travel: because you’re dying
Duration of Travel: to live and die in
Sources of Funds: their milk and honey

Reading for the Day: Excerpts from Rafael Zulueta y da Costa’s “Like the Molave”

Note: This is only a series of excerpts. Self inserted asterisks to indicate a jump.


My American friend says:

show me one great Filipino speech to make your

people listen through the centuries;

 show me one great Filipino song rich with the

soul of your seven thousand isles;

 show me one great Filipino dream, forever

 sword and shield —

Friend, our silences are long but we also have our

Father, with my whole heart I forgive all.

 Believe me, your reverence.

Speeches short before the firing squad, and yet

    of love.


My American friend continues:

you are a nation being played for a sucker;

poor fish swallowing hook, line, and sinker.

And I answer with parable of analogy:

brown brother and packed for home,
one adventured into port and called us brothers;
we fed him the milk and honey of the land;
he filled his pockets by the sweat of the little
taking with him but one song for souvenir:
O the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga.

The little brown brother opens his eyes to the


created equal;

sea where dwell his strong brothers.

sound of the Star-Spangled;
dreams to the grand tune of the American dream;
is proud to be part of the sweeping American

*     *     *
sings the American epic of souls conceived in liberty;
quivers with longing for the brotherhood of men
envisions great visions of the land across the
And then the fact. The crushing fact of a world no



shining through the exalted word;
the world where the deed is, the intolerable

*     *     *

The expatriate returns sullen and broken . . . We know



Filipino Pickpockets; the loneliness, the

woman denied.

the story, the black looks, the scowls, the

in the restaurants saying: Neither Dogs nor

Allowed; the warning at the fair: Beware of

Yet what say you, repatriate? America is a great


— Written 1940 by Rafael Zulueta y da Costa (1915- 1990)

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