Archive of ‘literary’ category

pop goes the world: “it’s just grammar.”

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  28 June 2012, Thursday

“It’s Just Grammar.”

How essential is communication to a corporation?

How important is it for today’s workers to possess communication skills?

The answer seems to vary among the different sectors. There are private corporations, whose revenues depend upon the sales of products, that place such a high value upon communication that they retain high-powered advertising agencies to craft the strategies that enable their message to be transmitted to a vast audience using mass media, thereby providing potential customers with information about their products.

They also hire employees who have good communication skills, both written and spoken, who create their messages for their internal audiences. Often, the employees who have the best communication skills become the spokespersons, receptionists, and greeters – the ones who face the public.

There seems to be a larger gap in this respect when it comes to some public agencies and corporations. The concept of “branding” is almost unknown or haphazardly practiced. Communication and communication skills may not be included in their overall strategic plan. Thus, policy emanating from the top is inadequately cascaded both internally – to their employees – and externally – to their customers or the general public.

Organizations that fail to see communication as an essential aspect of their corporate strategy are likely to transmit messages that are misunderstood by both their internal and external publics.

What is “communication”?

As a concept, it is easy to understand – it is simply the sharing of meaning.

Effective communication, the kind that achieves its objectives to inform and persuade, should be as uncomplicated and unambiguous as possible. Use of jargon, beloved among the business and technical crowd as a symbol of belonging to a special in-group, should be eschewed because it tends to alienate others and is difficult to interpret.

Effective communication is carefully presented and flawless in terms of grammar and style.

Quite often, the number-crunchers within an organization scoff, “What’s so important about grammar?”

Grammar is integral to the use of language, both written and spoken. Language is the tool humans use to communicate. And it is through its communication strategies that an organization shows its face to the public.

If an organization is willing to be sloppy in this respect, then they take the risk that this failing will lead to the public’s negative perception of the organization and its mission and activities.

As a consequence, damage control has to be applied. The cycle continues ad infinitum.

That’s bad for the organization; it dances “one step forward, two steps back”, retarding forward momentum and wasting time by having to apply a fix.

But it’s good for writers and spin doctors – more work for them.

It would be great to see a greater awareness of the importance of communication in the public sector. Among the public agencies that already acknowledge the need for excellent communication skills are Malacañang Palace and the Department of Tourism.

Good communication is so important to the Palace that it formed the Presidential Communications Group, under which are the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (with no less than secretary rank given to its current head, the Presidential Spokesman, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

The Group has spruced up the official Palace websites and launched social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter in order to get its messages to as many people as possible.

Other public agencies such as the Senate and Congress have followed suit.

The DoT relied on the expertise of an advertising agency for its “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” global campaign – our country’s face to the world.

May the excellent example set by these agencies be followed by others; it would be a great service to the public indeed if effective communication by government was the norm rather than the exception. *** 

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how i spent my u.s. vacation (short story)

Heartfelt thanks to Palanca Award-winning writer Ichi Batacan for encouraging me to write this story, and Kenneth Yu for publishing it last April on his Philippine Genre Stories website.

Much of this is based on true stories. Truth, after all, is always stranger than fiction, precisely because it really happened.

Excerpt:

So. The girl, I was told, was not Silva’s but another man’s – the woman’s husband. She had left him because he was beating her. Late one night she crept out of their shack carrying only a duffel bag of clothes and her young daughter; hitching up the skirt of her duster, she got astride Silva’s Yamaha motorcycle and off they sped into the night and a new life. Only for him to disappear mysteriously five years later.

Ray said, but that’s not what really happened.

You mean Silva didn’t run off with another woman?

No, said Ray. Tatay’s friend told me this:

A Spyderco Endura knife like this one features in the story

Boyong Silva was a neighbor of theirs. He was a drunkard. He spent the days getting soused with cronies, who, like him, relied on their wives to keep them fed and sheltered in the barong-barongs, the shacks of scrounged wood and galvanized iron that littered their community like rat’s nests.

He’d come home late. The wife would be asleep. She took in laundry and would be tired to death after a day bent over a washtub, scrubbing clothes by hand, the chemicals in the harsh detergent bareta eating into her hands, pitting the rough brown skin with red wounds that stung when she immersed her hands in water. After that she’d iron the dry clothes. The damp, the heat, the hard labor, they take a toll.

Read the entire story here.

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the shop of strange (flash fiction)

The strange shop sold only balls of all colors, sizes, materials.

In one corner he saw a crystal one with a watch within it.

“What does this do?” he asked the old woman behind the counter.

“It is the ball of time,” she whispered.

“Break it and you will go back as many years as you wind the watch’s hands to.

But choose wisely. Not all times are good, and you can never return to this time.” ***

Photo: “Timesphere”, original digital art by Jenny Ortuoste, 26 May 2012. 

Story and photo also posted on Instagram (follow me @jennydecember)

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contest reminders to filipino writers

Finally, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature contest rules and forms for 2012 are up on their website!

The posting of rules and forms was delayed this year and it was getting worrisome, more so since the topic for the Kabataan Essay/Sanaysay category had not been announced.

As it is, the young writers have two months less a week to go to write their entries.

This year is not a novel year, but 2013 is, so don’t forget to start writing or polishing your manuscripts for that.

The University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters has issued a call for submissions to their Likhaan literary journal’s sixth edition. The deadline is March 30. They accept short stories, essays, poetry, CNF, and graphic shorts and excerpts of graphic novels.

 CPMA logo here, Likhaan journals image here.

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pop goes the world: words wild and wondrous

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 March 2012, Thursday

Words Wild and Wondrous

“Poetry is a great deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Poetry is story; it is experience and emotion described in words carefully chosen and combined in such a way that they exude cadence and rhythm. Set to music, poems become songs. Filipinos are a poetic people more so because we are also a musical people. We can point to a poetic tradition in the old epics such as Lam-Ang, in the works of Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, and all the way to the modern-day versifiers.

One such makata was lauded in the international arena recently. Romulo “Joey” Baquiran Jr., assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters, received the 2011 Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the SEA Write Award) last February 16 in Bangkok.

The award has been presented annually since 1979 to poets and writers in SE Asia, though not all countries are represented every year. The award may be given for lifetime achievement or for a specific work. The award was organized by the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, with backing from other corporate sponsors, and is supported by the Thai royal family, a member of which graces the awards night each year.

Among the 32 other Filipinos who have received the award are Nick Joaquin, Greg Brillantes, Jose Maria Sison, Bienvenido Santos, Virgilio Almario, Alfred “Krip” Yuson, and Vim Nadera.

Baquiran says among the memorable moments at the SEA Write awarding ceremony was meeting fellow ASEAN writers. “One awardee, Nguyen Chi Trung,” he said, “from Vietnam, is more than 80 years old. He has been active in the people’s army most of his life. He wrote novels about the struggle of his nation. Amazing lolo.”

He also found interesting the reverence that the Thai people bestow upon the members of the royal family. “When Princess Sirivannari Nariratana entered the room, everyone bowed and deferred to her with their whole being.” Even a dog she had with her “was treated with the utmost respect.” It’s cultural observations like this that inform his writing.

“Writing is a social act,” he says. “Writers must always externalize their concerns, for it to resonate in their community. I will stick to this concern.”

Baquiran teaches creative writing and literature in Filipino to undergraduates, and literary history at the graduate level. He has published two collections of poetry with another one due for publication soon, and a collection of personal essays, among many other published works.

Various awards-giving bodies have heaped recognition upon him; he has won several prizes from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and two Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards (poetry and creative non-fiction).

On the present state of Philippine poetry he says, “We have a writing boom right now among the young writers, both in English and Filipino. It’s pretty exciting. And the veterans are very productive too.”

Baquiran is completing a poetry collection titled Kung Nanaisin (If It is To Be Wished) to be published by the UP Press, while a Thai publisher will soon be releasing a Thai version of his essay collection Hospital Diary.

The significance of his achievement is such that the Academy of American Poets and the United States-based Poetry Foundation have Tweeted the news to their tens of thousands of followers, with the latter even posting an article on their website.

May the day come soon when international-award-winning Filipino writers and artists will be feted by the nation with as much enthusiasm as they do the boxers and singers. Literature carries within it a nation’s history and narratives, even those of its singers and boxers, and, along with other art forms, is the repository of a people’s soul.

Let Baquiran have the last word, with the opening line from his “Gagamba” (Spider): “Heometriya ng pagnanasa ang hinabi ko sa hangin…” (I wove the geometry of desire in the wind…)

* * * * *

The UP College of Mass Communication celebrates its 47th Foundation Week from March 3 to 9 with various activities including an alumni homecoming, launch of the latest issue of its journal Plaridel, and the blessing of various new facilities.

A recognition ceremony of outstanding students, faculty, alumni, and staff will be held tomorrow morning. Congratulations to the honorees and to my alma mater on reaching another milestone! *** 

Image of Prof. Baquiran here.

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pop goes the world: no such thing as mixed signals

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  16 February 2012, Thursday

No Such Thing as Mixed Signals

Ah, Valentine’s Day. For couples in a relationship, it’s a happy romantic time, roses and chocolates blah blah.

But for some singles, it’s bleak – feeling alone even when in the company of friends, wondering when the Universe will get its act together and drop your soulmate in your lap.

It’s downright painful for other singles, especially women, who are waiting on a beloved to say, “Yes, you’re the one I love. I can’t imagine life without you. Marry me.” And are still waiting. And waiting…

The man will often have an excuse – I have to take care of personal issues first, I don’t make enough money yet for us to set up together, istrik ang ferents ko. The woman will wait, hoping things would get better.

This happened to me, not too long ago. I’d been clinging, hoping for a change, rationalizing to myself that the mixed signals he was sending stemmed from his personal challenges. That it was just a matter of me being patient and giving him the space to work things out then hey, maybe, our time would come.

An older gentleman at work – a lawyer, rational and logical – hearing my story, said with extreme kindness, “He’s not sending mixed signals. He’s being very clear. He won’t commit. Now can you bear that? If yes, then let it go on the way it has been. Otherwise, the next step is up to you. It’s not up to him, because he’s already told you where he stands – and it’s not in your corner.”

I’d fallen into the trap most women do. We hang on hoping he’ll come to his senses. That he’ll wake up, as if from a dream, and transform into kind of the man you’ve always wanted to have by your side. That he’ll realize we’re the love of his life and he can’t bear spending the rest of his life without us.

But for men, it is often quite clear. They’re not the ones sending the mixed signals – it’s the women in their lives who won’t accept what they trying to say – “I won’t commit to you”.

Comedian and now relationship guru Steve Harvey says in his book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” that a man doesn’t show his love the way a woman does. Women will sacrifice and endure all for the sake of love. Their love is boundless, unconditional, and encompassing.

A man’s love, says Harvey, is no less powerful but expressed differently, in three ways – profess, provide, protect. First, profess. He’ll tell everyone you’re his lady, his woman, the love of his life. “In other words, “ says Harvey, “you will have a title – an official one that far extends beyond ‘this is my friend’ or ‘ this is (insert your name here).” A man who professes you as his own claims you as his, that “he has plans for you. He sees himself in a long-term, committed relationship with you.”

Next, provide. It’s ingrained in a man’s DNA, says Harvey, that “a man who loves you will bring that money home to make sure that you and the kids have what you all need. That is our role – our purpose…[that] the people we love need want for nothing.”

Last, protect. “When a man truly loves you, anybody who says, does, suggests, or even thinks about doing something offensive to you stands the risk of being obliterated. Your man will destroy anything and everything in his path to make sure that whoever disrespected you pays for it.”

So, ladies, wake up. If he doesn’t call you his lady, if he’s not by your side right now, if he didn’t put a ring on your finger, then he’s not the one. Accept that, thank him for the good times, and move on.

You deserve much better. You deserve the title, the bacon, the protection. You deserve to spend the next Valentine’s Day in someone’s warm embrace, the kind of hug that won’t let you go.

* * * * *

Poets Joel Toledo, Karen Kunawicz, and others will read poetry at the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines’ OpenBook event tomorrow night, Friday, February 17, at Chef’s Bistro, 94 Sct. Gandia, Quezon City. Entrance-plus-drink is P200. A portion of the proceeds will help fund projects for Typhoon Sendong victims.

FWGP founder Ime Morales convinced me to read a couple of poems. I don’t fancy myself a poet. But all I can do is try my best. Feel free to bring eggs and tomatoes to hurl at the stage. I can always make an omelette. ***  

Carabineers here. Steve Harvey book image here. FWGP logo here.

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tim tomlinson comes to town

It was with great pleasure and interest that my daughter signed up for the three-day creative writing workshop conducted by writer Tim Tomlinson at the Filipinas Heritage Library last month.

It was a coincidence that I bought online, just a month before, the CW textbook that Tim co-wrote – The Portable MFA in Creative Writing – and that he drew on as a basis for the workshop lessons.

I got it online via Amazon

I asked my daughter to take it with her and have it autographed. She waited for the right moment, and figured it was after Tim told the workshop participants to try to get the “hard copy”. So she brought out my book, and his eyes widened in surprise.

That is why he wrote this dedication.

“For Jennifer – Thanks so much for purchasing the hard copy. All the best, T”. 

With e-books now becoming more common, and photocopied handouts more the norm rather than not in countries such as ours where some books, especially textbooks, are not easy to come by, it must be even more gratifying for authors when readers go to the trouble and expense of purchasing an ink-and-paper copy.

I’m glad I did get the hard copy of this book, because through the serendipitous happenstance of fate, I was able to get it autographed – a tangible, physical mark of the author, which elevates my copy from the disembodied words of experts into a living, breathing work of a person who practices what he preaches.

Too bad I did not get to meet Mr Tomlinson, nor was my daughter able to have her photo taken with him and the other workshop participants. But what counts is that she learned much that will help and guide her in her fiction writing.

Life works in mysterious ways.

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krip yuson: lush life

Last year, through the social connectivity magic of Facebook, I had the privilege of “meeting” writer Krip Yuson and  adding him to my list of Friends. From time to time he’d comment on links I’d post on my Wall. One particular weekend, I found a handful of literary links that he was quite pleased with, enough to send me an autographed copy of his newest book Lush Life: Essays 2001-2010 (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011).

I received the package he sent via LBC the morning I had to leave for the racetrack to attend a horseracing event. Excited, and wanting to savor the treat, I took the parcel along with me.

“Lush Life” nestled in the base of the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners (MARHO) mother trophy, created by sculptor Ed Castrillo from brass. The event was held at Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, from 15-20 November 2011.

Alfred “Krip” Yuson is a prolific, multi-awarded essayist and columnist who writes a column on literature and culture for the Philippine Star and teaches poetry and fiction at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Here’s an excerpt from “Getting Literary in Oz-Land”, first published in Philippines Graphic magazine, 29 May 2006. I love the Heinlein reference:

Walking through the Botanical Gardens [in Sydney] one early evening, I chanced in on a midsummer open-air concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s “1812″. The freebie audience I joined manifested the national character. Aussie couples, families, and large, motley groups were all lolling about in their comfort zones on the grass lawns and hillocks, romancing their beers. Some lay supine on mats, taking in the night sky as the musical strains led to the climactic crescendo-cum-cannonade – which was of course accomplished by real cannons by the bandstand.

Fireworks lit up that night sky to complement the cannonade, the mighty percussion, and ascending, spiraling strings. Oh what a scene to be in, to be part of – no stranger in a strange land, but one in the midst of casual if sublime revelry, all senses gratified, even one’s sense of marvelous environment.

Krip autographed the book’s flyleaf for me.

The collection of 75 essays is “proof, were further proof needed, that [Krip] has few equals in the field of non-fiction,” says UST Publishing House director and University of the Philippines creative writing professor emerita Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo.

The book, she adds, “demonstrates how a life fully lived – its dizzying heights scaled, its dark depths plumbed – combined with a large soul, an ironic vision, an unfailingly playful sense of humor, and the gift of bending the language to his every whim, are what lead to great writing.”

Not only did Krip send me a copy of his book, he also, with thoughtfulness and kindness, sent me a pack of Pei Pa Koa throat lozenges, which I shared with the racecallers at Santa Ana Park that cool November day.

Clutching the pack of Krip’s Pei Pa Koa, I pose with Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park racecallers – Vergel Caliwliw, Romy Cheng Tejada, and senior racecaller Ricardo de Zuñiga, whose father was racing writer and poet Oscar de Zuñiga. November 2011.

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doug allyn: the jukebox king

Doug Allyn wrote this short story that was anthologized in Best American Mysteries Stories 2003. ” The Jukebox King” is set in a blues bar in the 1930s, and being a blues fan, I found this passage interesting:

Brownie’s Lounge on Dequinder was buzzing by seven, jammed tight by ten. Selling Stroh’s beer by the gallon. Straight up. No glasses. Shop rats guzzling the brew out of the pitchers. Getting high, feeling mighty. Ready to hear some blues.

John Lee Hooker’s trio came on at nine, kicking out jams on Brownie’s postage-stamp dance floor. Big John wailing on his old Harmony guitar, James Cotton on harmonica, and a pick-up bass player.

No drummer. No need for one. If you can’t feel the beat when John Lee stamps his size 13 Florsheims on a hardwood dance floor, you’d best lie down. You might be dead.

John Lee Hooker sings “Hobo Blues” at the American Blues Festival in 1965. Screenshot from video here.

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