Posts Tagged ‘axel pinpin’

pop goes the world: you can dish it out, but you can’t take it

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 March 2013, Thursday

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it

Roman Catholic Church bigwigs in Bacolod City who started a campaign against pro-Reproductive Health bill senatorial candidates were red-faced when a text message circulated naming five priests of the Diocese of Bacolod who sired offspring.

The Church in that city hung huge tarpaulins marked “Team Patay” (Team Dead) identifying the candidates they were exhorting people not to vote for, but the tables were turned when the “Team Tatay” (Team Father) messages spread.

Seems the embarrassment could have been avoided if certain people had used contraceptives, hey?

Clergy having children are nothing new; one of my first cousins is the daughter of a monk. It was a scandal in the town where they lived, but not among the unconventional Ortuoste family, a tolerant and liberal bunch. They understood and accepted the situation especially because the monk in question was my uncle. (He left his order, married his partner, and they set up as a family in the United States.)

This problem is so old that no less than the nation’s superhero Jose Rizal wrote about father “fathers,” making the muddle-headed heroine of his iconic 19th century novels the daughter of a priest.

While those randy priests in Bacolod might justify their actions by saying they at least brought their children into the world by not using contraceptives and by not having them aborted, they and like-minded others always fail to take into consideration the welfare of the children. My cousin told us that she had to bear taunts like “anak ng pari!” (child of a priest) from her playmates, and this took a heavy mental toll on her. This was one of the reasons my uncle decided to make their home in the US.

What makes this incident of the Team Tatay – Team Patay appalling is that when the tables are turned on those holier-than-thou, they harrumph and claim they are being “blackmailed,” as Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life, alleged.

He said, “We do not deny that there are instances (of priests fathering children) but that is not the issue now,” adding that Team Tatay were “changing the topic.”

“Do not throw stones because we all live in houses of glass,” he also said.

Look, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Why are they meddling when separation of Church and State is embodied in the law? If they insist on poking their noses into the things that are of Caesar then they had better get used to having the skeletons in their closets brought out into the light.

* * * * *

Good news for fans of poetry-in-Filipino enthusiasts in general and of poet-activist

Axel Pinpin in particular – his latest collection “Lover’s Lane” is finally in print in a limited-edition version.

The poems are on fire with erotic need, longing, and unrequited love – the stuff of much other writing, stemming as these emotions do from the natural human condition. Yet Axel’s work adds a revolutionary twist that makes these works different from the mainstream, and thus fresh and interesting.

Says writer and activist Ericson Acosta, “In “Lover’s Lane” continues our discovery of the extraordinary range of topic, style, and revolutionary possibilities of the poetry of Axel Pinpin. And here too, in “Pinpin Lane,” in truth, are our own voice – feelings, desires, dreams…”

“My poems are non-fiction,” says Axel, “they are not imagined narratives. They come from my own experiences and the stories of others.”

Here’s “Pusod” in its entirety:

“Ang lalim ba ng iyong pusod / ay siya ring lalim ng iyong puso? / Hayaan mong sukatin ko ito / ng aking daliri at salita / at nang ako’y malunod / at maglunoy sa iyong katubigan, / at mahulog din sa iyong bangin.” (Is the deepness of your navel / The same as your heart’s? / Let me measure this depth / With my fingers and words / That I may submerge, wade in your pools / And tumble into your clefts.”

The poems in “Lover’s Lane” are stories from real life, a curious look into and taking apart of the myriad emotions that war in the heart and soul of each person. In each phrase masterfully crafted by Axel Pinpin are the heat of love and desire and the chill of loss and leaving.

Place orders for the volume on Facebook – search for the open group page “Lover’s Lane ni Axel Pinpin” and leave a message there.   *** 

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pop goes the world: books now and ever after

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  25 August 2011, Thursday

Books Now and Ever After

The major problem faced by creative writers in the Philippines today is that few people buy books by Filipino authors, and this lack of financial renumeration is a disincentive for the creation of literature.

Creative writers struggle because there is a tiny niche market for their work, and this market is dominated by the few established writers who create high-quality output and have managed to make names for themselves over many years of hard work. Writers just starting out looking for publishers? Good luck with that. Lucky breaks are frequently prayed for, but not always bestowed by the publishing gods, who have their bottom line to consider.

The lack of financial incentives for creative writers is a major deterrent to the development of works in the literary field. Why write a short story that may never see the daylight of publication in the very few literary magazines on the market, when you can write a showbiz column for an online website and earn enough to at least feed yourself and your cat?

Journalism provides a decent living for many creative writers, but sometimes it’s not what they would really be doing. What puts food on the table does not necessarily feed the soul. Writing creative works nowadays is seen as self-indulgent, because there is no assurance that the work will be published, or even paid for. In the need to be exposed, many writers often contribute their work gratis for anthologies. In order to survive, creative writers need a day job, and write their creative works on their off-time.

Authors whose works have grabbed the fancy of the reading Filipino public, like the top-selling and mysterious Bob Ong (said to actually be several writers), may make the best of the situation, reaping royalties such as they are. Still, it is debatable if he makes enough from his books to quit his day job.

While creative writers dream of being able to do nothing but write, it’ll remain a dream until present conditions change.

Why are local readers not reading – and buying – the works of Filipino writers?

In publishing, the biggest earners are the textbook publishers with government contracts.

Also doing well are men’s magazine publishers – FHM, Maxim. Literary works, however, are of a different character, and its readers are fewer compared to, shall we say, FHM readers. While readers of creative works may also read FHM, it does not follow that all FHM readers will enjoy reading literary works. Sex sells better than lit. (Perhaps creative writers should write more erotica?)

Because there is a small market for literature, there are few publishers who are still in business – Anvil, among the private companies, and the universities – UP Press, UST Press, Ateneo Press, and De La Salle University Press. Fox Books, founded in 2007 with such lofty dreams for the literary world, went out of business in less than two years, unable to gain a solid financial footing, although it had published interesting works by humor writer Jay David, Layeta Bucoy, Beverly Siy, Sarah Grutas, and other young writers.

It has been said that the Philippines does not have a reading culture comparable to that of the Japanese or the American. We are a still an oral, story-telling culture. The media we enjoy extend the story-telling function to a mass audience. What is the visual stimulation of TV but the modern-day equivalent of sitting around a rocking chair listening to Lola Basyang?

In print, komiks such as “Wakasan” used to be more popular and were the preferred channels for narratives that could be enjoyed by the masses. But komiks were killed by the increase of printing costs, poor pay for writers and artists, and the onslaught of alternative forms of entertainment brought by cable TV and the Internet.

Lack of education and unfamiliarity with the language is another barrier for the Philippines developing a reading culture. If one cannot understand English well, why buy books written by Filipino writers in English? If one cannot read, why buy books at all, even those written in Tagalog and the other Filipino languages?

A related problem is the cost of books. TV is ‘free’, another reason for its popularity. Buying a book can take a sizable chunk from a student’s allowance or from an average householder’s budget. With the majority of the population belonging to the C-D-E socio-demographic, they are potentially the largest market for any sort of product. In the case of books, the cost should be brought down for them to be more affordable and their purchase considered in lieu of other forms of entertainment; however, given that the present prices of books are already as rock-bottom as they can be brought, this is a major issue that will be a stumbling-block for the creative book industry until it is resolved.

A major constraint for the development of a healthy market for creative works is the lack of support or the inadequate support from both the government and private sectors. When an alarming number of the nation’s population lives below the poverty line, when gas prices have shot to the sky, when the world is struggling from the fallout of a major financial depression, less attention and funding are given to art, which many in the mainstream see as a non-essential indulgence or luxury, compared to, say, food.

Government agencies such as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts would be expected to be the rallying point for a development-focused national literature program, and for setting the foundation for Filipino literature appreciation in elementary and high school. Yet without enough funding, such plans cannot be implemented. The state universities, University of the Philippines to name one, have always tried their best in that regard, but again finances are a stumbling block for the expansion of their programs, such as the annual UP National Writers Workshop.

In the private sector, one would also expect that bookstores would be more pro-active in promoting creative works by Filipino writers; however, it will be noticed that they do not give prime display space to local works. Filipino works are lumped under one shelf category, “Filipiniana”, instead of each work being placed where they belong by genre: horror, young adult, etc. along with works of foreign authors, which are given more importance because they sell better.

There is also a lack of marketing opportunities, and writers themselves have to find their own ways to sell their works. Carljoe Javier sold his Kobayashi Maru of Love from his backpack; Axel Pinpin went the indie-publishing route for his Tulang Matatabil and did his own distribution efforts.

Multi-sectoral support is essential to the development of a better climate for the publication and reception of Filipino creative works; how to gain this support is a matter for discussion and planning.

Because people don’t read, they don’t buy, so publishers don’t publish, so writers don’t write. But the lack of buyers does not mean that writers cannot write, or should not write; it just means that they might not earn anything for their efforts.

But there’s always one story that’s the exception to the rule. First-time novelist Samantha Sotto is the talk of the blogosphere with the recent publication of her Before Ever After by Random House’s Crown Publishers imprint. She is the first Filipina they have published.

The novel was born this way: Samantha, who had to take her preschool son to Ateneo in the mornings, would wait for him at the Starbucks on Katipunan across the Loyola campus. Having read Audrey Nifenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife and being dissatisfied with the ending, she set out to weave her own love story, pecking out the tale of Shelley and the charismatic Max Gallus over a year’s time, with much of that spent on research.

Upon finishing the manuscript, she bought a copy of The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and followed its advice, going online to search for an agent and finding Stephanie Kip Rostan, whose confidence in the worth of the tale led to her finding a publisher without much trouble.

The book is set mostly in Europe, which Samantha explored as a teenager. Its protagonists are non-Filipino; only one Pinay makes an appearance, when the action sends some of the main characters to Boracay. Overall, it is a good read. Generally I don’t like chick lit or the romance genres, but I loved this one in spite of myself. It’s well-written and  -plotted, complex enough to make it interesting without being difficult to follow, and the ending is enigmatic. It made me and my 13-year old daughter Erika, who devoured the novel in one sitting, sit up one night hotly debating “What really happened to Shelley and Max?”

Before Ever After is available in paperback at National Bookstore and online as an e-book at Amazon.com for $11.99, where it’s in the top ten bestsellers in its category.

It’s proof that even with the glut of content available, tales written with a magic touch will float to the surface and command attention; and that Filipino creative writers who despair of getting published here might try doing what Samantha did and get published abroad, and that way gain a larger audience and the proper renumeration. ***

FHM cover here.  Kobayashi Maru image here. 

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pop goes the world: rizal – hero or zero?

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 June 2011, Thursday

Rizal: Hero or Zero?

Rizal – hero or zero?

The hotly-debated question as to whether or not Jose Rizal is worthy of the title “hero” raged anew with the celebration of the sesquicentennial of his birth last Sunday, June 19.

Born in 1861 to an affluent land-owning family in Calamba, Laguna, Rizal grew up in comparative comfort, obtained a good education at the Ateneo, Letran, and University of Santo Tomas, and developed his skills in science and the arts.

But he was not ignorant of hardship. His mother was imprisoned twice for various trumped-up offenses, the prailes in their area having cast avaricious eyes on their property. His brother Paciano was linked to native priests later charged with subversion; for this reason Jose had to use their other family name of “Rizal” rather than the one everyone else used, “Mercado”.

After his studies in the Philippines, he went abroad and obtained a medical degree and took further studies at the universities of Madrid, Paris, and Heidelberg. He came back to the Philippines, made his living as an ophthalmologist (some sources say he was the only one in South-East Asia at the time), wrote inflammatory works, and ran afoul of the Spanish colonial government.

All this background is well-known to most Filipinos – after all, being the designated “national hero”, the particulars of his life have been dinned to us from elementary school onwards. His fables of the lost slipper, tortoise and monkey, and the moths and the lamp serve as object lessons for young people, as well as cultivate the example of an observant, obedient, and prudent boy.

Hearing these stories as a child, I was first impressed, then later sickened by what I thought was abject prudery on the part of a young child. What a goody-goody, I thought. Then, in high school, we were forced to read his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which I found dreary and annoying because there wasn’t a happy ending to the Ibarra-and -Maria Clara love story.

It wasn’t until I learned more about this remarkable man when I was older that I realized just how much of the narrative about Jose Rizal that is imparted to young people is actually constructed and carefully selected to position him as a role model. He had fun, sowed his wild oats, and generally behaved as an ordinary red-blooded male, with the difference that he had greater things on his mind.

Some have criticized the choice of Rizal to bear the mantle of “national hero”. It was all hype created by the Americans, they say, therefore a decision tinged with a colonial agenda. Elevating to hero status a short, soft-spoken writer over the warriors Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, and others of their ilk was their way of keeping the brown Filipino monkeys in subliminal subjugation.

Critics add that Rizal wrote in Spanish, the language of the colonial oppressor.

Yet the upshot of the decades of Rizal in the top hero’s seat has resulted in his image being iconic to all Filipinos. His statues dot the lawns of school campuses and national parks nationwide. The silhouette of his face, outfitted with aviator-style shades, emblazons t-shirts and tote bags that are so popular, merchandisers can’t keep them in stock. Whether or not he deserves to be national hero, or whether another personality deserves the honor more, is a moot point. For now, he fulfills that role, like it or not.

But it that so bad? Filipinos aged 40 and older, who had to take the mandatory 3 units of the Rizal course and 12 units of Spanish in college, gained a better appreciation of how Rizal’s mind worked. He was a peaceful revolutionary, who sparked a people’s fight for independence with thoughts and ideas rather than bullets and knives.

His weapon of choice was a fountain pen and a bottle of ink. From these flew concepts so potent that the Spanish colonial government was more frightened of him than of the gun-toting revolucionarios. It was Rizal whom they wished to neutralize. They tried threats, they tried exile, but in the end they knew the only way they could still his patriotic heart was to put a bullet through it.

At a certain point we can decide for ourselves whether or not Rizal was a hero. As a writer, I choose to admire him, accepting his human frailties that all of us possess in some form or another.

Jose Rizal was a poet, artist, scholar, physician, swordsman, journalist, traveler, reformist, son, brother, lover, friend.

He was a writer whose many essays and two novels – Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo – shook an oppressive foreign colonial regime, woke a people’s sense of nationalism, and led to the establishment of a country. His beliefs never wavered and he remained steadfast, even as he was imprisoned and sentenced to death for those beliefs.

He was a fighter who took up a pen instead of gun or sword to win our country’s freedom with thoughts and ideas rather than force.

He was a martyr, shot by firing squad in a grassy field.

His 150th birthday was also Father’s Day, yet we cannot wish him that. He was not a father. He didn’t have time.

For all that he was, he is my hero.

* *  * * *

In other news, activist-poet Axel Pinpin recently told me about his upcoming writing project. Well known for his poetry in Filipino and “spoken word” performances reminiscent of Gil Scott Heron (find them on Youtube), Axel has ventured into the short story form and creative non-fiction to which he brings his own brand of wry humor, a search light that he manages to shine into the darkest corners of life experiences.

It’s a rare talent that deserves a wider audience, and he’s asked me to lend a hand with translation of his short stories. It’s a great honor to be asked to work with an artist of his skill; he could have had his pick from his wide circle of literary friends. I look forward to the chance to work with him.

Artistic collaborations are unpredictable; like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’re going to get, and that’s exciting. *** (Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Gogirl Cafe, Twitter: @jennyortuoste)

Rizal self-sketch here. Rizal in Luna’s Paris studio here. Axel Pinpin portrait here.

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pop goes the world: the kawazakan of poetry

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 26 May 2011, Thursday

The Kawazakan of Poetry

Words that sound, echo, scream in your head and heart, words that burn and soothe and quench and turn you inside out, words that tell a story or evoke a gamut of emotions in a few phrases – only a poem gives the writer the form with which to play with words.

And one poet who does this admirably is Allan Pastrana, whose poetry collection Body Haul was launched last May 16 at Ride n’ Roll Diner in Quezon City (also the venue for the “Happy Mondays” poetry reading/music performing event every first and third Monday of the month.)

Allan Pastrana. Photo from .MOV.

Arranged by filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz, a Gawad Urian nominee this year for best director and screenplay, the launch featured writers, musicians, and word lovers of all sorts coming together to read, eat, play music and sing, and buy Allan’s book.

Allan teaches at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with Music Literature and Piano Performance degrees. He is finishing his master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

A Fellow for poetry at the UP and Silliman University national writers workshops, he was a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year, recipient of the UST Rector’s Literary Award, third placer in the Palanca Awards for essay in 2007, and winner of the grand prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005. He occasionally writes music reviews for publications.

Here’s an excerpt from Allan’s “Altitude”, that he asked me to read at his book launch: “Four, five a.m. and everything packed/ a kind of immediacy; the velocity/ of each going became so foreign / it got trapped inside my throat./ That day, the phone kept on ringing/ like an insistent, hourly code— /a man’s voice on the other end/ on the line, always shifting timbres. Or, it could be that I /mistook a Bach aria theme, drifting/ like a dry memory, for his dark/ speech. Nothing was spoken/ here that didn’t belong to a/ wreckage—the rest of the variations/ slipping into more erasures…”

Among those who read Allan’s poems at the launch were horror writer and Palanca Award winner Yvette Tan, novelist Clarissa Militante (whose Different Countries was long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize), poet and professor Genevieve Asenjo, filmmaker John Torres, and activist/poet Axel Pinpin who delivered a spell-binding performance, translating a poem of Allan’s from English to Filipino on-the-spot: his impromptu pagsasalin was not only accurate but also literary in quality. Wazak!

Axel Pinpin. Photo by Gen Asenjo.

Allan says: “The book covers around five years worth of poetry. I chose to represent the different writing styles I adapted, from the time I thought telling stories was simply the whole point of literature, to a more recent and growing predilection for the instability of language (which I believe is what we have at our disposal, almost entirely, as writers), and the joy and rapture that comes with that instability, both painful and liberating in more ways than one.”

What is the relevance of poetry to daily living? Apart from the sheer joy of words that many of us enjoy, a poem captures in a series of phrases or sentences the totality of a human experience for us to derive meaning from.

Says UP literature professor Gemino Abad in the introduction to his poetry collection Care of Light (Anvil, 2010): “The real is the poem. Hence, for the poet…to write is to get real. The real is what we call “our world”. But our world is only our experience of it….What we call reality is only, and forever, a human reality; what we are able to perceive….

“But working our language – soil and fallow of all human thought and feeling, our only ground – we invest our words with a power to evoke, to call forth, to our mind and imagination a meaningfulness that we seem to have grasped in that human event or experience…And in that finished weave of words – the very text – our aim is to apprehend, to understand, the living of it, the full consciousness of the event or experience: its very sensation.”

Allan Pastrana’s Body Haul is available at UST Publishing House and bookstores.

For the poets reading this, Khavn has sent out a call for entries: “There isn’t enough chamomile tea in the world to quell the rage in your heart. Or the poetry in your veins. Send in your most wazak poem for possible inclusion in a Philippine poetry anthology that will be launched this September 2 during the 4th .MOV International Film, Music, & Literature Festival.

Khavn, Yvette, and Genevieve. Image from .MOV.

“There are no hard and fast rules on what’s wazak or what’s a poem. Send in your left foot if you think that qualifies. Please provide the English translation of any poem that is written in Filipino or other Philippine language. Open to all Filipinos in the archipelago or beyond.

“Email your works (maximum of three poems per author) to literature@movfest.org, subject heading “anthology” by or before June 1.

“In the name of the revolution.”  ***

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