Posts Tagged ‘cristina pantoja hidalgo’

pop goes the world: celebrating love and literature

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 February 2013, Thursday

Celebrating Love and Literature

Once in a while I feature in this column the literary events of the season, and here’s what’s happening in this month of love:

* * * * *

When you have a lost a loved one, how do you mourn?

Each person finds a way of coping. Support groups help; articles and books yield valuable tips. But ultimately, each one deals with grief and the pain of loss on an individual basis.

University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters associate professor, published poet, and performance artist Nerisa del Carmen Guevara lost her beloved to violence last year. This year, she spearheaded an interdisciplinary project at UST that brings together 11 colleges including the College of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in a collaborative effort that explores the many different forms and faces of love.

“Making: Love in Fourteen Collaborative Acts” will run from February 11 to 15 at the Main Lobby of the historic UST main building. It will showcase fourteen literary works – poems and excerpts from stories, essays, and plays – translated into other forms of art and science, all focused on love.

The project is organized under the wing of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS) headed by Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo (also professor emerita of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters).

“Making: Love” carries further the old UST Creative Writing Center’s project “Brushes with Words and Chords,” which featured works of literature, painting, and music.

The artists and collaborators will be at the exhibit for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities. On closing night, they will read from or perform their work.

Professor Guevara invites the Thomasian community and the public to the event. She adds, “I will be performing on February 15. This performance is called “Elegy.” I have collaborated with an architect, a mathematician, and a musician. I asked them to build me a bridge between life and afterlife.”

This is a love-in of literary, artistic, and scientific proportions. Bring your Valentine to UST to witness, experience, and taste “Making: Love.”

* * * * *

This event comes soon after the revitalized CCWLS under Dr. Hidalgo revived the UST literary journal “Tomas,” during an event that also saw the blessing of the Center’s new offices.

Established in 1998, the center used to be under the Faculty of Arts and Letters but is now an autonomous unit under the Office of the Rector. “Tomas” will be published every semester.

But wait, there’s more from UST. “The Varsitarian,” UST’s 84-year-old student publication, is organizing the 5th UST J. Elizalde Navarro National Workshop in Criticism on the Arts and Humanities and is now accepting applications.

The workshop will be held in Baguio City from May 26 to June 1 this year.

Fellowships will be awarded to 12 promising young critics who wish to enhance their analytical, research, and writing skills. Applicants must submit a scholarly, properly documented essay, 15-25 pages, on the following art forms – painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama, music, film, photography, and literature – on or before March 15, along with an updated resume and a recommendation letter from an academic mentor or art critic.

Send email to workshop convener Associate Professor Ralph Semino Galan at ralphseminogalan@gmail.com for details.

* * * * *

The admirers of Jose Garcia Villa will have a chance to see books and papers from his personal library at the Ateneo de Manila University starting today, February 7, 4:30 pm, at the Pardo de Tavera Room of the Rizal Library Special Collections building.

The Villa Estate donated rare Filipiniana, documents, and ephemera to the Rizal Library. The exhibit runs until May 30.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, February 8, the Literature Section of the University of San Carlos will hold “Minugbo: A Forum on Contemporary Visual Media” in Cebu City.

The forum will feature lectures by Jiji Borlasa (who will speak about Cebuano filmmaking), Anne Lorraine Uy (storytelling through pictures), and Diem Judilla (cinematic writing for short films).

This is a parallel event of the short film contest sponsored by the Section.   *** 

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pop goes the world: one class, three palanca essays

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  23 August 2012, Thursday

One Class, Three Palanca Essays

There is a wealth of stories in the places we call home.

“I am always drawn to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods,” wrote Truman Capote in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and this seems to be a universal yearning. For what are autobiography and memoir in a certain sense but a return to one’s home, an exploration of memory that time has washed over with a sheen of sentiment, an Instagram photo rather than a jarringly colorful image.

The concept of home is so powerful that works that deal with it seldom fail to capture interest. This is true for three Carlos Palanca Memorial Award-winning essays from last year and this.

Last year’s winner for first was myself for “The Turn for Home: Memories of Santa Ana Park”, which explores my early adulthood as a wife and young mother lived beside the now-defunct Makati racetrack.

The second place winner was Jeena Rani Marquez-Manaois’s “River of Gold”, memories of her youth in Cagayan de Oro. Here’s an excerpt from her draft from 2010:

“This golden fish was not some prince under an evil spell. It had been a golden fish all its life in the Cagayan River, which was why, according to the grown-ups who explained it to me, “de Oro” became a part of the city’s name.

“Some of the older people of the city swore they had seen it. The colossal fish had emerged from the Cagayan River sometime in the 1950s. It was so huge that all of Cagayan de Oro City shook violently in a mighty quake when it came out of the depths of the Cagayan River.

“Those who had seen it in their childhood claim it was not a fish; it couldn’t have been because of its towering height and the power of its majestic movement. It was a sleeping red dragon which lives in an invisible river beneath the San Agustin Cathedral on one side of Carmen Bridge.”

This year’s first prize winner is Hammed Q. Bolotaolo, a well-traveled man with an interesting past spent in Malate and a present spent roaming around the world. His winning esssay combines elements from his “Malate” (2010) and “Of Legends” (2011) pieces.

From his “Malate” draft:

“I also remember one bar along Adriatico having a logo of a small, partially damaged plane in blue neon lights, with fractured windows and wings and busted rudder and propeller. It was no longer working except for its flashing beacon. Whenever I found myself staring at it as a young boy, I wondered whether the plane had really crashed on that spot.  It looked real from what I could tell. And I never asked my mother. But such is Malate: a fusion of illusion and reality, a dreamy place of incandescent lights, of virile laughter and vigor.”

All different places, different homes. But these three pieces have one thing in common: they have their origins in a couple of creative non-fiction writing graduate classes taught at the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters by professor emerita Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo.

Dr. Hidalgo, often called “Ma’am Jing” by her students, is one of the foremost teachers and writers of CNF. In those classes held during the first and second semesters of 2010-2011, she not only guided us in the technique of our craft, she also encouraged us to tap deep within ourselves for the creative impetus that would allow us to write not only with lyricism and beauty, but with truth and honesty.

For the first class, her instructions were “write about a place;” during the second, “write about a personal memory.”  We wrote, critiqued each other’s work, and in the process shared food, laughter, and our lives.

Those classes were home in the way no other classes were, and we were family to each other.

It is perhaps the first and only time that a class under one professor has produced three Palanca Award-winning essays. I hope this is mentioned during Palanca Awards Night on September 1. How rare and beautiful is that?

It would be a fitting tribute to a well-beloved teacher, who nurtured her students and helped them fulfill the potential of their talents and make their own contributions to Philippine arts and letters.

Thank you, Ma’am Jing, and happy birthday (August 21). We couldn’t have done it without you.   *** 

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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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pop goes the world: much ado about gloria

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  24 November 2011, Thursday

Much Ado About Gloria

Was what was done to former president and current congressperson Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo right or wrong?

The debate continues to smolder, and because of its deep political significance has pushed other no less interesting topics to the side – the murder of Ramgen Revilla, the anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, the controversial victory of boxer-cum-lawmaker Manny Pacquiao over Juan Manuel Marquez, the dismal medal haul of the Philippine team in the SEA Games.

Having listened to and read various opinions on the subject, I’ve noticed that they tend to fall into two categories – “mercy” and “justice”.

The “mercy” side points to how frail and ill the former president looks in recent photographs and that she should have been allowed to leave the country for medical reasons, and that it’s a poor thing to beat someone when she’s down, and that her mugshots should not have been released to the media.

The “justice” side emphasizes the rule of law, that Macapagal-Arroyo should answer for the electoral sabotage committed during her time and that she apologized for. (Her flat, emotionless voice saying “I. Am. Sorry” for the “Hello, Garci” incident, without sounding at all sorry, is a stock sound effect of radio talk shows.)

If Macapagal-Arroyo believes herself innocent of any charges, then let her face her accusers with head held high (a posture she is forced to adopt anyway given the rigidity of her halo vest). If she is truly innocent, she need not leave the country right at the moment, since several specialists have opined that her condition is not life-threatening and that the Philippines has the equipment and expertise to care for her properly at this point.

Instead, the dramatic incident at the airport smacked of an escape try, exactly like Ramona Bautista’s red-veiled night flight. The timing was fishy, it was suspect. It was as if they had received a tip that there would be cases filed against her, thus the desperate attempt.

There is a definite sense of wrongness there – why did Macapagal-Arroyo try to leave the country so hurriedly that way, in that cloak-and-dagger fashion, with the props of the ambulances and the wheelchair?

Why, if she is so sick, was she wearing skinny leather pants and platforms when they tried to flee that night? Do you know how hard it is to get into leather pants, especially the skinny kind, when you’re well and healthy, let alone so ill that you’re wearing a halo vest that drastically limits mobility and your condition ostensibly so bad that you have to go abroad for medical attention? It makes you wonder if her mobility is all that compromised.

All these questions raise red flags. The entire thing seems contrived, and glaringly so to the discerning person. Macapagal-Arroyo and her camp should not be surprised at the lack of public support and sympathy for her, though intellectuals relish the debate on the matter.

That’s just my opinion, and everybody has one. In the end, I believe in the rule of law. Morality that is based on religion will differ among the various faiths with their constructed doctrines and dogmas; likewise, the standards of morality based on culture will differ from country to country. To be fair and just to all its residents, a nation should be founded upon secular law and it is this law that must be used to determine what is right or wrong.

In this case concerning the former president, as in all cases, let the law prevail. Let the judiciary be true to the spirit of their commitment to the people and to the nation and put what is right and fair above personal interest and utang na loob.  Let them bring out the truth in this case, apply the law to the former president as it has been applied to others, and show the world that the Philippines is a nation that hews to the law.

In the words of the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.”

* * * *

Award-winning writer Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, director of the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House since 2010, revealed there will be a Christmas sale of their publications, the date and venue to be announced. UST-PH was named Publisher of the Year last November 12 at the 30th National Book Awards night at the National Museum. The award is given out yearly by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board.

Among the eminent writers in their stable are National Artists for Literature Virgilio S. Almario and F. Sionil Jose, columnists and professors Krip Yuson, Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr., and Dr. Michael L.Tan,  and musician/writer Lourd de Veyra.

* * * *

The University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing has extended to November 29 the deadline of submission of applications to the 51st UP National Writers Workshop.

The workshop is for writers in mid-career and will be held in Baguio City in April 2012.

I had the privilege of becoming a workshop fellow last year and it was a transformative experience. The feedback from the panelists and fellows were helpful and inspiring, the workshop activities eye-opening, and the friendships forged during the week-long event heartwarming.

Another reason for the workshop’s continued success is its venue. Baguio City is cool, calm, and pleasant, and its art scene warm and nurturing, a positive atmosphere that encourages the blossoming of the artist in everyone. Baguio is not just the market, Good Shepherd, and Minesview Park. Do visit Mt. Cloud bookshop, Hill Station Café at Casa Vallejo, Namaste, the BenCab museum and its café at the basement, VOCAS, Ayuyang, Café by the Ruins, Choco-Late de Batirol at Camp John Hay, and the other interesting pockets of creative and culinary pleasure that the locals will be happy to show you.  *** 

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo image here. UST-PH logo here. 51st UP-NWW logo here.

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pop goes the world: pinoy this way

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today29 September 2011, Thursday

Pinoy This Way

San Francisco, California – Every two or three years I hop on a plane for a vacation in the US with friends and family. I divide my precious few weeks’ of leave between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, revisiting old haunts and discovering new.

At Pebble Beach, one of my favorite places to visit. 26 Sept. 2011.

On the plane I sat between two prayerful Filipina ladies, both US citizens. The one on my right at the window seat was chatty. She had just escorted her ailing mother, also a citizen, to Cavite to be cared for there by other family members. “I’ll miss her,” she said, “but it’s not easy to care for seniors in the US.”

The older lady on my left (aisle seat) was meticulously made-up and dressed, a teacher at a college in Bukidnon, handling public administration and law. She was on her way to rejoin her daughter and grandchildren.

We didn’t know each other’s names, but that didn’t matter. “Ingat,” we said in farewell.

When I emerged from the airport doors pulling my luggage stuffed with ensaymada, hopia, and Queensland butter in cans, my family enfolded me in their arms and took me to IHOP for a meal. “We’re sure you’re hungry,” they said. They urged me to eat a bacon omelette, pancakes slathered with whipped butter and syrup, hash browns. (It was eleven o’clock in the evening.)

The next day we went to Target, where the woman behind the mobile phone counter explained in Tagalog-accented English to a tall white man that they do not sell jailbroken iPhones. When he had left, she shrugged at me. “Ganun talaga dito,” she said, knowing I was Pinay even if I had not opened my mouth.

The cashier who rang up our purchases was an elderly Filipina with carefully-waved salt-and-pepper hair and a stylish black-and-white scarf around her neck. She smiled knowingly as my sister and I spoke to each other in Tagalog.

At a Filipino supermarket the day after, I saw shelves crammed with Cream Silk and Sunsilk, Chippy and Chiz Curls, and Ligo sardines; refrigerated cases stuffed with Star margarine, Magnolia Ube with Beans ice cream (made in a California facility), and Pampanga tocino; racks full of San Mig Light, Pale Pilsen, and Red Horse Beer.

The aisles were decorated with fake coconut trees and banig on the walls as backdrops, whereas Target and Wal*Mart had pumpkins and Halloween masks. There was a Goldilocks’ outside and a bakery that sold hot pandesal. “Ibili natin si Papa ng mamon,” I overheard a young girl say. In those few hundred square meters was recreated a little slice of the Philippines, filled with even more bits of the Philippines that the homesick can buy to alleviate the longing for the flavors of Inang Bayan.

My sister at Island Pacific supermarket, Union City, CA.

At home, my sister uses a thick paper towel to wipe the bathroom and kitchen counters clean; she rinses it and hangs it to dry. She reuses these paper towels until they fall apart. “Sayang e. Puede pa naman.” Our leftovers from the huge American portions at restaurants are boxed and taken home; she makes sure we eat them the next day.

When Pedring hits, Filipinos call each other up. “Have you heard about the flooding in the Philippines? Kamusta pamilya mo doon?” We trade news and commiseration.

All this reminds me of Fil-Canadian Mikey Bustos’s “Pinoy This Way” (a parody of a Lady Gaga hit), that became an Internet sensation in April: “Back home, a land far away/ Where we work hard every day/ It makes us grateful, baby, we’re Pinoy this way….Nothing ever goes to waste/ Appreciate, don’t throw away/ Baby, we’re Pinoy this way!”

 

Cultural values embedded through socialization at home, school, and other settings in context are difficult to shake off. They permeate our core, unconsciously, communicated through language and food and tradition and rituals.

No matter how we may intellectualize “What makes a Filipino?” and debate from whence comes identity, the reality is that if we are born in the Philippines we are steeped in it from birth, through communication, behaviors, and expectations. If we are not, it can be learned, and is generally taught by immediate family members who developed their personalities within the context of Filipino culture. It is all carried inside us and comes out when we interact with others.

What’s it all about, wherever the Filipino may be? Work. Frugality. Sacrifice. Hospitality. Food. Family. Because we’re Pinoy that way.

* * * * *

Book Bonanza:  From University of the Philippines professor emerita and University of Santo Tomas Publishing House directress Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo:

“In February of this year, the UST Publishing House launched seven more new titles… all by Thomasian writers…: The House of True Desire, essays by Cirilo Bautista; Selected Poems by Rita Gadi; At Sa Tahanan ng Alabok , poetry by Louie Sanchez; Insectisimo, poetry by Lourd de Veyra;  Superpanalo Sound,s a novel by Lourd de Veyra; Clairvoyance, poetry by Carlomar Daoana; and Body Haul, poetry by Allan Pastrana.” Also launched was Everyday Things by US-based poet Fidelito Cortes.

These books and others forthcoming are part of the “400 Years, 400 Books” Project and will be presented to the public at the closing of the University’s Quadricentennial Celebrations in January 2012. The books are already available at the UST Publishing House Bookstore on campus and in National Bookstore branches. ***

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The 61st Palanca Awards

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 September 2011, Thursday

The 61st Palanca Awards

For a Filipino writer, winning a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature is one of the most gratifying accomplishments one can achieve.

The awards night was held, as always, on September 1, at the Manila Peninsula Hotel. The guest of honor was F. Sionil Jose, a five-time Palanca awardee, who received the 2011 Dangal ng Lahi Award. Fifty-eight other writers were given awards from first to third place, in several different categories in Filipino, Cebuano, Iluko, Hiligaynon, and English.

Also present among the writeratti was Palanca Foundation director-general Sylvia Palanca-Quirino, who spoke of the six-decade long history of the awards. Their family’s dedication in sustaining this program is to be lauded; save for them, there would be no recognition for Filipino literary writers.

Winning a Palanca is something to strive for, a goal, and gives direction to one’s efforts. We hope the Palanca Foundation continues their support of Philippine belles lettres.

It was with tremendous pleasure that I attended the awards night to receive a first prize for Essay for my piece “The Turn for Home: Memories of Santa Ana Park.” The Palanca Award is a heavy brass medal as big as a saucer, hung on a wide sapphire blue ribbon. It comes with a certificate, a wooden presentation box, and prestige, that clings to the awardees like perfume.

With judges.

With De La Salle University’s Dr Genevieve Asenjo (judge, Maikling Kuwento – Hiligaynon) and poet German Gervacio (judge, Tulang Pambata). 

I dedicate my win to my writing mentor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, professor emerita Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. It was in her creative non-fiction graduate class last year that I wrote my winning piece.

It was also for that class that this year’s second-place Essay winner, professor Jeena Rani Marquez-Manaois, wrote her winning “The River of Gold”, set in Cagayan de Oro.

With Jeena.

With writer Natasha Gamalinda, who accompanied her fiance Rosmon Tuazon (2nd prize, Tula) to the ceremony. She was my classmate, along with Jeena, in that same CNF class of Dr. Pantoja-Hidalgo. 

The role of mentor, I realize now, is highly significant and cannot be over-emphasized. On my own, without guidance, I most likely would not have produced this work. It was Dr. Pantoja-Hidalgo who gave me the guidance to take my memories and give them shape and structure in narrative form.

May other writers be blessed with the same good fortune as to find a mentor as kind and encouraging, whose keen critical insights instruct and set the direction to do even better in the craft, not only technically, but also in the lyricism and “literary-ness” of the work.

In my essay, I weave memories of the Santa Ana racetrack and my personal life. Here’s an excerpt. In this scene, I’ve been thrown off my horse during morning workout (I was the sport’s first female apprentice jockey and trained for several months) and am lying on the track:

“Jockeys rode past me; unseated apprentices were not an unusual sight, in fact it was expected for one to fall several times during training, and since it was obvious I wasn’t dead – yet – there was no cause for alarm. One jockey did stop beside me as I lay in the sand, staring blankly up at the sky.

He halted his horse and leaned over me. I saw him upside down. It was some wiry guy clad in layers of t-shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket. They all looked alike in their helmets.

“Okay ka lang?” he asked.

Of course not, you idiot, I nearly broke my neck when I fell and I could have been paralyzed from the neck down like Ron Turcotte who rode Secretariat who was the greatest racehorse of all time in my opinion and he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair until he died in a car accident – Turcotte, not Secretariat, was what I wanted to say.

“I’m fine,” was what I actually said.

We were married at Don Bosco Church five months later.”

The essay will be published in December by the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters in their literary journal, “Likhaan”. It will also appear online on their website and on that of the Carlos Palanca Foundation.

* *  * * *

I read with interest last Wednesday’s column here in MST by our opinion editor Adelle Chua, which dealt with the topic of depression. I have beloved friends and family members who suffer from depression, and those of us in their support network often wonder what other treatment methods out there other than the usual would be beneficial.

A friend, American psychologist and Virginia Western Community College professor Dr. Annemarie Carroll, advocates yoga to ease depression, in addition to other treatments such as therapy and fish oil.

Says Dr. Carroll, “There’s a lot of research about using [yoga] for depression and this is what I’m working towards doing with my psych clients. The reason yoga is so helpful is that it teaches people the ability to “ride the wave” of discomfort with breathing – whether that’s physical discomfort as in a yoga posture that’s difficult for you, or in emotional/mental discomfort, as those feelings can come up while doing the physical practice.

“The person then begins to generalize that to their everyday life situations. Any good yoga teacher would be helpful, but sometimes you can find a yoga teacher who specializes in this.”

I don’t know much about the yoga scene in Manila, and was glad to receive word from writer/performer Lissa Romero De Guia about the “Wake Up and Shake Up!” yoga event presented by Art of Living Philippines.

It’s a two-hour event of “Meditation, Yoga and Wisdom”, set for September 14 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati beginning 6:30pm.

The session will be conducted by senior Art of Living teacher Swami Sadyojathah. He travels extensively all over the world teaching yoga and meditation, conducting trauma relief, and “spreading ancient techniques on how to live life with a deep sense of joy and enthusiasm.”

No previous experience in meditation or yoga is required. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a yoga mat and water bottle. For details call Lorna Nasayao (0917-8484898).  ***

Portraits of Dr Pantoja-Hidalgo and Dr Carroll  from their Facebook pages.

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pop goes the world: e-book publishing now here

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 30 June 2011, Thursday

E-book Publishing, Now Here!

With the steadily increasing cost of paper and ink, books are getting to be even more out of reach for students and those without much disposable income. They are considered luxuries, rather than essentials, in many households.

I’ve advocated time and again in this column about the supreme value of reading in building vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills in any language. The publication of works in digital formats would make them available to a wider audience. You don’t even need an e-book reader like a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other tablet gadget; e-books can be read on a desktop computer or laptop loaded with the proper app, many of which are available for free download on the Internet.

It’s a giant step forward  that e-book publishing is now being done here by a local company, and this news should give heart to writers who’ve despaired of getting published the traditional way, or wish to reach a global audience for their work (and earn better than they usually would, which is not bad at all.)

Let me tell you about one example.

Carljoe Javier’s latest book, Geek Tragedies, is going to be launched on July 1, 5pm, at the GT Toyota Hall of Wisdom, Asian Center, UP Diliman. It’s published by UP Press which will also be launching eight other new titles the same day, among them UP professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s Six Sketches of Filipino Women.

The interesting thing about Carljoe’s work is that it’s possibly the first time a book by a local author will be released in both print and e-book form.

The digital format was supplied by Flipside Digital Content, which has also made Carljoe’s book available for download at giant e-retailer Amazon.com. Flipside also recently released the digital version of another book of Carljoe’s, And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth, on Amazon. It was originally published in traditional form by Milflores Publishing.

Flipside’s CEO, Anthony de Luna, waxes enthusiastic about the e-publishing trend:

“Our titles are distributed through Amazon (170+ countries) and Apple iTunes iBookstore (six major market countries). We will also distribute through Barnes & Noble Nook later this year.

“Flipside has notched 12 years of experience in e-book production as an outsourced service provider to publishers in the US and UK, with more than 100,000 e-books produced. It started as a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble (I served as Director of Digital Content for B&N during the early years of e-books).

“We use leading-edge production techniques, resulting in some of the bestselling and highest-profile e-books for our publisher clients, including Grufallo Red Nose Day (it was No. 1 in iTunes UK not just for e-books, but including songs and apps); the enhanced e-book edition of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Notes from My Kitchen Table; the enhanced e-book edition of Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself; and the enhanced e-book edition of Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants.

“In April 2011, we decided to leverage the company’s international experience and resources to enable local authors and publishers to publish internationally via e-books. In our first month as a publisher – May 2011 – we published 16 titles and now have a fast-expanding title line-up.

“UP Press is the traditional print publisher of Geek Tragedies; the author Carljoe Javier asked and gained permission from UP Press to simultaneously publish an e-book edition through Flipside. It is the first time in the Philippines for a book to have print and e-book editions published simultaneously.

“On e-book publishing, the bottom line is that in the US, e-books are outselling print books three-to-one.”

Cover of Carljoe Javier’s Geek Tragedies. Image here.

While they will never replace the tactile and sentimental enjoyment one gets from ink-and-paper books, e-books are the future. In fact, many analysts say that that their future is now, and that it is only a matter of time before they will become more common than traditional books.

I’d say the major barrier to this happening fast, especially in developing countries, is the cost of the e-reader, which makes the reading experience convenient, personal, and portable, just like reading traditional books.

A major advance in this direction is the Rizal e-tablet, released by the Laguna provincial government on the hero’s 150th birth anniversary last June 19 in Calamba. The tablet may be loaded with textbooks and other reference materials, and is manufactured by Laguna-based semiconductor firm Ionics. It was distributed in Laguna schools starting last week.

I remember writing about this in my column last year when the project was first announced. It’s terrific to see that promises were kept here. Hopefully other local government units will follow suit.

One thing more needed to complete this winning recipe? The electrification of all barangays unto the remotest of rural areas. How can one effectively use gadgets if one can’t recharge them?

The Rizal tablet distributed in Laguna schools. Image here.

*****

Many thanks to veteran broadcaster Jo Salcedo for giving me a break on radio. Without fully knowing whether I would talk sense or drivel, she took a chance on me and starting February 2 this year had me on her show “Buhay Pinoy” five days a week on AFP Radio at DWDD 1134 khz AM as a guest analyst. For 15 minutes, we’d discuss current events from a cultural perspective.

For some strange unfathomable reason, she and station manager Capt Emmanual Diasen found merit in my mumblings and gave me an hour show which debuted on June 4. It’s called “Kwentuhang Pinoy”, on Saturdays at 8-9am, and live streamed over http://www.afpradio.ph.

I was a horseracing commentator from 2002 to December 2010 on cable TV in a live format much like radio, doing six to eight hours at a stretch up to six days a week. However, doing opinion and news in a radio booth instead of horseracing in a TV studio is new to me.

If you tune in, please be patient; it’s a work in progress, and I’m grateful to have the support of Ms. Jo and her daughter, broadcaster Jaimie Santos, who’ve promised to stay with me in the booth till I get it right.  *** (Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Gogirl Cafe, Twitter: @jennyortuoste)

Black-and-white portrait of author Carljoe Javier from his private collection.

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pop goes the world: poets driven mad by love

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 14 April 2011, Thursday

Poets Driven Mad by Love

Baguio City – Steeped in words, simmered in rhythm, cooked in sound – twelve writers baked in a literary pie serve a taste of Filipino literature at the milestone 50th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop.

The week-long workshop for writers in mid-career is taking place at AIM-Igorot Lodge, Camp John Hay, April 10-17. It brings together twelve Fellows – six in Filipino, six in English – invited by UP’s Institute of Creative Writing, to receive feedback from their peers about their work, and suggestions where to take their works-in-progress and future projects.

The panelists are a Who’s Who of Philippine literature and academe – National Artist Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, UP-ICW director Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr., workshop director Prof. Jun Cruz Reyes, Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Dr. Gemino Abad, Dr. J. Neil Garcia, Dr. Rolando Tolentino, Dr. Mario Miclat, UP-ICW deputy director Prof. Conchitina Cruz, Prof. Charlson Ong, and Prof. Romulo Baquiran Jr.

According to Dr. Hidalgo, the workshop began many years ago, for beginners. Workshops then burgeoned at different universities after that, so UP decided to up the ante by shifting the National Writers Workshop focus to being a homebase for established writers who might need a little encouragement and direction.

The twelve Fellows for 2011 are: Genevieve Asenjo, Ronald Baytan, Khavn de la Cruz, German Gervacio, Nerisa Guevara, Clarissa Militante, Allan Pastrana, Axel Pinpin, Yvette Tan, John Iremil Teodoro, John Torres, and myself.

50th UP National Writers Workshop Fellows 2011. Axel, Gen, Jie Teodoro, Yvette, JennyO, Clarissa, John Torres, Nerisa, Ronald, German, Khavn, Allan. Image here.

This historic event brings together a diverse collection of souls, whom I would not have met otherwise, nor whose works I would have encountered. My first taste of protest literature is through activist-poet Axel Pinpin’s short story which hides pain behind humor. Gay lit is represented in the prose of Ronald Baytan and poetry of John Iremil Teodoro, who could well be a stand-up comedian.

Clarissa Militante, long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize for her novel Different Countries (2010), delves into how the philosophical, social, and political are woven inextricably into a person’s journey. Genevieve Asenjo writes prolifically in Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Filipino – dense, rich, and thick tapestries.

Filmmakers Khavn de la Cruz and John Torres explore different territories in their scripts. German Gervacio plays with form in his pursuit of the epic; Nerisa Guevara seamlessly blends concepts of father, city, and home to craft lyrical prose-and-poetry. Allan Pastrana, rooted in the semiotic tradition, seeks to redefine the boundaries of poetry by playing with language.

Genre fiction finds a strong, distinctive voice in Yvette Tan’s short stories, which raise the bar for literary quality in Philippine horror fiction. Her “Seek Ye Whore” combines themes of enchantment, desire, love, and gourmet cooking in a lusty tale about alluring mail-order brides sent in pieces to America on installment. “Stars”, her piece for the workshop, is a tour-de-force of references to Lovecraft and ‘70s Eddie Romero B-movies of the schlocky persuasion.

My own work launches from my roots in sports journalism and dives into creative non-fiction via a memoir-in-progress centered on love exchanged and returned, unrequited and unredeemed, but which in itself is its own salvation.

Seven of the Fellows have had their sessions (mine was the first) with the other five scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Comments on the different prose and poetry texts brought up issues of form and structure, meaning and identity, with some panelists grounding their analysis in theory and philosophy, others emphasizing readability and literary quality.

One of the issues that surfaced in the discussions was the difficulty of marketing Philippine books. First, we are not a reading public. Second, local bookstores tend to place less priority on giving Filipino books prime display space. Authors have a sense of being marginalized in their own country; their books, regardless of subject, are crammed together on the Filipiniana shelves.

Why not also put works by Filipino writers on the shelves by topic, with those of foreign writers? If Philippine literature is to develop, the circumstances that will drive that evolution should be laid on a foundation created by the stakeholders in the publishing industry working in concert to create a win-win situation for all.

Meanwhile, still here in Baguio, enveloped by the aromas of pines and fresh-brewed Benguet Arabica, we immerse ourselves in the creative experience, reveling in our power as wordsmiths, our skill wielded deftly as we blaze new ground together.

After dinner last Tuesday night, we all went to Ayuyang Music Bar near Session Road, where over beers and weng-wengs we crafted a renga – a round robin poem. (Strictly speaking, a renga is a genre of Japanese collaborative poetry.) Each person was given only one minute to write a line of free verse, writing one after the other. This is the first time this poem is published. It is as yet untitled.

Our inspirations? Baguio, food, the chill of a summer night, the fire of lust, the thrill of creation, sin, desire, redemption, love unending.

Nangangagat ang malamig na pag-ibig ng Baguio

If then, why not leave the limning?

Nginangatngat ang lamig ng yelo ng lapot ng Baguio Oil

Walang sinasanto, walang pahinga

Walang sinisinta, sintas ng santa-santita

Sintas ng santa-santita, ipinanlatigo ng demonyita…

Ang gusto ko lang naman, magluto

Ang gusto kong laman, magluto

ng sisig. Utak, tenga, nguso, sizzling! sizzling!

Lumiliyab, umaapoy, umaalab  – ito ba’y pag-ibig o gutom?

Kung pag-ibig man o gutom, ang sikreto sa pagnamnam,

eskandalosa o kontemplatiba.

Awitin natin ang kasalanan nitong gabi!

Sing the pining needle to its thread, green, green!

Ganito, ganitong tumula

Ang mga makatang binaliw ng pag-ibig!

*© 50th UP NWW Fellows 2011*

I asked my fellow Fellows for one-word sound bites about the entire experience:

Khavn: “Wasaak!” John Torres: “Sex!” Yvette: “Panalo!” Axel: “Kumpisal.” Clarissa: “Contemplation.” Allan: “O—“ Nerisa: “Sanctuary.” Genevieve: “Resurrection.” John Teodoro: “Vongga!”

Visit the workshop’s live blog at upworkshop2011.wordpress.com and follow the live Tweets until Sunday at@upworkshop2011. ***

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pop goes the world: holiday serenity

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 December 2010, Thursday

Holiday Serenity

Only in the Philippines, I think, is Christmas celebrated for practically an entire month. Work slows down by the first week of December. Malls, offices, and other public establishments evoke the holiday spirit by decorating, some lavishly, others simply, each according to their inclinations and capabilities.

Ayala Avenue this year is more brightly lit than ever before, with thousands of blazing white lights festooned like strings of  glowing pearls from the trees that line the center of the road, and damn the power bill because it all looks so splendid.

Ayala Avenue this Christmas 2010. Image here.

Shopping is always a favorite pastime of Filipinos, and especially so during this season, when cultural norms of gift-giving are observed. A person would sort the groups of people he knows into several categories – work (bosses, officemates, clients); friends (schoolmates, friends made elsewhere); family (immediate and others); and so on.

The nearest and dearest receive the most expensive presents, while officemates one isn’t close to get the gaily-packaged brownies or cookies bought in bulk from friends who “make negosyo” during the season. And so on. Hierarchy is a cultural meme, maybe even a survival imperative in our DNA, some thinkers suggest, and exerts influence even as we perform this pleasant chore.

It is a festive time, with food playing a major role in providing a sense of comfort and security and adding that extra fillip of extravagance that sets occasions like these apart from the ordinary.

When I was a child, Western fruit like apples, grapes, and oranges were to be had only at Christmas-time, along with chestnuts and walnuts which we cracked against door jambs. My mother made certain dishes only during the holidays – deep-dish one-crust apple pie sprinkled with parmesan cheese on top and fruit salad made with canned US Del Monte fruit cocktail that was mostly peaches, never the local kind that was mostly pineapples and made the salad too sour, and she would add a squeeze of calamansi to cut the sweetness. For an appetizer she would lay out plates of Edam cheese, some slices plain, others fried in butter.

Through the years, she’d mix up the menu, sometimes whipping up Caesar salad dressing from scratch with egg yolks, extra-virgin olive oil, and crushed peppercorns, while her entrees would include falling-off-the-bone roast crown of pork, fondue, beef stew, shrimp tempura, and one of my favorites, chicken marinated in Pepsi, ketchup, and secret spices then grilled over charcoal.

We lived in a series of small apartments that were easy to decorate, and my mother made sure that wherever we were, we always had a Christmas tree with ornaments and silver tinsel and colorfully-wrapped presents underneath, and garlands of evergreen with pine cones and red-and-gold ribbons on the walls.

I’ve kept up our family tradition of a tree. Mine is soft and warm and fuzzy with handmade quilted and cross-stitched ornaments from snail-mail swaps or bought at bazaars. No glitzy tinsel and metallic balls for us, just homespun decorations made with love.

Presents back then were simple – an Enid Blyton book, a kitchen playset, t-shirts. There were no electronic gadgets with their beep-boops and flashing lights distracting people from interacting with each other.

Today, with all the bustle and swirl of activity, the rampant commercialization by merchants, and the over-the-top keeping-up-with-the-neighbors, some might feel the need to slow down and find a quiet place.

Where is yours? It can be an actual location or inside your head. It is wherever one may retreat into calm and peace.

University of the Philippines professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo recently shared with us, her graduate students in creative writing, an essay she wrote titled “In Search of Stillness and Serenity.” In the piece she revisits all her quiet places in the different countries she’s  been to.

Here’s an excerpt, where she tells of an oasis of stillness in the mountains of war-ravaged Lebanon:

“I remember our being invited by Frieda, a member of Tony’s staff, to her family’s old villa in the small Druze town of Abey, up in the mountains. Her great-grandfather had been the village blacksmith and had built the house in the late 19th century. It had walls of thick stone, deep windows, a high, vaulted ceiling, beautiful rosewood furniture, hand-carved and inlaid with nakkar and mother-of-pearl, and lovely old rugs, lamps, pipes, copper coffee pots…

“Frieda walked us through a small forest of oak trees, to the olive orchards, where her father was cutting off large branches and putting them into baskets—the white (green) olives to be made into araq; the red, into vinegar; and the black (the sweetest of all), to eat as part of the traditional Lebanese mezze. And then we came to the olive press, and were offered some freshly baked Arabic bread to dip into the freshly pressed oil, which was delicious.

“And there was a serenity about the olive grove, and the day, and the village itself, which seemed far removed from the ceaseless strife that plagued Lebanon.”

In Philippine culture, the holidays are full of rituals to be observed and traditions to keep up, and we do these joyfully, because it is when the past connects and extends into the present that we feel the tug of the bonds of family, society, history, and culture that define and shape who we are.

Yet in the midst of the maelstrom remember to visit your quiet place, wherever it is, to rest, recharge, and reconnect with yourself and all that you are, and all that you can be.

Happy holidays from my home to yours, and I wish for you blessings of deep peace, utter happiness, and boundless love. ***

Olive oil and bread image here.

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pop goes the world: common sense isn’t all that common

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 September 2010, Thursday

Common Sense Isn’t All That Common

You groaned – I heard you. I’m not surprised – we’ve heard that hoary old aphorism many times before, and can cite horrifying instances from experience to prove its veracity. Thinking people often bemoan how crooked reasoning has supplanted logic and common sense, which have gone the way of either eight-track tapes (unused), steak tartare (very rare), or Jose Rizal (dead).

While not confined to those in government service, the dearth of critical thinking skills in that sector provide many jaw-dropping examples that, sadly, impact upon public interest. Here’s one incident that will make you indignant at how our tax pesos are spent, as recounted by University of the Philippines-Diliman professor emeritus Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo:

“From February 2005 to May 2010, I was vice president for public affairs of the UP System, serving under UP president Emerlinda R. Roman. Under me were the Information Office, the Office of Alumni Relations of the UP System, and the Gurong Pahinungod.

“Because UP was preparing for the celebrations of its Centennial in 2008, our work load—heavy at best—became considerably heavier. A slew of other tasks was added to the regular responsibilities of running three newspapers, maintaining the UP System website, producing regular magazine-sized reports, writing and sending out regular media announcements, providing support for the Office of the President during the annual presentation of the UP Budget to Congress and the campaign in Congress for the approval of the new UP Charter, and providing communications support for the offices of the other vice presidents.

“Among these additional responsibilities were President Roman’s alumni caravan, which took us around the country to involve UP alumni in the celebration and in the fund-raising campaign; and several special projects—a coffee table book, another book called Kwentong Peyups, a short documentary film, a UP history book project, supplements for the print media, and several Centennial contests (for the Centennial logo, the Centennial literary award, the Centennial song, the Centennial short film, etc.).

“My Assistant VPs and I worked long hours, including weekends, and out-of-town trips. Throughout this period, I continued to teach graduate courses–sometimes one, sometimes two, each semester.

Dr. Hidalgo (with graduate student and author April Yap) teaching a master’s/PhD creative writing class at UP on her birthday last month. (Photo by Camille de la Rosa)

“On one such weekend in June 2006, Lydia Arcellana (AVP and Director of the Office of Alumni Relations) and I had a lunch meeting with a group of UP alumni at Dulcinea, a restaurant on Tomas Morato.

“On 14 September 2006, UP received a subpoena from the “Task Force O-Plan Red Plate” of the Office of the Ombudsman, directing it to submit my driver’s trip tickets “and all other appurtenant and relative documents authorizing the use of government vehicle (assigned to my office) for the period 13-28 June 2006.” It contained the ominous threat that failure to do so within three days of receipt would “merit the filing of criminal charges” as well as administrative charges.”

The document, says Dr. Hidalgo, did not state what these “charges” were. Then-UP vice president for Legal Affairs and now UP Law School dean Atty. Marvic Leonen submitted the trip tickets and detailed the nature of Dr. Hidalgo’s job. Nothing more was heard from the Ombudsman, and they assumed the explanation and documents were satisfactory.

Four years later, on 12 July 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman wrote claiming that on 25 June 2006, the car assigned to Dr. Hidalgo was seen “in front of Tonton Thai Massage on Tomas Morato Street at 3:30 pm.”

Says Dr. Hidalgo, “The strange thing is that the accompanying photos…showed the car to be parked in front of—not the massage establishment named—but the restaurant Dulcinea with the sign above its entrance prominently shown.”

On this flimsy basis, the professor’s “…driver and I were being investigated for graft, and for “dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” having caused “undue injury to the government, consisting in (sic) the unnecessary consumption of fuel and undue wear and tear of the vehicle…a flagrant wastage of government funds,” that showed “utter disregard on (sic) the policy that public officers and employees should uphold public interest over and above personal interest.”

Dr. Hidalgo, a published author well-known in literary and higher education circles, retired as a full-time UP professor and VP for Public Affairs last May. I met her for the first time in June when I signed up for her Creative Non-Fiction writing class this semester.

She describes herself as “an elderly academic” possessing an “impeccable record of 20 years of public service and numerous awards, for both my teaching and my writing. The latest is the title Professor Emeritus, surely one of the highest honors UP can confer on one of its own.”

On August 9, Dr. Hidalgo received another ‘order’ concerning the “administrative case” against her, and she complied by sending more affidavits with the same facts she had already mentioned before.

“I feel most aggrieved,” she says. “Given the countless cases of blatant graft and corruption involving billions of pesos, which seem to be resolutely ignored, why am I being singled out for this harassment by the Office of the Ombudsman?”

Now what is graft? It is “money, property, or a favor given, offered, or promised to a person or accepted by a person in a position of trust as an inducement to dishonest behavior: bribe, fix, payola.”Attending a meeting with alumni on a working weekend to raise funds for the state university is now graft?

Not only does the Office of the Ombudsman need to buy themselves a dictionary and hire a writer with a good grasp of grammar, they also got their facts wrong as to time, place, and purpose. Dr. Hidalgo says, “As indicated in the trip ticket earlier submitted, we had left Dulcinea at 1:30 pm.” How could they have still been seen in the area at 3:30pm, as alleged? The people who took photographs of the car did not check inside the establishments in the area to see where the passengers and driver of the car really were. Where is the proof that Dr. Hidalgo and company were actually inside Tonton Massage?

What I also found beyond strange is that it took the Office of the Ombudsman four entire years to process this. Dissertations have been written in less time.

The thinking mind reels in disbelief at how much time, manpower, paper, ink, and other resources were poured into this one solitary incident. Rather than going after the large sharks who have gorged themselves with money and perks at government and taxpayers’ expense, as splashed in recent headlines, the Office of the Ombudsman is flagrantly wasting government funds and resources to hound, with a nuisance non-case based on erroneous facts, a little old lady schoolteacher who rode a red-plate car one working Sunday afternoon.

Why is Dr. Hidalgo being singled out for this unwarranted attention? Makes you wonder if she gave someone a grade they weren’t happy with when they were in college. Is that what this is all about? Because, as common sense will tell you, this is not what the public is paying the Office of the Ombudsman to do. ***

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