Posts Tagged ‘joey baquiran’

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: son of a breach

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today18 August 2011, Thursday

Son of a Breach

Artist Mideo Cruz’s decision to affix a wooden phallus on the image of Jesus Christ as part of the deliberately provocative imagery in his “Politeismo” has led to an entire nation’s revisiting of its cultural notions of religion, art, politics, and the separation of church and state.

The discourse on the topic has become voluminous and will inspire many future theses and dissertations. Fresh insights into the issue may still be gleaned, especially when the artwork in question is compared cross-culturally to other art or media works.

Consider this: Mideo’s “Politeismo” may be seen as a “breaching experiment”. In that sense, it parallels the work of comedians John Safran and Sasha Baron-Cohen that deliberately seek to disturb, distress, and overthrow popular conceptions of what is normal and what is not.

In social psychology, a breaching experiment “seeks to examine people’s reactions to violations of commonly accepted social rules or norms.” It is often a class assignment in sociology and anthropology classes. A professor of mine at the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Mass Communication is wont to post Facebook statuses that provoke reactions, which he then studies. For instance, he once changed his relationship status to “single”. We all know that he has been happily married for several decades. His post unleashed a torrent of comments which he proceeded to dissect afterwards using the appropriate communication theories. I believe he had a good chuckle over that.

Safran questions the boundaries of religion and race. In a now-famous skit, he knocked on the doors of Mormon believers in Salt Lake City, introducing himself as an atheist “missionary”. An elderly man tells him crossly, “I’m a bishop in the LDS church.” Undaunted, Safran asks, “Have you considered atheism?” The look on the man’s face is priceless. Then there was the time he applied for membership in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, conveniently omitting to tell the KKK Grand Dragon that he was half-Jewish. The resulting exchange when he is found out is a valuable glimpse into the nature of discriminatory organizations.

Sasha Baron-Cohen, operating some years later in the same vein, took the shock attack to a different level with his heavily sexualized “Borat” and “Bruno” film characters. With “Bruno’s” naked penis given close-ups on wide-screen, the viewer is forced to face his/her own attitudes to the public depiction of sex in a non-pornographic context.

“Politeismo” breached prevailing cultural norms on what art is and how religion should be treated in art. It is a violation of norms that shakes up our definitions and expectations of behavior. Religious sentiment is so deeply embedded in Filipino culture that this particular artwork generated intense emotion not often manifested for other matters. This is the reason the controversy is still in the news. As far as “scandals” in this country go, it’s long-lived.

Would a continued breaching of these norms lead to a change in the way we define “normal”, “sacrilege”, and “art”?

Is this what our society is afraid of – the possibility, even the inevitability, of change?

Final takeaway? If you don’t like it, ignore. Says mandala artist Stephanie Smith, “It is always your choice how you spend your energy.”

* * * * *

University of the Philippines College of Arts & Letters professor Joey Baquiran is reminding the public of the UMPIL (Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas) activities later this month.

In addition to the reading on 25-26 August of papers by various scholars on Rizal’s works (mentioned in my July 14 column) at UP-CAL’s Claro M. Recto Hall, the UMPIL members’ convention on August 27 will feature the Panayam Adrian Cristobal (public intellectual lecture series), a booklaunch, literary forum, and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awarding rite which honors “Filipino writers who have produced outstanding works and have dedicated their lives and talents to the development, propagation, and promotion of Philippine literature.”

The first lecturer of the Adrian E. Cristobal Lecture series was poet Gemino Abad. The 2011 lecturer is National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario. His book Rizal: Makata (Anvil Publishing, 2011) will be launched after the lecture.

The Writers Forum topic is “Social Realism and the Writing of the Contemporary Filipino Novel” featuring fictionists Mario I. Miclat (author of The Secret of the Eighteen Mansions), Genevieve Asenjo (Lumbay ng Dila), and Edgar Samar (Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog).

The 2011 Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awardees are Herminio Beltran (Poetry in Filipino), Fanny A. Garcia (Fiction in Filipino), Elmer A. Ordoñez (Essay in English), Crisostomo Ilustre (Fiction in Iluko), Maria Luisa S. Defante-Gibraltar (Fiction in Hiligaynon), and Sze Manchi (Poetry in Chinese). Paz Verdades M. Santos will receive the Gawad Paz Marquez for Outstanding Educator in the field of literature and The Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg.

* * * * *

Perpi Tiongson wrote in response to my July 7 column on Mirana Medina’s Rizal films in Filipino Sign Language: “…FSL does not have its roots in American Sign Language or Signing Exact English, but dates all the way back to the 17th century…Archival documents dating to 1604 relate how Spanish Jesuit priest Raymundo del Prado used signs in the catechism and baptism of Deaf men in Dulac, Leyte. This is the earliest record of signs being used in the Philippines, although signs may have existed long before this.

“ASL came to the Philippines only in the first decade of the 1900s (more than 300 years later) during the American colonization, and heightened its influence on FSL in the 1960s with the coming of Peace Corps Volunteers…Thank you for the time and I hope you can extend courtesy to the Deaf community by correcting this misinformation.”  ***

“Politeismo” closeup from the artist’s public Facebook page. John Safran image here. Sasha Baron-Cohen, as himself (left) and as “Bruno” (right), here. Prof. Baquiran’s photo from his Facebook page. Dean Miclat here.

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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 and follow the live Tweets until Sunday at@upworkshop2011. ***

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