BLTX Naga: DIYos Mabalos!

It all started when our little group, Meet-Every-Other-Weekend (MEOW) Club, decided to participate in BLTX IX in Cubao last December. There we were able to meet and chat with Adam & Chingbee (members of the Youth and Beauty Brigade and founders of the event), and get to know what a small press/DIY expo feels like.

From what I can recall Adam opened the possibility of holding the next BLTX here in Naga City (previous ones — the regional visits — were held in Davao and Baguio). Of course, there was much hesitation since 1]  we really don’t a zine scene in Bikol (though there were groups who were into self-publication & komix), and 2] organizing stuff like this one is tricky, especially when the region’s climate is set to ‘rain [a lot]’ most of the time. But Adam recommended that the initial event doesn’t have to be something big. A small number of participants will do just fine. And so a few weeks later, after some careful consideration and  discernment, we decided to take up the challenge of organizing Better Living Through Xeroxography here in the city.

Initially we were thinking of holding it in December, but some time in April (or May) the YBB asked if holding it in June or July was possible. We then had a discussion in our group. After the meeting, well, sure… let’s do this.

Little by little we started inviting people/groups and most of them were up to it too. Some of the MEOW members tried to find the best possible place (in the end it was Anthosia), while some invited more participants. In June, all interested groups met at a restaurant to finalize the venue, agree on how much to contribute for the reservation, and prep for the event. After a week, an official teaser ad was released.

——

30 July 2016, Saturday, BLTX Naga happened.

And it was a blast! 

The venue was packed despite the presence of a tropical storm (signal no. 1 was declared that day and it was rainy as hell in the early afternoon). Those who visited BLTX Naga soaked themselves in this fun, creative, and sometimes crazy ambiance. The crowd flow was thick & slow as they took time browsing the items and chatting with the creators. Ahj and I were just too busy coordinating with our participants, from getting food to uploading the pics to get more people to come.

What I love about the event was that I witnessed the Bikol youth meeting/interacting with our writers & artists. Some considered it as a baptism of fire (for first time publishers); some considered it as a reunion. The participating groups were satisfied to have solid sales, while a number of zines/books/stuff were sold out. Most importantly, the audience — from friends to walk-ins — were exposed to local art and literature outside mainstream channels. I’m sure that some of the kids have slowly acquired this creative itch, and I hope that they’ll be able to scratch it by producing literature/art themselves.

People were already asking when the next zine expo will be. There’s a probability that it’ll happen this December. We’ll most probably join the simultaneous BLTX celebration with Cubao, Baguio, and Davao.

——-

Other thoughts/tips on the event:

  • We had an amusing online (and personal) discussion on the pricing of the zines. There’s no standard pricing actually, but you have to make an imaginary agreement with the potential buyer. Not too high, not too low — just enough to enable you produce another batch of materials (new and/or old).
  • Bringing personal table[s] is highly recommended.
  • Bring more change: a lotta coins and smaller bills if possible.
  • People usually cram, but we highly recommend that they upload excerpts of their works as soon as possible. Get the hype early.
  • Bring personal ventilation devices & refreshments (e.g. fans, water, etc…).
  • Order food and drinks earlier to avoid hunger and dehydration. A list would be great.
  • Prepare a preview/browsing copy. Know how to pitch your stuff.
  • Just an observation, but I think there’s a need to invite more schools as participants. We had a lot of Ateneans and CBSUAns in the venue, but we hope that we’ll be able to get people from USI, UNC, NCF, and other schools in Bikol next time. Establishing solid communication channels is the key.
  • Works may hit or miss depending on personal tastes, and the audience vary. Keep your cool when they put back the stuff instead of purchasing them (it happens a lot, and it’s totally normal).
  • If you’re curious about the works, feel free to ask the authors present.

——-

Anyhoo, we wish to thank Adam David and Chingbee Cruz of the Youth & Beauty Brigade for starting all of this (may you have more BLTXs around the country), the High Chair peeps (for giving us a fresher perspective in crafting & “workshopping” poetry & production), Team Paypay (comprised of Ada, Kim, Jaypee, Eeya, and a whola lotta DACA students), the arts & crafts duo of Bem & Veeyah, Jerome & the CBSUA kids, Maki & her husband of Kataga, Joana Verdeflor & her partner who fused together fashion and poetry,  Parasurat Bikolnon/Wiki Philippines & Team Kabulig coordinated by Irvin, Dennis Gonzaga (your tarot cards rock), MEOW peeps (you know who you are!), Ateneo Literary Association, Progressive Organization of English Majors, Monique & Tina & Van & the rest of DARS, the peeps of Anthosia who took the risk of holding our event & for understanding & managing the chaos, to Lain Hilario for helping us bring some extra tables to the venue (and for the pictures shown here [extra cred goes to Mai who also took some pics using Lain’s cam]), Ma’am Doods for all the amazing support to young writers, ADNU-Center for Culture & the Arts for the financial assistance, the ADNU Supreme Student Government for the signal boost, and all you lovely, beautiful people — may you be personal friends or friends in art & literature — who took the time & effort to visit us despite the rain. DIYOS MABALOS SAINDO GABOS!

I also wish to personally thank this lovely lady who, despite being sick, gave her best to assist everyone in the venue. I love you, Ahj!

cpormxvuaaadn6s

 

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Am

I am an irreconcilable belief system.

I am a star, falling in the mid-afternoon.

I am a broken whisper.

I am partially aware of your internal revolution.

I am the eye above your shoulder blade.

I am a system of inconsistencies.

I am a fish, swimming between your sighs.

I am a body of intimacies.

I am a conjunction: & you shall be disconnected.

I am here for your anxieties.

I am a figment of your intoxication.

I am the voice inside your nostalgia box.

I am a pre-recorded argument.

I am a sleep of depravity.

I am your situation on the horizon.

I am an exercise of denial.

I am the dog in the dark corner, waiting.

I am just teething on jagged gums.

I am the rust in your gift.

I am hidden outside privileges.

I am the unspent August — the calendar is late.

I am an a; I am the the.

Fresh Ink

So I attended two events which involved the participation of young writers — and by “young” I mean those who are just starting out. Last Thursday I attended the summer PaperCup Session (the first of a series?) held by the organization’s new core group, and just this weekend I was able to observe this year’s Saringsing Writers’ Workshop sponsored by the city government and the Parasurat Bikolnon. April is also the Philippines’s “National Literature Month.” So yeah, the timing is cool.

——-

IMG_0705
PaperCup Session

Until now I’m still mulling over the components of a young writer’s springboard. Generations change, dynamics change: we’re in a time when motivation needs reformulation. How do we convince a millenial to come out of her or his shell? When everyone feels so comfortable hiding inside the anon cave how do we gently pull them out of the shadows?

Since Ahj was a participant in the Saringsing Writers’ Workshop I was able to sit-in as an observer. I also invited some of the recent ALA core members but only two were able to show up. I read some of the works, listened to a plethora of arguments, and watched the reaction of the fellows amidst the exchange of comments from the panelists.

 

Just a reflection: though confidence is usually pushed to a young writer when it comes to igniting her or his career, I believe the person also needs the proper amount of humility. You see, we usually blame low self-esteem as the culprit to one’s non-movement. That’s [kinda] true. But for young writers, I do believe that some, if not most, are just way too proud to have their works be corrected or critiqued or outright rejected.

In the school where I work, what prevents students from getting their prose/poetry out there is the fear of criticism. When social media warps our values to cohere with PR principles, we start to have this inherent requirement of presenting ourselves as perfect, amiable individuals with spotless outputs (the selfie principle). In my class, correction marks, may they be inked red or blue or green, is already a cause for a shitload of distress, and so the students feel so anxious when invited to submit creative pieces. They avoid rejection, while some don’t want to look stupid. For them, the priority is to retain their surface status quo.

Unfortunately they never see the wisdom behind the comments and corrections. Much positivity have been given that anything which comes close to something negative is automatically shunned. Everyone seems to be a little too nice that even mediocre or subpar works are praised by instructors, and it’s totally killing the value of revision.

 

When I observed the fellows I was happy to realize that we still have young writers who showed humility to the craft, manifesting a deep amount of reverence to the altar of ink and paper. This is what the region needs. They are the future of creative writing & literature, of history & identity.

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Participants (back) and panelists (front) of Saringsing Writers’ Workshop 2016

On Watching Art & Reading Films

I hesitated to screen Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love for my CW class last week despite the fact that I had already shown the flick on two previous occasions. My anxiety was rooted from two new components: that I was about to show the movie in one go (since earlier viewings were usually cut in two sessions), and the screening was set at 3PM on Saturday in an air-conditioned room. I was afraid that it was going to be a snooze fest.

I was surprised, however, when my students discreetly reacted to some parts of the flick. On my previous screenings, most of my students had been quite silent during the whole viewing experience, and somehow I couldn’t “read” what they were thinking. This time I could hear whispers at the back — as some were trying to clarify with their seatmates the slightly confusing scenes — and some spots of giggles on lighter parts were heard (though Ahj caught some nervous chuckles during critical moments–she explained that it was a way for some to “cope” with stressful situations).

All-in-all my students were able to appreciate the flick (thank god) despite technical difficulties: the LCD’s colors were off and so I had to adjust the picture for the first five minutes, and my iPad crashed twice (perhaps it couldn’t handle the infidelity happening among characters).

——

After the “kilig” (approximately translated as “giddy” [in the romantic sense]) moment– what happens next? I think our mainstream flicks, both local and international, still can’t get around the question and are even too afraid to answer it.

The local romcoms have conditioned the youth to set twisted expectations on relationships. Adding to the problem is the blurring of the line between real and reel. Just recently a reel love team have shown their leveled-up status as real-life couples, and I find the public announcement suspect. They’ve just diminished the authenticity of their intimacy.

Beyond the “kilig” lies the true challenge[s]. That’s the part where the real story unravels.

——

I believe we could still educate our students in ‘reading’ films. In an age where the youth passively consume art, there’s the need to teach them several alternative ways of absorbing a flick. Empowering them with distinct, critical ‘lenses’ heightens their viewing experience — red will be more than just a color, and the empty hallway will become more than just a setting. We need to [re]introduce this unseen depth which anyone can reflect upon. We start to once again appreciate the [trans]formative power of movies.

——

Writing Exercise 2

The idea came from a prompt posted on our FB page.

I.

She grimaced upon seeing the finished clay figure of her younger brother. A mishmash of creatures (particularly an amalgam of crab, unicorn, and bird) stood on the little boy’s palm, proudly displaying the uneven wings, twisted pincers, and bent carapace. He smiled with an incomplete set of teeth, but he didn’t care — he was proud of his opus.

She looked at her chubby hands which cupped the clay face of her late mother. She gave a dreadful sigh and crushed the thing. She picked up another soft slab of Play-Doh and started molding a new face.

She felt warm air blowing on her left ear and noticed that her little brother was looking over her shoulder. His eyes were wide open, but his mouth opened wider. She thought she saw a droplet of saliva on the side of his lips.

“Go away,” she said. “Go back to your stupid crabbie shit.”
“But it’s finished,” he said.
“I don’t care. Leave me alone!”

He left.

 

II.

This was her fifth attempt. The face remained disfigured. Her mother’s eyes were still uneven. Her cheekbones were a total wreck. Her smile was not much of a smile — but something more like half-grin.

She looked at her younger brother’s crab-unicorn-bird thing. She picked it up and threw it at the wall. She expected it to shatter, but was only disappointed to hear a blunt thud.

 

III.

She continued to gnash her as she tried to reconstruct the memory of her mother’s face for the hundredth time. Her fingers had dug deep, and were now smudged with varying clay colors of yellow, blue, and green. With her nails she tried to sculpt the nose into perfection, but the triangle bent to the left. The bangs, which needed to be wavy and smooth, looked more like patches of inflammations stuck on her forehead. Even her mother’s mouth had twisted into a full frown, as if agreeing with the girl’s frustration.

She slammed the ugly slab on the plastic table.

“Hey.”

She looked back. Her little brother had returned. This time he was carrying a glass of pineapple juice and a plate of pancakes. Was he standing there for minutes?

“For you,” he said with a faint voice.

She looked at his fingernails. They were stained with clumps of pancake mix and juice powder.

5 of 60

Goals. They’re such a pain to catch. This year I promised to redeem myself by reaching my personal quota of reading 60 books. The mark was originally set last 2015 but I was able to reach only 41. (You can check my finished list over at Goodreads)

I realized that I was aggressive during the first quarter of 2015, only to start lagging when summer  arrived. I remember it being a stressful time because Ahj and I were trying to organize this writing seminar to be held at the end of April. But hey — excuses, excuses. Let’s do this.

So here I go again, with 60 books as the set goal. Right now I’m done with 5 (with 5 being the ideal number of books to read per month), and I’m trying to finish two more before the end of the month.

Anyways, here are the books from my finished stack:

  • Imagination’s Way (Gemino Abad)
  • Alipato (Benilda Santos)
  • Salamanca (Dean Alfar)
  • Nymph of MTV (Angelo Suarez)
  • The Professor’s Daughter (Joanne Sfar)

My pending list (or books I’ve yet to finish reading):

  • Drone (Allan Popa)
  • Si Crispin (Tony Perez)
  • Quiet (Susan Cain)
  • Literary Theory: An Introduction (Terry Eagleton)
  • How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (Edward Hirsch)
  • Ulysses (James Joyce) [SWEET GEEBUS I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO FINISH THIS]

I also made a resolution to read more stuff written by local authors. Just a while ago I energized myself by getting lost once again in the Filipiniana section of the library. It’s a restricted area, and only staff and faculty members could access the place (much to our convenience). There’s just so many good books on the shelves but unfortunately I think I’m the only one who bothers to go there. Such a shame actually.

MEOW at BLTX IX

So, Better Living Through Xeroxography IX happened two weeks ago…

Ahj and I are still dazed. It felt great to see people of varying creative styles and perspectives come together in one place. It was all too surreal to finally see in person the people behind the books in our collection of indie titles or online literary journals. All the stuff they get to share, all the concepts they get to pass around. Gah! The creative energy was contagious! The people at BLTX were so nice (salamat Adam and Chingbee!), and it felt like a reunion of sorts as I got to see familiar faces (Charles! Joseph! Nante!).

What makes BLTX critically important is that it amplifies the voice of indie/new writers.  The event itself inspired us to create more, to ‘make good art’ further.

The event was also an invitation for courage: it was MEOW’s first time to join. We had no idea if our participation would be successful or not, but we still decided to come because 1) we wanted to become a part of this really, really fun event; 2) we were just a bunch unknowns and we had nothing to lose anyway; and 3) we wanted to get our stuff out there and see what would happen (we had a lot unpublished workshopped materials and it was, I think, the only sane direction to take).

People, from friends to strangers, took a chance buying our prose and poetry. I’ve no idea if they liked our works or not, but the experience left us all thankful. Thank you for buying our zines, and we hope that you enjoy them.

——

There were also a lot of things we’ve learned in terms of sale and production:

  • Experiment further with the physical form. There was someone who crafted the book upon purchase (it was hypnotic to watch actually). Vinz had this long accordion-type publication (which was sold out in a blink, huhuhu). High Chair also sold limited copies of signed ‘frame-able’ poems.
  • Improve presentation. My goodness — I saw some high-caliber covers! They’re so beautiful! On MEOW’s table, Leir’s work was a hit because the people responded to the fun title.
  • Provide a guide and/or simple spiel. One thing Ahj and I forgot: making a chart of prices to make it easier for passing people to see. A simple spiel from consignees could also have been helpful, especially when others asked what the zines were about.
  • Invest on tools for production. I’ve just realized that the long stapler and cutters we used were all borrowed. I guess it’s time to invest on these materials for future productions. Will also look for good cutters, as mine are already rusty and unreliable. A good long steel ruler would also be nice. I also prefer using the small cutter instead of the board cutter.
  • Prepare ready/spare change. Break big bills into smaller bills & coins for convenience.

 

——

One last thing:

BLTX naga
Poster by Adam David

 

Yeah. It’s happening. The build-up may be a little daunting, but hey: let’s all spread the creative love.

Reading Local Literature; Reading Naga City

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August is considered as “Buwan ng Wika” ([National] Language Month) here in the Philippines. Recently, Edgar Samar, the writer of Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon and Eight Muses of the Fall,  has sparked an important and fun campaign called “Buwan ng mga Akdang Pinoy” #buwanngmgaakdangpinoy (Filipino Writers Month).

Somehow this has prompted me to re-evaluate my Filipiniana collection, to see how many local books I’ve read for the past few months — and hot damn I need to catch up. So I decided to only read books by Filipino authors, particularly Bikolanos, this August. I think this is also the right time for me to refresh my perspective towards my hometown, Naga City.

I’m done reading Vignettes of Bicol History by Fr Franisco Mallari, SJ and Cavalry Road by Abdon Balde, Jr. This week I plan to read all three books about Naga City, namely Naga: the Birth and Rebirth of a City by Danilo Madrid Gerona, The Naga We Know edited by Paz Verdades Santos & Kristian Cordero, and Kinunot, Kinalas, Kinamot by Luis General, Jose Perez & Tito Valiente.

For next week I plan to read Bikol poetry, particularly by Rudy Alano, Jaime Borlagdan, and Frank Peñones, Jr.

How about you? What books written by local authors are you reading right now?