ALA lost its office.

I know it’s supposed to be a bummer, but a part of me sighed with deep relief upon reading the news. I don’t know — maybe because the room itself has become more of a crutch, or worse: a disabler.

When we were awarded an office back in 2012, we were happy over the fact that somehow we achieved to become legit. It was an accomplishment not only for the organization, but also for each member — what we all did have meaning; what we worked hard for provided a just reward. It was one of the high points of the organization, and I will always remember the day when the Office of Student Affairs released the announcement of assigning organizational rooms at Xavier Hall to deserving student groups.

But things changed. Sure, the office served its basic functions: as a meeting place for officers, as a venue for literary discussions, and as a library which holds a number of random books. However, it also had its fair share of misuse and awkward (to weird) moments. During the early days after acquiring the office, when no one was around, couples would use it as a place to show their physical intimacies. It became a sleeping venue for a lot of members, displacing those who would like to just go there to read books or write stuff. Sometimes the room got a little too noisy because the members were either watching a movie or listening to music. Stuff disappear (A LOT) or forgotten (most of the time). Some members felt more alienated whenever they were there. There was this one instance when a student failed a subject due to overcutting. The reason: the student opted to hang out in the office instead of attending class.

There were a lot of  instances when the ALA office had lost its meaning. And even though the room was given a lot of clean-up and repainting, it still felt old & faceless. Sometimes I would go there to speak with members, only to feel drained after stepping out of the door. And despite such cases, people were still protective over it. When another organization was assigned to share the room with ALA, some of the members took a passive-aggressive move to post reminders displaying dominance, and I thought to myself, “for what?”

The room was becoming a rotten womb. It became too much of a comfort zone and the kids inside found it difficult to get out. When there was an event (fund raising, papercup session, etc…), instead of choosing a different venue, officers would opt to use the room instead. I saw this as a sign of complacency, and deep inside I felt disappointed.

Yesterday, while I was mulling over our loss I asked myself if we really deserve it. When I visited the room I saw a member sleeping on the couch. I saw the dusty corners. I saw a lot of non-literary materials randomly placed on the shelf and tables. I saw sadness. I saw the could’ve beens and should’ve beens. I saw what I needed to see.

Yes. We deserve to lose the office.

I miss the days when ALA was still young, when the members had no place to stay. They were all hungry, and they worked hard to get the goal.

With the room gone, I saw it as a sign to reboot the organization,  to take away the useless burden placed on the back of each new batch.

Time to start things over.

The ALA office is no more. Long live the ALA office. 


First Semester Insight: Organization


Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.
— Michael Corleone, from The Godfather III

After a two-year respite, I’m back as the [co-]Moderator of the Ateneo Literary Association (ALA). I took some time thinking about it, reflecting on my missteps & misguided expectations, on remedies for possible improvements, and on gaps which have yet to be covered. I thought it was all over, but something pulled me right back in. Was it the camaraderie? Love for books and creative writing? The frontier of Bikol literature for the current generation (too ambitious!)? The promise of younger writers/critics (ditto!)? I really don’t know. It just felt right. Continue reading “First Semester Insight: Organization”

Of Coffee and Ink

Dear members of the Ateneo Literary Association (AdNU),

Your moderator is deeply overwhelmed by the awesome feats you displayed last night at the cafe. To see you recite and sing in public, sharing your gifts and finding that inner confidence, and to see fellows and friends provide support by being there despite the strong rain — simply unbelievable.

Congratulations, I am still at awe. I was blown away.


Look at how far you’ve reached — from the shy ones who tremble before the microphone, here you’ve grown, so much, that I cannot even begin to describe the hope you have fulfilled.

Thank you.

Of Organizations and Possibilities (so here we are)

Last week the Ateneo Literary Association (ALA) Core Committee had a meeting in the org’s office to review its Vision and Mission and to lay the essential groundwork for activities this coming school year. Wait, wait… ALA has an office now? Say what? Unbelievable. We’ve finally become a legitimate organization in the university. We finally have a home… for now.


I remember last year we would just meet at random restaurants to talk about the organization’s future. The plans we had were so ambitious. As the Moderator I felt slightly intimidated (but hopeful) by the projects that we proposed. Sure, we were the crazy ones betting high (but on some occasions we played a little safe).  We were all dreamers, small individuals who dreamed big, and we were never really sure of what will eventually happen. We just, well, did our stuff and hoped for the best.

And things fell into place. Members come and go. Some have actually stepped up and started composing poetry and prose. While some have met young and seasoned writers who would encourage the members to never give up, grow, and find their respective voices.


As a young organization we had our highs and lows, our arguments, our cancelled (if not postponed) projects and whatnot, but we also held on to that dream of re-introducing the power of literature and creative writing to the university. We pushed forward. We believed (and we still do).

After one year, after a number of papercup sessions, meetings, seminars, collaborations, and a little bit of organizational restructuring, we finally have a home, and we will do everything to keep it now that the competition among organizations has gotten riskier, more challenging.

We keep calm; we carry on.


I still hope that one day more students will realize that they can be beyond who they think they are — that they are not defined by their courses, that young accountants can also compose poems, young engineers can write good short stories, or young biologists can write amazing non-fiction.

I still hope that certain departments and co/extra-organizations will finally give their members the freedom to join other groups. I believe in options. Don’t take that away from them.

I still hope that the older, more established organizations will stop being complacent, stop being so defensive, and start accepting the fact that they’ve been lingering in their comfort zones for far too long. Wake up. Take a step back and see what you’ve been doing for the past few years. Be open. Listen, and listen well.

I still hope that more moderators will become more active this coming school year.

I still hope that more extra-curricular organizations will show up, especially arts/culture-based organizations. In fact, the university still needs:

  • A music org which can act as a home for young bands and music lovers,
  • A theater group which can showcase plays written by local and international playwrights,
  • A glee club, one which can focus on popular songs. They have every freedom to be silly, just because they’re fun to listen to, and
  • A film society which can train young filmmakers, scriptwriters, and critics.
There is so much potential, so much talent inherent among our students. It would be such a shame to witness it all fade away. Think of all the possibilities!

To the members of the Ateneo Literary Association, thanks for believing!