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!



Reading Local Literature; Reading Naga City


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?

We are Made of

On his deathbed, a man of the vineyards spoke into Marcela’s ear. Before dying, he revealed his secret:

“The grape,” he whispered, “is made of wine.”

Marcela Perez-Silva told me this, and I thought: If the grape is made of wine, then perhaps we are the words that tell who we are.

Eduardo Galeano, from The Book of Embraces

Bibliophanage: August 2012

August has been generous in providing me with books on poetry. As my fingers dug their way through the stack I was surprised to find these:


Here we have Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy edited by Joanne Gabbin, War Surgery by Karen Mulhallen, Repair by C,K. Williams, and The Door by Margaret Atwood (which was taken out of the shelf by KC).


I just wanna share an excerpt from C.K. Williams’s poem, The Poet:

I always knew him as “Bobby the Poet,” though whether he was ever one or not,
someone who lives in words, making a world from their music, might be a question.


And a little bit  from Margaret Atwood. Here’s an excerpt from It’s Autumn:

It’s autumn. The nuts patter down.
Beechnuts, acorns, black walnuts —
tree orphans thrown to the ground
in their hard garments.

Simply beautiful.

Prompt and Preview

Something I cooked up a while ago. Bored, perhaps. I don’t know how to tread further but somehow I’ve realized that Barthelme’s spirit lingers between the syllables.

The text is in Bikol though:

Kan nahalon kan agom ko an butil nin hinandyong na pinapabakal kan sarong
aking call center agent diyan sa may Kalauag, sa likod kan sari-sari store ni Ella, biglang nagdiklom an kalangitan asin nahiwa an daga. Duman nagluwas si Handyong, nagpupusngak na garo nakainom. May dara-darang siyang sibat na kasinlaba kan halas na ginadan ni Mang Boonie kanso sarong aldaw.

I hope that the paragraph above will lead me somewhere. I just hope.

On Miracles

My own belief is that the universe exists as a miracle and that we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?

We are that audience.

We are here to see and touch, describe and move. Our job, then, is to occupy ourselves with paying back the gift. This must be at the center of the stories, novels, and films that we fantasy writers create tomorrow.

Ray Bradbury (†), Predicting the Past, Remembering the Future

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!

New Project Blog: Kanto ni Bantong

Before I return to my usual habit of writing irrelevant ramblings I am happy to introduce my new project blog, Kanto ni Bantong (Bantong’s Corner). The mentioned site aims to become an avenue for Bikol critics/reviewers. I hope that I’ll be able to make the blog grow and become “legit” by next year.


  • To have regular contributors from various locations in Bikol,
  • To have guest contributors from various locations in the Philippines,
  • To become a reference site for budding writers and researchers, and
  • To eventually start a group of young critics.
Honestly I don’t have that much “street cred” in the local literary scene. In fact, I don’t have my MA yet or anything which would make me “legitimate.” I don’t think anyone would even take me seriously, but what I’m trying to do is continue the legacy of our local literary historians, critics, and analysts. I may not have read the essential books on literary criticism yet (I’m still trying to find the book by Derrida) but I’m doing my best in catching up.


There are actually two amazing individuals who have inspired me to create Kanto ni Bantong. First is Dr Paz Verdadez Santos (everyone knows her as “Ma’am Doods”). She’s a teacher, editor, critic, and researcher, specializing in Bikolano/Bikolnon literature. I met Ma’am Doods just last year (she’s my teacher in two MA subjects which I took this second semester), and I would usually experience this “unlearning and relearning” regarding teaching, writing, and loving one’s regional culture and identity in her class and lectures. I was able to appreciate Bikol more because of her. Thanks, Ma’am Doods!

The other person is Alexis Tioseco(†) who was an amazing young film critic focusing on and promoting works made by local indie filmmakers. When Alexis talked, everyone listened. He would always have this ultimate conviction and wisdom hidden within his sentences. I met him when I was still a college student and he was just filled with astounding energy and good vibes. This one’s for you, sir!


Here we go!