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!




I trust your hands to unravel the linings of my brain. Closer, your fingers
tiptoe along the narrow passageways where the walls hold the soft angles of
your face.

The moonlight beams through the nerves where I can only feel a solitary grin. A splintered hue vibrates in dislocated spots — I travel through the maze to pick up the particles you’ve left, like a trail, towards a half-opened gate.

A window filters the night air into tiny crystals, cold to the touch, warm to
the throat — I permit my mouth to swallow the edges of your wit, your grace,
your frown. And here I am happy to have lost my footing inside your mind.

• • •


To which I fold inside this invisible cage: the walls are thin but the whispers are thick. My throat is choked by elderly mandates as they throw old memories, obsolete rules which turn our “selves” so small. Convenience is a bribe; underneath such comfort is a pool of tension.

To which I am silenced by their selective memories. This is my tongue: tethered by arguments wrapped in victim’s clothing. I open my mouth, only to find my voice dismissed into anger & shame. I open my mouth, but why do you dice this reasoning? I have become mute.

To which I am dragged by matters of old principles perpetuated not just by permission but by pride. My legs — they have been chained by parables of forgotten antiquities. I owe this home something and nothing at the same time. The windows are half-open. My spirit is heavy. The air has gone stale.

To which I see myself as nothing but a puppet. The threads which pull my hands are held by wrinkled fingers. They weave a web of deceit under the guise of ‘guilt’ & ‘age’ and ‘bloodline.’ I am reduced into a projection of this family’s decay. I have become nothing but a meaningless surname.

The corridors are open; the doors are shut. The windows are broken; the walls are cracked.


Writing Exercise 2

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


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.



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.



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.


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.

Writing Exercise

From a prompt:

Write about what you do to feel clean.

While everyone was praying at the common hall, I sneaked my way out of the retreat venue and immersed myself in the maze of vines. The ground was still damp, and the plants were wet with dew. Every time a leaf touched my skin it felt like a sacred tap, like a silent palm touching my forehead, my shoulder, my back — nature gave away her blessing in humble droplets. Each one wiped away a stain, a sin, a memory, a worry.

At the end of the maze was a treehouse. I climbed up, avoiding the trail of red ants on the improvised stairs. I held the moldy branches for support. Though they were firm, my limbs were not. I prayed a little, just a little, for this silent god to guide me as I worked my way up.

There – breathing hard, sweating harder – I stood on the ledge. The lake was vast, but the blue beauty was wider.