Again, Flash Fiction from NORSU

(Like last sem, I made my Lit students in NORSU try writing flash fiction. Here are the better ones from this sem’s  crop of attempts.

They’re quite diverse this sem, ranging from the macabre ones from Arian Barrera, the fantastic and eerie ones from Break James Bation, Anna Janika Mangapit and Everon Catanus,  to the humorous ones from Al Remuel Tubongbanua and Roy Grapa. Some, like Archie Montecerin and April Joy Pedros,  are experimenting with silence.

Again works in Tagalog, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon are attached with liberal translations – it was particularly difficult to capture the suggestiveness of the Cebuano in Pedros’ latter story. “Agay-ay” refers to the dust left behind by insects, in the story’s case termites, and that it’s raining “agay-ay” means the ceiling is trembling.

This is on its way to becoming a tradition!)


‘Pagkamulat ng kanyang mga mata, unti-unting nawala ang kanyang alaala.’
[When she opened her eyes, her memories started fading away.]
– Roxanne Pintac


‘Ug nakit-an ko ang akong duguang lawas sa kalsada’
[Then I saw my body, all bloody, on the street]
– Everon Catanus


‘Found a picture of me sleeping.I live alone’
– Anna Janika Mangapit


‘Gangisi ug nagpanilap si Ador samtang gatutok sa dakong punuan sa mangga.’
[Ador was smirking, licking his lips, as he stared at the big mango tree]

‘Nadungan ko nga nihangyo si ate samtang gadulog sa iyang bana, “patya na lang ko..!”‘
[I heard ate pleading while in bed with her husband, ‘Oh just kill me..!’]
– Archie Montecerin


‘We broke up after I met her best friend’

‘She wrote a note before borrowing the knife.’
– Ronalyn Edeza


‘Pagbasa niya sa text gikan sa uyab, nihilak’
[When he read the text message from his uyab – tears]
– Al Remuel Tubongbanua


‘Bunso, sa pamamagitan ng aking mata, sana’y makita mo ang kulay ng mundo’
[Little one, may you be able to see the colours of the world through my eye]
– Break James Bation


‘Small, red box in hand, he kneeled down before her.’
– Rio Jasper Ruelo


‘Lumagpak ang silya, at humigpit ang tali sa leeg niya’
[The chair fell down, and the rope tightened around his neck]

‘Sa taas ng gusali, lasog-lasog ang isang babae’
[At the building’s rooftop was a woman dismembered]
– Arian James Barrera


‘I confronted my boyfriend and my boyfriend said “I love him!”‘
– Maricris Enaron


‘”Ate mahulam ko bi lipstick mo” hambal ni Toto’
[‘Ate, let me borrow your lipstick,’ said Toto.]
– Jessamae Letigio


‘”Tay bilis lalabas na!”
‘E anak naubusan tayo ng gasolina!”‘
[‘Dad, hurry it’s coming out!’
‘But dear we ran out of gas!’]
– Angelou Entor


‘Sinungkit ni lolo ang buko ko, lumabas ang ulo mo.’
[Lolo pulled out my coconut, and your head came out]
– Emejie Montiel


‘Tumawag siya’t sabi’y, “tapos na boss! Patay na siya.”‘
[He called and said ‘Boss, it’s done! He’s dead.’]

“Nanaog ko sa sala nga tungod sa kwarto nila nanay. “Wa na, gaulan na’g agay-ay.”‘
[I came down to the sala directly beneath mother’s room.  ‘Dust raining from the shaking ceiling… Here we go again.’]
– April Joy Pedros


“”Hindi! Hindi yan totoo! Hindi kita kapatid!” iyak niya.’
[‘No! That couldn’t be true! You’re not my brother!’ she cried]
– Crystal Jell Tejamo


‘Tanong ni Poldo, “babe, sinong mas sexy? Ako o ang ate?”‘
[Poldo asked, ‘babe, who’s sexier, me or ate?’]

‘”Nars bilis! Lalabas na!”
“Naku sir, nasa third floor pa po yung CR e!”‘
[‘Nurse hurry! It’s coming out!
‘Oh no sir! The comfort room’s in the third floor!’]
– Roy Grapa



(In the room the chorvas come and go)


Iring-iring like fog:
“I have heard the mermaids singing,
each itich”

Reviving my Annual Selections

Among my most read posts on this blog are my annual selections of literary works by writers both currently in and products of my alma mater, the Ateneo de Davao. Inspired by Jose Garcia Villa’s own selections, and motivated no doubt by my own vanity, I started featuring what I considered the best, and the worst, printed output by Atenistas two years ago.  I don’t get much traffic here, but when the selections come out my views spike significantly.

But as readers may have noticed I was only able to do half of the originally planned two installments last year. The reasons for this are varied. First, that was the time when I was beginning to cringe at my youthful vanity, and I inadvertently found the selections rather vain. And being the shrewd attention whore that I was I also knew that the then recent USEP brouhaha would draw attention away from what was a considerably worthy cause. I also felt the need to distance myself from Ateneo de Davao then, and I felt that continuing the selections would not let me go of the school I’m no longer attached to.

And so I decided to stop doing my selections, with the intent of never continuing it again.

But as can be observed, there’s a slight contradiction in those reasons: I knew it was a worthy cause to make the selections,  and those reasons are not enough. To add to this several students and alumni from AdDU have asked me to continue the selections again.

And so I have decided to resume the selections this year.

As in the past years there will be a selection of best and worst for poetry and fiction, with a look at form and substance, form, substance, and an emphasis on the year’s theme. Since I was not able to discuss fiction last year, the fiction selections will be from 2012 to 2014.

Since these are my selections, I have decided that my theme for 2014 is the same with my personal theme for my Ten Years of Writing Year, “Living for the Applause.” Much has been said about the latter part of Horace’s immortal maxim “dulce et utile,” but barely enough of the former. Dulce, the entertainment value of pieces, will be this year’s focus.

And added feature for this year will be that third entry which has never really materialized: one on essays and plays. I have been able to disregard this in previous years because few notable pieces of the two genres have been published, but in the past year works have been printed that deserve mention I will try to include in this article a comprehensive directory of the other AdDU people whose works have been published for the year.

In my selections I haven’t really discussed who qualifies as “student” or “alumnus,” and I feel I must determine that once and for all. There is what I call the Rivera-Amigo guidelines, guidelines used by Aida Rivera and Cesar Amigo in their selections of the first few issues of Silliman University’s Sands and Coral. They accepted submissions from students currently enrolled, current members of the faculty and staff, and alumni (graduate, undergraduate, out of school) who have not been attached to any other school since leaving Silliman. I will be less rigid: I will consider as “Atenista” any person who has been to Ateneo de Davao for his/her college degree for at least a year, regardless of any current attachments. Once an Atenista, I’ve come to learn, always an Atenista. I will also include current faculty and staff. As in the preceding years, I will no longer include Palanca awardees or other writer with national or international distinctions.

I will also be doing this year’s selections in partnership with someone, so that my selections can be more objective. Published writer and fresh graduate Alfredo Carlos Montecillo has agreed to work with me in the choices.

And to top it off, I have decided to do this for more than one school! Since I am currently attached to Negros Oriental State University, I will be making a similar evaluation of the annual output of the students in that school for the year. What about Silliman? There are enough good critics in the school by the sea already. Mike Gomez is enough for Silliman.

I intend to come up with, and release the selections for AdDU this summer, and NORSU later during the year. Don’t miss them!


(Appeared in the Dumaguete Metro Post 2nd February 2014)

This February I celebrate ten years of literary writing.

It isn’t exactly an anniversary in the strictest sense. If I was to really trace the beginnings of my literary growth, I’d be diving deep into the murky memories of my word-building days as a little boy in Kindergarten. But creative fancy for  me back then was  a simply past time, done out of boredom. I only got a taste of what it was like to labour over a literary work when I was in grade 6. That was ten years ago.

In our Filipino class in Notre Dame of Kidapawan under Mr. Jaime Padecio, I was made director for our group in the required original stage play. Our assigned script writer was Martin Evangelista.

The future SK Provincial Federation Chairman’s qualities were not able to help him in squeezing out a play. So he asked me for help, and before I knew it I found myself engrossed in weaving together the first complete literary piece I’ve ever written: a full length play about a vengeful young man out to kill his father’s illegitimate daughter, his half sister, over whom he becomes obsessed until he falls in incestuous love with her.

I’m not sure if it was written on a February, but it was most likely staged on that month, as it was a final requirement for that class. In any case when I decided to celebrate a decade of calling myself a writer, I chose February as it also happened to be National Arts Month.

The ten years that passed have been eventful, with pleasures and pains along the way. After that grade 6 play, I went on to write more class plays in English and Filipino. When these stage plays were competitive, I invariably won best script.

I also wrote feature articles for NDKC’s English school, Green Armour, and when in fourth year High School was made features editor.

On the side I scribbled down stories – my first complete attempts at fiction – on a notebook that classmates passed around. Among our high school batch, my at times erotic tragedies were something of sellouts.

But my writing was still intimately married to my being a man of the stage, and I continued to divide my creative energies between literary writing and acting.

It was such that I first made my name in the Ateneo de Davao as an actor. I played the villain in a stage adaptation of Don Pagusara’s epic poem Magindala, and I was told that my portrayal was, well, warmly received.

Nevertheless my literary debut in Davao proved far more pleasurable. A story of mine was published in the school’s literary folio, Banaag Diwa, when I was in first year college. The story as about a student molesting a badjao girl, and it understandably caused a stir in the Ateneo campus.

Later I’d get my first wider publication, when sir Dom Cimafranca decided to publish another story on Dagmay, literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild. The feeling of being published was far more thrilling, so when I was in second year college I decided to focus entirely on writing.

I’d get my first literary training in the form of the Ateneo campus writers workshop in 2010. The experience of being a fellow invariably made me more critical of what I write, but I came out of the few months of hesitation to write, this time with more discipline.

I would later on be fortunate enough to be fellow to the Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod in 2011, then later the Silliman Writers Workshop in 2012. The greatest blessing in the ten years, however, was my getting second place for Fiction in the Nick Joaquin Literary Award in 2013.

Readers will forgive the indecent bragging when I say that behind the decision to celebrate my ten years of writing is overwhelming gratitude. There’s still much to do and to achieve, and I have long term writing projects in store, but central to my celebration is thanking all the people who have been indispensable throughout the years.

My ever loyal readers, including my mother and grandmother,who have supported and continue to support me and my writing. Thank you for the love, and sorry for the typos and grammatical errors. Please blame the editor.

The teachers who discovered me: Ma’am Nilda Tan in High School, sir Dom Cimafranca in college. The early mentors in Davao who had seen me grow: sir Dom, sir Mac Tiu, sir Don Pagusara, the director sir Noy Narciso, my first workshop panelist Ms. Jhoanna Cruz, and literature teachers like ma’am Rhodora Ranalan. In Dumaguete, my unparalleled teachers in Creative Writing: sir Ian Casocot, sir Sawi Aquino, sir Philip Van Peel, ma’am Andre Soluta.

The various panelists in workshops who have, in their small and big ways, contributed with their suggestions: Mom Rowena Torrevillas, Dr. Genevieve Asenjo, ma’am Jhoanna Cruz, ma’am Susan Lara, among many others.

The unmistakable influence of writers whose works have made me see possibilities: John Iremil Teodoro, Macario Tiu, Leoncio Deriada, and most of all Bobby Villasis.

The editors and others who gave me opportunities I will never cease being grateful for: Ma’am Elsie Coscolluela for accepting me in Iyas; Dr. Evelyn Mascunana of Silliman for letting me get a Graduate Teaching Fellowship; ma’am Alma Anonas-Carpio of Philippines Graphic for accepting my submissions; ma’am Christine Ortega for the Taboan delegation and for the constant support; Dr. Don Real and Dr. Rose Pinili of NORSU for giving me the chance to fulfill my childhood dream of teaching literature; to ma’am Annabelle Adriano and ma’am Irma Pal for letting me write for the Dumaguete Metro Post; to Bobby Villasis, for so much more.

The people with whom I’ve worked with in creative pursuits: Martin Evangelista, who unsuspectingly started it all; my old friend Christian Cabagnot, and my even older friend Andrea Abellera, with whom I collaborated in writing some plays in High School; members of Ateneo de Davao’s literary club SALEM, who helped me with some drafts: Harry Dubouzet, Glyd Aranes, Karen Dicdican, Pido Montecillo, Alex Abando, Greysh Tubera; fellow Kidapawanon Paul Gumanao for serving as both benchmark and friendly rival; Iyas co-fellow Jayson Parba for giving me the chance to prove myself as a translator; Iyas-Silliman co-fellow Mich Tan who helped with some works and whose own growth influenced my own; Bamboo Ranada whose insights into theater remain invaluable; Dumaguete partners in crime Mike Gomez and Arkay Timonera for tertulias and yaga-yagas.

Bean Connection for providing a great place to write. Mental, Forever21, Lee, and Maldita for my wardrobe, Twinings, Sans Rival, Neva’s, AM-PM, Bread Camp, and Jules of My Lady Salon in Davao for my hair.