Abel from ‘Kuyaw,’ by Harry Dubouzet

Abel with kitten

An illustration of Abel, the main character from my short story ‘Kuyaw,’ by the artist Joseph Anthony Harold Dubouzet. This illustration will appear on my MA Thesis.

I am proud to know an artist as capable as Harry, who also happens to write (he was a fellow to the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop).

All rights to this image belong to Harry.



I’ve been a fan of Kabuki for six years now. As someone fascinated with Japanese culture, and someone whose artistic sensibilities are deeply linked with theatre, it was inevitable that I’d like Kabuki.

The first Kabuki video I watched was the dance ‘Orochi’ performed by Bando Tamasaburo V, written by a playwright I was familiar with, Chikamatsu Monzaemon. I was instantly enthralled.

Since then I’ve been watching every video of Kabuki I could find. By now my comprehension of Japanese is passable, so I could dive into videos without subtitles or commentary.

One of the first such raw videos I saw was the Kabukiza Sayonara Koen performance of the classic play Sukeroku. To my delight, it was the entire play, and it featured familiar actors: Tamasaburo as Agemaki, Ichikawa Danjuro XII as Sukeroku, and Onoe Kikugoro VII as Shimbei.

It was also the first time I encountered Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, and immediately I loved him.

Kanzaburo represented what kept Kabuki alive: its emphasis on giving the audience a good time. He never failed to incorporate humour into his performances, and he especially created the Heisei Nakamura-za, his troupe of actors with a mobile theater, to make the relationship between performance and audience more intimate. Here he is stealing a bag from an audience member.

Which is not to say Kanzaburo was just a jester: the Nakamura Kanzaburo line is also noted for pioneering the father-son version of Renjishi, a dance that takes considerable skill. Here is the young Kanzaburo (then known as Kankuro V) with his father Kanzaburo XVII.

Kanzaburo even choreographed the first three-people Renjishi, which he danced with his two sons, the future Nakamura Kankuro VI and Nakamura Shichinosuke II. I first saw a video of that dance five years ago, but I cannot find it anywhere online anymore. This picture will have to do.

Kanzaburo is at center. Nakamuraya!


Kanzaburo died in 2012, to the devastation of the Kabuki world. Here is a documentary in Japanese about the family and the industry he left behind. The grandson Naoya is, of course, also bound to be an actor.

Another favourite actor of mine is Ichikawa Ennosuke III. The pioneer of ‘Super Kabuki’ and driving force behind the revival of many dead plays, Ennosuke (now En’o II) is now a pillar in contemporary Kabuki. Here’s a documentary about him.

Seeing what he looks like now, after suffering from cerebral infarction in 2003, it’s devastating to see how he has aged. It’s difficult not to feel emotional when one watches the following documentary in Japanese about him:

It’s about his only child, the actor Teruyuki Kagawa, who only met him as an adult because his mother raised him away from Ennosuke after Ennosuke and his wife divorced. Making up for the lost time the adult Kagawa reached out to his now aging father.  At the very late age of 46 he made his debut on the Kabuki stage as Ichikawa Chusha IX. On stage with him was his son and Ennosuke’s grandson Masaaki, also taking the name Ichikawa Danko V. Because Ennosuke is too weak, the three generations cannot perform Renjishi anymore (although nothing’s stopping Chusha and Danko), but Ennosuke did perform with Chusha at the end of the documentary together, as Mashiba Hisayoshi (Toyotomi Hideyoshi really) and the thief Ishikawa Goemon respectively in the Nanzenji scene of Gosan no Kiri.

Part of the appeal of Kabuki for me is that continuity of the art from generation to generation. Seeing a very young actor learn from an aging father or grandfather, then seeing an adult son performing better than his father – it makes feel sad I do not have an artistic legacy to follow myself, but it also makes me admire those who have and who live up to the burden.

In some cases, three generations: Matsumoto Koshiro IX, his son Ichikawa Somegoro VII, and his grandson the 4 year old Matsumoto Kintaro IV. Koraiya!

But I like it mostly for the theatricality of it all: the emphasis on artifice (onnagata are amazing!), the bombastic mie poses, the perfect merging or rhythmic dancing and acting – it’s very telling of my tastes in art that I prefer Kabuki over Noh. It’s an art form that’s first and foremost about fun, intensity, and I think that’s what art should be about.

My favorite actors, along with Tamasaburo, Kanzaburo, and Ennosuke, are Kataoka Nizaemon XV – the perfect nimaime! – and Ichikawa Somegoro VII. My favourite onnagata is Nakamura Shichinosuke.

Here is Nizaemon performing the dance Omatsuri with his grandson Kataoka Sennosuke. Yes, he doesn’t look as old as he is. Matsushimaya!

Nakamura Shichinosuke II. Yes, a guy.

Somegoro also recently started hosting a series on NHK called Kabuki Kool. It’s also proven to be very enlightening.

My favourite play so far? The heart-rendering Terakoya from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami. Here’s a summary from the excellent Kabuki website, Kabuki21.

But I have not seen a kabuki performance live yet. It’s one of the few things on my bucket list.

Works Included in my MA Thesis

I had just selected the works to be included for my Master’s creative writing thesis today.

The thesis, entitled ‘Davao Filipino and its Literary Possibilities,’ will be a collection of short stories and plays in Davao Filipino, with a critical preface attached to it.

The works to be included are as follows.

Short stories

‘Touch Move’


‘Sa Pagkaubos ng mga Bukid’
Pag-Asa ng Drug Pusher sa Davao
‘R&B (Reality and Budots)’

‘Kuyaw’ is about Abel, who suffers from bullying and copes with it by finding sexual gratification in gruesome scenes. His ability to not only tolerate but actually derive pleasure from the sight of death gives him a sense of superiority over his oppressors, and he develops this fetish with increasing gruesomeness until he finds it spinning out of control. The story is told in the first person and is narrated by Abel.

‘Pagbalik’ is the oldest among this collection’s works, first written in 2010 with the current version written in 2011. It is about Kyle, who is on a van, on his way back to Davao, where he studies, from Kidapawan, where he lives. He is distracted all throughout by the fact that his two best friends, Eugene and Jenny, who were left behind in Kidapawan, had ended up as a couple, and he is even more troubled to know that the two are expecting a child. As he struggles with these revelations a mysterious child keeps smiling at him from in front of the van. The story is told in a stream of consciousness manner with Kyle’s thoughts represented as they come to him.

‘Cause-Play’ is about Mayumi Bondad, self proclaimed top cosplayer of Davao. Proud, greedy, and fiercely territorial, she recalls her struggles with a rival cosplayer, CJ Gumapac, which culminated in a heated encounter in Hong Kong when the two were there for a competition. Now she is on her way to joining, and she was confident of winning, another international cosplay event. She seems invincible until her actions come back to haunt her. The story was originally written in English and was translated to Davao Filipino. It is told in the very limited third person, focused entirely on Mayumi’s point of view and even using her diction. It is based on a true story.

‘Touch Move’ is about Lenny, autistic son of a political clan in Kidapawan, who finds himself helping his family by devising Machiavellian plots to ensure the family’s political ascendancy in the city. His remove from the tactics he plots out comes back to devastate him when he helps the family take care of one of his grandfather’s illegitimate children. The story is told in the first person, and is narrated by Lenny. It is based on a true story.

‘Pamulan’ is about Teo, a teenager living in baranggay Meohao, Kidapawan who suffers mysterious bodily pains that could only be eased by bathing his body in the moonlight. His older visiting cousin, Carina, uses her knowledge as an ethnographer to help Teo with this illness, to get to know him, and to get to know the pleasures of life she herself had never known. Based on an earlier story written when I was still in third year high school, ‘Pamulan’ is told in the third person, with an omniscient narrator.

‘Pangayaw’ is about William and Janice, a young couple who are studying in Davao. Janice, a Manobo scholar from Arakan, wishes to break up with William, the son of a wealthy political family in Kidapawan, and William does not know why. It is only after he leaves that Janice reveals to her friends how their past has rendered their love impossible. The one act play takes place in a McDonald’s branch in Davao and happens in real time.

‘Sa Pagkaubos ng mga Bukid’ is about Romnick, a young security guard at Ateneo de Davao who has recently been on good terms with an Atenista MassCom student, the pretty and wealthy Charlene. While his roommate along Davao’s Quezon Boulevard, the fish vendor Janbert, cajoles him to talk more about the budding romance, to both their surprise Charlene arrives for a surprise visit. In the ensuing encounter Romnick realizes the divided worlds in which people live. The one act play takes place in Romnick’s room and happens in real time.

‘Pag-asa ng Drug Pusher sa Davao’ is about Franz, a drug pusher bedridden in a hospital after being hit during a shootout with the police. His mother, a school principal who has not seen him for years, arrives to see him, and the two exchange awkward and cold greetings. The conversation leads to honest revelations, and mother and son admit their mistakes and reconcile. But Franz’s actions come back to haunt him and crush his fresh hopes. Written in 2011, this one act play is the oldest among the collection’s plays. It takes place in the ward of an hospital in Davao, and happens in real time. It is based on a true story.

‘Palitan’ is about an exchange of hostages between the last battalion of the New Peoples’ Army in Mindanao, who have kidnapped field botanist Sophia Zaide, and the provincial government of North Cotabato, who have caught NPA member Balong Palabra. Leading the exchange is the governor, Dieudonne Balajadia, who is taking part in the exchange in the face of criticism from the National government. The journalist Nikki Madriguera covers the exchange as it unfolds from the apparently simple exchange to what turns out to Balajadia’s Machiavellian plot against the NPA. This short radio play – my first in seven years – is set in the outskirts of Kidapawan’s baranggay Linangkob, and happens in real time.

‘Selim’ is about the eponymous character, a high school student leader in Kidapawan who is being interviewed by the journalist Lulu Bejar. Selim is establishing a Mindanao-wide organization of student leaders committed to bringing peace in the troubled island. In the course of the interview he talks about his girlfriend, Zoey, a Christian whose land owning family is involved in a land grabbing dispute. While the interview takes place Selim hears devastating news. The play is a dramatic monologue, set in the living room of Selim’s house.

‘Gigi’ is about Gilbert Sirolo, the young first councillor of Kidapawan and a full blooded Manobo. While Gilbert is busy with paperwork and with a conspiracy with his friend the vice mayor, his dark problem suddenly rears its ugly head again: he transforms into Gigi, a demented dancing drag queen who spurts out lewdness uncontrollably. The violent disorder his own mother is suffering, or even a possession, Gilbert does not know what is causing Gigi’s emergence, but his own lack of control over his feelings ultimately dooms him. The one act play is set in Gilbert’s pad, and happens in real time with many dance numbers.

‘R&B (Reality and Budots)’ is a short, experimental play, involving the popular musical form – and associated dance style – of Budots, performed not only with the usual mixture of extracts of sounds from pop culture, but also of sounds from gruesome, terrible, and religious sources. First written in English in 2011, it was translated to Davao Filipino and is the only play in the collection whose instructions are in that language.

Of the twelve works to be included, only two works have been published, although I intend to seek venues for the rest. But then again, publishing in the Philippines is struggling overall. We’ll see.

The selections were made in consultation with my thesis adviser, Silliman’s Prof. Philip Van Peel. It’s been fun seeing the good Belgian, who could only speak Cebuano, struggle with – and actually enjoy – reading Tagalog pieces!

Sir Philip’s personal favourite: ‘Cause Play.’ My own favourites: ‘Kuyaw,’ ‘Touch Move,’ and ‘Gigi.’

The works are all available for anybody who wishes to read them. Just send me a request.

Here’s to making Davao Filipino a literary language!

Old theses from the Silliman Graduate School

I’m currently writing my master’s thesis, and I’ve been looking at the Creative Writing masters thesis and doctorate dissertations in Silliman’s graduate school for reference. With Silliman’s illustrious literary history I have a veritable array of theses to choose from. here are some of them:

'Three One Act Plays: "The Dog Eaters of Artiaga Street;" "The Riddle of the Sphinx;" and "Ulahingan: Rudsu-an",' Leoncio Deriada's MA Thesis

‘Three One Act Plays: “The Dog Eaters of Artiaga Street;” “The Riddle of the Sphinx;” and “Ulahingan: Rudsu-an”,’ Leoncio Deriada’s MA Thesis

'Poetry: Language as Completion' by Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela

‘Poetry: Language as Completion’ by Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela

'"The Road to Mawab" and other Stories,'  Leoncio Deriada's PhD Dissertation

‘”The Road to Mawab” and other Stories,’ Leoncio Deriada’s PhD Dissertation

It’s still very frustrating however to find no clear template to pattern after. Silliman needs to come up with a specific format for any future Creative Writing thesis.


Ruyi Knot

The Chinese knot they always call ‘ruyi knot’ does not look like a ruyi at all.

This is supposed to be a ‘ruyi knot’

This is what a ruyi looks like.


Frustrated, I tried to come up with my own ‘ruyi knot.’ And this is what I came up with.

2014-11-15 22.14.33

2014-11-15 22.15.58

It’s a matted Prosperity knot, with a button knot tip,  a matted doubled coin knot at the other end, and the ends were made into a flat knot/ square knot chain until it reached the Prosperity knot again. The flat knot body was slightly bent to show the ruyi’s curves.

I’m pretty happy with the results.

The ruyi is one of those unusual cultural items that mean a lot but don’t actually have any exact purpose. They’re staffs of power in Chinese culture, but how exactly they came to symbolize power is unclear.

The decorative art form of knotting used to replicate a purely decorative object – this is the Chinese ivory tower!


Random Kidapawan Historiography

After a long time I found myself interacting online again with a friend from Kidapawan, Vincent Cuzon, who recently started a WordPress blog here. Exploring his blog led me to remember my efforts in the past at Kidapawan historiography.

One of these efforts was in collaboration with Vincent, a Facebook Page dedicated to pictures of the old Kidapawan. Since I left Facebook I understand that Vincent has been running it on his own. I hope that any Kidapawanon with old pictures reading this will contribute to that page.

I have since found myself being preoccupied with other concerns, but I never really lost interest in the historiography of my own hometown, and so I still find myself reading up on it whenever I could.

On this note I need to mention what is the first, and perhaps so far the only, comprehensive work on Kidapawan Historiography, the 2004 book ‘Lungsod na Pinagpala, Kidapawan: Kasaysayan, Pamahalaan, Paniniwala, at Tradisyon‘ by Amas teacher Ferdinand Bergonia.

The book's cover

The book’s cover

The book, written in Tagalog, is crudely written, with huge swathes of unnecessary detail on the history of topics only tangentially related to Kidapawan – made glaring by the very little it has to say about Kidapawan itself, it has problem with citing sources, it was written to be dated, and it has problems with objectivity (to the point that it becomes political – though the fact that the City Tourism Office published it may explain this). But because it is the first to discuss the city’s history, even the little it says about Kidapawan is very informative: the histories of the Baranggays (I have since exploited to death the origin story of Baranggay Mua-an); the list of Mayors; and the story of the transformation from municipality to city. For all its flaws there is little doubt that this is a very important book, and any subsequent attempt at writing Kidapawan’s history will invariably have to go back to Bergonia.

(I was also delighted to note that both sides of my family were mentioned! My paternal great grandfather, Crisostomo David, served as the second Baranggay captain of Nuangan – and first migrant to have held the position, while my mother’s family, the Galay, was cited as a pioneering migrant family in the city. I have Kidapawan in my bones!)

One other attempt at Kidapawan historiography I once encountered online – but which has since disappeared – is a collection of Baranggay histories in English by the local journalist Salmer Bernalte, and it was only after I read Bergonia that I realized Bernalte merely translated Bergonia’s work from the Tagalog.

At some point in the Facebook Page on old Kidapawan I engaged in an exchange with another son of the city, Roark Masbad, and again it was only upon reading Bergonia that some of the things kuya Wacky said made sense: yes, there was a Madriguera mayor, Alberto Madriguera, who served in the ’60s.

On that note then, and because no such list seems to exist anywhere online, let me provide here a List of Mayors of Kidapawan according to Bergonia:

Cabeza de Baranggay during the time Kidapawan was part of Pikit

  • Ugos Ingkal

Appointed head of the Civilian Emergency Administration during WWII
– Datu Siawan Ingkal (1941- ?, )
– Datu Umbac (?)
– Filomino Blanco ()
– Ceferino Villanueva (?)
– Jacinto Paclibar (?)
– Alfonso O. Angeles Sr. (? – 1947)

Elected Mayors

– Alfonso O. Angeles Sr. (1948 – 1955)
– Gil F. Gadi (1956 – 1957)
– Lorenzo Saniel (1958 – 1959)
– Alberto Madriguera (1960 – 1962)
– Emma B. Gadi (1963-1964)
– Alfonso O. Angeles Sr. (1964 – 1967)
– Emma B. Gadi (1968 – 1971)
– Augusto R. Gana (1972 – 1980)
– Cesar M. Sabulao (1976, Appointed in the Sectoral Administration, Professional Sector)
– Augusto R. Gana (1980-1985)
– Florante Respicio (1986-1987, Appointed OIC)
– Augusto R. Gana (1988-1992)
– Joseph A. Evangelista (1992-1994)
– Luis P. Malaluan (1994 – 2004)

Since the writing of Bergonia’s book (and as of this writing), the following have been mayor of Kidapawan:

– Rodolfo Y. Gantuangco (2004 – 2013)
– Joseph A. Evangelista (2013 – )

I have subsequently uncovered that the poet Rita Gadi was appointed as OIC mayor in 1969, and Domingo B. Landicho was appointed OIC mayor after Respicio in 1988.

Bergonia discusses neither the 1976 nor the 1986-1987 situations, although the fact that those were the key years of the Marcos-Aquino period would probably explain the turmoil.

Bergonia also does not discuss the interesting episodes in this list: why Emma Gadi replaces her husband Gil from the scene; why the tergiversation back and forth between Emma Gadi and Alfonso Angeles Sr in the 1960s; and of course the controversy (and subsequent melodrama) during Evangelista’s and Malaluan’s first terms.

I also found an article by Mindanao writer Carl Gaspar that briefly mentioned Augusto Gana, who dominated Kidapawan politics in the turbulent Marcos-Aquino period, as a landgrabber.

Oh the material for writing!

I have to mention of course that the copy of Bergonia’s book that I read is not mine. It belongs to poet Paul Randy Gumanao, who lent it to me some time ago.

One of the things that Vincent highlighted in his blog (and here my liver blossomed out of flattery) was that writeup I once wrote with Christian Cabagnot on the mansion of the late Sultan Omar Kiram. My knowledge of the lost Sultan’s dramatic story has since expanded with my time here in Dumaguete (Silliman’s Museum has an exhibit on his intimidatingly large collection of Maranao heirlooms).

Here are some pictures of the building that I found during the research (pardon the poor quality). The old pictures are courtesy of manong Marinius Austria (Faisal Kiram), the late Sultan’s son, while the newer ones are taken by Christian Cabagnot:

The porte-cochère of the Kiram Building, draped with the campaign streamers of Emmanuel Piñol, year unknown. Courtesy of Manong Marinius Austria

The porte-cochère of the Kiram Building, draped with the campaign streamers of Emmanuel Piñol, year unknown.

The mansion's North wing.

The mansion’s North wing. The building was designed with a fusion of Neoclassical and Maranao styles, incorporating both Greco-Roman pillars and the panolong and okir motifs typical of the Maranao Torogan

Sultan Omar Kiram himself, in front of his house. Year unknown.

Sultan Omar Kiram himself, in front of his house. Year unknown.

The building's front facade. It has very distinct salakot-shaped roofs. Picture courtesy of Christian Cabagnot, 2010

The building’s front facade. It has very distinct salakot-shaped roofs. Also observe the lovely mouldings with blue and yellow details. Picture courtesy of Christian Cabagnot, 2010

Now that I've been to Silliman University, I realized that the building was also heavily influenced by the work of Silliman builder Charles Glunz, particularly Guy Hall. This shot here shows it a lot: the bahay na bato structure, the ornamental mouldings and even the latticework ubiquitous around the Silliman campus. Kiram spent some years teaching in Silliman.

Now that I’ve been to Silliman University, I realized that the building was also heavily influenced by the work of Silliman builder Charles Glunz, particularly Guy Hall. This shot here shows it a lot: the bahay na bato structure, the ornamental mouldings and even the latticework ubiquitous around the Silliman campus. Kiram spent some years teaching in Dumaguete.

The building was partly demolished, and the damage can be seen here.

The building was partly demolished in late 2000s, and the damage can be seen here.

One of the Greco-roman pillars of the porte cochere adorned with the torogan panolong. Also courtesy of Christian

One of the Greco-roman pillars of the porte cochere adorned with the naga panolong after the building was destroyed. This is depressing.

But one thing has been consistent in my readings of Kidapawan historiography: the utter difficulty in finding materials. The fundamental characteristic of Kidapawanon identity, I speculate, is the drive to create identity rather than be defined by it. And so when there’s a piece of historiography produced, it always invariably becomes political capital, removed along with the party that produced, or commissioned it, once the party loses. The winners of Kidapawan discourse, it seems, are the neutrals.

Which is why I’ll be sending photocopies of whatever work I produce to all sides of the political spectrum!