WORKSHOP SUMMARY: DAY 5, APRIL 5

Bernardo “Buboy” O.  Aguay Jr.

The 5th day of the workshop began with the newly arrived panelists taking turns giving their expectations of the workshop. They are Jose Dalisay, Romulo Baquiran, Eugene Evasco, Luna Sicat Cleto, and Vim Nadera. Vim is Buboy’s moderator.

Vim had a PowerPoint presentation that outlined Buboy’s literary career, including praises of his work from other Bicol writers like Marne Kilates and Frank Peñones. Buboy then recounted his life since 2010 when he ran away from home. He said that, at that time, he didn’t know how to feel when he won a Palanca award for “Posporo” as he was feeling very down. He then proceeded to read the poems up for workshopping, namely: Almusal, Comfort Zone, Lucem et pacem, Bisperas, and Badyet.

Niles Breis started the discussion by saying that he felt that Buboy’s voice will resonate more if the panel gets to read Buboy’s poems in the original Bikolano instead of the Tagalog translations. Eugene Evasco asked what the contribution of Bikolano gay poetry to Philippine literature could be. He challenged Buboy to help the ICW develop regional Philippine literature. “’Yun ang hamon namin sa’yo: lagyan mo ng laman o kumbaga ‘spark’ ang mga karaniwan sa ‘yong tula.”

Jun Cruz Reyes asked of the collection, “Ano ang isang panitikan na sang-ayon sa isang sulok?” Luna Sicat Cleto went through each of the poems and said that she was delighted by the style and flow of the writing. “Nagawa mong itanghal ang isang sinehan na larger than life.”

Bien Lumbera said that the poems on those pieces of paper will be the bases for the understanding of the work, not the project that the panel wants to realize for the poet. Anna Sanchez said that she was still not sure if she liked the poems upon first reading, but he liked them more after she had read Buboy’s poetics. “Nandoon ‘yung rawness.”

Buboy said that in regard to Anna’s query as to whether or not to include his poetics in the introduction, he’s inclined to do it.  But he’s not sure about the drawings. Rom Peña said that if the structure of the poems were to be changed, will this change add depth or ruin to their beauty? Roland Tolentino said that when he read the poems, he did not find any unifying style or theme in them; this is his dilemma if the poems are not filtered in the final collection.

Neil Garcia congratulated Buboy, saying he was delighted when he read the poems, adding that the protest element—the objection and suffering—was what unified the collection. Vim jokingly ended the discussion by suggesting that the subtitle of the collection be “Kailan ba happy ang api?”

Januar E. Yap

Moderator Roland Tolentino started the discussion by saying that the project has a very strong and regional Cebu sentiment. Roland added that Januar presented the structure of writing as itself an idea of metaphor.

Januar then went through the various “archipelagos” of the Philippines in the discourse of his novel.  “Arkipelagorya” as a composite novel takes on the challenge of making the form itself a metaphor, the supposed hybridity as being appropriate for the theme of cohesive insularities of the Philippine archipelago, which will be used as the novel’s central organizing principle.

He detailed a chapter of his project where there’s the creation of a “leper list” that’s similar to the drug-watch list and red-tagging list being used by the current administration.  Ton Daposala said that when he read the original work, he couldn’t help but giggle, something that he didn’t feel in the translated version.

Gemino Abad admitted that he couldn’t really comment on Buboy’s work because he doesn’t have a good grasp of the original language of his work. He added that language is already a translation of our reality. “Language is the finest invention of the imagination; therefore, language and imagination are one.”

Anna Sanchez asked, “When you were thinking of this a composite novel, what other novels did you read? Or maybe you’re responding to one?” Januar said that his influences are “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson and Kerzy Kosinzky’s “Steps.”

VJ Campilan that she can relate to the work as she is very interested in islands in her own work. Secondly, she said she has an obsession with non-linear storytelling, with fragments. Charlson Ong said this might be the first Filipino federal Novel, or the first to discuss federalism as a novel.

Neil Garcia compared Januar’s project to Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Fool’s Paradise.” He added that maybe Januar can allocate chapters for regions 1-12 of the Philippines, including NCR. Niles Breis said that what he saw in the work as a composite work is that it has archipelagic souls.

Jose Dalisay said that if he had started his book Killing Time in a Warm Place by imagining the nation, he would not have finished it. “Hindi nauuna ang pag-theorize sa paggawa.” He added that in his case, the book was semi-autobiographical, starting with his experiences growing up in the Marcos era.

Dalisay added that he always encourages people to write novels since the novel is the only genre that publishers are actively seeking out. Sadly, the reality is that we don’t regularly produce novels. He concluded by saying that he is happy with Januar’s work since he always in the lookout for Philippine literature dealing with the ocean. “Where is our maritime literature?”

Roland Tolentino then said that the biggest challenge for Januar is to deal with the question, “So what?” “What is this saying about humanity bukod pa sa sinasabi sa nation?” he asked. “Medyo double writing ito, allegorical at personal, at mahirap ma-engage ang reader sa double-reading.”

Januar concluded the session by saying that his next work will be about seafaring.

Cherilyn T. Sarigumba

Luna Sicat-Cleto is the moderator for this session, and she began by saying, “Hindi lahat ng nakabukas ay dapat nakabukas, at di lahat ng nakasara ay dapat nakasara.”

Luna added that she felt this as a woman: a different concept of time, of twilight that’s evident in Che’s work. “Isang agaw-dilim na pakiramdam, a chiaroscuro effect.” She recommended Che to use paralepsis as a device, adding that she couldn’t help but relate Che’s stories to the binukot.

Che said that she hopes that the novel will show the effects of fake news.

Charlson asked whose story this is, given that its theme is fake news. The story has to be about a person or character.

Eugene Evasco said that he liked the project since he is an advocate of mental health, which the work tackles. He added that Che is too detailed in the writing, with some being just superfluous.

Newly arrived panelist Joi Barrios said that she found the gun-for-hire character interesting, adding that it’s fine for Che to write freely at first then edit after. She advised that Che doesn’t reveal that the plot is about fake news. “Hayaan mong silang (mga magbabasa) maka-discover n’un.”

Anna Sanchez said that while she was reading the work, she really liked it; it is similar to a story she herself is writing that’s about missing people. She added that she believes that the characters in Che’s work can be sympathetic.

Jun Cruz Reyes prescribed that for the work’s issues to be resolved, Che should first identify the dramatic present. Then he said that readers want lovable and relatable characters, so Che should aspire for those. He added that truth is stranger than fiction. “Hayaan mo silang madiscover na fake news ‘yan… Ang trabaho ng fiction ay gawin mong mukhang totoo.”

Neil Garcia suggested that Che watch the film On the Job, since the lead character there are prisoners. Noreen said she thought the work hinted at incest because of the prologue.

Butch Dalisay advised to not withhold secrets because it’s cheap. “Paano magiging sympathethic ang character kung gun-for-fire siya? Lagyan mo siya ng layer. May sarili silang problema o struggles.” He then told Che not to think like a writer, but as a character.

Roland Tolentino said that the challenge is how to make an unsympathetic character sympathetic. He added that it may be interesting to make it an action-packed novel, one that you follow because the chapters are not stand-alone ones.

Luna added that it’s important to have an interchange of ideas and comments. She emphasized what JCR mentioned: “Lovable characters are memorable characters.” The session ended with Che saying that she hopes she can apply the comments and suggestions in her revisions.

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