Workshop Session 4: Sarah Lumba
Moderated by Bomen Guillermo, the workshop session for Sarah Lumba revolved around the first chapter of her novel, “Twisted Sisters.” The novel explores the idea of truth and memory and attempts to draw a parallel between the personal and the national. It zooms in on middle-class characters who have a tendency to ignore the social realities happening on a national level and instead worry only about their family and friends.
Told in an effectively comic tone, the excerpt followed the story of Clara and Bebang, whose friendship is–or should be–thrown into disarray after a devastating tornado razed Marikina, when Clara found her boyfriend in a compromising position with Bebang, but decides to turn a blind eye and selectively forget the obvious truth.
This personal dilemma is juxtaposed with what many consider an act of historical forgetting on a national level: Marcos’ Burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani,
Her use of humor was commended by some of the Panelists. Luna Sicat-Cleto noted the lack of “funny but layered” works in Philippine literature. Tolentino forwarded the idea to stray from the plane of realist fiction and let the story dwell instead on the fantastic or marvelous. Gonzales brought up different anecdotes about Marikina that Lumba might be able to incorporate into the story considering its geographical and political setting. The scenarios were peppered with small but ridiculous details that could enrich the narrative. Following the same line of thought as Tolentino and Gonzales, J. Neil Garcia suggested for Lumba to look more into gay literature, and to fully embrace the aesthetics of camp as she goes about writing her novel.
Workshop Session 5: Denver Torres
Hailing from Cagayan de Oro, Denver Torres immortalizes his hometown through a collection of memoiristic poems. His workshop was moderated by Jimmy Abad and it began with a presentation of Torres’ Poetics.
He explained his theory about the Shape of Poetry, proposing that poems about the past, history, and memories should have a healthy amount of realm or time shuffling.
One of his poems, “Puppy Love,” talks about a special child named Dindin who falls in unrequited love. It was met with some criticism from the Panelists. Garcia noted it wasn’t his favorite of Torres’ works, but nevertheless admitted the poem had its own, simplistic charm thanks to the use of the name “Dindin.”
Ronnie Baticulon and Sanchez voiced out their reservations from the use of the word “abnormalities,” and other words to that effect, throughout the poem. They suggested for him to be more careful with his language.
Another of his poems, “The Immortal Crab,” was better received. The short prose-poetry entry was praised by Garcia, who brought up interesting points about the rest of the collection and the folksy beliefs shown in each. The fact that Torres did not shy away from the use of proper nouns and local sounds was highly praised by Garcia. “Fill your poems with local sounds and make the English language come to life as our own.”
Due to the collection’s memoiristic nature, Tolentino asked Torres: Why did he choose to memorialize these particular memories from his childhood? According to him, the poems should provide a sense of who the author is in relation to the specific memory and location in which they are situated.
Workshop Session 6: Juan Ekis
His strong background in Theology prompted X Vallez, also known as Juan Ekis, to write about themes of Catholicism. His collection “Sa Pagitan ng Banal at Karnal” consists of different poems that make use of erotic imagery.
His pieces, “Sakramento” and “Sakramento ng mga Patay,” were chosen for the workshop session, which was moderated by Vim Nadera. Both poems dealt heavily with suggestive imagery, grounded with themes of religion. Vallez’s mastery of the language, as well as with poetry, was praised by the Panelists.
However, some contentions were raised regarding the message the collection is trying to convey. Baticulon raised the question: How is each poem different from another? Since all deal with the same images of love-making and allusions to the Catholic faith, the messages seem to be overlapping.
Tolentino also brought up the limits brought about by the chosen theme. For him, there seems to be little to no room for those without a background of Catholicism to fully understand or appreciate the collection.
Sanchez remarked that perhaps the poems needed more transgression. Likewise, Joey Baquiran said, “Naghahanap ako ng complexity–yung metaphor versus yung mas malalim na pakahulugan sa paksa ng Catholicism.”
Another point of discussion was the use of religion versus sex as a moral issue. It’s an issue that has long ago been resolved, said Jun Cruz Reyes, and offered instead a new perspective for Vallez to tackle religion and spirituality: “Ano ang relihiyon sa panahon ng extremism? Sa panahon ng globalization, ano na ang muling pagkalaglag ng tao?”
Sicat-Cleto suggested, instead, for Vallez to shift the focus from religion to spirituality to give the readers more room to interpret his works. Abad urged Vallez to incorporate real experiences into his works. “Yung day-to-day experience. If may doctrine content or sacramental content where the experience will show.” .