Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free Press celebrates 101st anniversary

From Greg Brillantes and the editors of Free Press comes this announcement --

A Hundred and One

The FREE PRESS celebrates its 101st anniversary in this issue. We also take this occasion to pay tribute to the late President Corazon Aquino. Cory!—the private woman who was thrust out of her domesticity to the arena of politics, the prison cells of the Marcos regime, the parliament of the streets, the leadership of the Philippines and the world stage. Manuel L. Quezon III’s “Filipino of the Century” is an inspired retelling of this now-legendary story—one that resonates even amid the flamboyance and machismo prevailing in our culture, as the late FREE PRESS editor Teodoro M. Locsin pointed out in his eloquent editorial on Mrs. Aquino. The highlight of Mrs. Aquino’s international acclaim is, of course, her triumphant 1986 address to the US Congress, which we reprint here.

A tribute to Mrs. Aquino also serves as a tribute to her martyred husband, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., whose association with the FREE PRESS is underscored by Locsin being thrown in jail together with Aquino(and nine other critics of the Marcos regime)in 1972. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.’s interviews with Aquino are fascinating chamber pieces that hint at Marcos’s impending dictatorship. Another cellmate of Aquino and Locsin Sr. is the brilliant political analyst Napoleon G. Rama, whose article on martial law has unfortunately become more relevant in our time.

With the articles by Rama and Locsin Jr., we also reprint the classic political
cartoons of former FREE PRESS art director E. Z. Izon.

Former FREE PRESS executive editor Gregorio C. Brillantes wields his lyrical journalism as he takes a retrospective look at Rolando Galman, the much-overlooked casualty in Aquino’s assassination in 1983. We also look back to the body of work of the FREE PRESS and some of the writers who helped shape it. “The Ruling Money,” by the late associate editor Nick Joaquin (writing as Quijano de Manila), is an exhaustive business story as only he could write it—and a departure from his reporting on politics, history and pop culture. Kerima Polotan’s “The Woman of Fashion” is a quiet critique on the thriving bourgeois scene of the Sixties and its devotees at the time. Then there’s the other side of that milieu, lauded by Jose F. Lacaba’s now immortal “Notes on Bakya,” an inventive variation on Susan Sontag that counsels against elitism in art and culture. Finally, here too is Aquino’s soul-searching poetry, written during his eight years in prison. The themes are familiar to victims of political persecution like Lacaba, Locsin, Rama and this magazine, which was padlocked on the eve of martial law and revived in time for Cory’s historic presidential campaign.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Filipinos in Man Asian 2009 long list

Congratulations to all who made the Man Asian Literary prize 2009 long list, which this year contains five Filipinos -- Eric Gamalinda, R . Zamora Linmark, Mario I. Miclat, Clarissa Militante and Edgar Calabia Samar!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Greg Brillantes moments

In conjunction with a special award to be given to Filipino writer par excellence Gregorio Brillantes, Philippine Graphic put together an article briefly describing his contributions and career. I helped round up some input from colleagues, senior or otherwise, asking them (via Facebook): "Is there something special you remember about Greg, working with him or socializing, or just being touched by something he wrote?"
Here are the responses:


In my research on our short story in English - I have covered so far the period 1956 to 1989, and read (honesly) over a thousand stories - I can say without reservation that Greg dominates that period in terms of the artistic quality and depth of his work; he should long ago have been declared a National Artist.

-- Gemino H Abad, poet, critic, fiction writer and professor of literature (UP-Diliman).


Recently I reread The Distance to Andromeda and Millennium. I became nostalgic about the future. Then I read one by one Greg's collected essays, especially those about his travels. No one comes close when it comes to the lost art of intelligent journalism and reportage that does not read like disposable literature. Greg Brillantes is one of our diamonds buried under the dross of the sound bite, the lunch time show, and the prevailing culture of inanity on television and the vapid press.

My real Greg Brillantes moment? At one Palanca Awards night where after the ceremonies we usually sung to Greg's piano accompaniment (sometimes made virtuosic because of his vanishing hearing), I had one too many and fell asleep in one of the plush ... Read Morelounge chairs of the Peninsula lobby. I think I came to at about 3 a.m. or later, and guess whom you'd find seated beside me? Greg, of course, and I was so embarrassed but he just smiled that avuncular smile of his and said, I didn't want to leave until you woke up.

-- Marne Kilates, poet, translator and critic


Unlike the Tiempos (Edilberto and Edith) and Franz (Arcellana), who all mentored me in the classroom and workshops, Greg has been my unofficial, indirect mentor for the longest time. He taught me the art of fiction through his books. He showed me how to make characters jump off the page, how to make them memorable like13-year-old Ben, how to make even inanimate objects (like empty houses) stick in your mind with the precise metaphor.

And his nonfiction! I wish more of our nonfiction writers would read him and learn that nonfiction doesn't mean self-indulgence.

And as a friend? Super! He lends me his favorite books--and then forgets about them! No, he just allows me as much time to linger over his books, and I do. They are precious. And Greg Brillantes is precious. I agree with Jimmy--he should have been National Artist a long time ago

Oh, my Greg Brillantes moment? Dancing the boogie with him at one Free Press Literary Awards night!

-- Susan Lara, writer, teacher and critic


I remember the first time i met him, i cried. not because i was in awe or something but because he sent back proofs of his manuscript with lots of exclamation points--which to my (editorial) greenhorn mind translated to utter disappointment and anger at such amateurish book-production work. i wasn't worthy... (sniff). but ... Read Morewhen we got to talk more (even if it was kind of hard with his hearing aid), we got along quite well.

we exchange old books up to this day. he'll also drop by the office with little pasalubong from his trips. he's one of my favorite literary "lolos" :-)

-- Ani Habulan, book editor and developer, Anvil Publishing


i'm still astonished that greg's stories have never been picked up in the radar of the (now) numerous critics of nonwestern anglophone literature. he is doubtless a master of the short fiction form in our part of the postcolonial world, a profound and consummate artist whose command of the imperial medium (of english) is beyond reproach, and whose ... Read Moreworld view is implacably--and necessarily--rooted in a difficult and intensely argued kind of faith... interesting, but it turned out we'd already enjoyed a "nodding acquaintance" even before we were formally introduced sometime in the early 1990s: he was (is) this tall, distinguished- and pious-looking man who, like me, always stood at the back of the lourdes church in retiro, q.c., during the 10 to 11 am sunday mass.

-- J. Neil Garcia, UP – Diliman, poet, essayist, professor, critic


Greg is our family's book bugaw (pimp)with catholic tastes. It's such a trip to find bags with a little bit of everything from Armistead Maupin to Dr. Oliver Sacks to Edith Wharton to Jon Stewart, delivered to our doorstep throughout the year. With such great stocking stuffers, it's like having Christmas even in summer. Often the fly page will have a personalized dedication in Greg's angular penmanship. He addresses my mother as Dona Carolina, an elaborate courtesy that only he can pull off without affectation. Often aside from the literary goodies, there are worldlier treats like hazelnut pralines or a delicate fruit tea. We are truly blessed to have him for our friend.

-- Menchu Aquino Sarmiento, author


I want to contribute my "favorite Greg moment" anyway to this gathering of friends. I had just returned from our life overseas, and to writing fiction, which was actually tales. I sent one to Greg with much trepidation. He accepted it for publication, but asked me, "don't you want to return to ... Read Morerealist fiction"? I never did figure out whether it meant that he didn't like tales, or whether he was accepting my story even if he didn't really like it.

-- Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, author, professor, critic


I was stunned to get a phone call, that first time, from THE Greg Brillantes,

Who? greg brillantes?
yes, this is greg brillantes.
greg brillantes, the greg brillantes?...... Read More

what year did you graduate from the ateneo?
1982, sir. AB Psych. what about you sir, what year were you?
Oh, just a few years after Rizal.

-- Migs Villanueva, author, artist


Marne, I was at that Palanca Awards night you were talking about. I recall that you, Charlson and Mike Bigornia were all singing. And Greg Brilliantes was at the piano. I didn't stay around till morning like you did, though :-)

-- Ramil Digal Gulle, poet, journalist

Sunday, May 31, 2009

dahlia propagation

This is one of the north windows, and these are dahlia bulbs in moist growing medium. I took the sprouts and potted them up, placing a glass jar over them to prevent their drying out. Within three weeks they had rooted. I then took the rhizomes and planted them in the garden, and within another three weeks of planting they had sprouted. Now one of the sprouts from the rhizomes is three inches tall, and about four inches in diameter.

I still have to plant the dahlias in the pots -- haven't prepared the flower bed yet.

These are small, single-petal dahlias -- they'll grow up to 40 cm tall. But you can use the same technique to increase your stock of the larger hybrids.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

spring gardening

This blog started as a gardening diary, so now, in late spring, it returns briefly to its, uh... roots.

Things I learned as a spring gardener this year:

1. Seeds stored in October 2006 will germinate. Big time. I collected them from hybrid petunias (Petunia x hybrida), zinnias, french marigolds (Tagetes patula), china asters (Callistephus chinensis) and a lot of other stuff. Without much hope (and, foolishly, without a germination trial using a sample in damp tissue paper) I sowed THICKLY over a soil-less growing medium in an old strawberry box. The tagetes came up pretty decently. The petunias germinated scandalously, and in 10 days the makeshift seed flat looked like it was harboring CRESS.

The seeds, incidentally, were stored in an unheated garage, in an airtight can, in separate envelopes labelled with variety and date, and with two little packets of silica gel from a shoebox. I don't know where to get silica gel in Denmark, so I just use these little packets that manufacturers drop into shoe boxes (leather and synthetic) to keep moisture at bay.

Seedlings collected from white petunias with a sprawling growth habit.

2. When a packet modestly refers to 70% germination, it means, like, 200% germination under optimum conditions. At least that's what happened with my Hammenhoeg dwarf-dahlia mix. Now I Live With Dahlias, the way other people Live With ADHD.

(Note: 200% germination is not hyperbole. Most seedpacks will have 50% to 200% more the number of seeds than it says on the fine print, as most gardeners prefer to direct-sow, leading to much loss of seed to drought or birds.)

Dahlia seedlings -- more came up eventually.

3. Used disposable coffee cups make an excellent substitute for two or three inch seedlings pots. The canteen at the Danish language school where I go three times a week serves coffee in wonderfully flexible plastic cups. They contain about 350 ml and this is the perfect volume for a three-week seedling. I ask my classmates for them at the end of each coffee session. Sometimes I fish them out of the recycle bin and rinse them out in the lavatories.

4. Yes, you CAN raise snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), petunias (Petunia x hybrida), dahlias and larkspur (Consolida sp. and Delphinium sp.) from seed.

5. It's better to buy one pot in a color you like of easily-rooting plants like verbena and impatiens. Take two inch cuttings and root them. For verbena, in sand or compost. I'm still not sure whether rooting in compost or water is better for impatiens.

6. My impatiens, by the way, have NEVER rooted from leaf nodes. The roots, whether in water or in soil, appear to come from various unpredictable points in the stem. This contrary to advice you read from more experienced gardeners, posted on the web. I wonder why. Can anyone comment on this?

7. A small packet of pallid Viola cornuta seeds I collected in November 2006 has, apparently, remained viable. After a three week wait, I see one seedling, and two more appear about to sprout.

8. Copenhagen is in Zone 7B! That is to say, we don't ski from one farmhouse to the next six months a year, and polar bears don't walk the streets. Right now, in fact, all over Denmark, the clothes are coming off piece by piece, though a friend tells me nude beaches are OUT -- holdovers from the 60s or something like that.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Mendoza wins!

Cool! Filipino Brillante Mendoza has won the Best Director prize at Cannes for his controversial film "Kinatay." Now I've really got to see it, in all its dark, distasteful, disquieting glory. I believe the movie remains banned in the Philippines, but it's sure to play in a Copenhagen theater soon -- if not on regular TV. Something to calendar.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lars Von Trier/ AntiChrist


Speaking of Cannes, today's Politiken has at least three full pages devoted to the controversy surrounding Lars Von Trier's "AntiChrist". The film, apparently, has been bought for distribution in various countries -- where for the most part it is expected to play minus Willem Dafoe's full frontal nudity and a gory scene of a woman cutting off her own clitoris.

In the same issue is an article on the special effects, and an image of five prosthetic vulvas used in the scene, each with a tube for pumping the fake blood out of. Plus the note that an adult film actress stood in for Charlotte Ginsbourg during filming.

For the back pages features (art, film, culture) in Politiken alone, I would gladly learn more Danish! The school has promoted me to the fourth level (Modul) though the semester has six weeks more to go.


Opening Facebook, I discovered to my consternation that an old friend, lawyer, writer and writing workshop organizer Ernest Superal Yee had just died.

To find out more about the circumstances of his sudden death (heart attack) and the summer writers' workshop at Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines (first fortnight of May) at which he had been a panellist, I went to the blog of Ian, a writer-teacher at Silliman University.

It had a brief entry on Kinatay (Cannes, 2008), a Filipino film that appears to have been universally panned by critics. That led me to a brilliant post on Rogert Ebert's blog detailing why he thought Kinatay was so awful.

And that same post in turn led me to the mesmerizing trailer for Lee Daniels' 2009movie "Precious" that now I am dying to see.

not again

It's incredible how these sex video scandals never seem to run out of steam. Just shows you how repressed Filipinos are. Until our mindset becomes more sophisticated (is the word "decent" more precise?) the sex video will remain the most potent weapon for destroying a person's peace of mind and career.

Private, non-commercial sex videos are personal. Don't watch them. Don't speculate on them. Don't forward them. Don't advertise them, in a word.

They are none of your business.

Have sex instead.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Words of wisdom

My friend Judy Jover (Danish, a first generation immigrant from the Philippines) forwarded this to me. It's typical ironic FIlipino humor, stemming from the humiliating experiences of childhoods under tough, caustic parents in a tough and caustic culture. It makes me cringe, it's so real. The language is Tagalog. The author is unknown.

It's impervious to Google Translate, unfortunately, so read it with a Filipino friend by your side, someone who knows idiomatic Tagalog or has seen a lot of Filipino movies.

If you're European with a Filipina au pair, now might be the time to learn a bit more about her culture, beyond the population, religion and vacation spots in her country.

Mga Ginintuang Butil

Hinding-hindi ko makakalimutan ang mga mumunti ngunit ginintuang butil na payo na nakuha ko sa aking mga magulang.

1. Si Inay, tinuruan niya ako HOW TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE :
“Kung kayong dalawa ay magpapatayan, doon kayo sa labas! Mga leche kayo, kalilinis ko lang ng bahay.”

2. Natuto ako ng RELIGION kay Itay:
“Kapag yang mantsa di natanggal sa carpet, magdasal ka na!”

3.Kay Inay ako natuto ng LOGIC :
“Kaya ganyan, dahil sinabi ko.”

4. At kay Inay pa rin ako natuto ng MORE LOGIC:
“Pag ikaw nalaglag diyan sa bubong, ako lang mag-isa ang manonood ng sine.”

5. Si Inay din ang nagturo sa akin kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng IRONY:
“Sige ngumalngal ka pa at bibigyan talaga kita ng iiyakan mo!”

6. Si Inay ang nagpaliwanag sa akin kung ano ang CONTORTIONISM:
“Tingnan mo nga yang dumi sa likod ng leeg mo, tingnan mo!!!”

7. Si Itay ang nagpaliwanag sa a! kin kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng STAMINA:
“Wag kang tatayo diyan hangga’t di mo nauubos lahat ng pagkain mo!”

8. At si Inay ang nagturo sa amin kung ano ang WEATHER:
“Lintek talaga kayo, ano ba itong kuwarto nyong magkapatid, parang dinaanan ng bagyo!”

9. Ganito ang paliwanag sa akin n! i Inay tungkol sa CIRCLE OF LIFE:
“Malandi kang bata ka, iniluwal kita sa mundong ito, maari rin kitang alisin sa mundong ito.”

10. Kay Itay ako natuto kung ano ang BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:
“! Tumigil ka nga diyan! Huwag kang umarte na parang Nanay mo!”

11. Si Inay naman ang nagturo kung anong ibig sabihin ng GENETICS:
“Nagmana ka nga talaga sa ama mong walanghiya!”

12. Si Inay naman ang nagpaliwanag sa amin kung anong ibig sabihin ng ENVY :
“Maraming mga batang ulila sa magulang. Di ba kayo nagpapasalamat at mayroon kayong magulang na tulad namin?”

13. Si Itay naman ang nagturo sa akin ng ANTICIPATION :
“Sige kang bata ka, hintayin mong makarating tayo sa bahay!”

14. At si Itay pa rin ang nagturo kay Kuya kung anong ibig sabihin ng RECEIVING:
“Uupakan kita pagdating natin sa bahay!”

15. At si Itay pa rin ang nagturo kay Kuya kung anong ibig sabihin ng DETERMINATION:
“Hanapin mo yung pinahahanap ko sa ! iyo, pag di mo nahanap, makikita mo!”

16. Si Inay naman ang nagturo sa akin kung ano ang HUMOR:
“Kapag naputol yang mga paa mo ng pinaglalaruan mong lawnmower, wag na wag kang tatakbo sa akin at lulumpuhin kita!”

17. At ang pinakamahalaga sa lahat, natutunan ko kina Inay at Itay kung ano ang JUSTICE :
“Balang araw magkakaroon ka rin ng anak…tiyak magiging katulad mo at magiging sakit din sa ulo!”

Monday, May 04, 2009

My dad the sportscaster

Letter from my father, T. Valentino Sitoy Jr., retired history professor, on the May 3 Pacquiao-Hatton fight in Las Vegas. Oh yes, the Sitoys are big Pacquiao fans too.

"... The four of us watched the fight. Earlier on Fia (7) was asleep but she woke up just in time for the second round. Bea (10) was there all along. The whole morning from 7:00 a.m., your Mama was already on the TV looking for the right channel, and was very much pissed off when she would find no coverage of the fight. It was to be on GMA, not the usual ABS-CBN. Fortunately, your Mama at 10:30 a.m. found it just as it was starting with the undercard fights. From then on, we had GMA-7 channel on till the fight..

"The undercard fights were good. But your Mama and Bea were waiting for Manny. Both got bored with the three-hour long undercard bouts. Then, there were two brown-outs. The last one came just three or four minutes before the Pacman-Hitman fight was to come on.

"This was probably Manny’s most awaited fight. There were 50 Philippine congressmen who braved the swine flu just to be there. There were Filipino screen stars too like Richard and Lucy Gomez. Among the US personalities, there was Jack Nicholson, Mariah Carey, Mark Wahlberg, and many actors and famous people. You can be sure the classmates Bill Clinton and GMA were glued to their respective TVs.

"In the Philippines , everyone was on TV. Pay per view restaurants were full everywhere, even in Dumaguete. A free entrance gym in Quezon City accommodating 500 had 1,000 people in it, with thousands more outside. The latter were finally asked to go home and watch the fight there. In Manila , there was “zero traffic” – it looked like Sunday dawn. Four-lane EDSA had three lanes completely empty; the side lane having only three or four vehicles. The army also went to rest – no fights with Abu Sayyaf, who were I presume watching TV too. The police had a holiday. Through the day yesterday, no crime was committed in all Metro Manila. I guess the pickpockets were busy using their eyes rather than their hands. The three typhoons in early May (climate change, indeed) were also on hold. There was one (Crising) in the South China Sea yesterday, and another today, while another on the Pacific coast of Luzon (Dante) is still hovering east of Bicol.

"When Martin Nievera, the first time a man sang the Philippine anthem in any of Manny’s bouts, sang Lupang Hinirang, he sang the first bar slowly … paused, and then sang the rest in brisk tempo (the regulated 60 seconds flat), until the last bar when, like U.S. singers, he held his last bar and sang it crooner style. Then a very brief announcement was flashed. Martin Nievera’s rendition of the anthem had been approved by the National Historical Institute.

"In the first round, Ricky Hatton came on strong. Very aggressive. Pushed Manny back and into the ropes, at one time. Hatton also had the habit of holding Manny with his left, and then pounding Manny’s ribs with his strong right. Very bad. In the last third of the first round, Ricky Hatton did that again, which made Manny mad. You know it, because Manny for a moment stretched out his arms, and then brought his gloves together in a loud thump. In the last 30 seconds, Manny caught Hatton with a right, and very unexpectedly Hatton dropped, who was nakaluhod on his right. Pandemonium everywhere, including the Sitoy gym, when Bea and Lola raised their arms with a shout. Fia at this time was still asleep. In replays in various TV channels showing the audience – Manila , Cebu, Davao , General Santos, everywhere – Manny’s fans went wild with dancing and shouting.

"Hatton got up immediately. Then about 20 seconds later, with about six seconds to spare, Manny again hit with another right, pushing Hatton against the ropes and then on his back. He was given a count of six. Then in the last second after the bell rang, as Manny was already beginning to turn away, Hatton swung, still part of the round, but Manny safely backed away.

"Pictures of people watching after that first round show everyone all stirred up. Then the second round (Fia now awake). It was again Manny’s round, but Hatton had this dangerous tendency of being able to come back strong. The announcer said it, but it was obvious to those watching, that Ricky Hatton did not bring in any new strategy. He still comes barreling in, as in his previous fights. They had a fierce exchange. Hatton got the worse of it, though he also could hit Manny now and then. You just hope that Manny does not get careless. In the last 10 seconds of the second round, it was Ricky who got careless. He was watching Manny’s right (the one that floored him twice before), and for a split second opened the right side of his body. That was when Manny in a flash came with a strong left hook – Manny is left-handed – and hit Hatton squarely on the right jaw. Ka-blag! The British Hitman was on his back, out cold! It took minutes to revive him.

"The Filipinos everywhere did their crazy dance. I think it is the Pacquiao knock-out dance craze... Cebu TV has a new term – si Hatton gipalukapa ni Manny. The Cebuanos are also saying, just at this very minute, that Muhammad Ali has been called the “greatest fighter ever.” Now, they are asking, is Manny now not the “greatest fighter ever” with six belts to his credit.

"Now, everywhere in Philippine TV, the mesmerizing last 10 seconds of the 2nd round, as well as the two first-round knockdowns, are played and replayed. There is some pity for the Hitman. The one people are angry with is Floyd Mayweather, Sr., Hatton’s trainer, who had been such a foul-mouth, attacking Manny, calling him a easy push-over, and calling Freddie Roach, Manny’s trainer, a cockroach – this on TV. After the fight, Mayweather was nowhere to be seen. He later said that Hatton lost because he did not follow his advice. I had wanted to see his face after the fight, because it always feels good to see boastful people eat their own words.

"Now, the new challenger is Floyd Maywearther Junior, who had retired but is now coming back into the ring.

"As to Manny, he is the Philippines ’ number one hero, the only one who could suspend war fighting and prevent crimes and traffic jams. In Sulu, for the first time, the governor set up a free TV screen, for all people to see. In the war zone, also the commanding Army colonel put up a pay-per-view TV screen for the soldiers and local people. One MNLF unit also came in, and watched the bout along with the armymen.

"As to the world, everybody knows that the top dog in boxing is Manny Pacman Pacquiao. Yes, you can wear your Manny T-shirt proudly."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Go, Manny, go!

"Brilliant Pacquiao cements legacy with win
By Martin Rogers"

Monday, April 27, 2009

photo: Dala horses

Dala horse workshop and boutique, town of Mora, Dalarna, Sweden, July 7, 2008.

I love these painted, folk-art horses. My husband's house has a windowsill of them, all different sizes -- I didn't realize they're considered by some to be a symbol of Sweden until years later. I just thought they were really pretty. Once, at a secondhand shop in the Philippines, I found a dala horse with the authentication sticker still on the bottom. I don't think the attendant knew what it was (we also carve and paint wooden horses in Luzon) so she let me have it for sixty pesos (a little more than a dollar). It was brand new, some American's souvenir from Sweden that he/she didn't want. My niece Sofia loved it, so much so that when she learned I would be going to Sweden, I was given the task of buying more dala horses. Gaaa. Needless to say, I have never shown her my Mora workshop pictures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

photo: at Snowdonia, Wales

At Snowdonia National Park in Wales, a place of imposing natural beauty (and also one of the filming locations for a James Bond film), April 26, 2004.

Happy birthday, Mom Edith

National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo turned 90 on April 22. Congratulations, Mom Edith. We thank you for the inspiration. May this year be a good one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

She would have been 43

My sister, Leilani Sitoy Nodado: April 19, 1966 - November 18, 2007

This is the public photo still posted on her Friendster account. I keep my own Friendster account active, though I never use it, just to maintain that digital link.



In our rented home on the Silliman University campus
in Dumaguete City, against the infamous musical instrument
that has surfaced so much in my writing.
She was a much better pianist than me.
I still play from time to time, though. 1976.

Richmond, Virginia, March 1979

College Honors
at Silliman University (Luce Auditorium), 1984

Lani gets the Most Outstanding Student award, Silliman University, 1986

Solidbank's 30th anniversary,
Makati, Metro Manila,
July 19, 1993

Friday, April 17, 2009

Congratulations, Vagn

Klods Hans-prisen 2008 til ildsjæl der brænder for de varme lande

Det bliver forlægger og bibliotekar Vagn Plenge, som 16. april modtager ”Klods Hansprisen 2008” for sit store og idealistiske arbejde med Forlaget Hjulet gennem mere end 30 år og for arbejdet som formand for styregruppen, der stod for IBBY Congress 2008 i København i september. Prisen uddeles meget passende på dronningens fødselsdag. H.M. Margrethe II var protektor for IBBY-kongressen.
”Klods Hans-prisen” har været uddelt af Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, IBBY Danmark, siden 1984.
Den består af en originalillustration af en scene fra H.C. Andersens eventyr Klods Hans - i år lavet af illustrator Antonieta Medeiros.
IBBY står for 'International Board on Books for Young People'. Vagn Plenge har været medlem af organisationens danske bestyrelse fra 1999-2005. Fra 2002-2006 var han medlem af IBBY´s Executive Committee.
Prisoverrækkelsen foregår 16. april kl. 16.00 i Rundetårn i København. Her holdes pristalen af Jan Tøth, fmd.f. Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, mens skuespiller Peter Mygind læser Klods Hans.
De varme lande Vagn Plenges interesse for 'de varme lande' startede tidligt, og efter studentereksamen sejlede han på det fjerne Østen som restaurationsdreng på et fragtskib. Da han i 1969 var færdiguddannet som bibliotekar, fik han ansættelse hos Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, tog et par senere år bifagseksamen i Thai, og blev i 1992 cand.phil. Omdrejningspunktet for ildsjælen Vagn Plenge er Forlaget Hjulet, som
han stiftede i 1976. Forlaget har igennem tiderne udgivet o. 300 bøger og har siden 1980 haft et søsterforlag i Sverige. Forlagets fokus er selvfølgelig 'de varme lande'. Vagn Plenge har også skrevet bogen 25 års varme bøger, dedikeret hans afdøde kone Ruth Plenge. I efteråret 2008 blev han gift med forfatteren Lakambini Sitoy – kaldet Bing – fra Philippinerne.
Vagn Plenge har oversat romaner, noveller og digte fra bl.a. Sydøstasien og Afrika. Han har præsenteret forfattere og litteratur fra Sydøstasien, redigeret bibliografier og kataloger over litteratur om/fra Afrika, Asien og Latinamerika, og under navnet 'Andre Kulturers Selskab' har han stået for internationale arrangementer om børnelitteratur i den 3. verden

Den varme litteraturpris
I 1992 etablerede Vagn Plenge ALOA, der skal fremme interessen for og udgivelsen af litteratur fra de varme lande, og året efter indstiftedes ALOA-prisen – Den varme litteraturpris – som gives til forfattere fra lande i 3. verden. Selv blev Vagn Plenge i 1994 tildelt Nairobi-prisen af Nairobi-klubben (journalister med 3. verden som arbejdsfelt) og modtog i 1996 Døssing-prisen af Bibliotekarforbundet.

Yderligere info: Jan Tøth, fmd.f. Selskabet for Børnelitteratur, tlf. 3956 2214

Vagn Plenge and Jan Tøth

Vagn and artist Antonieta Medeiros

Actor Peter Mygend reads HC Andersen's fairytale Klods Hans

Hurrah for Susan Boyle

Who gave me goose pimples last Tuesday, as the first clips of her performance on Britain's Got Talent 2009 were uploaded on the net. Three cheers for the lady. I hope this is the start of a rewarding career. (Now I can't quit humming stuff from Les Miserables).

My friend, Cebu-based lawyer May Saga-Aguilar, posted a note about Susan on her Facebook account. I'm uploading it with permission here --

Susan Boyle and the Cynical World

Susan Boyle is probably the most inspirational event I have come upon in recent times. It is true: it is a big "wake-up call". Very often, more often than we care to admit, we judge people by their outward appearance. I wonder how many TRUE TALENTS we have killed by our cynicism and prejudgments, how many potential successes we have nipped because we refused to give them the opportunity, all because they "did not look right".

(I am reminded of the Olympics in China. One girl sang the song, the other lip-synched it on stage. Reason: despite her wonderful voice, the unseen girl was not pretty enough to be seen.)

In her interview prior to her performance, Susan Boyle was asked by a judge: "What's the dream?". Susan replied that she was trying to be a professional singer. I could see the face of one woman in the audience register a look of contempt and ridicule.

The judge continued to ask her: "Why hasn't it worked out so far?"

She replied: "Well, I haven't been given the chance before, but here's hoping that would change."

What is ironic is that Ms. Boyle had, in fact, recorded a song "Cry Me a River" in 1999. Why has Ms. Boyle not been discovered despite this fact? Was it because when the producers saw her, they thought she was too homely and too fat to appear on TV, that her album will never sell because she did not look right?

Ms. Boyle's performance on "Britain's Got Talent" has indeed changed things. Now, she has everybody's attention, and everybody is eager to give her the chance - a chance she fought to have, and has sadly been denied, for the last 35 years since she started singing at age 12.

I wonder how many Susan Boyles we have around us, and I am not talking only of singers or performers. I am talking even of athletes and leaders and other people with talents to share. How many have been denied the opportunity because they did not look right, did not dress right, or did not sound right? Do we need a show like "Britain's Got Talent" to reveal them?

I call this my "Susan Boyle Experience". I will keep this as a reminder that this is a cynical world, and that there are people around me who are better than they look. I can help change the world by being less cynical and less judgmental of people.

Yes, this is a cynical world. But "here's hoping that will change".

Photo of Susan Boyle from the Mirror website.


Tillykke to Vagn Plenge, recipient of Klods Hans Pris 2008.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On literature and housekeeping

My husband plans to invite a Booker prize short-listed author to dinner this weekend, so I took a bamboo stake and passed it over the angles between wall and ceiling all around the house, to get rid of cobwebs. I knew he wouldn't notice the good work when he came in for lunch, so I told him. In some ways there is no difference between a good housekeeper and a good editor. One never notices the ways in which they excel.

photo: gladiators at Piazza Navona

The nice thing about having a high-resolution fit-in-your-palm digital camera is that you can unobtrusively participate in someone else's holiday. Here, two enterprising local boys flank a North American tourist at Piazza Navona, Rome, April 2, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

photo: Italy hearts il bassotto

Doggie bag in shop window of Chopin apparel-accessories boutique near the Metro Termini station, Rome, April 3, 2009.

The color is a very popular one this season - to think I just tossed out a pair of probably-fixable Spanish espadrilles from 2005, when lavender was something you wouldn't be caught dead in.

Friday, April 10, 2009

photo: sidewalk artist at Piazza Navona, Rome

When I was ten, I promised myself I would do this when I grew up.

Photo taken April 3, 2009.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In Rome

About the only way I can manage to write text for this blog is to post excerpts of something being written for a different purpose, in this case a letter to friends --

"Thursday, April 2, we headed for the Vatican museum first thing. We had heard we would have to queue up to enter, and were relieved to discover this was not the case. This early in the season there were many foreign tourists, a good many of them students on school trips, and many Americans besides. So it became a game to keep ahead, or behind, these large groups of people, though sometimes it was fun to eavesdrop on a tour guide speaking English. Raphael's Stanzes and of course the Sistine Chapel were the high point of the tour and it was a fantastic experience to see these images that hitherto I had seen only in art books, most of them smoky and grimy. The frescoes, brilliantly colored after the restoration work of the last 20 years, were simply amazing. There were many other wonderful aspects of the museum, including the antiquities and the very building itself.

"We wanted to visit St. Peter's basilica, but were surprised at the length of the queue in the square outside, which was not moving. It was only the following day that we remembered that April 2 was the fifth death anniversary of John Paul II. So the people in the square must have been waiting for the end of memorial rites of some kind within the basilica. We mustered the energy to visit the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti (the Spanish Steps) instead, where a bride and groom suddenly appeared and kissed several times as the crowd gathered at the staircase cheered. People took photos and video, and we're sure those kisses have turned up on a few travel blogs this week! Then we walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was so crowded with people we literally queued up to get a slot to have our picture taken and throw a coin with right hand, over left shoulder, to make sure we would return to Rome. Then to the Pantheon, peering into the windows of some legendary boutiques along the way. The place was crowded, too, mostly with students (American by the sound of them).

"The following day, Friday, we headed to St. Peter's basilica, and this time managed to get in after just half an hour. (It's much more popular than the Vatican museum -- perhaps the 12 euro entrance fees at the latter act as a deterrent). Again, at least for me, there was that feeling of unreality, of being in someplace you had always heard about but did not expect to visit. Our visit was pleasantly lengthened by the appearance of an ambassador and his entourage on their way to visit the Pope. There was much pomp and circumstance. First the basilica marshalls held back the crowd, then came Swiss Guards, some religious persons in robes and the ambassador and his wife and three young women in black (complete with veils) who must have been daughters. The whole entourage appeared to have come from some Latin American country. They seemed incredibly wealthy and chic. They paused at the altar containing the Pieta, and then again at the altar before the great apse, where the ambassador and his wife knelt and the daughter snapped photos. The crowd snapped photos of them too -- we felt like papparazi! Totally unexpected, theatrical things seem to happen on an everyday level in Italy.

I love the juxtaposition of black veil and killer stilletos on one of the young women, standing beyond the religious personage in purple robes.

"From the basilica, we walked what seemed a great distance (given that we were on our last legs after two weeks of sightseeing) to the Forum and, beyond it, the Colosseum, passing by the infamous monument to Vittorio Emanuele. We knew we were approaching the Colosseum -- something quintessentially Roman -- because we began to see more and more people costumed as gladiators, happy to pose with tourists for some euros. The Colosseum, with its crowds, has certainly changed from the day when Henry James used it as a setting for a scandalous tryst in his novella "Daisy Miller". Then, it was silent, moonlit and mysterious, not to mention malarial. There, I found a bevy of noisy Italian high school students, among others, and witnessed a group of the faithful going through one of the stations of the cross, in preparation for Easter. Again, another reminder of the legacy of ceremony and ritual in this part of the world."


We are following the coverage of the earthquake in central Italy with concern and sympathy for its victims.

Monday, April 06, 2009

photo: Suchart and Sridawryang

At the home of acclaimed writers Suchart Sawasdri and Sridawryang in Bangkok, September 2006. Suchart, Bing, Sridawrang, Vagn.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

photo: Kawai, Hawaii, April 2007

Celebrate Reading literary festival, Hawaii, April 26-28, 2007, organized by Lorna Hershinow. Participating writers following a presentation (readings and discussion) at the high school in Kauai island). Back row, from left: Celestine Vaite, Graham Salisbury,Chip Hughes, Adam __ who was the emcee; and, front row, from left, ___ Lakambini Sitoy, Lynne Cox, Cris Crutcher and Ian McMillan.

Would appreciate if readers could help me fill in those blanks.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

the library as playroom

Manuel L. Quezon III has written a brilliant essay on his book-filled childhood, without cynicism and full of faith:

This excerpt, on the drudgery of formal education, makes me smile: "What sort of a life is this, I perpetually asked myself, that condemns us to be trained, like little dogs, to urinate ink on pieces of paper, and then to derive satisfaction from being praised for the performance?"

Friday, April 03, 2009

photo: from Il Giudizio Universale e L'Inferno

Detail of an engraving based on a fresco by Buffalmaco in the Camposanto, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, titled "Il Giudizio Universale e L'Inferno." A print of this engraving can be found in the Museo L'Opera at the Piazza.

What kind of man

What kind of man tells his terminally-ill wife, "Ang pangit mo, ang baho mo, kaya lang ang sarap mong kantutin?" The memory of how she looked as she confessed this to us -- her attempts to understand ("it was almost midnight," "he was drunk" "I had been fixing some food and had't had time to tidy myself"), and the soft, sheepish, apologetic way in which she spoke ("this will make you angry, alright?") -- keeps me up at night.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

photo: violas

A bed of pansies (violas) at a small square near the center of Pisa, March 30, 2009. In this city they seem a favorite winter flower for public parks and such, in other parts of Italy we visited we saw them brightening up window boxes and tubs at the entrance to restaurants and shops. The style seems to be to mass them in, all colors at random, different from the usual style of equally spacing plants of the same color bloom. In the cool weather and bright sunshine they grow HUGE.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

many, many years ago ...

Many, many years ago ... before Facebook, blogging, email, wikipedia, youtube, before hideous mobile phone cases and silly ringtones no one ever uses, before internet telephony, before Nokia, before pagers, before the internet, before fax machines and IBM automatic typewriters, before hiphop and R and B and before disco even, before the Eraserheads and Oasis and while the Beatles were bickering but together, when Zimbabwe was South Rhodesia, before the dismantling of apartheid, when the twin towers of the World Trade Center rested on a drawing board, before Tetrapaks, before the moon landing and Apollo 13, before Skylab and Soyuz, before Ebola and AIDS, before the fall of Saigon, before Cory and Ninoy and Edsa, when Ferdinand Marcos was the youthful new hope for the future, before Martial Law ... a little star was born.

(And many years later, she recognized her guardian angel in a shop window in Bologna, off Piazza Maggiore. Woof!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

photo of the day: Easter Candy

Easter candy in a shop window on San Vitali street, Bologna, Italy, 26 March 2009.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

photo of the day: Frankfurt book fair fans

Two young girls obligingly posed for my camera at the Frankfurt Book Fair, October 18, 2008. One of the exhibit halls was devoted to graphic novels and pop culture, and here all manner of costumed young people met, having contacted each other by sms. Sailor Moon, Harry Potter, vampires, many others I vaguely recognized -- but of course Poison Ivy and the Riddler were unmistakeable.

photo of the day: Firenze

Roberto Cavalli shop window, Florence, Italy, 27 March 2009.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

photo of the day: Malaysian writers society

Members of Malaysian writers society at home of noted poet Baha Zain (center image, extreme right), Kuala Lumpur suburb, December 10, 2008

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lakambini Sitoy: profile

Lakambini A. Sitoy is a Filipino writer.

She is also known as Bing Sitoy.

Sitoy has published two collections of short stories in Manila. Mens Rea and Other Stories was published by Anvil in 1999 and received a Manila Critics Circle National Book Award that same year. Jungle Planet was published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2006 and was shortlisted for the MCC National Book Award for that year.

Sitoy is among 21 authors on the Man Asian Literary Prize's long list for 2008. The novel, Sweet Haven, is her first.

She received the David T.K. Wong fellowship from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom in 2003.

Her short stories have appeared in magazines such as Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic and Story Philippines. They have appeared in various anthologies in the Philippines, such as Likhaan Anthology of Poetry and Fiction (published by the University of the Philippines Press) and The Best Philippine Stories, a 2000 anthology published by Tahanan Books and edited by Isagani Cruz.

Other stories have appeared in Manoa, the literary journal of the University of Hawaii; Wake, an anthology of stories, essays and poems about Southeast Asia published in Britain to benefit victims of the 2004 tsunami; and Ansigter, an anthology of Southeast Asian short stories published by Forlaget Hjulet in Copenhagen in 2008.

Sitoy has received writing fellowships from the National Writers' Workshop in Dumaguete (1989) and the University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop (1990). She has also received nine prizes in the annual Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and a Philippines Free Press Award (1994).

As a journalist, Sitoy also served as a lifestyle and cultural section editor and columnist for the Manila Times.

She was an MA guest student at Roskilde University in Denmark in 2006.


1. Longlisted for Man Asian Literary Prize, 2008 for novel "Sweethaven"

2. David TK Wong Fellow for Fiction, 2003, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

3. MCC National Book Award for Fiction, 1999 from The Manila Critics Circle for fiction collection "Mens Rea and Other Stories" published in 1998 held at The Philippine Book Fair Mandaluyong, Metro Manila September 12, 1999

4. Finalist in Fiction category, MCC National Book Awards, 2006 For fiction collection "Jungle Planet and Other Stories," published by University of the Philippines Press in 2005

5. NCCA Young Artists' Competitive Grant For Completion of 12 Short Stories with a One-Year Period Awarded by National Commission for Culture and the Arts 633 General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines

6. Chosen as Member, 3-person Board of Judges, Story for Children Category, Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature 2002 Carlos Palanca Foundation, CPJ Building, 105 C. Palanca Jr. St. Legaspi Village, Makati City 1229, Philippines Tel. no. 818-36-81 to 85 locals 31 and 24 Fax no. 817-40-45

7-14. Nine-Time Awardee, Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Carlos Palanca Foundation, CPJ Building, 105 C. Palanca Jr. St. Legaspi Village, Makati City 1229, Philippines Tel. no. 818-36-81 to 85 locals 31 and 24 Fax no. 817-40-45

First Place, Story for Children Category, English Division, "The Elusive Banana Dog", 2007
First Place, Essay Category, English Division, "From the Outlands with Love," 2005
First Place, Short Story Category, English Division, for "Touch," 1998
First Place, Story for Children Category, English Division, for "Pure Magic," 1996
Second Place, Fiction Category, English Division, for "Shut up and live", 2005
Second Place, Future Fiction Category, English Division, for "Secret Notes on the Dead Star", 2000
Third Place, Short Story Category, English Division, for "Lyra," 2001
Third Place, Story for Children Category, English Division, for "The Night Monkeys," 2000
Third Place, Short Story Category, English Division, for "I See My Shadow on the Pavement", 1995
15. Second Place Winner – Philippine Graphic Literary Awards, 2005, for short story "The Sisterhood." Awarded by Philippine Graphic (Newsweekly), Dominga Building, 2113 Pasong Tamo Street cor. dela Rosa Street Makati, Metro Manila

16. Second Place Winner – Philippine Graphic Literary Awards, 2001, for short story "Jungle Planet."

17. Honorable Mention – Philippines Free Press Literary Awards, 1994 for short story "Mens Rea" Awarded by Philippines Free Press, 55 Paseo de Roxas, Urdaneta Village, Makati City 1225

II. PUBLICATIONS (as of mid-2008)


Jungle Planet (a collection of 17 short stories) © 2005 University of the Philippines Press Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines email:

Mens Rea and other stories (a collection of nine short stories), © 1998 Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2/F Team Pacific Bldg. 13 Jose Cruz St., Barrio Ugong Pasig City, Philippines (632) 6719235 email:


Over 200 lifestyle, feature and travel articles,reviews, newspaper columns and uncredited Opinion-page editorials, in Sitoy’s capacity as Lifestyle Editor of Manila Standard, Isyu and The Evening Paper, published over the period from May 1996 to December 1999 and Opinion page editor of The Manila Standard (1998-1999) and The Manila Times (2000-2001)


A. International Publishers

“Armani” (translated) in Danish anthology of Southeast Asian short fiction, scheduled for publication by Forlaget Hjulet, Inc., Copenhagen, 2007, Denmark, Vagn Plenge, editor

“Renata” and “Jungle Planet” in Manoa (winter 2004 edition titled “Jungle Planet” after Sitoy’s story) , University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

“Jungle Planet” and “Touch” in Wake (a collection of short stories, profit of which benefitted the victims of the 2004 tsunami. Edited by Nathan Hamilton and Zoe Green. Other authors include Arthur C. Clarke, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Rose Tremain and Patricia Duncker), Ó 2005, Egg Box Publishing, London, U.K.

“Touch” in Coming Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas, edited by Marianne Villanueva. Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, Ó 2003. New York, U.S.A.

“Armani” in Tulikarpanen (“Firefly”), an anthology of Filipino women’s writings translated into Finnish , Riitta Vartti, editor and translator Kaantopiiri, Helsinki, Finland Ó 2001

“A Dream of Women” in Manoa (Century of Dreams: New Writing from America, the Pacific and Asia) University of Hawaii Press Ó 1997, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

B. Philippine Publishers

“Sisters” in anthology project of PEN, Philippines, scheduled for release in 2007, Vicente Groyon, editor

“The Night Monkeys” in The Night Monkeys, anthology of Palanca award-winning short stories for children, published by Tahanan Books, Makati, Manila, 2008

“Zenaida Amador” in Ten Outstanding Filipino Biographies for high school readers, published by Insular Life, Inc., Makati, Manila, 2007

“Shut up and Live” in Latitude: Writing from the Philippines and Scotland, edited by Angelo Lacuesta and Toni Davidson, Anvil Publishing, Inc., Manila, 2006.

“Sr. Mary John Mananzan,” in Heroes, a coffee table book to celebrate the 25th anniversary of EDSA, published by Alay sa Bansa Community and Ninoy and Cory Aquino Center for Leadership, edited by Alfred Yuson, Manila, 2006.

“When You Wish Upon a Jollibee,” essay in A 25-Year Love Story with the Pinoy (coffee table book to celebrate Jollibee’s 25th anniversary), edited by Alfred Yuson, 2004.

“Moon Silver” in Fast Food Fiction: Short Stories to Go, Anvil Publishing, Ó 2003 edited by Noelle de Jesus

“The Vampire” in The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2002, Carla Pacis, editor University of the Philippines Press Ó 2003

“Secret Notes on the Dead Star” in Future Shock: An anthology of young writers and new literatures, Ian Rosales Casocot, editor Silliman University, Dumaguete City Ó 2002

“Touch” in Best Philippine Short Stories of the 20th Century, Isagani Cruz, editor Tahanan Books, Makati City Metro Manila Ó 2000

“The Atheneum” in Dream Noises: A Generation Writes, Anvil Publishing, Manila Ó 1999

“Pure Magic” in The Golden Loom: Palanca Prize-winners for Children, Tahanan Books for Young Readers, Makati City, Metro Manila Ó 1997

“I See My Shadow on the Pavement” in The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1995 University of the Philippines Press, Diliman, Quezon City Ó 1995


Over 25 short stories and non-fiction articles published in Philippine magazines such as Cosmopolitan-Philippines, Preview, Free Press, Graphic.

Vild med Ord in Aarhus

I will be speaking at the Vild Med Ord (Wild With Words) festival in Aarhus, Sunday, March 15, 12 nn.

Thursday, February 19, 2009