Thursday, December 08, 2005

[Essay] Filipino Loyalty

Filipino Loyalty

For the most part, Filipinos have proven themselves to be fiercely loyal. When it comes to their families, the statement “blood is thicker than water” rings true. A father would protect his son, even if his son is the guilty party, and the man-of-the-house will support his cousins and other relatives, even if it comes at the expense of his own (and sometimes his own family’s) welfare. There are also Filipinos loyal to those who have been kind to them, even if the aforementioned people are far from the best of role models. There are Marcos loyalists to this day, 20 years after the Martial Law dictatorship ended. And there are even Filipinos who are loyal to ideologies or concepts, which explains the lingering groups of communist parties, or the anti-chacha (anti-charter change) rallies every few years or so. Unfortunately, said loyalty debatably doesn’t carry over to the country itself.

Admittedly, national sense of pride isn’t exactly at an all-time high. Majority of the youth and the populace simply want to leave the country, either migrating abroad of working there. Government policy also doesn’t alleviate the problem. I mean where have you seen a country that praises its citizens for working abroad? Sure, we depend on the remittances of our OFW’s (Overseas Foreign Workers) to help pay for the country’s debts, but what kind of example are we setting when we praise people who work abroad because they can’t find good employment opportunities in the country they were born in? Not to mention the proliferation of “imports” (or the very fact that we have a term for it), and I’m not talking about merchandise. Many sports and TV personalities we favor are of partially Filipino-descent, and the nature of their citizenship only becomes an issue when it’s convenient (or inconvenient, depending on who brings up the matter). Yet while some Filipinos favor Fil-Americans and Fil-Europeans, the same outlook doesn’t extend to their Asian counterparts. The Chinese will always be Chinese to certain segments of the population, even if they’ve lived here all their life and adopted native practices. Filipinos don’t take pride in their Filipino-Chinese community, yet praise their Taiwanese soap-opera heroes and heroines.

Even among Filipinos, not a lot view themselves as part of the whole nation. We identify ourselves by our region or by the dialect we speak. A running joke is a person is asked “Are you a Filipino?” and they would reply “No, I’m [insert local region here],” the practice of which will astound even the optimists. And who do Filipinos vote for during election? Not necessarily the one that’s best for the country, but the one that’s best for their region (although perhaps we’re not unique when it comes to that voting practice). The contradiction is that Filipinos are extremely loyal to the region they belong to (just ask any Cebuano and they’ll proudly tell you they’re Cebuano), but not to their country.

The country’s literature attempts too much to be socially aware, to be socially relevant that it comes at the expense of other genres. But in the end, such books are only patronized by the literati, while the very society it tries to help enjoy their romance novels and celebrity magazines. When it comes to animation and comics, a lot enjoy the products of Japan and America, not realizing that some of the animators, artists, and writers are Filipinos. And when those same people come out with local works or tell people that they’re the ones behind people’s favorites, some can’t help but stare with either disbelief or skepticism. The nation also has lots of indigenous resources, whether cultural, natural, or ideological. Yet who takes the time to invest in such treasures, or recognize such valuables? Is it the local populace, or the foreigners? Look at the martial art arnis; while it has a cult following locally, there’s probably an even bigger following abroad.

Amidst this bleak outlook, perhaps the only thing bleaker are the reaction of the populace. Do we seek to solve the problems we face? Many choose to flee instead, migrating to a different country, not realizing that the places they wish to relocate have problems of their own. What government doesn’t have its own share of corruption and political turmoil? And it’s not really such a big mystery why the West is fascinated by the East, and vice versa; the Philippines is no exception to the disease of familiarity. Of course everyone will claim they have things worse, until they experience first-hand what other people are experiencing. While the Philippines does indeed paint a bleak picture, there are probably other countries which are suffering more. The only difference is that their population is perhaps more hopeful. And for every hundred of Filipinos who are tired of this country, there will always be at least one vanguard who will fight unto death for the country he owes an allegiance to. Some might criticize what can one person do, but change always begins with one man. And there will be the uncounted supporters of the Philippines, be they Filipinos living abroad or in this country of ours; they may not have Filipino blood or even citizenship, but their true loyalties can be seen in their actions. For Filipinos, the question isn’t whether we are capable of being loyal or not, but rather to who we owe our allegiance to.

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[Blog Entry] Ink & Stone Sale

Ink & Stone Sale

My stalker informants sent me this text message (in which I will hopefully make an accurate translation from text lingo):

"We're on sale with great tift baskets (that) have at least 2 books and candle or incense, from P195-P495. All regular books 10% off, additional 5% off (for) discount holders."

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

[Essay] I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

There are many reasons not to write, but I don’t believe “writer’s block” is one of them. For me it’s a myth; it’s as if telling someone you suddenly lost the ability to speak, you forgot how to spell, or words simply left your memory. There is no such thing as writer’s block for me. There are, however, other reasons why we don’t write, and we use the writer’s block excuse to encapsulate all of them. No inspiration? Writer’s block. Not motivated enough? Writer’s block. Too lazy? Writer’s block. Lacking a good idea? Writers block. For me, simply naming it writer’s block is avoiding to face the problem rather than seeking to solve it. Let me tackle the reasons why “writers” don’t write.

No inspiration. It’s a real concern. Some of the best work out there come from inspiration. But obviously not everything that’s well-written came out from inspiration. Or rather, from unsought inspiration. There are days when I wake up and I have a good idea in mind. When that happens, I write. There are, however, several days where nothing good comes up. Does that stop me from writing? No. I either look for good ideas, or simply write. Other people wait for emotional cues to drive them to write. It could be falling in love, experiencing grief, or simply getting nostalgic. While some of these experiences can be sought out, they don’t always happen just because we will it, nor is it always advisable to do so. (Can you imagine yourself forcing yourself to fall in love with someone because there’s a looming deadline so that you’ll be inspired to write a love poem? Or breaking your jovial mood by sinking into depression to write that somber novel?) If people only wrote when they were inspired, then everyone would be professional writers. What distinguishes the writer from the non-writer is that the former writes no matter what the situation, whether they’re inspired or not. Inspiration is good. I just can’t expect it to always pop up whenever I’m geared to write something. Sometimes inspiration follows after writing. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ll write anyway. One factor that people forget is that aside from creativity (inspiration) or talent, hard work and perseverance can also lead one to become a good writer. A genius might write his or her first draft and submit it to a publisher. Others pore over their work, continually editing, revising, and attending workshops to hone their craft. I honestly wish everyone (and when I say everyone, I really mean me) could be the former, but that’s not the case. What discourages other people from the latter path is that it’s difficult, but that’s the reality of most things: no pain, no gain.

No good idea. Much like the no inspiration reason, some of us might claim we don’t have any good ideas. Of course the adjective we need to focus on is good. I think we all have ideas to write about. We just don’t think it’s good enough. At the very least, you can talk about your day. But our self-doubting consciousness tells us that’s not interesting enough. We tell ourselves that no one wants to read how we got up in the morning (or afternoon or even evening for some people), how we went to work and experienced all these trivialities. Our inner voice may be right. Or it might not be. I think that anything, even the most mundane activity, can be made interesting as long as it’s given the proper treatment. Look at the lives of detectives. For the most part, it’s a boring job. All you do is research and wait, hoping for something to pop up. Occasionally, there’ll be excitement, and perhaps even a gunfight or two. But why are detectives of the noir era romanticized? Mainly because the writers focused on the exciting part, or rather, made it exciting in the first place. The other side of the coin is that there’s always something in a person’s life that’s exciting. We just need to dig in deep, or pay closer attention. Take for example the life of a zookeeper. I’m sure the zookeeper thinks his or her life is mundane. A child, however, might be awed at how the zookeeper constantly faces “wild” animals and manages to enter their cage without getting harmed. Why have blogs become one of the most popular things on the Internet? Because people love to read about other people’s lives.

But assuming you really need a good idea, something that doesn’t personally concern you, what do we do then? Finding a good idea is perhaps one of the problems that can be solved. It’s called experiencing new things, doing research, or paying close attention to details. Some writers go on trips or try out new things to look for ideas. As someone with little time and even less of a budget, experiencing new things doesn’t have to be something outrageous. It could be going to a corner of the city you’ve never gone before (or simply getting lost is an interesting experience in itself). It could be trying out new food, a new sport, or even reading a new book. Then there’s always research. Experience doesn’t need to be first-hand. You can read about other people, their exploits, or a topic that you’re interested in but don’t have the time or budget for. Sometimes research means digging deeper. You already have a topic, you just don’t find it interesting. By digging into its history, into the minutiae of its process, you’ll eventually find something worthwhile to write about. At times, one needs to look at your concept from a different perspective. Your country is something that you’re familiar with, and you might take it for granted. But how would foreigners see it? Or simply other people? Don Quixote is a narrative about the then-modern world told from the perspective of a delusional (but romanticized) man. The no good idea dilemma can actually be solved if we devote time and effort.

Not Motivated. Now I’m guilty of this. While I don’t lack any good idea (or even inspiration), sometimes, we simply don’t feel like writing. It’s the same with laziness. For one reason or another, we don’t write, either because we’re not in the mood, or if we have other, more pressing concerns. Of course the question we should now ask ourselves is how much do we want to write? Our will to write should exceed our desire not to. When I was still in the academia as a student, no matter how lazy I was feeling, I always met my deadline, whether it was an essay, a term paper, or a simple written homework. Why? Because I wanted to graduate first and foremost. Did I enjoy the process? Not always. Was I motivated to do my homework? Again, not all the time. But even if I wasn’t, I was motivated by something else (namely to pass my subjects) hence I did it nonetheless. Same goes for work. Now if you don’t prize your schooling or professionalism, a question you have to ask is why do you write. If it’s simply because you feel like doing so, then the path of a professional writer is not for you. If it’s for personal amusement (and when I say personal amusement, I really mean masturbation), then your writing will always be just that. If it’s the art of writing, then your effort will reflect how much you really respect the art. As for time, well, everyone’s busy. We may not pursue writing full-time but we’ll always have time; it’s just spent elsewhere. Some opt to skip an hour of sleep just to write a paragraph or two. Others find time to write during their short breaks at the office. You might also want to give up your leisure time, time you spend watching TV, playing video games, or going out on gimmicks. At that point, you’ll have to gauge your priorities. Is writing more important to you than TV? If so, then write write write! If not, then writing is a leisure activity for you, just as watching TV is. So if you don’t make your deadline, it really shouldn’t bother you in the first place (so don’t pursue a career in writing!).

From personal experience, blogs are one of the easiest things to stop updating (and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not exempt from this). Mainly because most of us blog for unprofessional reasons. It’s for amusement, for our own benefit. Do our readers pay us? No. What penalty will we receive for not updating. Flames at most (tip: don’t flame bloggers whose blogs you want to read). So once again, we enter the internal debate of how important writing is to us, and whether we should drop it altogether to pursue other more enticing activities. I’m not saying writing is the be-all and end-all of things. Sometimes, we simply have to drop writing because of more important, real-world concerns such as family, friends, career, and health. Just don’t be confused which should be prioritized in your life.

No equipment. Thankfully, that’s not called writer’s block. When you have no computer, try the typewriter. If you don’t have a typewriter, try doing it the old fashioned way: pen and paper. It’s a slow, agonizing process but during desperate times, we must make do with what we can. Technology provides us with mobile means of writing though, from PDA’s to mobile phones to laptops. Still, just so you don’t make an excuse not to write when those tools aren’t available, make it a point to bring a notebook and pen wherever you go. At the very least, it’s to list down ideas, so you don’t suffer from the “no good idea” or “no inspiration” excuse.

Whenever I see someone say writer’s block, that’s just another excuse for me. The real dilemma for writers isn’t writer’s block, but either they don’t have the time, effort, or priority. Don’t misunderstand me, good ideas are hard to come by. But it’s not something a lot of time and effort can’t solve. And when it comes to time and effort, people seldom make room for it unless it’s a priority in their lives.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

[Blog Entry] Contests and Commentaries

Contests and Commentaries

It's funny. Usually when there's a competition, people post the rules on their blogs and on emails. But Fully Booked's ad for The 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards is an image, hence most people link to it instead. Anyway, for your perusal, here are the rules (click "read more"). Italics are my comments.

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman & Fully Booked present The 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman & Fully Booked present The 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

New York Times Bestselling author and all-around swell guy Neil Gaiman and Fully Booked are proud to announce the first PHILIPPINE GRAPHIC/FICTION AWARDS. Seeking to recognize Filipino talent in emerging literature, the contest will award prizes for comics (the Alex Nino award) and genre fiction (the Gregorio C. Brillantes award). Mr. Gaiman has said “There is a strong tradition of Filipino realism in literature; I want to encourage Filipino unrealism.”

Of course this is probably the only part where Neil Gaiman’s name is mentioned. Will he judge the contest? Did he donate the prize money? Will it be compiled in an anthology edited by Neil Gaiman? Dun dun dun…

Over P300,00 worth of prizes, including P100,000 grand prize for the first place winners!

P290,000 to be exact, but that’s still a hefty sum.

Comic Book Writing Contest

1st prize – 100,000 pesos.
2nd prize – 30,000 pesos
3rd prize – 15,000 pesos
Youth Award (16 and under winner) – complete set of Sandman comic books nos. 1-75

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Writing Contest

1st prize – 100,000 pesos
2nd prize – 30,000 pesos
3rd prize – 15,000 pesos
Special Youth Award (for contestants 16 years old and below) – a set of Neil Gaiman’s novels: Anansi Boys, Making of Mirrormask, Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, Smoke & Mirrors

1) Entries must be submitted between November 30, 2005 and Jan. 30, 2006, with complete details on the author’s on a separate sheet, to be sealed inside a legal size letter envelope.

That’s exactly two months, unless you plan to submit old work (as long as they haven’t been published… see below.)

2) The contest is open to all Filipino citizens (even those who may be in a foreign country at the time, so long as they are still legal citizens), except current officers and employees of Fully Booked and the contest’s sponsors.

Note that it’s Filipino citizens. Ex-pats are still a no-no, although Filipinos taking a vacation/studying abroad are still qualified.

3) All entries must be in English.

Not a problem for me, but there will be Filipino writers and artists that might complain. A Philippine contest without the Filipino language?

4) There are two categories: comics and prose fiction. Each person may submit/be involved with only one entry per category. For the comics division, artists are not allowed to submit multiple entries with different writers.

Technically, you can win up to P200,000.00 by joining both contests. One for the fiction category, and another for comics. Artist will have just one shot at it (one entry for comics), unless they try out for the fiction competition as well.

5) Works must not have been awarded by another body or published in a national publication.

To sum it up, submit original work. If you’re already someone that’s established in your respective field, just make sure it hasn’t been awarded or published previously (small-time publications don’t count, so indie comic artists can still submit their previous material).

6) All entries must be original. No adaptations of produced/published/copyrighted material are allowed. All intellectual property rights of entries must belong to the author/s. Fully Booked and its sponsors shall be exempt from any and all liability in the event that the work is said to infringe upon the intellectual property rights of another existing work. All rights revert to respective authors, but FULLLY BOOKED maintains/reserves the right to publish submitted works without permission/approval.

Legal blah blah. Basically, if the winner ends up infringing on someone’s copyright, you don’t blame Fully Booked for “lack of research” and the writer/artist is solely responsible.

You still own the copyright to the work (which means you can still sell it to other publications), but Fully Booked can publish it in their own publication without prior approval. It could be in their magazine, or if they should choose to do so, an anthology. I mean comics alone has 48 pages, if every winner submits the maximum page number, and there are no ties. How much more with fiction? A sizable and profitable book project, especially with Neil Gaiman’s name backing it.

7) All entries must include four (4) hard copies, typewritten or computerized (preferably computerized). Every page must contain the title of the work, and all pages numbered consecutively (e.g. 1 of 20, 5 of 15 and so on). For prose, the entry must include 1 soft copy on a CD-ROM. EACH ENTRY MUST BE TYPWRITTEN OR COMPUTERIZED, DOUBLE-SPACED ON 8.5 X 11 INCHES BOND PAPER, WITH APPROXIMATELY ONE-INCH MARGIN ON ALL SIDES. IF COMPUTERIZED, THE FONT SHOULD BE ARIAL, TIMES NEW ROMAN OR BOOK ANTIQUA AND DTHE FONT SIZE SHOULD BE 12 pts. Files should be in the .rtf or Rich Text Format. The author’s name and address must not appear on the entry. For comics, entries must consist of four (4) hard copies (bond paper size) and one (1) soft copy on CD-ROM; no original art must be submitted. In case entries from abroad win, an authenticated copy of the Authorization Form by the Philippine Embassy or Consulate will be required.

Can you say confusing and redundant? No offense, but hard copy and computerized aren’t exactly two terms that go well together (it should be soft copy). And the first statement is repeated in the comics section.

The problem with page numbers is when it comes to comics. That means no bleeds, or at the very least, bleeds (if the artist chooses to do so) won’t be as effective with page numbers sticking out at the bottom.

8) Fully Booked has no obligation to return submitted material.

Hence the “no original art must be submitted” clause in the previous item.

9) For prose, all entries must fall under the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror. For comics, the theme is open.

So why is there a limitation in prose, but none for comics? And I won’t go into the discussion of what characterizes fantasy, horror, or science fiction.

10) A special award may be given to the best entry submitted by authors aged sixteen (16) and below. This award will only be given to an entry that has not won a major award in its category.

Basically those under seventeen have a chance to win something if they didn’t qualify for the three places.

11) Attached to the notarized Application Form shall be signed consent and understanding of the above rules. For minors, this should be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian’s signature.

Since I’ve never formally joined a writing competition, I don’t know how to go about this.

12) For comics, twelve (12) pages is the maximum length. For prose, entries may not exceed seven thousand (7,000) words.

Actually manageable for the time frame.

13) For comics, all artwork should be in black and white. No signatures must appear on any of the pages of the entries.

I don’t think anyone would submit colored comics with such a short deadline. Unless it’s like four pages or something. As for the latter clause, mainly for the judges to remain objective.

14) The Board of Judges shall have the discretion not to award any prize if, in its judgment, no worthy entry has been submitted.


15) Fully Booked has the sole right to designate the persons who shall constitute the Board of Judges in each of the contest categories. The decision of the majority of the Board of Judges in all categories shall be final.

Basically we don’t know who the judges will be, nor will we have a right to complain.

16) All rules and guidelines of the contest must be followed STRICTLY. Non-compliance will subject the entry to immediate disqualification.

All questions regarding the competition should be emailed to:

Powerbooks 100-Book Spree!

Get a chance to win 100 books of your choice!

How to join:

1) For every PHP 1,000.00 single receipt purchase, a customer is entitled to one raffle coupon for a chance to win any of the following:

a) Grand Prize: One (1) winner of 100 books of his/her choice (to be selected from stocks in the store)

So yes, the winner actually gets 100 books. But see details below for more info.

b) Consolation Prizes: Five (5) winners of 5 books of his/her choice (to be selected from stocks in the store)

2) Winners can only pick one (1) copy per title and select books that cost PHP 2,000.00 and below. If he or she gets a book worth Php 2,010.00 and above, he/she must pay for the excess amount.

Basically the winner can’t exhaust the stock of say, Fellowship of the Ring. It’s 100 (or 5 for the consolation prizes) unique books. If you also do the Math, Powerbooks is actually giving the winner up to P200,000 worth of books. But since we’ll seldom pick books that are priced exactly at P2,000.00 each, the actual prize is less than that.

The good thing is that if you pick a book worth more than P2,000, you pay the difference instead of nullifying your winnings. But the P2,000 limit has other ramifications. Fiction purchases is not really a problem, although buying “packages” (books bundled together) might be. Comic fans might also find it difficult, as while a couple of trades and hardcovers are priced under P2,000, you can’t get something like say, The Absolute Watchmen or the Complete Bone without paying extra. Computer books can be pricey as well, as some range under P2,000, but the better ones go beyond that.

My best advice for the winner? Get the fiction hardcovers.

See posters for complete mechanics.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

[Blog Entry] Disappearance


Just as most people are about to disappear (the holidays are coming, after all), I’m about to make my re-appearance. So why the lack of blog entries for the past two months?

Contrary to what you might think, my youth wasn’t filled with reading and writing. The only time I actually finished reading a novel was during grade seven, when I hit thirteen. Admittedly, I caught the film-to-novel bug. That is, you read a book because it’s being made into a movie. In my case, the book was Jurassic Park, as I was always fascinated by dinosaurs.

That digression has purpose. For the past two months, I got to remember why I didn’t read a lot or write a lot. I was obsessed with something else: video games. So yes, blame video games. I wouldn’t call it a brain drain, but rather a shift in perspective. All my energy is focused on being good at the one video game I play.

Having said that, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I haven’t read a book in the past two months. I just didn’t finish reading them from beginning to end. As for the chore of writing, well, my blog is proof of my lack of progress. It’s as if I woke up one day a different person, and I can’t imagine myself consuming ten books a month (I haven’t been able to meet my quota of five books as month).

As for the game in mention that has caused my addiction, it’s a custom map for Warcraft 3. It’s called Defenders of the Ancients: All Stars, a very popular custom map (with lots of versions). And if you thought the Marvel vs Capcom fighting games had lots of characters, this one has a whopping 72! (And still more to come in newer versions.) Suffice to say, it’s been fun even if it’s eating a lot of sleeping hours (I come home at 3 or 4 am in the morning, and have to wake up in time for my 9 am – 6 pm job).

Right now I’m slowly shifting gears to attune myself to meet my writing deadlines, as Vin’s Dragon Anthology is right around the corner, in addition to Fully Booked’s writing contest. And Internet at home finally got fixed last week (I can finally visit all the websites I go to), and the speed boost (PLDT’s new promo) is a godsend as well.

So here’s to more writing, and re-surfacing to the blogosphere.

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