Friday, January 19, 2018


Making it through the literary maze

THESE days, media-hyped potboilers, paranormal anthologies, and international tear-jerkers crowd many shelves. But every now and then, there is that cranial knock that yearns for reading of another kind: reading that engages the brain cells, and at the same time tugs at the heartstrings.

Now, how can one make the right choice? When most readers are not adept at literature, or blessed with a worthy literary pedagogue, to judge by the cover is not an option.

Between cradle and coffin

COLD and damp in darkness’ study, we stand

Armed with nothing but swords to cleave the air

Against foes who know where our blows will land.

To bleed for victory, what heart would dare?

All scores consumed by unfurling defeat:

By refusing-parry from one held dear,

Or when one pierces us to shamed retreat,

Heroic knees fail, to the earth draw near.

Drop our guard, and rob our grave of flowers,

Sheath in salt, the sword meant to gash death’s cheek,

And maim the giver of hallowed powers,

Thus, no euphoric life is left to seek.

But in mankind’s sempiternal making

All our labyrinthine jokes find meaning.

New York in a nutshell

THOUSANDS of dreams have been realized in New York. As for author Carissa Villacorta, the Big Apple not only held the key to her dreams but also to her identity.

Dwelling on the erratic lifestyle of a New Yorker is Surreality (UST Publishing House, 2006), composed of 14 essays written by Villacorta who contributes for the US broadsheet Philippine News. Recognized by the Philippine New York Junior Chamber of Commerce for her outstanding achievement in contemporary literature, Villacorta narrates her life-changing, four year sojourn in New York through her collection.

Villacorta kicks off each essay with a teaser, called “Roller Coaster Ride,” which tells of her random musings about New York. Making this part more vivid is the use of photographs featuring images of Times Square, subway stations, and the author’s immediate family.

Postmodernism, anyone?

DEATH of the author? Postmodern writing seeks nothing less than the death of writing itself.

According to UST Graduate School professor Florentino Hornedo, postmodernism is an overturning of the conventions of writing.

In his book, Free Fall: Postmodernism, Hornedo calls the postmodern style as “free play,” where everything is permissible.

“Postmodern literature avoids structures, foundations, and big narratives,” Hornedo told the Varsitarian.

One of the major traits of postmodern writing is that it denies concepts that used to be the sole source of themes for literary pieces, such as universality, science, socialism, and even the existence of God.

“The one rule that it follows is to not follow any of the rules,” he said.

Many fictionists and poets today refuse to follow the rules of conventional writing, which they find suffocating to freedom of expression.

Out of the box

As a child, I found room in boxes,

Four walls mounting into a firmness

Resembling my father’s hand.

Rays of light seep in between spaces,

As shadows loom and reappear from my sight.

But now, these once empty spaces

Only hold tattered clothes and naked crayons

Slowly fading into oblivion.

Their walls transformed into planks—

A barrier shielding light, where even

My shadow cannot hide in.

Outside the box, I have seen more light,

Painting my skin yellow and warm,

Diminishing my shadow.

As I dance with the wind, the boxes

Tumble down, corroding mercilessly

Under the nebulous blue skies.

Kristine Joy L. Dabbay

An alignment of loyalties

PALANCA awardee Katrina Tuvera’s The Jupiter Effect (Anvil Publishing, 2006) speaks of an apocalypse of sorts as the heavenly bodies revolving around the sun align straight, signaling the end of the world.

This apocalypse is the 1972 declaration of martial law while the planets are the different individuals who existed in such a time.

The story focuses on siblings Gabriela and Kiko Contreras who are fortunate enough to live a normal life during the martial law period because their father, Julian, is the minister of information of the president of the Philippines. Their father’s office allows the two to enjoy privileges not otherwise enjoyed by the populace.

Toward mightier pens

To contribute to the writing of better fiction in the University of Santo Tomas, the Varsitarian Fiction Workshop was established. Now on its third year, the workshop was held at the St. Raymund’s Building last September 9 and 16. Vicente Groyon and Jose Dalisay, Jr. were the panelists for fiction in English while Eros Atalia, Abdon Balde, Jr., and Jun Cruz Reyes were the panelists for fiction in Filipino.

Wicks and waxes

VINCENT Espiritu recalled seeing orbs of light back when he was seven. At that moment, his entire house was engulfed in darkness due to a brownout, making it hard for him to fall asleep. Hours passed until the hands of the clock, illuminated by the minute amount of light from the candle he refused to blow out, indicated that it was already early morning. His eyes moved to the direction of the wooden ceiling, where only dancing shadows occupied its blankness.

Poet of nation’s epic evolution

IN A NATION simmering with apathy and disunity, one writer has tempered his craft into a harmonious marriage between personal expression and a drive toward national solidarity.

This year’s Parangal Hagbong recipient, Cirilo F. Bautista, reminds today’s writers of the Philippines’ need for an “evolving consciousness.” The Parangal Hagbong, which started in 1997, is the Varsitarian’s way of recognizing Thomasian paragons in Philippine literature. The word hagbong, which in the province of Quezon means an old headdress representative of one’s social status, pertains to a laurel wreath or an adornment of woven leaves that is placed on the head of one who has attained or shown prowess in the arts and letters.