His first Palanca brought us together in an impromptu gig in a garage, then later a despidida lunch of bulalo and San Mig Lights in a Caanawan restobar, which gave birth to the idea of a local creative writing workshop and the pedro_bucaneg group, now inactive after a hot start-up burst, and lately being revived by the 4 burats.
Then a second Palanca.
And another night.
For the love of his poetry…
In retrospect, it was the image of a vengeful Bona scalding her idol with boiling water that offered deeper and richer metaphors. Nora Aunor swam effortlessly back and forth between the elements of water in her life and on the screen: selling drinking water in train stations at an early age to fetching water in the slums to bathe her idol. The element flowed freely from poverty to servitude to retribution. The name of her hometown Iriga originated from the Nabua dialect, “I raga”, meaning “there is land”, alluding to the higher grounds where the pioneers settled to escape the wrath of the great floods. Nora's pair of shoes were enshrined in an empty aquarium and the thought of sedimentary remains came to mind. Resting on pebbles, the pair of shoes might as well have found its place on a dry riverbed, with Norman Maclean's famous last words in his memoir, "A River Runs Through It", carved on the rocks: "I am haunted by waters." Excerpted from the 2004 Palanca winning essay “Devotion”; read by Louela Orden-Frias.
Baka sakali iyakan mo ito.
Pero alam ko hindi.
Last 2 stanzas of the poem “Ang Totoong Dahilan Kung Bakit Limang Araw Akong Mawawala” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in March 1993; read by Verjun Dilla.
Bilin mo’y matatagpuan na lang kitang
nahihimbing sa ilalim ng mga tulay o
sakayan ng bus; paalala mo’y palagi
kung iipunin ang palahaw ng mga sanggol
at ingay ng mga kumakalam na sikmura,
at kapag sa aking bintana may nakita
akong anino sa mga kalsadang hindi
matapos-tapos, patatahimikin mo lahat
at patatahanin ako.
Excerpted from the poem “Ang Binatang Hindi Dumudungaw sa mga Bintana” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 31 July 1994; read by Reggie Gaboy.
Ang naaalala ko lang noon ay palagi kong inaabangan sa komiks kung ano ang mangyayari kay Bakekang, ang paborito kong nobela. Lalo na noong manganganak na siya at hindi tiyak kung ang isisilang niya ay magmamana sa kapangitan niya o sa isa sa dalawang Amerikanong sumiping sa kanya (isang itim at isang puti) o halo ng lahat ng ito. Hinihila ko ang mga araw. Ang tagal niyang magbuntis. Gusto ko na siyang manganak. Excerpted from the Filipino essay “Patotoo sa Pelukula ng Batang Nagpakasakit”; read by Tita Martin-Circa.
Anak, ang aklat pala ni San Pedro ay listahan lamang
ng mga nawalang labada: ang pulang medyas
na sa Baguio mo pala naiwan. Napulot, binenta, hiniram
at naiwan na naman at mula Iloilo ay nakarating
sa Pangasinan. Third paragraph of the poem “Para sa Iyo na Trenta Anyos na ng Umibig” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 31 March 1996; read by Ayet Blancas.
Up until the age of twelve, I turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica merely for reference. But I knew they were special. They were unlike the illustrated books I read at school or those that my father bought for me. I suspected that the dark leather-bound covers compiled secrets of vital importance. On its pages, I tracked down alphabetized and indexed information, the uninitiated mind perpetually on the verge of new discoveries. Each time I reached out to pull a volume, I grew taller. I carried its immense weight with a mixed sense of pride and a vague melancholic feeling that I would no longer be the same when I put them back on the shelf. I will be transformed. I will no longer be ordinary. I will carry secrets inside me. I will have powers no one will know about. Knowledge will be my refuge, my armor and my weapon when the world turns itself against me. Excerpted from the 2007 Palanca winning essay “Lost in Childrensville”; read by Fely Rose Manauis.
I am now writing this down with my right eye patched.
Fired ten shots and missed all.
I thought it would be enough to serve as my final payments.
I thought I could come out clean.
Before I went to see the doctor I watched movies
went out with friends, shopped, struggled to write
cleaned my desk, replenished my garden with new plants
read books – and it is amazing
it is amazing that all the while, I was looking at the world
so clearly with a bullet lint, with specks of gunpowder on one eye
and I did not even know it.
Tomorrow they will remove the bandage.
I wonder how my right eye will react to the sudden light
I wonder how it will look at the world and what it will see.
Excerpted from the poem “Guns” from the “Father Poems” anthology published in 2004; read by Kimat T. Amianan.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) His sister Lannie receiving the Palanca grand prize in his behalf (photo was taken by Lannie’s husband). (2) Tungsten candles dance while (3) Jun and Vee play the kubing. (4) The Friases, (5) Verjun Dilla, (6) Reggie Gaboy, (7) Tita Martin-Circa, (8) Ayet Blancas, (9) and Fely Rose Manaois. (10) Clockwise from left: An autographed copy of “Devotion”, a folio of his works, a clipping from the Sunday Inquirer Magazine circa 2004, and the invitation to his 2007 victory party.