When you are the Lit Ed of the Graphic, going where the stories and poems are is part of the job—and it is both an honor and a pleasure to be there where the action is.
Keeping any art moving forward takes plenty of young blood rich with dynamism, energy and passion—and that’s just what the Philippines has plenty of, enough to spare, really.
It was a glorious Saturday as the Love Month came to its denouement when this Lit Ed found herself shuttling between two book launches and a slammingly good spoken word set that proved just how young, vibrant and gloriously alive the world of Philippine Letters actually is. It lives, as Mary Shelly would have writ.
The first stop was the sala of National Artist F. Sionil Jose, set above his Solidaridad bookshop on Padre Faura St. in Manila. The Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets and Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) launched Angelo “Sarge” Lacuesta’s two latest books: Coral Cove and other stories and A Waiting Room Companion on Feb. 24.
Coral Cove and other stories, which contains the eponymous story that won the first prize in the 2016 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards, was published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. It is Lacuesta’s fourth book of fiction. A Waiting Room Companion was published by Bughaw, an imprint of Ateneo de Manila University Press. This volume is a collection of personal essays, including one on bathtubs that Philippines Graphic editor in chief Joel Pablo Salud couldn’t stop talking about one deadline day in the newsroom. If that wasn’t enough reason to be at Lacuesta’s book launch(es), I don’t know what is.
Besides launching Lacuesta’s books, the gathering at Manong Frankie’s sala was a gathering of old friends of the pen: We were also there for the food, the booze—and the inevitable and always delightful conversations about all things literary and intellectual. If you’re the kind of person who loves and lives in the mind, this gathering would definitely be your thing.
Lacuesta, his lovely and accomplished wife Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (she launched her latest book of poetry, “Hush Harbor” several days earlier, at DLSU) and their young son, Lucas, were all smiles and radiance at the launch and Philippine Letters had two more very promising tomes added to its treasury. Yes, go out and buy them. Get “Hush Harbor” too. They are worth the money.
Much as this Lit Ed wanted to linger and spend time with friends at Solidaridad, she had to run to Makati City’s Commune, a chi-chi coffee shop on Polaris St., for the book launch of Love, Smog, and all things warm by spoken word artist and Collaboratory.ph poetry group member Leandro Reyes and illustrated by Camcas Cervantes.
The grandson of Lola Basyang creator Severino Reyes, Leandro has carved out a reputation for his powerful spoken word performances. This Lit Ed encountered him for the first time at a Sanctum 2.0 open mic one Thursday night over two years ago at Le Café Cureiux, just 30 meters away from The Commune.
Love, Smog, and other things warm collects Leandro’s spoken word and collaboration pieces into an independently-published and beautifully illustrated volume.
Seeing the poets of Collaboratory.Ph own the stage at The Commune was a revelation. Where many would say the twentysomethings of this millennium are self-absorbed, I say its poets are possessed of keen political awareness, intense compassion and equipped with words and the sublime knowledge needed to use them to maximum effect.
I was speaking with the thirty- and forty-somethings of my generation and our elders at Solidaridad, listening to some of the keenest minds of my generation parse the terms within which we must now live, their context throwing out the question: “What is the next generation going to do about this?”
At the “Bungad” event of the Collaboratory.Ph in Makati later that evening, I heard the answer loud and clear. These young poets called out the injustices they saw, in love as well as in society and in our version of politics (also properly called “tomfoolery”). They spoke of the dreams that must survive this sociopocalypse we live in—from dreams of just getting some (“ang gusto ko lamang ay lumandi”) to true social awareness (“do you actually think all your profanity will make the change you seek?”), to calling out the neglect of government and demanding social justice.
The voices of that night were young, strong, full of conviction, passion and some very good (and necessarily sharp) points.
Our treasure of stories, poetry and spoken word performances has grown and continues its growth and it was both pleasure and privilege to bear witness to that. Brava, young Filipino writer, take a bow. You are doing so well, grasshoppas. G