Next stop: Dumaguete for the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
While in the middle of sorting things out for the Baguio trip, I got an invitation from Ricardo de Ungria (the Silliman University Workshop Director-in-Residence) to sit as guest panelist for the second week of Asia’s oldest creative writing workshop. It was such an honor, so of course I said yes! Even though this required: 1) little to no sleep in between workshops, as I will be getting home from Baguio on the 17th and flying out to Dumaguete on the 18th; 2) mad packing skillz; and 3) switching my perspective, in a matter of hours, from writing fellow to panelist, from mendicant to goddess. Charot.
It was a very interesting dynamic, and an experience that definitely sharpened my literary eye. As a panelist, you can’t just say the piece is not engaging — you have to be able to say why, and you have to be specific. These writers need to learn something from you, and not just the answers to the questions What do you mean you don’t like my work? And who are you anyway?
I remember reading one of the fiction manuscripts seven times, writing notes on the margins, because it was a work of fantasy and I wanted to be able to say something of value to the writer.
I remember writing two lines of notes on a poem (verb tenses! contradictory!) and side-eyeing them and doubting myself. Do I really hate this piece or am I just a lazy reader?
It was a lot of hard work. I think if I ever ran a workshop class I’d go home and have a breakdown every day.
I have to admit, I got incredibly homesick. I’ve never been away from J for this long. But it didn’t cloud my vision: Dumaguete is a beautiful place. Food is cheap, people are friendly, and Silliman University is gorgeous.
Middle of the week, we went to Bais City to see some dolphins and the Manjuyod White Sand Bar.
I don’t have photos of the dolphins up close, but we saw A LOT of them. It was amazing!
Also, we had lechon on the boat.
We had the workshop that day in the city of Bais. Look at that fire tree.
On Thursday, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, my co-panelist from Hong Kong, gave a lecture and launched her poetry collection, Hula Hooping. I read one of her poems, and she gave me and the other panelists a copy of her book. Thanks Tammy!
I also donated a copy of Dwellers to the Silliman University Library. So if you happen to be on campus, you can sit in a quiet corner and read my book. Thank you to Creative Nonfiction Fellow Jona Bering for the photo.
I was also happy to finally meet author Ian Casocot (rightmost) in the flesh!
Friday night, the Silliman Workshop threw us a dinner in Lab-as. Unfortunately my stomach was acting up so I wasn’t able to eat much, but I very much enjoyed the company.
And just like that, the week was over and it was time to go home. I hope the fellows learned something from their week with us! And I do hope they keep writing.
Many thanks to Prof. De Ungria, my lovely co-panelists, and the rest of the Silliman Workshop family. Sa uulitin!
Special thanks to Sha’ianne Molas Lawas for some of the photos here.
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