notes from baguio and dumaguete: part 1 – writing fellow

For the past two weeks, I was able to do something I was never able to do in real life: read and critique literary work while consuming copious amounts of free food and coffee.

First stop: Baguio for the UP National Writers Workshop (May 10-17). I was accepted as a Writing Fellow here.

20150516_083408After checking in at the AIM Igorot Lodge, we headed to BenCab Museum to read/recite poems for the National Artist. This was my third time in the museum, but my first time to have a guided tour. I didn’t know there were different kinds of bulol! Dancing bulol, house guards — I just assumed they were all for fertility. You learn something new every day. (Such as: huwag mag-assume.)


20150510_163549There was a new exhibit called “The Garden of Acedia” by Marcel Antonio.

“Batman and Melancholy”

There were also new pieces by BenCab, because some of the old pieces had been moved to Manila for his 50th anniversary exhibit.

“Rene’s Performance”
Ben Cabrera addressing the workshop fellows and panelists.

That night, we had a short meeting after dinner to formally open the workshop.

Jayson Petras, Workshop Coordinator; Luna Sicat-Cleto, Workshop Director; Roland Tolentino, Acting Institute of Creative Writing Director.

Good morning! We had three panels every day to cover the 12 submitted manuscripts.

20150511_065951The panels made me miss my undergrad days.

20150512_110945When in Baguio, I usually just stick to Session Road, but now that we’re in Camp John Hay I couldn’t pass up the chance to drop by Choco-late de Batirol.


Tsokolate at suman sa lihiya.

We also had a film screening of Teng Mangansakan’s Qiyamah, which tackles the end-times from the perspective of a small Muslim village. Absolutely stunning.

20150513_200132On Thursday, we dropped by the University of the Philippines-Baguio for a lecture on Young Adult Literature by panelist Eugene Evasco and fellows Will Ortiz and Segundo Matias. I tagged along and also answered some questions about writing fantasy, and writing in general.





54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.

20150514_164218And of course we went to Batirol again! I tried their Baguio Blend this time, which was the Traditional Tsokolate drizzled with strawberry syrup. Yum.

Batirol, Photo from Vlad G.Kidlat Tahimik also dropped by to screen his film Balikbayan Box No. 1.


20150514_201524My workshop panel was on Friday, where I presented the science fiction story collection I’m working on right now. Positive comments, good points from the panelists and the fellows. You can read my poetics here.

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.That night: Poetry Slam! The Poetry Slam used to be held in Mt. Cloud Bookshop, but Mt. Cloud proved to be too small for the crowd the event now attracted. This year, it was held in Cafe Yagam.




The organizer brought books from Mt. Cloud, and I was delighted to see that they carried all three of my books! Thank you to the fellows who bought copies.

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.How it goes: Round 1, perform a poem. Round 2, perform an original poem. Round 3, poets will be given 15 minutes to write an original poem based on a theme that will be provided that night. I signed up for the heck of it but got eliminated after Round 2! Ha! I can’t perform to save my life. Congratulations to Mida Mabitad and Ned Parfan of the UPNWW, who were absolutely amazing!


54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.

20150515_221041We had a short graduation ceremony on Saturday night. I was asked to give a response (along with Rhod Nuncio) on behalf of the fellows. Here’s what I said (from what I can recall):

We, the Fellows, understand the importance of workshops, of community, of having time and space carved out of our realities in which we can spend our days reading stories and discussing literary work with people who understand us. We know how humbling and heartwarming it is to realize that we are not unique in our views, and that we are not alone. Thank you for this opportunity, and we hope to see you all again after this week.

Thank you to the UP ICW! I really enjoyed my stay.

Graduation Day!

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.

54th UP National Writers Workshop. Photos from Vlad G.For more information, you can visit the workshop blog:

You can also read the tweets to get a feel of the discussions:

Special thanks to Vlad Gonzales for some of the photos here.

Read Part 2.

going to baguio in may: fellows of the 54th UP National Writers Workshop announced

Excited to announce the good news that I am one of the Fellows for English of the 54th UP National Writers Workshop. As a UP alumna this makes me extremely happy. And nervous! But mostly happy. It should be a fun week in May in one of my favorite cities, talking about writing and reading. Love love love.

54th UPNWW Fellows


The Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing (UP ICW) announces the fellows to the 54th UP National Writers Workshop to be held from 10-17 May in Baguio City. The fellows, associates, advisers of the UP ICW selected twelve writers in mid-career to participate in the annual workshop. Heading this year’s workshop is award-winning writer and UP ICW Associate Prof. Luna Sicat Cleto.

This year’s fellows for English are Armida Mabitad Azada, Gutierrez M. Mangansakan II, Isidro T. Marinay, Benedict Bautista Parfan, Charlie Samuya Veric, and Eliza Victoria. The fellows for Filipino are Jack A. Alvarez, Kristoffer Brugada, Resty Cena, Segundo D. Matias Jr., Rhoderick V. Nuncio, and Will P. Ortiz.

The Advisers, Fellows, and Associates of the UP ICW will comprise the workshop panel. They are National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Gémino H. Abad, Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., Charlson Ong, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, J. Neil Garcia, Jun Cruz Reyes, Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera Jr., Rosario Cruz Lucero, Eugene Y. Evasco, Isabela Banzon Mooney, and Acting UP ICW Director Rolando B. Tolentino.

Unlike most national writers workshops, the UP National Writers Workshop is only for advanced writers. The UP ICW is the lone institution that holds a workshop of this kind in the country. The current workshop format was borne out of the need to address the dearth of venues for writers in mid-career to exchange ideas on their craft and their current literary projects. Prior to the new format, the UP ICW has held the annual UP National Writers Workshop for the country’s most promising beginning writers since the 1960s. Through the years other writing centers of other universities have instituted their own workshops for beginning writers, thus freeing the UP ICW to address other concerns.

baguio and back again

We were back in Baguio City on June 7th for an overnight trip, and while walking down Shuntug Road I told J, “People are probably less cranky here.”

It had been so painfully humid in Metro Manila the past few weeks that I think it contributed to my hotheadedness. Baguio’s chill breeze was a welcome respite.

It was J’s birthday weekend, and Casa Vallejo had slashed its room prizes by nearly half. I booked the tickets and a Standard Room in May.

To get to Victory Liner, we got on a taxi with a strange driver. He drove slowly, took turns slowly. At the end he drove past the bus station, and I was too pissed and scared to tell him to make a U-turn so we just got off. The tricycle we took to the station broke its chain. Don’t you love us Baguio? Don’t you want us back?

Finally we got on the bus. It was my first time to ride their First-Class bus and the aircon froze my kneecaps off.

We arrived safely, though, and thank goodness.



We were too early for Cafe by the Ruins, so we waited at a nearby McDonald’s until 7 AM.

It was my first time to have breakfast at Ruins. We both ordered their newest Ruins Longganisa, homemade and delicious. A bit pricey at PhP300+ but portions were generous.





We dropped by Casa Vallejo to leave our bags and walked down Session Road.


“Kaya mong magsarili!”

It was our first time to try Strawberry Taho. We saw it on sale outside the church.


BenCab Museum. J had fun watching the ducks.





Back to Session Road. Pizza Volante.

We tried the newest item on the menu, Po Boy.


This pizza proved to be too large for the two of us. We took half of it to the hotel, and hours later it was still soft and yummy. Amazing.


The room at Casa Vallejo was quite small, but that’s fine by us.


We napped for a bit and went down to Hill Station Restaurant for dinner.






I was only able to take a photo of our dessert, but we highly recommend their Seafood Carbonara, Hill Station Green Garden Salad, Cambodian Coriander and Garlic Chicken, and this dessert!



Off to sleep with our bellies full.

Breakfast view.


The next day, we had lunch at Solibao Restaurant. Had their Bagnet Kare-Kare and Lumpiang Sariwa.


And Strawberry Shortcake at Vizco’s — of course! :)


What we miss now that we’re back in humid Manila: cheap, really good food, homegrown restaurants, not-sad salads, the cool weather.

We’ll be back for sure.

alone in baguio, day 2

The night before, I asked the front desk to get me a cab by 9 AM. I don’t think they told the driver where I was going, because when I got in and told him, he looked like he died a little inside.

The BenCab Museum, which houses National Artist Ben Cabrera’s own paintings and personal art collection, is located on Km. 6 Asin Road. Go to Google Maps and see how far away that is from Baguio City Proper, not to mention from freaking Kennon Road.

I don’t care! I’m going to the museum!

My cab fare was PhP 144. Museum entrance (marked “donation” in the ticket) is at PhP 100. Be there early! The museum opens at 9 AM. Visitors entered the museum in droves just when I was heading out, around lunchtime.

I made it! Woohoo!

Cafe Sabel, the museum’s own restaurant, is located inside, so you can look at art, take a coffee break, and look at art again.

By the way, this is Sabel.

The memory of a slightly deranged homeless woman clad in plastic sheets billowing in the wind has inspired Filipino artist Benedicto Cabrera, better known as BenCab, for decades. He first started on his Sabel series (named after the woman) in the 1960s and has constantly revisited her image since then, over time abstracting those billowing sheets for example, showing them as elegant dresses. Yet, he had always done so on paper or canvas. (Source.)

Devote an hour or more to your museum visit.

Great view from one of the galleries.

I took a lot of photos but unfortunately was not able to take note of most of the artists’ names. My apologies.

“Portrait of a Woman from the Cordilleras” by Raymond Halili, an incredibly detailed 4 x 3 cm painting.

“A Good Night to Dream” by Welbart Bartolome.
“Graces II” by Gregory Halili.


Norberto Roldan’s Assemblage called “The Beginning of History and the System of Objects”

Detail, and texture.

Leroy New’s “Psychopomp”
Julie Lluch’s “Lily for Georgia”

And here are two of BenCab’s erotica pieces, “Love Positions” and “Draped Figure XX”.

I have to say I love this one, Abigail Dionisio’s “Ready to Hope”.

Igan D’Bayan’s “Disco Purgatorio”


Kawayan de Guia’s “Attention”.

Virgilio Aviado’s “Subdivision”, a collage.

Norberto Roldan’s “Medicine Cabinet No. 8”. Love love love the objects in this.

“Basic” by Ronald Ventura.

I was lucky to be there when Ben Cabrera dropped by. My thanks to one of the members of the museum staff for taking this wonderful picture.

I went down to Cafe Sabel, but took a picture of the surrounding duck pond and garden before grabbing a table.


Inside Cafe Sabel. I ordered a Tomato and Basil Pasta, a sundae with chocolate and fresh strawberries, and coffee. Note that Cafe Sabel is a cash-only restaurant.

Took a cab back to the city, this time to Burnham Park.

Most of the roses looked pretty wilted, but this was a bright spot with these pink blooms.

It got pretty hot, so I walked back to the Cathedral (taking the stairs from Session Road – ugh, my knees), shedding my jacket, my cap, and my scarf, and sat for an hour and read a book. I also went back to the store I saw yesterday and bought pasalubong. I was too tired and too broke to go to Mines View and other tourist spots, so I just walked back to SM and took more photos before heading back to High Point.

Ended the night with another sandwich and a Red Horse. Heh.

Went on the bus back the following day. Thank you, Baguio, and see you soon. I hope.

Let’s see how much I spent this weekend.

Hotel – PhP 3500

Bus – 910

Handling fee for tickets – 100

Cab fare to Ruins – 63

Ruins meal – 300?

Cab fare to Hotel – 77

Cab fare to Session Road – 70?

Book – 525

Vizco’s – 110

Knitted cap – 50

Cab fare from SM to Hotel – 70

Dinner – 100

Cab fare to BenCab – 144

Entrance – 100

Cafe Sabel – 300?

Cab fare to Burnham – 80

Meryenda (Bread Talk in SM) – 180 (I ate a lot of bread okay)

Pasalubong – 700+

Cab fare to Hotel – 70

Dinner with drinks – 200?

Lunch – 200?

Cab fare to Victory Liner – 70

TOTAL: PhP 7800 + (around 170 US Dollars)

Yikes, those cab fares really destroyed my budget. I’m sure you can bring this down by taking the jeep and finding a hotel on promo or a transient house near Session Road. And maybe by not eating too much? But where’s the fun in that?

alone in baguio, day 1

The Victory Liner bus I would be taking to Baguio would leave the Pasay terminal by 6 AM. The ticket said be there 30 minutes before departure, and so, as I’d rather be early and bored than be worried every minute that I might end up late, I was there more than an hour early.

How to purchase bus tickets online

Victory Liner bus schedules

Ha! Take that, TIME!

The buses do leave more or less on time (the 5:30 bus left on the dot; ours left 15 minutes past 6), so, you know, just follow the schedule or else your seat will be given to chance passengers. (And there were a lot of chance passengers that Friday.)

I forgot to pee before the bus left, and had such a terrible bladder experience that the drive from San Fernando, Pampanga to Concepcion, Tarlac was pretty much torture for me. Take note: I rode the regular aircon bus (PhP 455 one way), which has no washroom inside, and which only has two stopovers. One in Tarlac, and another in Sinon, Pangasinan.

It was the Lunar New Year weekend, so traffic was heavy on SCTEX. I arrived at Baguio City past 2 pm, around 8 hours later.

The Victory Liner Baguio station is along Utility Road. I stepped out of the bus and felt a cold wind slap me, and instantly fell in love.

I took a cab from there to Shuntug Road to have late lunch at Cafe By The Ruins. I paid PhP 63 – and the driver gave me exact change. 

Wait-listed at the restaurant.

Got a second floor table, and here’s the view.

I ordered Ruins Coffee and 3 Mushroom Crepe. I loved the coffee. I actually wasn’t expecting much from the crepe, but it was surprisingly delicious and filling.

I hailed another cab to take me to High Point Boutique Inn & Restaurant, all the way in faraway Kennon Road.

Look, when I was looking up hotels online, most of the hotels located along Session Road were so expensive. High Point offered the best price at PhP 3500 for two nights (this is a Standard Room, good enough for two), including free breakfast.

Unfortunately, they’re located 15 to 20 minutes away from city proper. I did not realize this when I booked a room with them. In a city where mostly anywhere interesting is walking distance from each other, that’s pretty far. If you’re staying at High Point and most of your destinations are in Session Road, be ready to shell out cab fare. And I’ve had cab drivers refuse me because Kennon Road is “too far”.

However, if you have a car this won’t be too much of a problem. You can enter Baguio via Kennon Road, for example.

From Shuntug I paid PhP 77 to get to the hotel. The Standard Room is actually pretty spacious.

With the smallest hotel TV I’ve ever seen.

The hot shower takes forever to become hot. And then when it’s hot, it’s scalding. Could annoy some people, but I’m fine with it.

There’s a direwolf on my shirt, because winter is coming here. Sort of.

Outside the room.

So out I went, heading back to Session Road. (I told you. Cab fares. Expensive.)

When I said “Mt. Cloud Bookshop”, the driver looked clueless. So I said, “Casa Vallejo”.

Hello, Mt. Cloud. I’ve been dreaming about you.

I spent quite a long time here, pulling out a bunch of poetry books and deciding which one to buy. I unfortunately was not made of money, so I placed them all back on the shelf. Then I found something that caught my eye – Madame Apol‘s book! It’s a collection of essays about her move to France. I read a few pages and paid for it at the counter.

It was starting to get dark, so I walked along Session Road. Quite aimlessly at first, until I found the cathedral (Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral).

There was a little store near the church that sold Good Shepherd products. I took a mental note of that.

I stopped by Vizco’s Restaurant (just beside Don Henrico’s) for something sweet.

I tried their Strawberry Shortcake, partnered with black tea with honey. Yum.

There were a lot of people walking on Session Road. A lot. I walked toward SM Baguio to get a cab to take me back to the hotel. I climbed the stairs to the mall and was instantly winded – the sun was setting, the temperature was dropping, and my hands, which were uncovered, were starting to freeze.

I was just too glad to be back in my room and under the sheets.

Here I am, someplace else, reading about someplace else.

High Point has reasonably priced meals. I ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with fries, which cost PhP 100. You can have the food delivered to your room, plus 10 percent service charge.

It was a good day. Time to close all the windows, turn off the aircon, put on my socks, and sleep. Brr.

on traveling alone, 2

Lately my stories and poems feel bland. Whatever excitement about my writing that I had end-2013 up to very early this year had faded. So of course the first thought that came to me was: I need a vacation. Haha. Or, I just need to be elsewhere. Am I being too romantic? I feel like I’m being too romantic, but a new place can stir up new ideas. Not earth-shattering ideas, not The Great Filipino Novel ideas, but ideas. I was charmed by Bangkok and I ended up writing a short story (“The Missing“) set in it. I can’t wait to be charmed by another city. Baguio, Dumaguete, Singapore –

Well, of course, it’d be nice if I have a larger disposable income. But oh well. One goal at a time.