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.