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In white heat and/or on a roll

By ALFRED A. YUSON, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 19, 2022 5:00 am

Previously noted in this space is a post-pandemic surge of creative energies that has become apparent in our heretofore pent-up country. The tsunami emerges undeniably as we thrill to the international triumphs of our homegrown actors Dolly de Leon and Soliman Cruz.

Additionally, there’s film director Erik Matti’s On the Job continuing to compete for global attention, with its nomination for the TV Movie/Mini Series category at the 50th International Emmy Awards—this while Lav Diaz’s 20-year-old Batang West Side, among his five films acquired by MOMA, just rescreened at Silverlens Gallery New York last Saturday. 

Then there are the successive breakthroughs by young indie filmmakers. LA-based writer and film curator Irene Soriano just clued us in on how Liz Sargent’s Take Me Home and Kayla Abuda Galang’s When You Left Me On That Boulevard have made it to the US Fiction Shorts section of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

It’s more than just a matter of timing. Creatives do enjoy seasons in white heat or simply go on a roll. We can cite Nobel Peace laureate Maria Ressa who recently enjoyed the local launch of her new book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator. There’s also Kristian Sendon Cordero, the do-it-all Bicolano poet, translator, filmmaker, publisher, Savage Mind bookshop (in Naga City) operator and over-all impresario who just added a TOYM 2022 award to his spate of distinctions.

Unlike bitterly aging gunslingers who wince at the onslaught of fresh primetime talents, I enjoy hearing of how quality of productivity rewards all kinds of artists.

Of course I’m more aware of milestones being notched up in the literary field. So I should again cite the recent achievements of South Africa-based poet Jim Pascual Agustin and Baguio City’s fast-rising fictionist Monica Macansantos. And the recent Palanca first prizes earned by old friends, among these novelists Rayboy Pandan and Khavn de la Cruz, poet Ramil Digal Gulle, and fictionist Ian Rosales Casocot, As I must congratulate, outside the usual friendship circle, Yvette Tan for her well-received book, Seek Ye Whore and Other Stories, and Wilfredo Liangco’s’s non-fiction bestseller, Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer and Other Medical Misadventures.

Both on a roll and admirably performing in white heat is National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, a.k.a. Rio Alma, who nearly daily shares a new poem on FB. Close on his heels as far as productivity goes is Abdon “Jun” Balde Jr., with his frequent tilamsik and other novel literary forms in Filipino, and devoted research into Bicolano folklore. 

Also on a productivity roll is poet Marne Kilates, who’s always gearing up for new collections. The same may be said of Simeon “Jun” Dumdum of Cebu, who authors poetry and essay collections at about twice a year. I still have to review his latest: Is There Sex in Heaven? and Other Essays Bypassing a Passing World, and Mass at the Edge of Morning, a poetic meditation. Equally laudable has been the constant research and writing of Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, who unceasingly enlightens us on our culinary history.

On the publishing and editing front, Marra PL Lanot has been doing a yeowoman’s job with Philippines Graphic’s monthly literary reader, while Marvin Aceron continues his heroic publishing ventures as spearheaded by the quarterly literary journal Santelmo. For his part, Sarge Lacuesta leads the Good Intentions Publishing company, which recently came out with the first issue of LUNA: A Journal of New Filipino Writing.

Among the heroes of indie publishing is Ronald Verso, whose Balangay Media Productions or Balangay Books served up Filipino poet Miguel Pablo Celestial’s Sa Ika-ilang Sirkulo ng Impiyerno only last week, resulting in wide positive notice.

Andrea Pasion-Flores spiritedly leads Milflores Publishing into new ground, while Ateneo University Press with its director Karina Bolasco has set the template for extraordinary titles, joined in by University of Santo Tomas Publishing House—as exemplified by its latest intriguing offering, Kathang Haka: The Big Book of Fake News, edited by Dean Francis Alfar, Nikki Alfar and Louie Jon A. Sanchez.

On the Fil-Am front, Aileen Cassinetto and Sophie Ibardaloza recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of Paloma Press, which they co-founded.

There’s certainly no dearth of superb material, from home-based writers as well as our expats—Joi Barrios (whose Sa Aking Pagkadestiyero / In My Exile: Mga Tula / Poems I still have to reckon with), fellow poets Angela Narciso Torres and Eileen Tabios, and fictionists Reine Arcache Melvin, Noelle de Jesus and Lakambini Sitoy. Currently in Bangkok completing his literary work commitments is the peripatetic Danton Remoto, while Bino Realuyo in New York is busy with his second novel. 

Meanwhile, enjoying foreign stints soon are poet Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, who’s scheduled to participate in the Emirates Litfest’s “Desert Stanzas” in February, as well as poet Joel M. Toledo and poet-artist Panch Alvarez, who’ll be partnering on a grant next year at Rockefeller Center’s Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio.

I must also mention dramatist Floy Quintos’s The Reconciliation Dinner staged in UP recently, to much acclaim. One need not be physically present at all these gigs, launches and various activities. It’s enough to trawl social media and instinctively distinguish the valid triumphs from the suspect claims to posterity.

Congratulations are also in order for our world-class visual artists—Ronald Ventura for marking a record auction high of enviable millions for one large painting, Danny Dalena for his own auction record for an early work, and the indefatigable artists Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Phyllis Zaballero, Lydia Velasco, Cristina Taniguchi, Pardo de Leon, Ross Capili, Gromyko Semper and Nestor Vinluan, as well as sculptors Agnes Arellano and Impy Pilapil.

Maxine Syjuco has been no slouch either with her evolving thematic artworks. For her part, on Dec. 10, Trix Syjuco performed at Russian-owned Kurbatoff Gallery in Vancouver for their 20th anniversary.

Just as remarkable has been Celeste Lecaroz who’s definitely on a roll, with overlapping solo exhibits and group participation, such as at the Manila Bang Show 2022 as well as her “Seasons of Grace” show at ArtistSpace in Ayala Greenbelt 5 until December 26.

Hersley Casero of Dumaguete has been another dynamic artist-photographer on a definite roll, with his latest participation at the Visayas Art Fair 2022.

From Karina Bolasco, there’s news of our “most imaginative and finest illustrators of the country, all members of Ilustrador ng Kabataan (INK),” recently putting together a fantastic 30th anniversary book. Meanwhile, Lutgardo Labad has served notice of the International Conference on the UNESCO Creative Cities starting last Dec. 14, courtesy of the NCCA.

Our culinary arts has no lack of champions, with Erica Paredes gaining much notice with her newly opened Reyna in Paris. Scores of other Filipino chefs have been making their mark here and abroad.

Per Pablo Tariman, no matter how infrequently it’s been staged here, opera has recently been exceptional in Manila. And there’s the young Filipino-Finnnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski, who at 22 has been named successor as music director of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, generally regarded as the best French orchestra outside Paris.

Ah, there’ll always be Paris. And there’ll always be the Philippines, to feed it and the rest of the world with exceptional food, music, films, art and literature.