Thursday, January 31, 2013

Literature Goes to Market in Dumaguete City

Overlooking Mindanao Sea and with a laidback vibe, Rizal Boulevard is perhaps Dumaguete’s most famous landmark 

Despite the whirlwind nature of the event, Dumaguete City had the ability to calm one down. I got to revisit the capital of Negros Oriental recently for the press conference of the Taboan 2013: Philippine Writers’ Festival, an annual gathering of writers all over the country to trade ideas and stories on culture, history and the literary arts.
The press conference was held at the Bethel Guest House. Despite its “antiseptic” ambiance, the small hotel is efficient and popular because of its location — along the city’s Rizal Boulevard. The boulevard is perhaps the most famous place there because it is picturesque and laidback. At one side is the Mindanao Sea, and at another a row of hotels, bars and restaurants, where many expats and students gather, talk and chill out. Some of the establishments used to be mansions, which lined the boulevard in the olden days. Old trees line the narrow strip of park beside the boulevard, a popular place to jog and exercise at as the sun rises and a nice promenade during sunsets. There is a monument to the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres on the spot where they first landed in the Philippines. It was in 1904 when they opened the first Paulinian school in the country in Dumaguete City. 
The boulevard is a popular dining strip. Over the years, many good restaurants have popped up in the area. One of the most popular is Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries, which is always full. It offers the best sans rival cakes and silvanas in the city. A few steps away is Jo’s Chicken Inato, famous for Visayan-style grilled chicken, perhaps Visayas’s most famous dish. 
Nearby are major Dumaguete landmarks, the Aquino Freedom Park, the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria and beside it the Campañario de Dumaguete, said to be one of the oldest heritage landmarks in Central Visayas. Also along the boulevard is Silliman University, the city’s leading educational institution, the country’s first Protestant university and the first American private university in Asia. There are a number of educational institutions in the city, making it an educational center in the region. Hosting about 30,000 students, Dumaguete is known as a “university town” with young and educated people contributing to the vibrancy of the city.

Dumaguete’s Rizal Boulevard is lined with trees, hotels, bars and restaurant

 The centuries-old belfry beside the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria was used to warn people of the coming of marauding Moro pirates, who “snatched” (daggit in local term) people away, thus the name of Dumaguete City

Also, Dumaguete likes to call itself the “City of Gentle People” most likely because of the blithe nature of the Dumagueteños and the carefree atmosphere of the city. The recent visit enabled me to experience that, as well as reconnect with one of my literary mentors when I was a fellow at the Second Iligan National Writers Workshop, poet and teacher Christine Godinez-Ortega, who is the vice head of the National Committee on Literary Arts (NCLA) of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). She is the festival director of Taboan 2013 and is responsible for bringing Taboan to Dumaguete City, where she was born and nurtured as a writer before going and working in Iligan City in Mindanao.
Taboan was conceptualized as the flagship project of the NCLA for the Philippine Arts Festival (PAF), which is NCCA’s contribution to the celebration of National Arts Month happening for the whole month of February. Taboan is the Visayan word for “market,” and it is purported to be a venue for writers, as well as readers, students, teachers and scholars to interact with one another and discuss writing and literature. It mostly consists of conferences, seminars, talks and panel discussions, usually happening simultaneously. An attendee can thus hop from one discussion to another.
Taboan is held in different regions in the country. The first one in 2009 was held in Metro Manila, then it moved to Cebu in 2010, Davao City in 2011 and at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga last year.
According to Ma’am Christine, it is but apt that the Taboan is being held in Dumaguete City.
Not in favor of the tag “City of Gentle People,” she wants the city to be known as the “City of Literature.” It has, in fact, produced a good number of writers and is home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious writers’ workshop, founded in 1962 by National Artist for literature Edith Tiempo and her husband, fictionist Edilberto Tiempo. The Silliman National Writers Workshop has nurtured many Filipino writers. Most of my writer-friends have attended the workshop and come back gushing with romantic tales about it, including falling in love with Dumaguete.
Ma’am Christine said that Taboan in Dumaguete is like a coming home of sorts for her, as well as for many participating writers. To be held from February 7 to 9, Taboan 2013 will be hosted by different schools in the city including Silliman University, St. Paul University of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental State University, College of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Joseph Seminary College and Foundation University. It will highlight Dumaguete City’s and the region’s writers, literature and literary traditions.
With the help of the city government of Dumaguete, Taboan for the first time will be having an opening parade, which will start at 8 a.m. on February 7 with a pahili, a ritual to augur luck, by a cultural group from the Negros Oriental State University. There will be performances by the Handuraw Dance Troupe of St. Paul University of Dumaguete and a rondalla group of the municipality of Dauin. During the opening ceremony, Resil  Mojares will deliver his keynote address titled “The Nation in the Visayan Imagination,” and a plenary session, “Your Place at the Writers’ Table,” will be held with National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Mojares, Leoncio Deriada and Isagani Cruz as speakers. Different panel sessions will immediately begin on the same day. 

A book fair is one of the exciting events of the Taboan 2013

“Inscribing the Past” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Joshua Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have Lumbera as keynote speaker, and Rev. Msgr. Agustin Velez Ancajas, Erlita Pangilinan Mendoza, Elmer Ordonez, Merlie Alunan and Maria Rosario Cruz-Lucero as panelists. “Bypassing the Center” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Joshua Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have Fr. Rey Villanoy Jr., Herminigildo Sanchez, Richard Madrilejos, Neyo Mario Valdez and Phil Harold Mercurio as panelists. “Imagining the Indigene” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, as keynote speaker, and Norman Darap, Richard Kinnud, Jayson Eduria Parba and Christine Godinez-Ortega as panelists. “Translating Texts, Texts in Translation” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Joshua Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Ma. Luisa Torres Reyes and panelists Francis “Butch” Macansantos, Junley Lazaga, Noel Tuazon, Hope Sabanpan-Yu and  Juliet Mallari. “Experimenting with Genres” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Joshua Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have panelists Fr. Jose Ronnie Cao, Almuzrin Jubair, Santiago Villafania, Shirley Lua and Jhoanna Lyn Cruz. “Vision and Revision” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Leoncio Deriada and panelists Jenny Talaver, Allan Alberto Derain, Roilingel Calilung, Roberto Klemente Timonera and Haidee Emmie Palapar.
On February 8, “Writing Chinoy, Chinoy Writing” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Jordan Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Shirley Lua and panelists Rowena Rose Lee, Mark Benedict Lim, Hope Sabanpan Yu and Carlo Arejola. “Writing for the Ebook Market” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Jordan Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Isagani Cruz and panelists Gil Montinola, Reuel Molina Aguila, Sonny Villafania and Jose “Butch” Dalisay. “Gender Factor” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Jhoanna Lyn Cruz and panelists Diandra-Ditma Macarambon, Sherma Benosa, Paul Randy Gumanao, Paolo Manalo and Ma. Carmen Sarmiento. “The Space Between” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Jordan Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela and panelists Merlita Lorena Tariman, Isabela Banzon, Martin Villanueva and Priscilla  Macansantos. “Chronicling Disasters” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Jordan Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Elmer Ordoñez and panelists Jim Domingo, Marion Guerrero, Carlo Arejola, Jondy Arpilleda and Elizabeth Raquel. “Networking Among Writers” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Agape Room  of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Butch Dalisay and panelists Jane Camens, Isagani Cruz, Merlie Alunan and Juliet Mallari.
At the Negros Oriental State University’s gym, the discussion on performance poetry will have keynote speaker Steven Patrick Fernandez with panelists Chuckberry Pascual, Lumbera, Nemesio Baldesco Jr., Joycie Dorado Alegre and Rosemarie Teves Pinili (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.). A reading/discussion of the works of Edilberto Tiempo and Edith Tiempo will be held at the Silliman Hall of Silliman University from 4 to 6 p.m. with keynote speaker Merlie Alunan and panelists Leoncio Deriada, Christine Godinez Ortega, Ralph Semino Galan, Dominique Cimafranca and Karlo Anthonio Galay David.
Mga Hinandum: Siday, Balak, Balitao of the Winners of the Negros Oriental Balak/Balitao Competition,” a performance poetry and concert featuring traditional Visayan literary froims, will be held on February 8 at 7 p.m. as well as the launching of Alunan’s book Pagdakopsa Bulalakaw and a performance by the St. Paul University of Dumaguete Orchestra.
Literary discussions will continue on February 9 with a reading/discussion of Artemio Tadena’s works at the James Herring Audio-Visual Room of Foundation University with keynote speaker Myrna Peña Reyes and panelists Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Francis “Butch” Macansantos and Priscilla Macansantos (8 to 10 a.m.). A reading/discussion of the works of Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela and Bobby Flores Villasis will happen at the Fr. Louis Chavet Hall of St. Paul University of Dumaguete (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) with panelists Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Leoncio Deriada,  Tichie Ann Baena, Priscilla Cielo and Victor Sugbo. “On Publishing Modern Catholic Writing” will have keynote speaker Joselito Zulueta and panelists Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ., Rev. Mgsr. Agustin Velez Ancajas, Fr. Rey Villanoy Jr., Fr. Jose Ronnie Cao, Fr. Enrico Silab and Georgette Ann Gonzales at the COSCA Multi-media Center of the College of St. Catherine of Alexandria, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

NCLA vice head Christine Godinez-Ortega (middle) is this year’s Taboan festival director. Last year, she moderated the discussion on writers’ workshops together with Aida Rivera Ford (left) and Elsa Martinez Coscolluela (right)

For the closing ceremonies of Taboan 2013, the Tanjay City Symphony Orchestra will hold a concert at the Essencia Hotel at 6 p.m. on February 9. This will be followed by “Suga-Tula (Crossing Poetry)” by the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, under the direction of Steven Patrick Fernandez.
Taboan 2013 Literary Awards, which was started in 2010, will also be bestowed, honoring the contributions of significant Visayan writers. This year’s awardees are Erma Cuizon, Marjorie Evasco, Lamberto Ceballos, Ernesto Lariosa and Cesar Ruiz Aquino from Central Visayas; Alice Tan Gonzales, Maria Rosario Cruz Lucero, Maria Luisa Defante and Victorio Sugbo from Western Visayas; and Fray Paolo Maria Diosdado Casurao from Eastern Visayas.
New this year is the Taboan Lifetime Achievement Award which will be given to Bienvenido Lumbera, poet Cirilo Bautista, critic Isagani Cruz, fictionist Elmer Ordonez and fictionist Leoncio Deriada.
With Taboan 2013, both residents and visitors of Dumaguete City will be treated to the soulful and mystical side of the city. Hopefully, the Taboan can conjure a spellbinding effect on the participants the way the Silliman National Writers Workshop has enraptured its fellows.

National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario and F. Sionil Jose attended last year’s Taboan and are expected to grace this year’s event

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Planting the Right Seeds: EDC Gathers Youth Leaders for New Perspectives on Environmental Issues

Fifty-eight college students from all over the country have learned their important greening mission in EDC’s first Binhi Youth Conference 

Zephanie Marie Danieles, a 19-year-old business administration student of St. Paul University of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, was already active in environmental causes. Hailing from Siaton, she said Dumaguete and the province in general, hailed by many tourists as a favorable rustic destination, has many environmental problems such as improper waste disposal. When it floods in the city, trash is everywhere. Air pollution is also a problem, which is why they encourage walking and biking in this city said to have the most motorbikes in the country. Outside Dumaguete, there is a lot of mining, she said. Wanting to disprove the belief that they are the apathetic generation, she called on people to “act now.” “Time is not our ally,” she said.
Danieles was one of the 58 student leaders from universities and colleges all over the Philippines who participated in the first Binhi Youth Conference (BYC), organized by Energy Development Corporation (EDC), a company in the Lopez ground involved in developing geothermal and other renewable energy sources. It was held from November 15 to 17, 2012, at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo City, Rizal.
With the Binhi conference, Danieles was able to connect with fellow students who share her passion, and gain more knowledge and new perspective on environmental issues. She and other students resolved to do more for the environment.
“Initially, I will educate the people around me on the importance of biodiversity. Being a biology student of UPVTC, I would like to serve my purpose and also let my purpose serve me” stated Carlito Cabo Jr. from the University of the Philippines in Tacloban City, Leyte.
On the other hand, Kristina Vade Santos of Ateneo de Davao said, “As a student, it’s the simplest way I can influence others to protect the environment. I will be a good leader and role model first in my classroom, then in my division, to the whole school, and to the community. This may be simple but I believe that simple things can have great impact on a wider scale if we start doing it now.”
Rolan Ben Lorono from Negros Oriental State University in Dumaguete City said he will lead fellow students in reforestation, while Jonathan Bayaton, also from Dumaguete City, said he has already started collecting and planting endemic and indigenous tree species.
“I will promote waste segregation and impart to my schoolmates the value of restoring premium native species in preserving biodiversity, to encourage all of us to be united in protecting Mother Earth,” said Rhoel Marcelo from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. 
Jonathan King Janer of Sorsogon State College pledged to implement Binhi in their organization, the Philippine Society Mechanical Engineers.
“Now, that I have found my career path, I will make a positive change by helping to fulfill the conference’s mission of nurturing a wealthy and healthy environment not only for my own generation but even for our children’s children,” said Mary Chris Nierves, an environmental management student of the Visayas State University.
The conference was also a venue where EDC, the leading geothermal energy company in the Philippines with five sites around the country, was able to make known one of its primary corporate responsibilities (CSR), which is environmental conservation. According to botanist Agnes de Jesus of EDC, EDC, formerly the Philippine National Oil Company, began its CSR in 1987 with community relations in their sites. In 2005, the CSR expanded to include health, education, livelihood and eventually environment programs. Environment remains to be a flagship cause for EDC. Launched in 2008, Binhi is a nationwide 10-year reforestation and biodiversity restoration project of the Lopez group, pledging 1,000 hectares of forests every year. It specifically aims to “restore the Philippine forest diversity and gene pool of the premium tree species; enhance the country’s ecological diversity; and support livelihood of the host communities.” The conference is part of the “Binhi movement” which aims to encourage the youth to initiate and sustain environmental awareness and protection projects within their own schools and communities. It gathered the best students from schools around and near their sites. 
The first day of the conference was dedicated to lectures with Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Annaliza Teh explaining the National Greening Program, which aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of degraded and denuded forestlands in six years; and Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño talking about climate change issues and trends. 
An important lecture was given by Dr. Perry Ong, a professor from the University of the PhilippinesInstitute of Biology. He revealed that the deforestation and exploitation of resources were rapid in the past century, after the country gained independence. The amount of deforestation and exploitation are much higher than during the Spanish and American periods combined. He also deplored the fact that the youth are ignorant about the country’s native and endemic flora and fauna.
Ong also emphasized knowledge in environmental efforts. “Hindi porket green, maganda na,” he said. 
The popular activity of tree-planting can be harmful to the environment if one doesn’t have knowledge of trees. It is imperative to plant native and endemic trees rather than foreign species that can wreck havoc on native ecology.
Aside from the lectures, participants went through a workshop on leadership and public speaking, conducted by management consultant Rodolfo de los Reyes. They also participated in tree-planting and team-building activities. EDC’s resident foresters gave them instructions and tips on proper tree planting methods. Seedlings, which were purely premium endangered Philippine species such as apitong, dao, ipil, kamagong, molave and yakal-saplungan, were planted by the delegates at the Eugenio Lopez Center. They also made project proposals, from which the best was picked, judged based on their compatibility with Binhi, viability, strategic content, and replicability. The best proposal was made by the team from the University of Southeastern Philippines, a regional state university in Davao City, receiving cash prizes and a project support grant from EDC in the form of budgetary provision and technical assistance from the CSR and watershed management departments for the implementation of its program. Their proposal is to design, produce and market T-shirts made from recycled materials. Each T-shirt will come with a packet of seeds of a Binhi tree that the buyer can plant. Proceeds from the shirt sales will be for the construction and maintenance of an on-campus greenhouse for students of their university to be able to study and culture rare and endangered native tree species.
Runners-up were St. Paul University of Dumaguete and University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. The top three projects will see implementation this year and will be showcased at road shows that EDC will conduct for the 2013 Binhi Youth Conference.
The participants still keep touch with each other through the BYC Facebook page and by following EDC’s Twitter account (@edcenergy), where they discuss environmental issues, share their activities, and inspire families and friends to care for the environment.  

Leadership and public speaking workshop conducted by management consultant Rodolfo de los Reyes

 Carlito Cabo Jr. (middle) of UP Tacloban committed to help promote rainforestation to save native flora and fauna. His schoolmates Daniel Licayan and Norlyn Marmita also pledged to participate in various greening programs to promote Binhi


 This tire lift challenge was one of the most difficult stages in the Binhi Amazing Race as it required the participants’ team work and shrewdness to lift the tire without touching the pole