Pandemic Writings

No blogposts for a month and a half.

I wasn’t exactly busy, I’m actually under the impression that I’m working less these past months. Lockdown fatigue is catching up, I guess. The semester is over a few weeks ago, and a research assistant gig is almost done as well, so I think I have no more excuses to be inactive here. Barely any new works recently, whether fiction, poetry, or reviews. However, I can do an inventory of sorts of my pandemic writings so far.

This blog was inactive for several years while I was living abroad, and I also pushed myself to a similar ‘let’s get down to business’ mood back in early 2020. The lockdown happened shortly. I posted two fictionalized episodes from my life in Canada, which were basically the seeds that would become my zine, Mga Migranteng Sandali, released in November that year in time for the book fair in Iloilo City. Circumstances under lockdown has become another push to get me writing again, and fortunately, several pieces have found homes beyond this personal blog. Rejection emails still out-number the ones conveying acceptance, but these opportunities mean a lot to a literary nobody like me.  

Whether to consider the pandemic as a writing prompt is of course still open to vicious debate, especially from positions of relative privilege. I have experienced, and continue anticipate, periodic money troubles, but generally, I’m okay. I try my best not to feed off other people’s misery, but I recognize I can’t be the judge if any of my writings has done the same.

Another reason for this blogpost is the boom in online publishing locally has been very exciting, but also a bit overwhelming. Knowing digital consumption, many people, myself included, probably can’t keep track of everything. I have several pdfs downloaded but still unread, pages bookmarked but unopened or completely explored. This even extends to anthologies or projects I’m a part of. I’m still adjusting to the scene, and there’s a lot to be discuss regarding digital publishing especially in the country’s context, but I really hope this dynamism will be sustained in the long run.

I will talk about eight projects I’m happy to be a part of and would very much like to invite others to check them out. This is an inventory, but also a shameless plug.    

Kasingkasing Nonrequired Reading in the time of COVID

Western Visayas’ Kasingkasing Press released four volumes of a digital poetry magazine, from March to April 2020. The early issues are relatively slim and featured mostly writers from the region, then it expanded. The tone was set, cultural workers had a lot to say, and they needed a venue. I have two poems in the final volume, ekphrastic poems on Lino Brocka’s Ina Kapatid Anak (1979) and Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig (1976). Previously posted here, but the spacing and line breaks look better in the magazine. I was devouring films during the few months of the lockdown, something I have not sustained when the work from home set-up was formalized. All volumes still available for download; Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4.

Revolt Magazine PH

Another important indie online publisher is Revolt Magazine, which deliberately aims to shake things up in the local literary scene. They cater to both established and emerging writers and have published a few of my poems. I even have an author’s page. I also have reshared some of their posts here, both my own and works by others. They were able to organize a zinefest recently, along with their sister site, Vox Populi. Selected titles are for sale, some are available for download. So far, I have read and greatly enjoyed Zea Asis’ Strange Intimacies: Essays on Dressing Up and Consumption. They appear to be on a hiatus at the moment, but the site is full of gems. Accessible here.

PGH Human Spirit Project

Another early call that attempted to document and make sense of the pandemic is UP Manila’s PGH Human Spirit Project, with calls for submission coming out in April 2020. Unlike Kasingkasing Press, they set the works to be thematically about the pandemic. This move drew accusations of capitalizing on the misery caused by COVID-19 and the state’s botched response. To a large extent, I think this is true. I however, still sent two poems. Made up of three volumes with the first one dedicated to frontliners affiliated with the Philippine General Hospital. The other two, where my poems are found, is for the general public, but only for those with links to the UP system. I haven’t read all the volumes cover to cover, but a quick browse revealed the plurality of creative responses to the pandemic, many of which I find wanting if not problematic. I still think the volumes should be read, debated, and see how they hold up. They are available for download here; Vol. 1 Pagkalinga, Vol. 2 Paggunita, Vol. 3 Pagninilay.

49-Philippine Language Poets in Translation in The Loch Raven Review

The Loch Raven Review’s Issue 1 for 2021 has a section of Filipino poems in translation, guest edited and introduced by Kristine Ong Muslim. I have one poem, which previously appeared in Revolt Magazine, translated by Eunice Barbara C. Novio. I also translated the poems of Orland Solis and Rene Boy Abiva into English. Many firsts here; publication outside the country, as a poet and as a translator too. This is a big deal as well since the journal has a putting out very impressive folios of translated poetry, edited by Danuta E. Kost-Kosicka, of which I greatly liked the one on Kurdish writers.

Ani 41 Lakbay

First paid publication in a long while. I sent a suite of poems also about life in Canada, written in English. Rejected several times by various publishers from different parts of the world, one poem made the cut in the journal with the theme of migration. Not sure what happened to the bookstore I am referring to in the poem, it was facing fierce legal battle against gentrification in Toronto last time I was there. I also still have the book mentioned in the poem.  I received the acceptance email while attending a human rights day mob in Iloilo City. Then got home and read about the crackdowns on journalists and activists on December 10 itself. Contradictions of being a writer in this country. Available for download here.

Busay (Year 43)

First time the College of Arts and Sciences student literary folio went online and asked for contributions outside UP Visayas. Busay has a very special place in my heart, as several of my works appeared here during my undergrad years. It’s either this blog or Busay. My book review of Rommel Rodriguez’ dagli collection is reprinted in this issue. I think this publication is important because just like other many cases, student folios serve as refuge for writers because of the lack of publishing opportunities in the country. Previously, Busay has published works from revolutionary poet Mayamor to award-winning Hiligaynon writers like Alice Tan Gonzales. The issue is edited by two of the most impressive young writers not just of the campus, but of the region, Orland A. Solis and Jhio Jan A. Navarro. Available for download here.  

Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Trabaho

Prepared by labor NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development, edited by the Teo Marasigan. One of country’s sharpest critic, who I have been reading since my undergrad years. I have also shared his Kapirasong Kritika columns, both in English and in Filipin, here several times. This one is an anthology with a much more militant framing regarding the pandemic and workers’ experiences. My story is a fictionalized online chat or conversation with a friend, also a young faculty, about concerns in the academe and beyond. I consider it to be unfinished, as I have more virtual exchanges, with friends, relatives, and students, that I think has important documentary value. As this pandemic drags on, I fear details from these quick check ins will be forgotten soon, if not already. Pieces in this project also perform a similar testimonial function. Available for download here.

Katitikan Issue 4: Queer Writing

I have been reading Katitikan for a while, but first time for a thematic call to be a fit to one of my stories. I edited and expanded the third story from my zine, Pag-alala kay Jose Garcia Villa. Story about lives that queer, migratory, and ultimately literary. I consider this a success in my efforts to try to get my Canada stories to other literary venues. Full issue could be accessed here.

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