22 August 2007

On Poison Pen Letters

Since my columns are now online every Thursday on the website of the Philippine Star , I do not have to upload them to this blog. I will now, therefore, use this space to do what bloggers usually do, which is to write whatever comes into their heads.

I usually pay no attention to poison pen letters or white papers, particularly if they are unsigned or signed by a pseudonym. Anyone too cowardly to use her or his own name when attacking another human being is clearly not worth anything, not even an acknowledgement that she or he exists.

Unfortunately, too many people have been forwarding to me an emailed poison pen letter published on the Philippine Daily Inquirer website about the sarsuwela Something to Crow About, which played in Manila, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

I wrote the lyrics of most of the songs of that sarsuwela, which was based on the short stories of Alejandro Roces. Although I usually charge a substantial fee for my writing services (enough to buy lots of books and computer stuff), I did those lyrics gratis et amore, to repay Roces for the many recommendation letters he wrote for me in the past, allowing me to get some grants. I also paid my own way to watch the productions in the United States, as did, I understand, several of those that were in the production.

The poison pen letter, signed “Marianito Parrenas,” called me “a mediocre Phil. Star columnist who is never known to excel in the area [of writing lyrics].” Frankly, I would rather be a mediocre Philippine Star columnist than an idiot hiding behind a pseudonym! By the way, I do not recall anyone in the Philippine Star ever calling any columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer mediocre (or any other name). There is a lesson here for students of journalistic ethics and good taste.

I am never one to boast about my credentials, but I suppose this situation calls for an exception. I am in the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for having won a number of prizes in the annual literary contest, where (for those not familiar with Philippine literary competitions) all entries are anonymous and, therefore, are judged solely on the basis of their merits. Several of the awards I won at the Palancas were for playwriting, not only in Filipino (which is my first language), but in English (also my first language, since linguists tell me that I am a “true bilingual”). I also have written quite a number of musical plays, all of which have been produced by various professional and amateur companies. I may, indeed, not have excelled in the area of writing lyrics, but then, that is the anonymous writer’s opinion and thankfully not of those that pay me good money to write lyrics.

Having gotten that off my chest, let me say something about the letter, at least about what I can make of it, since it is so badly written that it is almost impossible to understand, standard English grammar having been thrown out the window by the writer (or more likely, writers). That the letter is ungrammatical is only the least of its faults. It is even more contemptible in its distortion of facts.

For one thing, the letter calls the Chelsea International Hostel, where all the cast and crew stayed, including writer Alejandro Roces and director Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, a “classy hotel.” This reveals more of the quality of life of the letter writer/s than the standards of the hotel, which is classified as a one-star hotel. (Check any hotel reservation website or traveler’s guide, such as tripadvisor.

The letter says that Earthsavers is not registered, when it is a registered Philippine corporation. Anyone that has ever applied for funding from an international funding agency knows that legal incorporation is required to get anything. As the letter itself admits, Earthsavers has been getting foreign grants, not least because it has been designated by UNESCO as “UNESCO Artists for Peace.”

As anyone that knows anything knows, if someone lies in a small thing, she or he is obviously also lying about big things.

So, whoever you are, “Marianito Parrenas,” stop trying to get out of the gutter where you belong, because that is as classy a place as you will ever get to.

1 comment:

lystra said...

"So, whoever you are, “Marianito Parrenas,” stop trying to get out of the gutter where you belong, because that is as classy a place as you will ever get to."

that made me laugh. heh
oh, and hi sir!