23 December 2008

Medy Cruz update

After a third operation, this time done at St. Luke's Medical Center, my wife Remedios "Medy" Cruz has been finally cured. She still has to worry about infection and biliary cirrhosis, but with proper care, she should fully recover in a month or so. The operation was another Roux-n-y, to repair the damage done by the first operation (a laparoscopic cholecystectomy that cut her main bile duct) and the second operation (a failed Roux-n-y). I thank all those that joined the prayer warriors. I thank all the saints in heaven that interceded for her. Most of all, I thank the Lord for giving her yet another lease on life. We all learned from this terrible experience - the doctors that they are not infallible but can do wonders, my friends that their prayers are effective, my family that we have many friends, myself that I am not alone in suffering and in joy. God bless everyone! Happy birthday, Jesus! I love you all!

10 December 2008

All Souls' Day 2008

Remembering Artists

Every All Souls' Day, I remember dear artists and writers whose lives I shared all too briefly: Felicito Abiva, Shirley Advincula, Carol Afan, Nick Agudo, Wilfredo Alberca, Asuncion Albert, Estrella Alfon, Zeneida Amador, Lilia Pablo Amansec, Ang Kiukok, Carlos Angeles, Pacifico N. Aprieto, Francisco Arcellana, Liwayway Arceo, Monico Atienza, Lamberto Avellana, Jose Ayala, Inday Badiday, Concesa Baduel, Filemon “Billy” Balbastro Jr., Gopal Baratham, Corinta Barranco, Nazario D. Bas, Brigido C. Batungbakal, Manuel Principe Bautista, Betty Go-Belmonte, Luis Beltran, Leonidas Benesa, Teodoro Benigno, Trinidad Benito, Ishmael Bernal, Benjamin Bernales, Mike Bigornia, Nida Blanca, Mario Bolasco, Raul Bonoan SJ, Art Borjal, Santi Bose, Lino Brocka, Jose Buhain, Aurelio Calderon, Jeremias A. Calixto, Giovanni Calvo, George Canseco, Guadalupe Carbonell, Celso Carunungan, Gabriel Casal, Levi Celerio, Claro Ceniza, Renato Constantino, Adrian Cristobal, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Jesus Cruz, Jose Cruz SJ, Patricia Melendrez-Cruz, Concepcion Dadufalza, Edilberto Dagot, Petronilo Bn. Daroy, Joy de Castro, Pio De Castro III, Horacio de la Costa, Adul de Leon, Ricaredo Demetillo, Francisco Demetrio, Eduardo Deveza, Fe Dizon, Rafael Donato FSC, Maria Luisa Doronila, Martin Drury, Antonio Dulalia, Antony Easthope, Jean Edades, Anacleta Encarnacion, Emigdio Enriquez, Virgilio Enriquez, Nieves Epistola, S. V. Epistola, Merito Espinas, Clemencia Espiritu, Aurelio Estanislao, Ariston Estrada, Frankie Evangelista, Winnie Evangelista, Doreen Fernandez, Pacita Fernandez, Rudy Fernandez, Wili Fernandez, Marcelino Foronda, Henry Francia, Hilario Francia Jr., Lamberto Ma. Gabriel, Carolina Garcia, Rita Gomez, Andrew Gonzalez FSC, NVM Gonzalez, Salvador Gonzalez, Leonor Orosa-Goquingco, Joey Gosengfiao, Sidney Greenbaum, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, Luisa Mallari-Hall, Atang de la Rama Hernandez, Sid Gomez Hildawa, Eduardo Hontiveros SJ, Alejandrino Hufana, Dominador Ilio, J. Eddie Infante, Nick Joaquin, Estelita Juco, Ogie Juliano, Lucrecia Kasilag, Maria Kalaw Katigbak, Emmanuel Lacaba, Amado Lacuesta Jr., Serafin Lanot, Jose Lansang Jr., Pura Kalaw Ledesma, Leandro Locsin, Raul Locsin, Salvador P. Lopez, Rogelio Lota, Ella Luansing, Mochtar Lubis, Jose Maceda, Fidela “Tiya Dely” Mendoza-Magpayo, Cesar Majul, Armando Malay, Frank Mallo, Vicente Manansala, Raul Manglapus, E. Arsenio Manuel, Antonio Manuud, Bert Marcelo, Nonoy Marcelo, Josefina Mariano, Epifanio Matute, Isagani Medina, Felicidad Mendoza, Eddie Mercado, Helen Meriz, Maningning Miclat, Graham Millington, Carminia Miraflor, Dominador Mirasol, Lina Espina Moore, Alfredo Morales, Santiago Adv. Mulato, Orlando Nadres, Julie Fe Navarro, Clovis Nazareno, Ana Maria Escalante-Neri, Antonio Ma. Nieva, Evaristo Nievera, Valerio Nofuente, Wilfrido Nolledo, Bienvenido Noriega Jr., Alfeo Nudas SJ, Ramon Obusan, Onib Olmedo, Blas Ople, Sedfrey Ordoñez, Franklin Osorio, Fe Otanes, Rey Paguio, Loreto Paras-Sulit, Emy Pascasio, Benjamin M. Pascual, Benjamin P. Pascual, Guillermo Pesigan, Manuel Pichel, Joaquin Po, Andy Poe, Fernando Poe Jr., Nina Estrada Puyat, Carlos Quirino, Jose Quirino, Jess Ramos, Felicitas Reyes, Godofredo S. Reyes, Evelyn Ribaya, Carolina Rionda, Pete Roa, Ruth Roa, Raul S. Roco, Francisco Rodrigo, Ma. Teresa Escoda Roxas, Ben Rubio, Bonifacio Salamanca, Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, Dionisio Salazar, Oscar Salazar, Leopoldo Salcedo, Rachel San Miguel, Lucio San Pedro, Romulo Sandoval, Josefa Saniel, Cirio Santiago, Bienvenido N. Santos, William Henry Scott, Raman Selden, Jesus Sibal, Bonifacio Sibayan, Rogelio Sicat, Chat Silayan, Vic Silayan, Felixberto Sta. Maria, Elpidio Sta. Romana, Osmundo Sta. Romana, Vito C. Santos, Agustin Sotto, Trinidad Tarrosa Subido, Conchita Sunico, Josefina A. Tabujara, Alfredo Tiamson, Edilberto K. Tiempo, Rolando Tinio, Lito Tiongson, Romeo Togonon, Cesario Torres, Filonila Tupas, Vic Vargas, Joven Velasco, Rey Ventura, Danny Villanueva, Rene O. Villanueva, Manuel Viray, Wilfredo Virtusio, Virgilio Vito, Yoshiko Wakayama, Mary Walter, and Leopoldo Yabes.

I also remember my bridge-playing friends (Linda Campos, Phyllis Harvey, Syed Zeyaul Hoda, Paquito Javier, Dioscoro Papa, Helen Saad, Vic Santiago, Teresa Yuchengco, and Sachiko Zobel), my fellow Fulbrighters (Corazon Agrava, Marcelo Fernan, and Max Soliven), my fellow UPSCANs (Francisco Abao Jr., Ramon Casas, Violeta Calvo-Drilon, Mervyn Encanto, Generoso Gil, Bienvenido M. Lim Jr., Emmeline Quinio, Wilfrido Santiano, and Raquel Zaraspe-Ordoñez), and my literary sister Lina Santos Cortes Raquion (daughter of my literary father Bienvenido N. Santos).

Please say a special prayer for my mother Pacita Ronquillo Cruz, in her youth a short story writer, and my father Ricardo Castillo Cruz, a scientist who loved to read.

(Published in The Philippine Star, 30 October 2008)

02 November 2008

New Book on Filipino Family (announcement)

Filipino Family Surviving the World
by: Ma Lourdes "Honey" Carandang and Queena Lee-Chua

When: Nov 8, 2008 (Sat) 10 am to 12 n
Where: Powerbooks, SM Megamall

The Filipino family today is facing many changes, within itself and in the larger society. Award-winning psychologists Carandang and Lee-Chua discuss the impact of these developments on parents, teens and children, and suggest ways of coping with them.

Whether we are dealing with failing grades, giftedness, household violence, stress, miscommunication, excessive TV, negative media portrayals, the bottomline is respect and self-worth. Parents need to respect each other, and treat their kids with dignity.

The fmaily is the moral center of society, where values are learned, and role models, emulated. To rebuild our nation, we need to start taking care of the family.

Parents, teachers, counselors today have a great responsibility---to develop their children's potential, to ensure that children become healthy emotionally, socially and morally. This book equips everyone with the knowledge and tools to deal with transitions, trauma, and other changes.

Ahon, pamilyang Pinoy!

01 November 2008

Media and Culture

I gave this keynote address at the Boracay Media Summit on 28 October 2008:

The Expanding Frontiers of Media in the Preservation of Culture,
the Promotion of Tourism, and the Protection of the Environment

I have come as a representative of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), particularly its program called the Philippine Cultural Education Program (PCEP). PCEP has a very ambitious objective, namely, to make every Filipino culturally literate. PCEP was conceptualized in 2002. It’s only now gathering steam, but NCCA hopes that it will be fully operational by at least 2014. The Program has many components, one of which touches directly on media. This is what I would like to speak about to you today.

PCEP plans to fund an Award on Cultural Education Practice for media. The award will be integrated into the current NCCA award called Gawad Alab ng Haraya. The award for media will honor outstanding achievement in cultural journalism and documentation. What exactly does this mean? It means that the awardee (which can be an individual or an organization) has consistently treated as front page news or as the first headline in a radio or television show an aspect of Philippine culture. Since we are now in the blogsphere era, blogs with wide readership, which would then qualify them as mass media, would also be eligible for the award.

Here we have to face the key question in PCEP, as well as in this Media Summit. What is Philippine culture?

Ano ba talaga yang Pinoy culture, ha, kuya o ate? Iyan ba ang tinatawag na Pitong Sining o Seven Arts? Oo at hindi. Oo, kasama ang literatura, teatro, musika, pintura, iskultura, arkitektura, sayaw, pelikula, radyo drama, teleserye, fantaserye, at lahat na ng tinatawag nating Creative Art o Imaginative Art. Hindi, dahil mas malawak ang kultura kaysa ang mga ito lamang. Kasama sa kultura ang hindi naman ginagawa ng iisang alagad ng sining, indibidwal man o grupo, kundi ng isang komunidad, tulad ng paghahabi, pagluluto, mga wikang ginagamit sa bahay o sa palengke o sa paaralan, mga paniniwala, mga ugali, iyun bang tinatawag ng mga sosyologist o anthropologist na kultura. Kasama rin iyan.

Sa PCEP, hindi lang iyan ang kultura. Kasama sa depinisyon namin ng kultura ang mga natural na bagay na hindi naman tao ang gumawa, tulad ng buhangin dito sa Boracay, ang bulkang Mayon, ang Pinatubo, ang bundok ng Apo o ng Banahaw, ang iba’t ibang uri ng isda na makikita lamang dito sa bayan natin, ang mga halaman at hayop na Pinoy na Pinoy. Kasama iyan sa kultura. Sa Media Summit na ito, ang tawag ninyo dyan ay Promotion of Tourism o Protection of the Environment. Okey lang na tawagin ninyo ito ng iba’t ibang pangalan. Para sa PCEP at para sa NCCA, ang lahat ng iyan ay kultura.

Baka itanong ninyo, ano ang hindi kasama sa kulturang Filipino? Ang sagot naman dyan ay lahat at hindi lahat. Ang lahat na makikita lamang sa atin ay kulturang Filipino. Everything that is uniquely Filipino or that makes us unique as a people or as a nation is Philippine culture. Kapag may tinuturo tayo, ginagamit natin ang ating nguso. Kultura iyan. Kapag ayaw nating dumalo sa isang party o meeting, ang sagot natin ay “baka” o “susubukin ko” o “maybe,” pero bihira nating sabihin, “hindi” o “no.” Kultura iyan. Kapag may hinihingi tayo sa Panginoon natin, pinapahiran natin ng panyo ang paa ng isang batong istatwa. Kultura iyan.

Pero kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga buhay ng artista, tungkol sa kanilang pagbubuntis o pag-iisnaban o pagiging bading, hindi Philippine culture iyan, dahil sa America, ganyan din sila. Kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga nangungurakot ng katakut-takot na pera sa gobyerno o sa militar o kung saan man, hindi Philippine culture iyan, dahil sa ibang bansa, kasama na ang America, ganyan din sila. Hindi naman tayo ang nag-iisang bansa sa buong mundo na pinagsasamantalahan ng mga pulitiko o mayayaman o makapangyarihan. Kung nagkukuwento tayo tungkol sa mga krimen, mga nanggagahasa, mga mamamatay-tao, mga magnanakaw, hindi Philippine culture iyan. Human nature iyan.

Hindi rin Philippine culture iyung surfing, dahil marami niyan sa ibang bansa. Hindi rin Philippine culture iyung maraming restoran, dahil marami ring kainan sa ibang bansa. Hindi rin Philippine culture ang mga call center, ang mga ineexport nating mga nars, ang wikang Ingles, dahil mayroon ding ganyan ang ibang bansa.

Pero walang puputi pa sa buhangin ng Boracay, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Walang gaganda pa sa mga resort natin sa Palawan, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Mayroong mga rice terraces sa ibang bansa, pero hindi kasing laki o kasing tanda noong rice terraces natin, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Tayo lang ang nagpapadala ng balikbayan box sa ating mga kamag-anak, kaya Philippine culture iyan. Tayo lang ang bansang nabubuhay dahil nagpapadala ng pera dito ang mga kamag-anak natin sa ibang bansa, kaya Philippine culture iyan.

Sa madaling salita, ang kulturang Filipino ay ang kahit anong makikita lamang dito sa atin o ginagawa lamang nating mga Pinoy.

Sa media natin, aminin na natin, ang nasa front page o ang inuuna sa mga programa sa radyo at telebisyon ay ang mga bagay na makikita rin naman sa ibang bansa, tulad ng krimen, politika, digmaan, sex, at tsismis. Kapag may maglalakas-loob na gawing headline ang kagandahan ng Boracay o Palawan o ang tulang tinatawag na ambahan ay pang-award iyan ng NCCA o PCEP.

Hindi lang kasi award ang pinag-uusapan dito. Ang media ang naghuhubog o bumubuo sa kamalayan o consciousness ng ating mga kababayan. Kapag ang nababasa lamang o naririnig lamang ng ating mga kababayan ay ang mga kawalanghiyaan ng mga heneral o opisyal ng gobyerno o mayayamang negosyante ay natural na sasama ang kanilang loob. Hindi ko sinasabi na dapat huwag sumama ang ating loob, dahil talaga namang grabe ang magkaroon ng limpak-limpak na salapi habang sa buong bansa, at sa buong mundo, ay bumabagsak na ang mga bangko, negosyo, at kabuhayan. Pero hindi naman totoo, hindi makatotohanan, not accurately reflecting reality, ang gawing 100% ang nakakasama ng loob na mga pangyayari sa bansa natin o sa mundo. Maputi pa rin ang buhangin ng Boracay, kahit na gaano kalaki ang tong-pats sa mga kontrata sa Tsina. Masarap pa rin ang lutong Kapampangan, kahit na hindi type ng nakararaming Filipino ang isang Kapampangang hanggang ngayon ay nag-aambisyon pa ring manatili sa poder. Marami pa rin ang uri ng mga isda natin, kahit na mas mahal pa ang galunggong kaysa tilapia. Tama pa rin ang mga linya ni Balagtas na “Sa loob at labas ng bayang ko sawi, kaliluha’y siyang nangyayaring hari” kahit na (sa katunayan ay dahil nga) dumarami ang mga nagugutom at naghihirap sa ating bayan. Maganda pa rin ang tula, kahit na pangit ang katotohanang inilalarawan nito.

It is true that Reporters Without Borders reports that, though we are not as bad as North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Eritrea, the worst of all countries when it comes to press freedom, we are as bad as Congo and just a little bit better than Singapore. Our press is not free, despite Malacañang’s being in denial mode, but we are in a much better position than Singapore to make ourselves free. You see, Singapore has very little culture, as the Singaporeans themselves will admit. We have plenty of culture. Our culture has enabled us to survive and even to prevail during four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, during half a century of American rule, during another half century of some kind of rule, whether neocolonial or late capitalist or multinational or WTO or whatever we want to call it. No matter what history hurls at us, we have survived. Manny Pacquiao may be shorter than Oscar De La Hoya, but he is Filipino, win or lose. Maybe, that is what Philippine culture is all about, not about winning or losing, not about being short in stature or infrastructure or morals or integrity or system or money or whatever, but being proud of ourselves no matter what.

Media must not only present to the public the truth, and it does this very well today, but must represent the truth, that is, must think seriously about the whole truth, not just the person that bites the dog, but also the dog that bites the person. Bad news is news, that is true, but so is good news, even if many things that are good are not new. But if something is really good, it will remain new, it will always be renewed, it will always renew.

Media must not only constitute reality, meaning that it creates a kind of reality that people share, a kind of imagined community in Benedict Anderson’s sense that is molded by the imaginative arts of writing and speaking. Media must also reconstitute reality, by deliberately painting the entire canvas of Philippine reality, not just its shadows, not just the colors it shares with other countries, but the light that emanates from natural and human-made wonders.

Media must not only react to events as they unfold, political, criminal, showbiz, athletic, environmental, or whatever, but must act on its own proactively to make Filipinos proud of what we really are.

You can say anything you want about us, even the negative things, of which there are legion, but you cannot deny and we should remind the public not to deny that we are Filipinos, whether we live here or elsewhere, whether we are for or against something or anything, whether we know it or not. What makes us Filipino? That is what PCEP is all about. That is what NCCA is all about. That is what Philippine culture is all about. That is what I hope this Boracay Media Summit will be all about.

26 October 2008

Blair & Robertson Deconstructed

During the 2008 Manila International Book Fair, Gus Vibal, founder of Filipiniana.net, gave a lecture on James Alexander Robertson, the Robertson of “Blair and Robertson,” the 53-volume standard reference work entitled The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898.

The work of Blair and Robertson has been cited thousands of times by scholars, who have always assumed that it is accurate and comprehensive. Vibal proved, in an extended treatise, that we should not trust the work.

Vibal’s thesis was simple but provocative: “Far from being a neutral and scientific enterprise, Robertson’s acquisition policies were strongly guided by American colonialist considerations, overriding the B&R’s claims to historical objectivity. What seemed to be a monumental scholarly undertaking also masked an imperialist ideological bias which has been picked up unwittingly by nationalist historians and passed on today as orthodoxy and accepted as textbook truth.”

Painstakingly tracing the career of Robertson as first director of the National Library, Vibal showed how the American librarian was part of a grand conspiracy “to stitch together a cohesive imperialist narrative to justify white rule over the Philippines.” Unlike Wenceslao Retana, who collected even anti-Spanish texts, Robertson saw to it that only pro-American and anti-Filipino texts were included in his collection. In fact, Robertson even included hoaxes such as the Code of Kalantiao.

Vibal concluded his lecture with these words: “In the guise of ‘tutelary democracy’ the ‘savage people’ of the Philippine islands would be shaped into a democratic nation by white people who would act as their moral and political superiors. Not satisfied with political victory, the new American masters were determined to achieve cultural hegemony and in so doing unleashed an insidious war against hispanismo, the last dying trace of Spain in the Philippines. Its methods were the supplanting of the very language in which the nationalist aspirations were framed, as well as the gradual erosion of Hispanic elements in Philipine society as the Americans sought to renovate the national culture after their image.”

“The proof of this,” said Vibal, “is today’s lecture where I stand before you, a Filipino speaking in English, and still interpreting my Hispanic Philippine past through readings of the highly selective and skewed Blair and Robertson translations. I find it difficult to read the works, all in Spanish, of Isabelo de los Reyes, Wenceslao Retana, Epifanio de los Santos, Pedro Paterno, Jaime de Veyra, or Teodoro Kalaw. It is a laborious effort to read the classic seditious novels of early Tagalog writers such as Lope K. Santos, Faustino Aguilar, and Iñigo Ed. Regalado.”
Renato Constantino called this “the miseducation of the Filipino.” Unfortunately, until today, that miseducation still continues.

Very few Filipinos know enough Spanish to read at least the two novels of Jose Rizal, not to mention the other masterpieces of 19th century and even early 20th century Filipino writers. The vast majority of Filipinos can read modern Tagalog, but even Tagalogs find it hard to understand the old Tagalog of the early 20th century.

It is time to return Spanish to the curriculum. Unless we know where we have been, we will never get to where we want to go. In fact, we will not even know where we should go.

It is also time for our scholars to translate all our historical and cultural documents in Spanish into languages young Filipinos easily understand. Even the old Tagalog novels have to be translated into Filipino, if we want the next generation to continue reading them.

(First published in The Philippine Star, 16 October 2008.)

National Book Award 07 Finalists

According to the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board, these are the finalists for the National Book Awards for books published in 2007:

ANTHOLOGY: A la Carte, edited by Cecile Manguerra Brainard and Marily Ysip Orosa; At Home in Unhomeliness, edited by J. Neil C. Garcia; Best Filipino Stories, edited by Gemino H. Abad and Gregorio C. Brillantes; Cordillera in June, edited by B. P. Tapang; Ang Dagling Tagalog, 1903-1936, edited by Rolando B. Tolentino and Aristotle Atienza; Mga Piling Dulang Mindanao, edited by Arthur P. Casanova; Very Short Stories for Harried Readers, edited by Vicente Garcia Groyon.

ART / ALFONSO T. ONGPIN PRIZE: Philippine Church Façades, by Pedro G. Galende, OSA; Pinoy Dressing, by Barge Ramos; Salvador F. Bernal, by Nicanor G. Tiongson.

BIOGRAPHY / AUTOBIOGRAPHY : From Barrio to Senado, by Juan M. Flavier; Legends & Adventures, by Carmen Guerrero Nakpil; A Man and His Music, by Angel M. Peña; Maria Kalaw Katigbak, by Monina Allarey Mercado.

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: The Boy Who Touched Heaven / Ang Batang Humipo sa Langit, by Iris Gem Li, translated by Roberto Añonuevo; Dalawang Bayani ng Bansa, by Rene O. Villanueva; Sampu Pataas, Sampu Pababa, by Russell Molina; Tight Times, by Jeanette C. Patindol.

COOKBOOKS AND FOOD: Cooking for Health, by Cris C. Abiva, Luz S. Callanta, and Atel E. Jazmines; An Introduction to Coffee, by Pacita U. Juan and Ma. Regina S. Francisco.

DRAMA: Psychedelia Apocalypsis at Iba Pang Dula, by Nicolas B. Pichay; Tatlong Paglalakbay, by Tony Perez.

EDUCATION: Magaling ang Pinoy!, by Queena N. Lee-Chua, Ma. Isabel Sison-Dionisio, and Nerisa C. Fernandez.

ESSAY / CREATIVE NONFICTION: Into the Country of Standing Men, by Rey Ventura; Pagmumuni-muni at Pagtatalak ng Sirenang Nagpapanggap na Prinsesa, by J. I. E. Teodoro; Tongues on Fire, by Conrado de Quiros.

FICTION / JUAN C. LAYA PRIZE: Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street, by Benjamin Pimentel.

SHORT FICTION: The Kite of Stars & Other Stories, by Dean Francis Alfar.

HISTORY: Assembly of the Nation, by Manuel L. Quezon III, Jeremy R. Barns, Emmanuel A. Albano, Ricardo T. Jose, and Manuel F. Martinez; Forcing the Pace, by Ken Fuller; Kolonyal na Patakaran at Nagbabagong Kamalayang Filipino, by Raul C. Navarro; Occupation, by Benito J. Legarda Jr.; The Saga of La Naval, edited by Lito B. Zulueta.

JOURNALISM: Dateline Manila, by Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines; Exposé, by Boy Villasanta; The Rulemakers, by Sheila S. Coronel, Yvonne T. Chua, Luz Rimban, and Booma B. Cruz.

LAW: A Living Constitution, by Joaquin G. Bernas SJ.

LINGUISTICS: (Re)making Society, edited by T. Ruanni F. Tupas.

LITERARY CRITICISM: Ang Bayan sa Labas ng Maynila / The Nation Beyond Manila, by Rosario Cruz-Lucero; A Handbook of Philippine Folklore, by Mellie Leandicho Lopez; Sipat Kultura, by Rolando B. Tolentino.

MEDICINE: Bone Tumors in Filipinos, by Edward H. M. Wang and Ariel Vergel de Dios.

POETRY: Antisi*Pasyon asin iba pang Rawitdawit sa Bikol asin Ingles / Anticipation and Other Poems in Bikol and English, by Victor Dennis T. Nierva, translated by Marne L. Kilates and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr.; Dissonant Umbrellas, by Angelo V. Suarez; Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles, by Santiago B. Villafania; Mannahatta Mahal, by Luis Cabalquinto; Mostly in Monsoon Weather, by Marne L. Kilates; Passage, by Edgar B. Maranan; Pusuanon, by Kristian Sendon Cordero, translated by Marne L. Kilates and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr.; Textual Relations, by Ramil Digal Gulle.

SCIENCES: Living with Nature in Our Times, by Abercio V. Rotor.

SOCIAL SCIENCES: Colonial Pathologies, by Warwick Anderson; The Dynamics of Regional Development, edited by Arsenio M. Balisacan and Hal Hill.

SPORTS: Sports @ Far Eastern University, by Manolo R. Iñigo, Mark Molina, and Gloria R. Aligada.

THEOLOGY & RELIGION: Body and Sexuality, edited by Agnes M. Brazal and Andrea Lizares Si; God’s Global Household, by Andrew Gimenez Recepcion; Investing in Miracles, by Katharine L. Wiegele.

TRANSLATION: Lagalag sa Nanyang, translated by Joaquin Sy from Nanyang Piaoliuji, by Bai Ren.

TRAVEL: Baler, Aurora, by Edgardo J. Angara, Jesus T. Peralta, Domingo Madulid, Jose Maria A. Cariño, Xavier Brisset, Enrique Quezon Avanceña, Manuel L. Quezon III, Ricardo T. Jose, and Juan Edgardo M. Angara; Iloilo, edited by Anita Feleo.

BEST DESIGN: Dissonant Umbrellas, designed by Angelo V. Suarez, Constantino Zicarelli, Keith Dador, Sandra Palomar, Mark Salvatus, Stephanie Yapnayon, Macy Cruz, Mike Mendoza, Julie Grafia, and Dwein Trahata Baltazar; Cebu, designed by Norrino C. Hernandez; Lola Puti, designed by Vanessa Tamayo; Pearl of the Orient, designed by Felix Mago Miguel; The Saga of La Naval, designed by Bong Bundag, Florentino Bolo OP, and Robbie Villegas; Salvador F. Bernal, designed by Brian Tenorio; Sol, designed by Farley del Rosario; Tight Times, designed by Sergio T. Bumatay III.

The book entitled Vocabulary of the Kapampangan Language in Spanish and Dictionary of the Spanish Language in Kapampangan will be given a citation.

For further details, email me at isaganicruz@gmail.com.

30 September 2008

Plagiarism 101

Famous Plagiarists.com opens its politics website with Joseph Biden, currently running for Vice President of the United States of America.

Newsbusters.org features a recent article by Tom Blumer citing New York Times reporting on various times Biden was caught plagiarizing from Neil Kinnock, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey.

Plagiarism is big news.

Bothered by her conscience, an American, who is an Obama fan, asked me if plagiarism is such a big deal. After all, how can she vote for a presidential candidate who chooses a plagiarist for his running mate?

As a teacher, my answer is an absolute yes. Plagiarism is an absolute no-no, as far as students are concerned.

Since I am bound by school regulations to fail any student that plagiarizes and since I do not want my students to fail, I make sure that no one can plagiarize in my class. What I do is, throughout the term, I ask my students to write some pages of their term papers in class, while I look over their shoulders, making comments and asking them to revise right there and then. I collect their papers in stages, asking them to type everything out in term paper form only from the drafts they have written in class or submitted earlier.

As a scholar, my answer is a qualified yes. I am often asked to serve on discipline, awards, or similar boards, where the employment of a teacher or the granting of an award depends on whether an article has been plagiarized.

Why qualified? Let us look at the commonly-accepted definitions of plagiarism.

One of the simplest explanations comes from the website of Washington College in Maryland, which actually just quotes at length from Michael Harvey’s The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (Hackett, 2003).

According to Harvey, plagiarism includes the following:

“1. Quoting material without attribution. The most obvious kind of plagiarism.

“2. Passing off another’s idea as your own, even if it’s been reworded. Changing an original’s wording doesn’t avoid plagiarism. The underlying idea of plagiarism is unacknowledged borrowing of ideas, not specific words.

“3. Imitating a passage’s structure or argument without attribution. Suppose a source presents an assertion and three supporting points. If you adopt that particular structure, including the particular examples or supporting points, you need to provide a citation to the original. This holds even if you substantially revise the wording.

“4. Concealing the extent to which you’ve borrowed from a text or other source. Citing a specific passage in a work doesn’t give you license to draw on the rest of the work without citation. This can be the nastiest kind of plagiarism because it’s so sneaky.”

Although Harvey makes perfect sense if you are talking to students, he is not completely right when you are no longer in the classroom. The key to plagiarism is fooling people that the words you utter or write are your own and not someone else’s.

This is the dictionary definition of plagiarism: “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

If you do not represent the language and thoughts as your own, it is not plagiarism.

For example, if you said, “You must treat others the way you want them to treat you,” you are obviously copying the Golden Rule. But this is not plagiarism because everybody knows the Golden Rule, and no one is fooled that you thought of it all by yourself.

Similarly, if you said, “The best thing to do when somebody says something bad about you in the office is to ignore it and even say something good about that person,” you are just paraphrasing the biblical advice to turn the other cheek. Since most Christians are expected to have read the Bible or at least to have heard the passage in sermons, this is not plagiarism.

On a very sophisticated level, when a writer uses a passage from a famous writer and the work is meant to be read by specialists (as happens with literary theory), there can be no plagiarism. For example, if you wrote in an article in an ISI literature journal that the words in a poem have meanings that deliberately contradict the meaning of the whole poem, you are merely repeating the thoughts of famous critics such as Cleanth Brooks and Jacques Derrida. Everyone reading an ISI literature journal has read Brooks and Derrida, so there is no danger that the thought will be attributed to you. This is one reason, by the way, that there are relatively very few footnotes in high-level literary theory journals.

(First published in The Philippine Star, 11 & 18 September 2008.)

Philippine Journals on the Web

Less than four months in existence, the Philippine Journals Online project has succeeded in dramatically increasing the readership of scholarly journals published in the Philippines.

This is clear from a report by the London-based International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), which is funding the initial year of the project in cooperation with a Canada-based computer server.

From June 1 to August 31, the philjol.info website counted 20,695 downloads, coming from 122 countries, of articles from Philippine journals. I do not have the figures yet for all the journals on the site, but I have those for the journals published by De La Salle University (DLSU).

The Journal of Research in Science, Computing and Engineering had 461 downloads.

The Asia-Pacific Social Science Review had 660 downloads.

The DLSU Business & Economics Review had 678 downloads.

The Asia Pacific Education Researcher had 917 downloads.

Ideya had 1,228 downloads.

Malay had 10,977 downloads.

All in all, the DLSU journals had 14,921 downloads.

There are some interesting observations that can be made from these statistics.

First, the DLSU journals account for 72.1% of all downloads from Philippine journals. (Allow me to boast a little bit about this, because I manage these journals.)

Second, since DLSU prints at most 600 hard copies of each journal, it is clear that web publication is a much cheaper and more effective way to reach scholars around the world. Even a journal displayed on a university library shelf (usually, only the current issue is displayed anyway) is much less visible than one on a website, where it is searchable by Google Scholar or even plain Google.

Third, Malay is published in Filipino. Its articles cover many fields of scholarship, including mathematics, the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Since the number of downloads of Malay is more than half the number of total downloads of all Philippine journals, it is clear that Filipino is the scholarly language of choice of scholars around the world interested in the Philippines.

It cannot be said that it is our OFWs in 122 countries that are downloading Malay. The articles are heavy, academic stuff, many of them written in jargon comprehensible only to university researchers. Clearly, the OFW audience for these articles is minimal. Instead, readers of scholarly journals are usually university professors writing their own articles and looking for fresh data or new theories.

Fourth, the numbers of downloads and downloading countries are simply amazing. The Philippines is starting to attract scholarly attention.

Here are the 26 journals currently on the website: Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, Augustinian, Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture, DLSU Business & Economics Review, Emilio Aguinaldo College Research Bulletin, Far Eastern University Communication Journal, Far Eastern University English Language Journal, Hapag: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Theological Research, Ideya, Journal of Research in Science, Computing and Engineering, Kritika Kultura, Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy, Loyola Schools Review, Malay, Mindanao Law Journal, Philippine Computing Journal, Philippine Information Technology Journal, Philippine Journal of Neurology, Philippine Journal of Psychology, Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Philippine Population Review, Philippine Sociological Review, Philippine Studies, Tambara, The Asia Pacific Education Researcher, The Philippine Scientist.

Note that there are two ISI-listed journals on the website: The Asia Pacific Education Researcher (DLSU) and The Philippine Scientist (University of San Carlos). Being on the ISI list means being one of the most frequently cited journals in the world.

Other ISI-listed journals based in the Philippines (but still not on the website) are Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Philippine Agricultural Scientist (UPLB), Philippine Entomologist (UPLB), Philippine Journal of Crop Science, Philippine Journal of Science (DOST), Philippine Journal of Veterinary Medicine (UPLB), Philippine Political Science Journal (UP Diliman), and Sabrao Journal of Breeding and Genetics. If the editors of these journals want to be on the website, they can visit http://www.philjol.info/.

(First published in The Philippine Star, 25 September 2008.)

11 September 2008

For Reading Teachers

Because you are reading teachers, I do not need to convince you that everybody must read. I do not need to explain to you why everybody must read. I do not even need to tell you how everybody must read. That is what you do every day as reading teachers.

What I want to talk about today is what everybody must read. That may sound a bit odd to some of you, because reading is reading and very often, as long as we and our students can read, we are happy. Reading is a skill, and like many skills, it seems to be irrelevant what we read. We think of reading like driving. As long as we can drive a car, we should be able to drive an SUV. We might take a little time learning how to drive a truck, but we surely can, as long as we know how to drive a car. Driving is a skill. Reading is a skill. If we can read today’s newspapers, we should be able to read a book. That is what some of you believe. I have news for those of you that believe that. You are wrong. Boy, are you dead wrong.

Driving is indeed a skill, but it is not true that you can drive anything if you know how to drive a car. It depends on where you are driving. If you learned how to drive in, say, Midwest United States, where the speed limit is 40mph in small towns, I think you will have big problems driving in Los Angeles or New York or worse, in Manila. Yes, given a little time, you can adjust to the way people drive in places where traffic rules are routinely violated and speed limits hardly ever respected.

Swimming is also a skill, and if you know how to swim in a swimming pool, you can indeed swim in the ocean. But I don’t think you can swim the English channel or even Manila Bay, except after a while.

After a while. Given a little time. That is what I want to talk about today. If we know how to read a newspaper, we could read a book, after a while, given a little time. But time, my dear reading teachers, is what our students do not have. Time is what we do not have. We have time only to read newspapers. Most of us, most of our students, do not have time to read a book. If you learned to drive in Dumaguete, where the only thing you have to avoid are the tricycles, you will die if you drive to Baguio from Manila, because you will not know how to avoid the big buses driven by drivers taking shabu. If you learned to drive in the Midwest in the United States, you will die when you get to the Los Angeles freeways. If you swim only in swimming pools or in tourist beaches, you will drown when your cruise ship capsizes. True, after a while, given a little time, we could learn to survive on the North Luzon Expressway or LA or in the middle of the ocean, but we don’t really have time.

You know why we have to read books and not just newspapers. I don’t have to go into some philosophical discussion about the need for everybody to converse with the great minds of the past that produced the great books. And yet, many of us have neglected the most important element of reading, namely, not how or why to read, but what to read.

I will break the mold of a keynote speech by asking you to do something now. Take out a piece of paper and write down the numbers 1 to 5. List the titles of 5 books that you think all human beings should read before they die.

Now we will make another list. Write down the numbers 1 to 5. List the titles of 5 books that you think all Filipinos should read before they die.

Now we will make a third list. Write down the numbers 1 to 5. List the titles of your 5 favorite books.

Okay, now you have a list of at least 5 and perhaps as many as 15 books. Encircle the titles that you think your students, at the level you are teaching, should read.

If you did not encircle even one, you know what your problem is. None of the books you are teaching to your students are your favorites. How can you teach something that is not your favorite? I leave that to your teaching conscience.

If you encircled at least one, you know what you have to do. You have to redo your syllabus or even your curriculum so that, by the time your students finish the year or the term with you, they would have read that encircled book or those encircled books.

What to teach. Let me challenge you now by asking you to compare your list with that done by others, particularly those that make lists. When you go home, go to Amazon.com or any such website and look for lists. There are thousands, maybe millions of those. Compare your list to a couple of those. Better, compare your list to the one done by the Core Knowledge Foundation.

The theme of this seminar is “The Teacher as Reader and the Reader as Teacher.” You cannot be a reading teacher if you are not a reading teacher, a teacher who reads. You all know the old adage, you cannot teach what you do not have. You cannot teach the skill of reading if you do not have the skill of reading. You cannot teach the love of reading if you do not have the love of reading. You cannot expect your students to love reading if you yourself do not love reading. You cannot expect your students to read something new to them every day if you yourself do not read something new to you every day. Since you have read all those books in your three lists, otherwise you would not have been able to list their titles, then you must read books other than those. You must read something new every day. I am not saying that you must finish a new book every day, although I used to do that before my eyes deteriorated. I still finish a new book every week and sometimes more than one. What I am merely saying is that you must finish or at least start – in case you cannot stand the book – a new book at least every week.

A physical education teacher plays basketball or swims or whatever she or he teaches every day. A piano teacher plays the piano every day. A math teacher solves equations every day. A cooking teacher cooks every day. A reading teacher reads every day. Otherwise, you should not be a reading teacher.

It’s as simple as that. You teach reading, you read. If you cannot stand reading, if you hate reading, if you do not want to read, if you do not have time to read, my goodness, please find another job. Everybody else teaches what they do every day. You must read every day.

Now, to go back to my metaphor about driving and swimming. We learn to read using paragraphs and newspapers and easy stuff like that. But in real life, newspapers are not enough. You know this. You know why everybody has to read books. To survive in this world, which is very, very complex, everybody has to read books. They may read them now on the Web or on handheld computers, but they read them. We reading teachers like to point to the Harry Potter books as proof that everything is not lost for books, because more people bought those books than bought computers. But if everyone read only about Harry Potter, the human race would be in big trouble. We need to read the Great Books, and I don’t think even Rowling would consider her books Great Books. There is a danger that our students will consider her books Great Books. That is the danger that is facing us today. That is the challenge that we have today. We must get our students to read all those books that you have in those lists that you made. They may not read them in our classes, but they have to read them sometime before they die, or believe me, they will die. They will die not only spiritually or intellectually, but even physically. For only those that have learned the lessons of the past will survive the present, and there is only one way to talk to the people in the past, and that is to read what they wrote.

Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you are. Teach that to your students and you have become a truly reading reading teacher.

(Keynote address at the “Seminar on The Teacher as Reader and the Reader as Teacher” of the Nilda Sunga Training Center in Quezon City, Philippines, on 16 May 2008.)

03 August 2008

My Bucket List

Since the movie The Bucket List, the webcast of Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture,” and books such as 1000 Places to See Before You Die, it has become fashionable to do a to-do list. Since the student-produced magazine Bounce published my list of to-dos in its Summer Break issue, letting my bucket list out of the closet (oops! mixed metaphor!), let me go through each of the items in the list. Such self-reflection, though public, may perhaps be allowed since I just celebrated my 63rd birthday. (Thanks, by the way, to all those that texted, emailed, and called to greet me. Special thanks to Crispina Martinez-Belen, who never fails to greet me in her “Celebrity World” column.)

The magazine list does not include any of the impossible things I wish I could do before I die, such as rolling a perfect game in bowling, learning how to do the jump shot in pool, playing blindfold chess against a grandmaster (of course, the grandmaster will be wearing the blindfold), owning a library that looks exactly like that of Henry Higgins in the movie My Fair Lady, directing a superhero movie, finding the perfect banana split (no one remembers anymore how to do the one that Magnolia used to serve in Quiapo), and, of course, to give my Last Lecture and have everyone download it from Google, YouTube, Vodpod, or whatever will come next.

This is my more serious list as published in the student magazine:

1. Win the lottery and buy all the gadgets I want.
2. Get Philippine journals to join Philippine Journals Online (accessed through a UK website).
3. Institutionalize the National Book Awards.
4. Gather fellow Fulbright scholars for common projects that would accelerate the nation’s development.
5. Give 40 educational videos to literature classes and teachers in high schools through a project for the Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education.
6. Have the Department of Education mandate the use of local languages as the medium of instruction.
7. Establish an Asian Critics Circle.
8. Write the Encyclopedia of Philippine Literature (arranged by language).
9. Write a series for Anvil Publishing from my columns.
10. Write a long-promised volume on Teaching Literature for Giraffe Publishing.
11. Write the third part in my trilogy of plays on Bienvenido N. Santos.
12. Play tournament bridge at a level good enough to compete internationally.
13. Think up more to-dos.

The student interviewer was very good at getting me to reveal all of these to-dos, though I obviously held back in order to appear professorial to the magazine editors. It was, after all, a feature on a professor in a magazine otherwise devoted to features about students.

First, gadgets. Next only to Philippine Star columnist Jose “Butch” Dalisay, I have the most number of gadgets of any Filipino writer. I do not have the financial resources of Butch (which is why I need to win the lotto), who has the latest paper-thin Mac, but I do have the competing Vista-run Acer. (The Acer is great, Vista is not, and if you’re about to buy a computer, be sure it has Windows XP and not Vista. I can hear Butch say, that’s why you should shift to Mac.)

I don’t think even Butch has my latest gadget: a dual-SIM cellphone that doubles as a portable TV set, with all the usual cellphone things (two cameras for video calls, FM radio, 1GB memory for films in mp4 format, and so on), all for less than ten thousand pesos. Oh, I don’t have to pay anyone anything for the TV shows, since the TV works even without a SIM card.

Second on my bucket list is getting Philippine journals to join Philippines Journals Online (PJOL). This wish is about to be completely fulfilled, with the coming to Manila in May 2008 of two key persons from the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), which sponsors PJOL.

INASP’s Sioux Cumming (Publishing Programme Officer) and Julie Walker (Head of Publishing Support) will train more than twenty editors of Philippine journals in the use of the free journal management software called Open Journal Systems (OJS). INASP has been very generous to the Philippines, paying most of the expenses of the workshop, even the transportation of editors from outside Manila. C&E is sponsoring the meals, Ateneo is sponsoring the venue and computer time, and various universities are sending their editors on official time.

Why is it important that Philippine journals are available through a website or portal based in the U.K. and Canada? Right now, our Philippine-based academic websites are not exactly on the top of the list of resources scholars refer to when they do their articles. If you googled any of the current hot issues in academic research, it is highly unlikely that an article published in a Philippine journal would be on the first few pages of the search results.

Why is it important that our articles are read or cited by foreign scholars? Because the name of the game is citation.

One of the major criteria for ranking a university internationally is the number of times articles written by faculty members in that university are used in the footnotes or bibliographies of articles in what are known as “ISI journals.” The abbreviation ISI refers to a now-outdated term (Institute for Scientific Information). ISI is a list of journals considered important by scholars around the world, as evidenced by being routinely included in footnotes and bibliographies. The list is available on the Thomson Reuters website.

Thomson Reuters lists about 9,000 journals. A similar journal list, generated by Scopus, covers 15,000 journals. There are an estimated 100,000 journals in the world, with about 30,000 of them published by universities, rather than organizations or commercial publishers.

There is a formula used to find out what are called the “Impact Factor” and the “Prestige Factor” of a journal. As explained in a 2001 article by Ioan-Iovitz Popescu, “the impact factor of a journal is defined as the ratio between citations and recent (previous two years) citable items published or, in other words, as the average number of citations in a given year of articles published in that journal in the preceding two years.” The logarithm for the prestige factor is more complicated and has six independent variables, but the idea is simple enough: a journal is important if most of its articles are cited by scholars.

University libraries around the world subscribe only to journals with very high impact or prestige factors, since no library is rich enough to subscribe to 100,000 journals. Even financially, therefore, it makes sense for a university journal to get itself cited and, therefore, bought by librarians worldwide.

Currently, as far as I know, there are only six Philippine journals included in the ISI list: Philippine Agricultural Scientist (UP Los Baños), Philippine Entomologist (UP Los Baños), Philippine Journal of Crop Science (UP Los Baños), Philippine Journal of Science (Science Technology Information Institute), Philippine Journal of Veterinary Medicine (UP Los Baños), and Philippine Scientist (University of San Carlos). No other Philippine journal is considered good enough to be cited by foreign scholars.

In order for an article to be cited by anyone, it should first be easily accessible and it should be available in full. This is what PJOL aims to achieve.
Once a journal is easily accessible online, because it is hosted by prestigious British and Canadian sites, it can reach ISI or Scopus status more quickly. Although I have been very vocal against ISI (ironically, my anti-ISI article was recently published in an ISI journal!), I do not think we have a choice at this point. We have to have our journals listed by ISI and Scopus.

The first step is to be read by others. Once international scholars read us, I am confident that they will find that we are in step with (and in some cases, ahead of) other scholars outside the country.

As I always boast whenever I speak in international conferences, I have read all of the sonnets of Shakespeare, but who among British or North American critics today have read Florante at Laura? But if we do not get Shakespeare scholars to read our articles about Balagtas, nobody will ever think that Balagtas was as good a poet (though not as good a playwright) as Shakespeare. Sad to say, even most Filipinos think that Shakespeare was the better poet, even if they have not yet read either Shakespeare or Balagtas. But colonial mentality is another topic altogether, and I am too realistic to put the eradication of colonial mentality on my wish list.

Third on my bucket list is institutionalizing the National Book Awards of the Manila Critics Circle.

In 1981, Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, Alfred A. Yuson, and I met in a small eatery across the street from the University of Santo Tomas and decided to establish the Manila Critics Circle. Except for textbooks, there were very few books being published then in the Philippines. We wanted to honor the authors and publishers of the best of the non-textbooks. The next year, we gave the first of what would be annual National Book Awards, with trophies donated by Eduardo Castrillo.

We eventually invited more book reviewers to join us. We unfortunately also eventually lost some of our members – Salanga himself, Leonidas V. Benesa, and Doreen G. Fernandez. Right now, the members of the Circle are, aside from the three surviving founders, Virgilio S. Almario, Juaniyo Arcellana, Cirilo F. Bautista, Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J., Ruel de Vera, Resil B. Mojares, Danton R. Remoto, and Soledad S. Reyes. Our honorary member who does not join our deliberations because he lives in Michigan is Roger Bresnahan.

Except for a couple of years when I was either abroad or in government, I did most of the secretarial work for the Circle, such as asking publishers for copies of their books, soliciting funds and trophies, and setting up the awarding ceremonies.
Since I was not getting any younger, and neither were most of the other members of the Circle, we decided sometime last year to find a way to get an institution to take over the National Book Awards. We still wanted to be the ones to decide which books should get awards, but we (certainly, I) no longer had the energy to run around looking for money, sculptors, and venues.

We turned to the National Book Development Board (NBDB), which had been supporting us financially in recent years. (In our early years, the Circle even sat on the Board.) We were very lucky that the Chair of the Board, Dennis T. Gonzalez, and its Executive Director, Andrea Pasion-Flores, loved good books as passionately as we did. We asked them and the members of the current NBDB board (also a particularly well-chosen group of governors) to take over the awards, and they agreed.
As authors and publishers already know, the process of choosing finalists for the awards has been democratized, with professional organizations now invited to help the Manila Critics Circle choose the best books in their respective fields. Now, instead of having to read all the books published in a given year (last year, each of us in the Circle had to read something like 400 books, which probably contributed to my having to have a laser operation recently), we have to read only 50 or so pre-selected books.

Now, I have one less thing to worry about.

I believe that a project manager should be able to let go of the project and watch on the sidelines as it becomes more successful once he or she is out of the picture.

Through the years, I accumulated a lot of debts of gratitude, most especially to Primetrade Asia, which hosted the awards during the Manila International Book Fair. To Primetrade and to all the government agencies (such as NCCA), publishers, sponsors, universities, sculptors, and others that supported the National Book Awards, thank you very much!

Fourth on my bucket list is gathering fellow Fulbright scholars for common projects that will help accelerate the nation’s development.

I have had two Fulbright grants, one to study for my doctorate at the University of Maryland from 1972 to 1976, the second in 2003 to read the papers left behind by Bienvenido N. Santos at the Wichita State University Library.

I first became a member of the board of the Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association (PFSA), composed of almost 2,000 Filipino Fulbright alumni, in 1988, when the association president was Marcelo B. Fernan, then Supreme Court Chief Justice. Being typecast since college days as PRO of various organizations, I was elected PRO (which was defined as both press relations officer and public relations officer).

One of my first tasks was to write the lyrics of the 40th anniversary song, composed by Lucrecia Kasilag. Unfortunately for me, when the song was performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in September, 1988, I was on a British Council Senior Fellowship at the University of Oxford. Since the song demanded a full orchestra and only the most experienced singers (it was, after all, a Kasilag composition), it has never again been performed.

Recently, for the 60th Fulbright anniversary, the association wanted me to do another song. Menchie Mantaring of the CCP did the music and I wrote lyrics to fit the music. With Arwin Tan arranging the music and conducting the CCP Chorale, the crowd never knew that, because my schedule was too full to allow lead time, I had written the lyrics overnight.

Among the several projects I was asked by Fernan to handle was an essay contest in 1990 on the American Bill of Rights. We secured the cooperation of Magnolia, the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, the Philippine American Education Foundation (PAEF), and the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center, and were able to offer prizes consisting of tickets to the U.S.A., with cash allowances from $1,000 to $2,000 per winner. Another project I enjoyed doing was a rather short-lived PFSA newsletter in 1995 entitled The Filipino Fulbrighter.

Initiated by Fernan was a livelihood project in 1990 in Marilaw, Bulacan, in cooperation with the Hubert H. Humphrey Alumni Association, the East-West Center Alumni Association, and the Marilaw Jaycees. I remember distinctly walking the alleys between the houses constructed on top of the dumpsite (this was before Payatas), with Fernan in the lead; he was completely focused on asking the residents there how they wanted Fulbright scholars to help them.

In 1995 Corazon S. de la Paz (still with the private sector then and not yet with SSS) was elected president. I was re-elected to the board; this time, I shared the position of PRO with Ma. Mercedes M. Fajardo-Robles.

One project assigned to me by the board was the editing and publication of two anthologies of public lectures given by Fulbrighters. The first was The J. William Fulbright Memorial Lectures, 1995-1996 (1996), containing the first to the fifth lectures, as well as the acceptance speech of Corazon C. Aquino when we successfully nominated her in 1996 for the very prestigious Washington-based J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. The second was The J. William Fulbright Memorial Lectures, 1997-1998, containing the 6th to 16th JWF Memorial Lectures, launched in 2000.

In 2005 I succeeded De la Paz as president of the association. I wanted to continue the vision of Fernan to engage Fulbrighters more directly in poverty-alleviation projects. I also wanted to be as active as De la Paz, who was a house on fire. Under her, the association engaged in numerous projects. Of course, under me, the association has not been as active as it was under De la Paz (I have less than half of her energy and hardly a tenth of her network).

Having put in so much of myself in Fulbright work, I included on my bucket list the desire to have Fulbrighters work more directly as a group with the poor. There are already hundreds of Fulbrighters working with the poor, individually or as heads of various community-oriented organizations. But I want the association to adopt a municipality, the way we once did with Marilaw, Bulacan.

Fortunately, the other alumni organizations have the same desire. Humphrey and East-West, in fact, have been doing direct community outreach for some time now.
You can imagine how difficult it is to manage a program that involves just about everyone that went to the U.S. on American taxpayers’ money. The only organization outside our federation is the United States International Visitor Program Philippine Alumni Foundation (of which I happen to be a very inactive member), which I hope also one day to invite to our alumni presidents’ breakfast meetings.

My fourth wish on my bucket list is about to be fulfilled. There are high hopes now that the Fulbrighters will be able to adopt a municipality in Laguna, thanks to the efforts of Fulbright board member Liborio S. Cabanilla, who happens to be a board member (and former president) of the Fulbright Philippine Agriculture Alumni Association.

Fifth on my bucket list is giving forty educational videos to literature classes and teachers in high schools through a project for the Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education (FUSE).

I am well on my way to fulfilling this wish.

Since June, 2006, FUSE has been funding my project called “Continuing Studies via Technology (CONSTEC) on Literature: A Telecourse for Students and Teachers of Literature,” a series of 25-minute telelessons meant to enhance the teaching of literature in secondary school.

So far, the project has produced twenty 25-minute video lessons showing different ways of teaching literary texts. Each module consists of two parts: the first part meant to be watched by students in a classroom, the second part meant to be watched only by teachers.

If used inside a classroom, a teacher may plan a lesson in which the first part (about 10 minutes) is shown to the students. In that part, an expert discusses the text being studied, and I give instructions to the students on what to do with the text.

Before the class, the teacher should watch the second part (about 15 minutes), which consists of a discussion of the teaching method used in the first part, plus a demonstration lesson taught by an outstanding teacher. The demonstration teachers are either Metrobank Outstanding Teachers or the best literature teachers in Metro Manila as chosen by DepEd NCR. The demonstration students, taught under actual classroom conditions (there is no script; the teacher actually teaches the class), come from different public and private schools.

Printed teacher’s guides are currently being prepared by a team of expert teachers from Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Philippine Normal University, and DepEd. These guides will help teachers make full use of the videos in their classrooms.

The following are the completed telelessons. Each item lists the title of the literary text, the author (if applicable), the expert, the demonstration teacher, the school where the students come from, and the teaching method used.

For First Year:

Darangen, Nagasura Madale, Regina Tirones, Manila Science High School (MSHS), Jingle Rap.

My Brother’s Peculiar Chicken, Alejandro Roces, the author himself, Patricia Jocson, Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), Closure.

A Sigh in the Dark, Angela Manalang Gloria, Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Marjorie Evasco, PHSA, Interpretative Reading.

Wedding Dance, Amador Daguio, Bienvenido Lumbera, Nerissa Lomeda, MSHS, Fashion Design.

The Monkey and the Turtle, Jose Rizal, Carla Pacis, Rosalinda Juan, MSHS, Emoticon.

For Second Year:

Frog Haiku, Matsuo Basho, Minoru Kikuchi, Marjorie Evasco, PHSA, Group Creative Writing.

An Incident, Lu Xun, David Jonathan Bayot, Patricia Jocson, PHSA, Talk Show.

Ramayana, Maharshi Valmiki, Juan Francisco, Pamela Tayag Salvosa, MSHS, Music.

A Singapore Fairy Tale, Catherine Lim, Lily Rose Tope, Leny Pagdanganan, MSHS, Debate.

Mama Wata and the Monster, Veronique Tadjo, Carla Pacis, Pamela Tayag Salvosa, MSHS, Quiz Show.

The Spider’s Thread, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Minoru Kikuchi, Patricia Jocson, PHSA, Multiple Intelligences.

For Third Year:

The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Kral, Azucena Erencio, MSHS, Virtual Filmmaking.

How Do I Love Thee, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Leodivico Lacsamana, MSHS, Memorization.

I Shall Not Live in Vain, Emily Dickinson, Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Marjorie Evasco, PHSA, Journal Writing.

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, Jaime Ong, Patricia Jocson, MSHS, Modern Adaptation.

For Fourth Year:

The Cave (Qur’an), Mashur Vin-Ghalib Jundam, Patricia Jocson, PHSA, Open Forum.

Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, Cornelio Bascarra, Cecile Correa, MSHS, Question Matrix.

On Writing Poetry
, Margaret Atwood, Elmer Ordoñez, Marjorie Evasco, PHSA, Exhibit.

Parable of the Talents (New Testament)
, Bienvenido Nebres SJ, Leodivico Lacsamana, MSHS, Letter Writing.

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Jaime An Lim, MSHS, Twenty Questions.

Secondary schools may request free copies of the telelessons from FUSE. The telelessons are in DVD format.

The series has started airing over Knowledge Channel on the following schedule: Sundays 7:40-8:20 p.m.; Mondays 10:00-10:40 a.m., 12:20-1:00 p.m., 7:40-8:20 p.m.; Tuesdays 7:40-8:20 p.m.; Wednesdays 2:00-2:40 p.m., 7:40-8:20 p.m.; Thursdays 7:40-8:20 p.m.; Fridays 7:00-7:40 a.m., 12:20-1:00 p.m., 7:40-8:20 p.m.

Sixth on my bucket list is getting the Department of Education to mandate the use of the local language as the medium of instruction in all regions of the country.

In our history, there has been only one professional linguist who became Secretary of Education. That was the late Brother Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, who not only had a doctorate in linguistics from Berkeley, but was recognized internationally as a leading language scholar. He published dozens of articles in international journals on language policy, language learning, and education.

Even before he headed the Department, Gonzalez already believed that English should not be the main medium of instruction in the Philippines. From his studies and experience, he knew that students learn faster and better if taught in their own home language, not in a foreign one. He knew, however, that it was politically naive, not to mention logistically impossible, to shift immediately to a monolingual vernacular medium from the purely English-medium system imposed by Americans at the turn of the century. He, therefore, proposed the Bilingual Education Program (BEP) as a transitory step towards a monolingual vernacular system.

When he became Secretary, he started the Lingua Franca Project, which successfully transformed several elementary schools into monolingual vernacular systems, at least until third grade. When Raul Roco succeeded him as Secretary, I expanded the project from using only three vernaculars (Cebuano, Ilocano, and Tagalog) to several vernaculars (including Bicol, which was Roco’s native language).

After he left the Department, Gonzalez became more vocal about shifting to a purely vernacular system of education. In the writings that he left behind, he made it clear that bilingualism was only a step towards monolingualism within regions. I should stress that monolingualism did not mean, to him, having every Filipino use only Filipino, but that Cebuanos would be taught in Cebuano, Ilocanos in Ilocano, Bikolanos in Bikol, and so on.

I have argued myself hoarse on innumerable occasions about the shift, especially since I happen to be one of Gonzalez’s admirers (read: disciples). I have often wondered, in fact, why people do not believe linguists when it comes to matters of language. In every other matter, we always turn to experts. We go to a medical doctor if we are sick, we go to an architect if we want to build a house, we even get a professional driver to drive our car, but for some strange reason, we do not want to listen to a linguist when it comes to the language of instruction.

I have paid dearly for my stand on the medium of instruction. I will tell you a story I have told very few friends. I worked closely with Cory Aquino on a few speeches and video scripts during the anti-Marcos years.

Once, when we were alone in her office in Makati and she was considering running for president, she asked me, “What would you do if you were Minister or Secretary of Education?”

I answered without hesitation, “Change the medium of instruction to Filipino.”

I remember her answer very well. She said, “Sobra ka naman.” [That’s too much.]

That is probably why she never invited me to become a cabinet member during her presidency.

When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wrote Executive Order 210, which mandated the use of English as the primary medium of instruction in basic education, I was one of the main signatories to a petition filed in the Supreme Court to declare her action unconstitutional. Since the Supreme Court is still deciding this issue and although I no longer am a party to the petition currently pending, I cannot speak about it because it is sub judice. That is why I write about the issue only in personal terms (my interactions with Gonzalez, Roco, and Aquino), not in the legal terms the Justices are using as they deliberate on the medium of instruction.

Seventh on my bucket list is, or rather, was establishing an Asian Critics Circle.

Because of the success of the Manila Critics Circle (if I may say so myself), I toyed with the idea of bringing together critics from various Asian countries to come up with Asian Book Awards, similar to our National Book Awards.

I made friends with a number of literary critics in Asia, primarily because I met them fairly regularly in international conferences. We referred to ourselves jokingly as conference types, because we enjoyed sitting down in conference rooms for hours and pretending to listen to each other.

I say “pretending” because, most of the time, the talks were either in areas which were so specialized that only the speakers knew what they were talking about or were delivered in languages that needed simultaneous translation.

Don’t get me wrong. Most simultaneous translators are very competent and manage to convey the ideas in conference papers, but they miss the tones and undertones (which, in literary or cultural conferences, are as important as the ideas). Seeing someone saying something in one language and hearing another person on headphones is like watching dubbed movies: it’s distracting, to say the least.

In any case, during conference breaks or evening drinking sessions, much talk passed about choosing this book or that and giving authors trophies or cash awards. Nothing much was ever remembered the morning after.

I did manage to get a huge amount of funding once, from an aging Taiwan professor, to host a meeting in Taiwan of a few leading Asian critics. Unfortunately, he died before we could all agree on a date.

I once also started an e-mail discussion, but revered and aging critics are not as computer-literate as their grandchildren, and there were too few of us digital immigrants in the egroup to make our decisions credible.

One issue always stumped us – that of language. Although most of us were literate in English, all of us thought that some novels in our own native languages clearly deserved regional awards much more than those written in English. The SEAWRITE (the award given by Thailand) manages to circumvent the issue of language by letting national boards do the judging, but we did not want to do that. We wanted to give awards to books that most, if not all of us would have read. Since none of us read more than a few languages, we could not figure out how we could judge works in Chinese, Malay, Tamil, Japanese, Filipino, and so on.

You see, at the highest levels of literary criticism, critics read a work in its original language. Literature is a particular or specialized use of language, and many literary values are lost in the process of moving from one language to another.

We all knew the hazards of basing judgments on translations. The Chinese, in particular, are often upset that the works translated into non-Chinese languages are not their best. (There is, of course, a political dimension here, since most non-communist translators prefer to work on Chinese works that attack the Chinese government.)

I know the limits of translation from experience. When I was teaching in Iran, I learned from my Iranian friends that Omar Khayyam was not their best poet. Since he was the only one I had read in translation, I thought he was pretty good, but the Iranians swore that their other poets were much better. Unfortunately, until I got to Iran, I had never read those other poets. Even in Iran, my Persian was good only for shopping, not for reading poetry.

Sad to say, I have given up on this item in my bucket list. I’m glad that regional awards like SEAWRITE and MAN are around, but critics’ awards like our own National Book Awards would give more significant recognition to the excellent work writers are doing in our part of the world.

Eighth on my bucket list is writing or publishing an Encyclopedia of Philippine Literature, the volumes arranged by the original language of the anthologized texts.
The idea comes from my teacher, mentor, idol, and now National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera.

He was the first scholar to suggest that all Philippine literary texts are part of national literature and that the dichotomy of “national vs. regional” is false. He said that we should not talk of Cebuano literature or Ilocano literature, but of Philippine literature in Cebuano, Philippine literature in Ilocano, Philippine literature in Tagalog, Philippine literature in Maranao, Philippine literature in English, Philippine literature in Spanish, Philippine literature in Chinese, and so on.

This idea has many implications. First, it is not true that our writings in English are more significant than our writings in, say, Bikol. Philippine literature in Bikol is just as important a stream of our national literature as that written in English. In an encyclopedia of Philippine literature, the volume on Philippine literature in Bikol would be as impressive as the volume on Philippine literature in English.

Second, it is not true that our writings in Tagalog are national while writings in, say, Hiligaynon are regional. The Tagalog region is as much a region as the Ilonggo or Hiligaynon region. The National Capital Region is a region and, therefore, has no claim to being more “national” than any other part of the country. Philippine literature in Tagalog enjoys exactly the same stature as Philippine literature in Hiligaynon or in any other language. The word “regional,” therefore, should now be removed from the vocabulary of literary critics.

Third, it is not true that Philippine literature in Chinese is not part of our national literature. For a long time, Filipino writers writing in Mandarin were not taken up in Philippine literature classes, because they were, for racist reasons, not considered by most teachers to be Filipinos. An encyclopedia volume on Philippine literature in Chinese would show that there are many texts written in that language by Filipinos.

I digress at this point to boast a little. The volume Ang Ating Panitikan, which Soledad S. Reyes and I edited in 1984 for the Association of Philippine Colleges of Arts and Sciences (APCAS), was the first textbook, to my knowledge, to include texts originally written in Mandarin Chinese as part of Philippine literature.

Since then, I have been lobbying fairly successfully for the inclusion of Filipinos writing in Chinese in reference materials on Philippine literature, such as the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, a project for which I served as a consultant.

With so many Filipinos winning international awards for their literary works in Chinese, literary critics should not be racist in their treatment of our national literature. Literary critics should rejoice when Hsieh Hsing (Grace Lee) wins yet another poetry award or when Yinchow Sy publishes yet another translation in China.

Back to the idea of an encyclopedia. As publisher of the now defunct De La Salle University Press, I tried very hard to get writers and editors to put together anthologies of Philippine literary texts. I even started a long-term project in the 1980s (still ongoing) called Literary History of the Philippines (LIHIP), which has managed to collect thousands of literary texts written in various Philippine languages. Unfortunately, I got out of the DLSU Press before I could finish the project (because I had to quit when I joined government in 2001).

Now that I am back in De La Salle University as Executive Publisher of its Academic Publications Office, I will try again to get enough editors to spend time on this project. An Encyclopedia of Philippine Literature would be a handsome companion to the CCP encyclopedia.

Ninth on my bucket list is writing a series for Anvil Publishing from my columns.

Books made up of columns are very popular among Filipino readers.

Karina Bolasco, Publishing Manager of Anvil, tells us why. “Columns have a following,” she says during her lectures, “and column readers naturally become book readers.”

Columns have an ephemeral existence. Unless readers take the trouble to clip them and keep them somewhere, columns disappear together with yesterday’s newspapers.
By collecting columns into books, publishers allow readers to keep their favorite writers on bookshelves, to be read and enjoyed once again and, writers hope, again and again.

In fact, one of my first books was a collection of columns. Movie Times, published in 1984 by National Book Store, put together various columns and articles I had written on Philippine films. The publishing manager of National Book Store at that time was Bolasco.

Of course, because columns need not last more than one day, most writers (including me) do not spend more than one day writing them. When columns are collected to become part of a book, they need to be rewritten, checked not just for grammar and style, but for timeliness or, more ambitiously, timelessness.

I have more than enough to fill several books with my columns.

I have been writing columns for various newspapers and magazines since 1972, when I accepted Oscar Villadolid and Gerry Gil’s invitation to join the English daily Philippines Herald as a movie and book reviewer and its sister Tagalog daily Mabuhay as Associate Editor. (I was bilingual from the very beginning of my life as a columnist.)

After I returned from graduate studies in Maryland in the late 1970s, Melinda de Jesus and Rodolfo Reyes invited me to do movie reviews for TV Times. It was at that time that I gained notoriety for bashing popular movies such as The Deer Hunter. The core of the book Movie Times came from this magazine.

In the 1980s, I did weekly movie columns for magazines such as Bulaklak, Glitter, Manila Hotline, Modern Romances, Pilipino Daily Mirror, Silver Screen, and Student Canteen. Part of the movie press then, I frequented showbiz parties and hangouts and got to know many of our superstars and would-be stars. (Oh, the stories I could tell if I dared!)

I wrote less showbiz and, to academics, more serious movie reviewing, as well as general commentaries on books, culture, and education for newspapers and magazines such as Asiaweek, Business Star, Diwa, Diyaryo Filipino, Filipino Magazin, Mediawatch, Observer, Onboard Philippines, Parade, Philippine Panorama, Pilipino Tribune, and Times Journal.

For a while, I was also writing for Starweek and Student Star, until I had to limit my time to this column.

I wrote the editorials of the weekly Tagalog Chronicle, which I did not edit, and of course those of the periodicals I edited, such as Interlock, National Book Review, and Palabas. (To name drop, Boy Abunda was my assistant in Palabas.)

I even wrote daily political columns for Manila Times when Alejandro “Anding” Roces was its publisher. When the editors and writers went on strike, I did not join them, since Anding was my ninong (godfather); for this I was labelled a scab for the first and only time in my otherwise union-friendly life.

All my life, I have put personal friendship above ideology or politics. (This particular trait of mine has puzzled many of my very close friends, some of whom cannot stand each other.)

Why Anvil Publishing? Simple. I have long envied the commercial success of writers such as Margarita Holmes, Ambeth Ocampo, Danton Remoto, and Jessica Zafra, all Anvil authors. Whatever it is that Anvil does for them, I hope it will do for me.
And, yes, I already have two fairly well-selling books with Anvil – A Dictionary of Philippine English (which I did with Ma. Lourdes “Tish” Bautista) and The Basic Education Curriculum in 17 Easy Lessons.

Tenth on my bucket list is doing a book on the teaching of literature. I promised this book ages ago to Gloria Rodriguez, proprietor of Giraffe Books.

I have been preaching (that’s the word, really) two things about the teaching of literature.

First is that teachers of literature should not teach language. Language teachers teach language and literature teachers teach literature. The teaching of literature is not the same as the teaching of language.

After all, the great writers are not exactly good models of language use.

Take Emily Dickinson. She did not care about punctuation, capitalization, nor even grammar. In her poem that begins with the line “The Grass so little has to do,” she wrote, “I wish I were a Hay.” No matter how you look at that last line of the poem, it is ungrammatical. Yet the poem is considered one of the best that she wrote. Clearly, literary value is not dependent on linguistic value.

William Shakespeare, considered by most critics as the best playwright not only in English but in any language, wrote in the first scene of his play King Lear: “stranger’d with our oath.” Grammarians had a field day condemning what they called a mistake by Shakespeare, since he used a noun as a verb. But these grammarians are now all forgotten, and Shakespeare lives on.

Examples are legion of literary masters deliberately (and in some cases, not so deliberately) committing what would be grammatical errors in the hands of lesser mortals. William Faulkner, who won a Nobel Prize, was notorious for not knowing grammar; this was admitted after his death by his own editors at Random House. Our own Jose Rizal, according to at least one major literary critic in Spain, had all kinds of grammatical problems with his Spanish.

In any case, if we were teaching infinitives in a language class, we certainly could do much better than to use Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be: that is the question,” because some smart student will ask how that can be a question since there is no question mark or what the antecedent of the pronoun “that” is or even why there is a comma after the first “to be.” Instead of trying to explain why writers do funny things with language, the language teacher would save a lot of aggravation by simply using what linguists call “authentic texts,” or texts that people actually use in real life, not on stage or in books.

The second thing I preach is that teachers of literature should not lecture. More precisely, although they may lecture occasionally, they should not limit themselves to that particular method of teaching literature. Many literature teachers lecture too much in their classes.

All educators know that the lecture method, while useful in imparting information quickly, is not very good at changing attitudes or empowering students. There are many other ways of teaching literature. In my FUSE CONSTEC series that is now running over Knowledge Channel, I show forty different ways of teaching literature. Only one of these ways involves lecturing or talking for a long time to students.

Since I have written a number of articles on the teaching of literature, Gloria Rodriguez has been nagging me to put them together in a book. I really should, not only because it might be useful to literature teachers, but also because I owe her a great debt of gratitude. While she was with New Day Publishers, she published my first book of literary criticism, Beyond Futility. Although I have now outgrown some of the critical positions I took in that book, it is still one of my favorites, if only because I was very young then and so iconoclastic.

Now, after more than 39 years of teaching literature, I really should share what I have learned with younger teachers. One of these days, I will.

Eleventh on my bucket list is writing the third part in my trilogy of plays on Bienvenido N. Santos.

Santos was my literary father. From him I learned many things, such as the usefulness of memorizing lines of poetry (to get you through life’s crises), the indecency or vanity of calling yourself a writer (instead, other people should call you that), the need to be kind to everyone (he would always say, echoing Tennessee Williams, that he relied on the kindness of others), and the importance of thinking in the vernacular even while writing in English (he claimed that he wrote “in Capampangan, using English words”).

I started writing his biography while he was alive. It was, strictly speaking, not a biography, but a combination literary critique and life story, something like what today is called “creative nonfiction.” He used to call it “Project Numero Uno.” He would sometimes scold me for spending time teaching, lecturing, managing, or even writing a column when I should be writing the book on him. (He may have been only joking, but since he was always joking, it was hard to say when he was already serious.)

On his grave in 1996, I swore that I would finish Project Numero Uno. I applied for a Senior Fulbright grant and luckily got it. The grant allowed to me stay in Wichita State University for three months in 2003. Santos left many of his drafts, letters, and other papers at Wichita (from which he retired as a professor), and the grant paid for my travel, lodging, meals, and research expenses. The librarians there gave me full access to the Santos archives. They even allowed me to photocopy most of the materials. (The photocopies are now with the Bienvenido N. Santos Museum in De La Salle University.)

I was well into writing a regular prose biography of him when I realized that it would not do justice to my personal relationship with him. I had written (and am still writing) biographies of other famous persons, but I had no emotional links to them. The outline I had made for the prose biography had, as its chapters, “Wonderer” (childhood, the first twin novels), an interchapter on poetry, “Wanderer” (exile, hyphenation as Asian-American), an interchapter on fiction, and “Wonder” (return to the Philippines). It might have made a good read, but it would have been too impersonal.

Mang Ben (my nickname for Santos) deserved more than the usual prose biography, I told myself, and promptly decided to do a trilogy of plays on him. That was my creative way to respond to his creative influence on me.

The first of the trilogy, The Lovely Bienvenido N. Santos: A Creative Nonfictional Biographical Play in Two Acts, clinched the Hall of Fame award I got from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards in Literature. Clearly, Mang Ben worked on the judges from his powerful place in heaven! The play has not yet been staged, but it was broadcast over Radio Balintataw in a Filipino translation.

The second of the trilogy, Bienvenido, My Brother: A Creative Nonfictional Biographical Play in One Act, has been staged as well as broadcast. Both the first and the second plays were published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2005.

What I still have to do is the third play in the trilogy, tentatively entitled Bienvenido’s Santas. It will consist of short monologues by various women in Mang Ben’s life, such as his wife, daughters, friends, students, and fans. Just as I had to take time off my regular activities to write the first two plays, I need to get a grant and stay away for a couple of months to do the third play.

You see, when I finally meet Mang Ben again in the afterworld, I want to be able to face him and say that I fulfilled my promise to him about Project Numero Uno. I am sure he will be happy to know that the man he used to call “the other son I never had” has been true to his word.

Twelfth and last on my bucket list is to play tournament bridge at a level good enough to compete internationally.

I started playing contract bridge in college with friends. I did not know then that I was playing “social bridge” or, more technically, “rubber bridge.”

I had no idea that there were bidding conventions, defensive signals, squeeze plays, and things of that sort. I simply looked at my cards, relied on my instincts, and enjoyed winning or, more often, hated losing.

After college, I discovered that there were such things as bridge books. I learned that there were various bidding conventions and despaired that I could not possibly memorize them all.

There were no computers then, so I could not practice with the bridge programs now available. I just contented myself with reading about the clever tricks famous players did at various tournaments.

Of course, at that time, I really did not know what tournaments were like. It was only much later, when I got invited to contract bridge games at the Manila Polo Club (and various other places, including military social halls), that I realized that my book knowledge and my experience in rubber bridge were not sufficient to make me win duplicates (as players call tournaments where pairs compete with each other) or teams-of-four (as the name suggests, teams consisting of four players compete with each other).

I did win a tournament once, when I was lucky enough to be invited by a Life Master (the equivalent of a chess grandmaster) to be his teammate in a teams-of-four Senior-Junior event. That was the only time I got a trophy from the Philippine professional bridge league. In the innumerable other tournaments I played in, I invariably ended up in the bottom half of the heap, sometimes embarrassingly at the very bottom.

Fortunately, our country’s Life Masters were very good to me, inviting me occasionally to play with them. I suppose it gave them some comic relief from the very high level of play they were used to. (After all, these Life Masters would compete regularly in, and even sometimes win, international tournaments.)

I do have something to boast about, though. While I was teaching one term at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, I joined the city individual tournament (individual because you keep changing partners, so your individual score matters, rather than your partnership or team score as in other tournaments). I won the tournament and was declared Athens Individual Bridge Champion. (Applause, please!)

My Ohio story, however, does not have a good ending. Because I was Athens Individual Champion, I was asked to represent Athens in the Ohio state tournament that year. Of course, my teammates (three Life Masters) and I ended up somewhere near the bottom of the rankings. Since we had driven all night to get to the tournament, not to mention paid the huge tournament fees, they did not exactly excuse my horrible errors. I never got to play in an Athens tournament again!

Aside from playing bridge, I have tried to help promote the game. I joined the Philippine professional bridge league and handled its press relations for several years.

I even tried teaching a bridge class at De La Salle University for a couple of years. My students learned so fast that, when I took them to the tournaments, they would beat me regularly. I gave up teaching bridge when I realized that I was not even as good as my students.

Sad to say, I have not joined any tournament for the past few years, due to the pressure of work.

Before I kick the bucket, I want to start playing tournament bridge again. I want to win at least one more national tournament and perhaps even represent the country in a Bridge Olympiad. I must admit though that, since I have weak playing skills, this is the item in my bucket list least likely to be fulfilled.

(First published in The Philippine Star from 15 May to 31 July 2008.)