Friday, December 29, 2006

To All Caracoa 2006 Contributors

Just a reminder to all the 25 contributors whose poems came out in the 2006 Silver Issue. If you have not gotten your complimentary copies yet, please email me your mailing address ( The people from the PLAC will send you your copies. But if you are anywhere near the Katipunan area, I can meet you early next year and hand over your copies. Thanks.

By the way, Caracoa 2006 is being sold in mag:net Katipunan and will be available in Aeon Books by January. It's only P100. Bili naman kayo. Salamat at Manigong Bagong Taon sa lahat!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Desiderio, The Afflicted

by Karl De Mesa

Had he been lucid he would have been the first to affirm that, yes, his state did not lack for exegetes. If only he could remember which superlative went where and belonged to which field, he would have had the time of his life.

One thing was certain: he was no longer among the lucid.

Often, he would wake to find his sheets soaked in blood. He would rush to the bathroom and wash himself until the small soap they gave him every morning was reduced to the size of his pinky.

His screams were routinely ignored. This only increased his rage. When the fury reached breaking point he would toss himself against every surface until he forced himself to calm down again, forced himself to befriend the walls and the floor and the bed. “Look! Look how I bleed!” he would declare and he would raise his wrists and try to lift his feet as well.

Of course the wounds were not there. They always retreated from day, dissolved by
the same light that had transformed him. It was different when night came. If only they could see him at such times, he would show them and then they would see, they would acknowledge his apotheosis.

He doesn’t remember what he had first prayed for, but he does remember that he had clasped his hands and bowed his head to the Lord ever since he got here. Somewhere down the line he became lost in devotion. The light, engulfing him, showed him the wickedness of his heart, the wickedness of those around him.

That day, his change could not be denied. To himself, that is.

This change could only be seen from within. Its mark on his flesh, the night wounds, was a continuing reminder that his doubts still lay claim to him in some small measure. Such a testament was insufficient for the nurses and doctors. Still, there was no other option. So he continually called to them when the wounds came, hoping they would see, hoping they would recognize. Until then they insisted he swallow pills and commanded electricity to heal him.

In this place light behaved erratically, shadows fell where they shouldn’t -- the chiaroscuro of things was reversed. Medicine, that bitter cocktail, was the only clock by which he judged the time.

Today, there was still enough light to discern the person who came in with the 6PM cup of pills. But there was one glaring mistake: the woman had become a man. This was not logical. Perhaps it was another trick of his gaolers? If it was, it was by far the most ingenious.

“Desi,” the man who had entered said, and approached.

He didn’t answer.

“Desiderio de la Cruz,” the man looked at a rectangular metal tablet in his hand.

Desi did not acknowledge him. He continued to stare at the bedpan at the foot of his bed. It was in the man’s way, but it was also concealed since it was colored so much like the off-white of the floor and the walls. The man would surely stumble on it or, if Desi was lucky, trip and break his nose. So far it didn’t look like he had noticed.

Although there was a bathroom in Desi’s room he had insisted they give him a bedpan –a steel and aluminum arinola. He had a weak stomach and his bowels were weaker still. Sometimes he didn’t reach the toilet before his guts burst. To force them to give him a bedpan he had taken to defecating on the floor. This proved to them his urgent need.

The man stood fuddled over his metal tablet. Today, Desi knew there were no feces inside the bedpan. It was covered, yes, since he had just pissed there a few minutes ago, piss yellow and rank from this afternoon’s pineapple juice.
He made a bet for the next minute: the man would notice the bedpan and sidestep it or the bedpan would remain unnoticed. It would take the man approximately five steps to reach the foot of the bed from where he stood.

Desi rooted for the bedpan.

Meanwhile, the man continued to look at his metal tablet as he walked forward. “Desiderio, how do you feel today? I’m your new doctor, my name is Dr. Herodya. Sorry for the confusion but management says we better rotate with you every month since you don’t seem to be responding to treatment. Anyway, I have a nice glass of gin-buko right here.” The Doctor shook the plastic cup in his hand where pills rattled within. “Hello? Do you know where you are, Desi?”

The Doctor took a step forward. Outside, the sun was going down at an alarming speed. It would be dark before the bet could be completed.

“Do you remember how you got here? Why you’re here? Anything at all?”

Another step.

Desi’s eyes widened as he mentally urged the Doctor to walk faster. The Doctor stopped.

“Desi? Can you hear me?”

No! No! Don’t stop! Take another step! He cleared his throat, “I hear. Desi cannot.”
“Oh? Why not? You have ears. Don’t you, Desi?”

It seems he must take a hand in the proceedings, “I have, but I am not he. He was a sinful man.”

The Doctor took a step forward. He stopped a few inches from the bedpan. “Then who are you?”

He shook his head and said to the Doctor, “He is not I.”

“Who are you?” The Doctor asked again, “Who are you if not Colonel Desiderio de la Cruz?”

The enemy clearly had the upper hand but Desi’s will was stronger. Was he not a soldier of the Lord, a commander who served the glorious Host? He knitted his brows and willed with all his might. Willed the doctor to lift his foot and put it in front of the other. Walk, Doctor, walk! The Doctor took a step forward and stumbled right into the bedpan. He knocked over the cover and spilled piss all over his polished leather shoes, right through to his white socks.

“Shit!” the Doctor said in a surprisingly crisp tone.

Doctor Herodya cursed again as Desi laughed. He sat back on the bed. He held his belly and enjoyed the mirth. Sunlight completely faded and the light on the ceiling automatically turned itself on.

The light. The memory of living and dying for a brief second. The pull of a trigger. Only God could have saved Desi’s men. Only God could have made the bullet ricochet across his helmeted temple, knocking him from the path of the rocket that quickly followed and allowing him to survive. To survive even as the shrapnel and explosion cut to ribbons the Sergeant and three Privates behind him. His men. He had ordered them to get as much cover as they could, but the terrorists knew just where to hit them, and just when. The enemy. They had been waiting.

He wasn’t God, you know. No. Not then. Not yet.

“You know who I am,” he said to the Doctor.

Desi cast aside the blanket and stretched out his legs to show him the red pinpricks on his feet that oozed blood. He held up his arms to display his twin, bleeding wrists. Desi wondered if he had the halo around his head as well. He would have given anything for a mirror but the awed, horrified look in the Doctor’s eyes was enough.

Meanwhile, the Doctor was about to burst from an inner quake. The cup of pills in his hand rattled to a rapid beat. It began from his piss-soaked shoes and rapped its percussion against his immaculate white pants, his ballooning torso, up to his tiered and three-chinned face. The tremor set the glasses on his nose askew. It knocked at his skull, whipping his thinning hair from side to side as if he was being slapped. Unable to contain the mystery before him, the Doctor averted his eyes.

He rushed out of the room, knocking over the bedpan again. He threw aside the cup as he opened the door. Pills scattered. The Doctor’s footsteps and his scream echoed down the corridor to clamor with the other petitions in the dark.
Desi put down his arms and smiled at the bedpan. It lay on its side, its cover a foot away.

“You won,“ he told it.

It wobbled to say that, indeed, it had.


for discussion, E103

Monday, December 18, 2006

Caracoa 2006: The Silver Issue (UPDATED)

WHAT: Caracoa 2006: The Silver Issue Book Launch
WHEN: Friday, December 22, 2006 7pm
WHERE: mag:net Katipunan


Caracoa: The Poetry Journal of the Philippine Literary Arts Council
(PLAC), sees a revival after a ten-year hiatus with the launch in
Mag:net Katipunan at 7pm this Friday, Dec. 22, of Caracoa 2006: The Silver

The younger generation of outstanding poets writing in English took the
initiative to revive what had been the longest running poetry journal
in the country as well as in Asia, which was started in the early 1980s
when it came out regularly as a quarterly.

The last issue, however, was produced in 1996, after which Caracoa
became moribund. Poets Joel Toledo, Lourd de Veyra, Angelo Suarez and Mookie
Katigbak sought permission from two of PLAC's founders, Gemino H. Abad
and Alfred A. Yuson, for the revival, for which the young poets
constituted themselves into an editorial board.

25 fresh voices comprise the contributors for the revival issue, which
also commemorates PLAC's 25th anniversary.

These contributors will help launch Caracoa 2006 with a reading of
their featured poems.

The Caracoa journal designer Pancho Villanueva will exhibit five of his
artworks, three of which are featured in the revival issue, on the
night of the reading-launch.

A couple of freshly minted CDs — of poetry readings conducted by the
original PLAC crew in the 1980s, including Abad, Cirilo F. Bautista,
Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, Ricardo M. de Ungria and Yuson, will also be
made available during the event.

The poets' band Chupacabraz, composed of Israfel Fagela, Joel
Toledo, Mikael Co and Carljoe Javier, will also perform after the reading.

Caracoa's revival was made possible with the help of David Guerreo,
Esq.of BBDO Guerrero Ortega.

(Mag:net Cafe is located along Katipunan Ave, Quezon City fronting
Miriam and Ateneo beside ibank and Rustan's with Tel 9293191 or visit

Caracoa 2006 features poems from 25 poets:

1. Alexander Agena
2. Jim Pascual Agustin
3. Ivy Alvarez
4. Oscar Alvarez
5. Glenn Atanacio
6. Amado Bajarias
7. Luis Cabalquinto
8. Mark Cayanan
9. Frank Cimatu
10. Mikael De Lara Co
11. Vincent Coscolluela
12. Adam David
13. Raymond de Borja
14. Rodrigo dela Peña
15. Israfel Fagela
16. Eduardo Geronia, Jr.
17. Luisa Igloria
18. Ken Ishikawa
19. Arkaye Kierulf
20. Sarge Lacuesta
21. Paolo Manalo
22. Wilfredo Pascual
23. Jose Ocampo Reyes
24. Naya Valdellon
25. Joel H. Vega

Finally, we're setting sail! Everyone's invited.
If you're a contributor, please bring poems to read.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Certainly not as complex as math, and much simpler
than metaphor. Just something visual and comprehensible
and somewhat circular, like a pie from childhood
and how we had wanted it so badly, loving the challenge
a sister or brother posed, everything in favor of
that youthful right to the bigger share.

We call it greed every so often, getting old,
watching children fight over some silly object.
Common competition, we say, and how back then
we should always win. But how hard can it be
to let go of the transgressions? Even now
we are remembering our own incompleteness,

knowing at last that there’s so much the universe
still owes us: quarter moons and acute angles and just
too much sea. So we smile at the children
building sandcastles along the edges of water,
impatient for their own coming of age.
We coax them into the water oh so gently,

we would seem almost innocent. Now we are waiting
for them to call to us, to discuss with us sciences
and fractions and the deep and vast oceans of the world,
the insignificant domains of land and how to swim,
to love the fair and the unbroken sun above.
If only to fill them in on things, if only to get even.