Monthly Archives: January 2014
A month ago I started working on a writing project that has been on my mind since I came back to the Philippines. I used this writing project to apply to a writing workshop. And by getting into the workshop I committed to finish writing the book draft in 12 weeks.
My writing project is a fictionalized account of my live in Cambodia–a life that was different from my life here in the Philippines. My book would chronicle my adventures and misadventures in a foreign country, my triumphs, my relationships, and my failures. It would be populated by development and aid workers, bureaucrats, cover band singers, Khmer Rouge survivors, artists, posers, sons of generals, kateouys, pros and srey saat, drag queens, missionaries, alcoholics, repressed homosexuals, and other “interesting” characters. The book, having been christened by our workshop Queen Bee as the “Sex Book”, will certainly contain that, because sex (or access to sex) was a key element of my life in another country.
However, as I got to writing, I found myself feeling old feelings that I thought I had resolved already. The words flowed readily but the feelings started fueling my doubts on pursuing this work project. My stint in Cambodia was like a litmus paper for my friendships. I lost a couple of old friends when I brought them to Cambodia. It took me a while to recover from that loss and prior to starting on the book I believed that I have moved on. But while writing, I started wondering whether I am setting myself up for more trouble if I am to come up with this book. It certainly feels that I am opening old wounds just to see if my blood still runs red.
This increasing sense of doubt has resulted in me not submitting any writing output I have made in the last 2 weeks. I haven’t completely stopped writing about it, but I’ve just kept all with me. I know I need to think about this some more.
Meanwhile, the other day, as I was pondering on whether to continue with my writing project or to just write about something else, a picture of a painting exploded from my Facebook news feed. The photo showed a painting that was done by one of the friends I mentioned two paragraphs away. The friend who posted the photo is a friend to both me and the artist. It was part of his first one-man show, and I bought 3 of the lot. As I have said, this friend is no longer a friend and the paintings have been bundled in our bodega for more than 2 years now, gathering dust and cobwebs. The paintings are gorgeous and remarkably detailed but whenever I think of the artist and what he did to our friendship, their beauty and the sense of joy and whimsy they convey are greatly diminished.
Some people can say I am wrong to think this way but art appreciation is subjective so I’m entitled to my own opinion. Yes, I know that paintings by killers and other unsavory characters are sold at top dollar prices not just because of the notoriety but also because of real artistic merit. I would probably do the same if I didn’t know the artist personally. Unfortunately in this case, I do know the artist (and his dark side) so like it or not, this adds another color to the lens with which I see the paintings.
So I thought of selling the paintings. That way, the painting can be enjoyed by the people who love it (and the artist) and I will have the money to buy other works of art. Everybody wins, right? I won’t feel wrong about making money out of these paintings. After all, aside from a few thousand pesos, the paintings cost me a friendship that I cherished and a huge chunk of my ability to trust other people.
My work in Cambodia took me to many of its provinces. The beauty that I’ve seen in those places is tremendous; most of it was natural but many are moments that would have been just fleeting had they were not captured by my camera. Like this seemingly quiet moment, taken when we stopped momentarily in a country road in the province of Kampot.
Today is the first day of the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSRH) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). No, I’m not attending. The registration fee is way out of my budget. I took part in the first conference as a rapporteur/ documenter. I wouldn’t mind participating in a similar manner but these past years I’ve been out of the radar of my colleagues in the reproductive health sector here in the Philippines.
The last time I took part in this conference was in 2007, when I presented a paper on my experience of developing a module to teach reproductive and sexual health to young people with low literacy levels in Cambodia. I remember that trip because it seemed to be a series of disasters and mishaps. My flight to Hyderabad, India was delayed for hours and when I arrived there, there was a huge mix-ups of hotel bookings that affected a lot of delegates. And within the 4-day conference, I got switched rooms twice. When a friend and I decided to stay an extra day after the conference our arrangement with a friend from the city fell through (he just didn’t show up) and we were left to our own devices. And on the flight back to Phnom Penh my luggage got left behind in Kuala Lumpur. Yes, it was not the best times for Malaysia Air and the organizers of that conference.
A good old friend is attending the conference, though, and she asked if we could catch up in one of the days of the conference. I told her to let me know her free days (and time) and I’ll just show up at her hotel.
I have a strange relationship with conferences. Since I started work in the field of HIV/AIDS, there have been conferences that many of my colleagues have attended many times. Like them, I have submitted abstracts that got accepted for poster presentations but I have never received any scholarship to attend the conference. And I also had the added good fortune of being invisible to our boss at the time, because in his wisdom he has never endorsed me to other sources of funding the way he did other members of the management team.
The closest I got to attending an AIDS conference was last year. I wrote an abstract for ILO and it got accepted. I also applied for a partial scholarship. Months later the secretariat emailed me to say that my scholarship application was granted but on the same day it was rescinded, citing clerical error. They instead informed I was on the wait-list. I didn’t expect anything anymore and true enough, I didn’t hear anything anymore from those Thai organizers.
Last year I had the good fortune of being anthologized twice. The first book came out in December while the second book will come out in March, I think. My poems were selected for these anthologies. As for my fiction, my short story was included in the third installment of Ladlad, the gay-themed anthology edited by Danton Remoto and J Neil Garcia.
This year, I am again part of an anthology for new adults, an emerging market for readers. It is essentially a romance anthology, set in a fictional high school for the arts. Of course, my story is gay-themed, and its inclusion not only adds to the diversity in the anthology itself but also reflects the reality in many high schools. I am thankful to the editor, Mina Esguerra, for recognizing this.
So, if you happen to be around the Ayala Museum on February 8, Saturday, drop by the lobby for the launching of the book. We are also celebrating the anniversary of the Romance Writing Class conducted by Mina. We cannot sell books at the party, but everyone’s #romanceclass books will be displayed there, along with the Luna East Anthology. You can still purchase them as long as you pay in advance, or outside the museum premises. Guests will also get complimentary passes to the museum! Just come earlier.
You can order the Luna East Anthology in advance HERE.
See you there!