The present has never been a better time to be a Filipino writer, what with many talented and dedicated names working and writing hard to make sure they produce work that not only best express themselves but also represent the Filipino name in a very good light. There’s Reme Grefalda from LA-based zine Our Own Voice, Mia Alvar with her debut short story collection In The Country, even more mainstream slam poet Juan Miguel Severo, whose saccharine and often gritty words have helped the less inclined grow more comfortable with the written art and maybe dip their toes in the waters. But if you’d like to find where most of the gems are, I suggest you surf through the net and into literary magazines and websites, where I found poet and columnist Alton Melvar Madrid Dapanas.
I first got to know Alton when four of my poems were published in Eastlit’s March 2016 issue, where four of his own poems were featured, too. After we friended each other on Facebook, I found out his work was also featured on We Are Website, where mine was, too. In a way it’s relaxing to know that your work’s getting published along fellow Filipinos; you get the feeling that you’re not doing all of this alone.
Speaking to Alton has made me remember why I’m doing what I’m doing with poetry, who always spoke to me with so much passion and urge to better myself as a creative wordsmith in all forms possible. He brings forth this sense of energy that seems to be so present within the literary and artistic circles in the Philippines, and the same kind of energy that seems to be lacking here in London, which inspires me. So when I found on Facebook that he was a part of a new Filipino poetry folio called Bukambibig, my smile stretched from one ear all the way to another.
Bukambibig is a Philippines-based poetry folio created to provide a venue for spoken word artists to showcase their work meant for performance. It welcomes poems in English and/or Filipino that questions and traverses poetic boundaries as contributions and it is open to all Filipino spoken word artists who reside in the Philippines or abroad.
It is so exciting to know that there’s going to be an independent literary entity out there that’s focused on purely Filipino writers and Filipino work. It’s high time our hard work and individual stories be heard loud and clear. It’s also imperative that through this folio we all get together and inform Filipino writers all around the world that we, too, exist, and by merging all of our stories together we can create something that can start something that’ll help propel our reputation up there alongside the best of the best. I hope you can hear the giddiness in my tone as I’m writing this article.
As with any WYT entry, I managed to get Alton to answer a few questions about things like being an editor, the birth of Bukambibig and just other writer-ly things, and the answers I got were nothing short of genius.
Alton Melvar M Dapanas is a queer-polytheist poet-memoirist. His poems, nonfiction memoirs, and critical essays in English and in Binisaya are published or are forthcoming in local and international literary publications such as the Philippines Graphic, Manila Bulletin’s Bisaya Magasin, Dagmay Literary Journal, Kabisdak Cebuano Literary Lighthouse, We Are A Website, Eastlit, small po[r]tions, SAND, In-Flight, Into the Void, Open Road Review, Kitaab Asia, Prisma–Zeitblatt für Text & Sprache, and Bateau Ivre Journal of Performance, Literature, and Art.
He is also affiliated with Bathalad Mindanao and the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators. Some of his recent works will also be anthologized in Sakayang Papel: Anthology of Bisaya Poetry, Lagusnilad: Antolohiya ng mga Akdang Maynila, and in a creative writing textbook project developed by the University of San Carlos Press. Over a Cup of Coffee, a bi-annual forum with regional poets, essayists, fictionists, and playwrights, is his brainchild.
He is the operations director of the Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC), a young artists collective of new-wave writers from Northern Mindanao.
What pushed you into creating Bukambibig?
I did not create Bukambibig—let me be clear about that. It was a collaboration with other poetry enthusiasts who I met through a Facebook group. It all started with one post inquiring if there were poetry folios exclusively for spoken word pieces. (Of course, there were. But the folios were published by spoken word collectives and featured poems written by members of that collective.) The online conversation progressed. An initial team (most of them compose the folio’s operations teams on marketing, events, design, finance, etc.) was gathered for the brainstorming of the folio’s concept. The bravest among us—Chesca Hurtado from UP Diliman, now the project lead—was the most eager. I was just the supportive one.
Who and what were your influences when conceptualising this folio?
Bukambibig was born out of the yearning for inclusivity. Art, after all, is and should be inclusive. We wanted to open the folio to all Filipinos—spoken word artists or not—who write poems meant for performance. We don’t want to be confined with labels—sometimes determined by the artists collective you’re part of, events you’ve performed, and/or number of followers and likers your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have. (And because we’re inclusive, the second issue coming out this November will hopefully feature spoken word pieces written in the major Philippine languages, aside from Tagalog and English.)
How has being an editor, being on the other side of the submissions spectrum, help you improve and grow as a writer yourself?
I never imagined that I would be an editor, although my day job (working for a media conglomerate) demands that I proofread and edit a lot but that’s an entirely different story. I have a feeling that I make a bad editor of my own works. But now that this has happened, it feels like a living dual lives—the creative and the critical, in one.
What qualities should a piece of writing have for it to leave your mouth agape, quick to accept it for Bukambibig?
One characteristic I would always look for in the first reading is Shklovsky’s concept of defamiliarization, or in the words of Cesar A Cruz, it should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted.”
How do you think social media has affected writers, performance poets and the independent publishing world?
The platform has offered a lot of possibilities for publishing, especially for those in the indie scene. Zines, journals, chapbooks, and other forms of literary publications can now be accessed by a wider audience. Authors—both budding and established—can now (self)publish their works with or without the so-called vanguards of mainstream publishing. Videos and audios of poets reading (or performing) their works are available. These were not possible before. Poet-critic Adam David claimed that the future of literature in this country is in the independent publishing. And that includes both print and online.
If there is one stereotype that you wish to be removed from the concept of poetry, what would that be?
#Hugot. God, make it stop. Wala bang social relevance at kamalayan diyan?
What’s one line or phrase from a poem that best described your morning?
Mark Anthony R Cayanan’s ‘On Involvement’ comes to mind: “Always there are no words.”
Who do you read?
A lot and mostly contemporary Filipino writers: Chingbee Cruz, Mark Anthony Cayanan, Glenn Diaz, Martin Villanueva, and Carlomar Daona from Manila; Mel Turao from Iloilo; Shane Carreon from Cebu, Merlie Alunan from Tacloban; Kristine Ong Muslim from Cotabato; and Jhoanna Lynn Cruz and John Bengan from Davao. My hometown, Cagayan de Oro, has a lot to offer, too—Arlene J Yandug, Elena L Paulma, Roger Garcia, Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon, Raul G Moldez, Jack Alvarez, and Denver Torres.
And if you happen to be in Mandaluyong, Manila on the 20th of August and would like something fun to do come evening time, check out Bukambibig‘s official launch Dibdiban at Siksikan, which will be held at Splice Resto Bar. Featured performers include Mark Ghosn, Rod Marmol, Rian Magtaan and Valene Lagunzad.
Facebook: Bukambibig PH