Arts and Culture

Inkcanto:  Sexy lit, Sotto, and forty pianos

A week before the biggest literary event of this season, “Red Lit District: The 3rd Philippine International Literary Festival” it’s good to focus on the strangeness of such an event happening in a country where writing is not valued as it should be.

Just look at how routinely written works are paid for cheaply in this country. There are writers who get paid less than one peso per word:  sometimes as low as 30 to 50 centavos per word.  As part of research for this column, I actually researched how much fifty Philippine centavos are in U.S. dollars.

Going to an online currency converter website, I engaged the online app to do the conversion:

ME: Please Convert  Philippine Peso amount to U.S. Dollar equivalent.

ONLINE CURRENCY CONVERTER (OCC):  What are you converting the amount for?

ME: Really? I never knew you online currency converters were so nosy. Well, if you must know, I’m converting how much the per-word pay for Filipino writers is in terms of U.S. dollars.

OCC: Whatever. Please input the amount.

ME:   Fifty Philippine centavos. That’s the per word pay for many Filipino writers.

OCC:  All right. Php 0.50 = U.S. dollar 0.0121708whaaaaat?! That’s not even one U.S. cent. Are you kidding? You Filipino writers accept jobs that pay this low???!!! Are you out of your minds?! Why are you working for human rights violators???!!!  Who’s your boss? Idi Amin? WTF!!!  That’s so pathetic, it’s almost funny!! LOLOLOLOLOLOL… bzzzrkkktt! Fssssss…..

The currency converter website crashed.  To be fair, I don’t think Idi Amin paid his writers that low.  Amin probably paid well over 0.50 centavos per word and, occasionally, even had a writer for dinner.


The  Philippine International Literary Festival has an interesting line up of topics for discussion. If you look at Festival program, it includes talks and panel discussions that are meant to help writers write better in their various genres:  poetry, novels, children’s fiction, scriptwriting, translation, etc.  There’s one topic  where international literary editors give tips on how one can improve one’s manuscript, to increase its chances of getting published.

For those who have never been to any literary festival at all, then maybe the PILF poster will help them understand what it’s all about:

Inkcanto says: Wow. Literature is so beautiful!

Having been to last year’s PILF, when it was still called the MILF (M for “Manila”), I can’t really take a novice perspective on this poster. However, it still is an attention-grabbing poster, with former Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Jennifer Barrientos as its model. The pun on “red light district”, the sexy pictorial, the slew of books: I don’t know about you, but this poster simply stokes my lust. My lust for books, that is.

I can only hope that when I do go to the PILF, there isn’t an actual sexy female model lying on top of the books for sale. That would make it rather inconvenient to reach for, um, certain books that one likes to purchase.

And do I have to engage the model in conversation? “Hi. Uh, could you raise your arm please? I’m trying to get… oh, sorry, wait. Now the book’s lodged in your right armpit. Sorry. Have to get it. There we go. Uh, okay, now please raise your leg. No, your left leg. Oh my God, sorry! I didn’t mean to look, I mean, brush my fingers against… oops, sorry! Here’s the book. Thank you. I’m tired. May I lie down here with you?” And so on and so forth.

For more information on the 3rd PILF, go to the National Book Development Board of the Philippines’ FB page.

Yet another sign that Philippine society has not learned to value writing (and other intellectual property): the disturbing lack of concern over alleged acts of plagiarism by high-ranking officials in the Philippines. One case involved Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, related to his controversial ruling on a case involving Filipino comfort women.

In his defense, Associate Justice del Castillo said that all the supposedly “plagiarized” portions of his ruling were, in fact, intended to be quotes. Pages and pages of quotes. A clerical error omitted the required attributions, etc. The Supreme Court agreed with him.
(A side-note on clerical errors: it seems to be the fate of some office workers to be blamed for everything. There must, by now, be a support group called “Clerical Errors Anonymous” where office workers get emotional support from other office workers.

Impassioned exclamations of “They said it’s my fault! Again! Always me!” are heard during meetings. Perhaps, one of the comforting thoughts shared to all is, hey, an office drone can always mix in crushed, dried gecko-and-dung beetle in the boss’ coffee, in order to feel better.)

A joint letter of complaint, written by three American bloggers, as well as another letter of complaint from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, are supposedly going to be filed at the Philippine Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges soon.

All the complaints are lodged against Philippine Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto, who is being accused of multiple acts of plagiarism.

I seriously doubt that Filipino senators will ever censure one of their own. Still, no matter what the outcome, one hopes that the matter is given the proper hearing, if only to educate Filipinos on intellectual property rights by putting the matter on the national agenda.

Photo of letter of complaint by Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, accusing Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto of plagiarizing her father’s 1966 “Day of Affirmation” speech.

CCTV-related news stories seem to be trending now in our newscasts. Some stories border on the pitiful: one guy, who works as a crewmember of a fast-food chain, was caught on camera stealing from a drunk construction worker who had passed out on the sidewalk.

The fast-food guy actually walked past the unconscious drunk for a few meters. Then, invisible to the CCTV, the little devil on his left shoulder says. “Hey, that sleeping drunk dropped his cellphone. Are you thinking what I’m thinking. Muwahahahaha.” The angel on the guy’s right shoulder says, “Uh-oh. Keep walking, man. Keep walking. No! Not towards the cellphone! Walk away!”

The fast-food guy goes back to the sleeping drunk and steals the cellphone. The police, alerted by the CCTV operator, intercept and arrest the thief. No case was filed by the construction worker—he woke up several hours later—after his cellphone was returned to him.

The fast-food guy’s face was recognizable from the CCTV footage. I wonder if his friends and co-workers are now hiding their cellphones from him.
But see here: CCTV operators are our new crime-fighters.

Other CCTV stories are not so uplifting or funny. In one other CCTV recording, an assassination was recorded in broad daylight. The assassin walks right up to his target and shoots the latter, point-blank, in the back of the head. Another shot is fired after the victim goes down. Very neat, efficient, and professional. Sometimes it seems we get more professionalism from our killers than from Filipino politicians. (Oh, yeah. Sometimes they’re one and the same.)

The killer, dressed like a takatak boy (cigarette vendor) and wearing a baseball cap, casually returns to the getaway bike driven by an accomplice. No matter how much the PNP assures us about a decrease in the crime-rate, a CCTV clip like that, broadcast on the evening news, simply terrifies Filipinos and visitors from overseas.

Whenever news like that gets out, I get a call from my Mom who now lives in Australia: that means 10 to 20 minutes of advice, reminding me (and my family) not to be the victim of a violent crime, and why for God’s sake haven’t I decided to move somewhere else away from the Philippines, which is a cesspit filled with crime, corruption, and death.


With all the distressing news during Mercury Retrograde (I pray to God everyday to make me invulnerable to astrological influences but alas)—which lasts until the end of the month! Aaarrgh—the only remedy I can think of is the awesome piano concert “FORTE @ Forty” which is produced by the Piano Teachers Guild of the Philippines (PTGP).

Poet Cirilo Bautista once said that poetry aspires to music—the original quote, by Walter Pater, goes: “All art aspires to the condition of music.”—so that can only mean that on November 18 (Sunday) at 3 pm and 7 pm, the musical equivalent of nuclear fission is happening at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

There will be 40—yes, 40—pianos onstage. Pianists, ages 8 to 80, will be performing a piano concert in a scale that’s never been done before. Piano prodigies Hansel Ang, 9, and Lorenzo Medel,17, are included in the roster of pianists.

The concert, besides being the 40th anniversary celebration of the PTGP, is also a fund-raising event for piano teachers who need to upgrade their teaching methods and materials.

The concert has a varied repertoire, including Baroque music, the classics of Chopin, Haydn, Mozart, pop music and OPM. A piano piece especially composed for the event by Augusto Espino, “Mga Gintong Pamana”, will be performed by 80 pianists, in tribute to the great Filipino composers.

Other performers at the show include Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) President Dr. Raul Sunico; concert pianists Della Besa and Annie De Guzman; Fr. Manuel Maramba, OSB; Carmen Padilla; Nita Abrograr-Quinto; the Philippine Madrigal Singers choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio, the UST Singers’ conductor Fidel Calalang; Najib Ismail; and Mary Anne Espina.

Personally, I’m hoping that the music from this show gets so awesomely powerful that it transforms all plagiarists and corrupt Filipino officials into a 1980s Kevin Bacon—because what’s more wholesome than 1980s Kevin Bacon? Or if not, even just regular bacon is okay.

Kevin Bacon in “Footloose”; Regular bacon for breakfast, or any time. Bacon is good all day.

• For ticket/group discounts inquiries on the FORTE @ Forty concert, e-mail; visit; like their FB page at or call TicketWorld at 891-9999 and visit

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