Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 Board exam for librarians

Today, my students in the Librarians' Licensure Exam Review in CPU will be taking the board exam until tomorrow. I hope that anyone who reads this will also pray that they will have the wisdom to answer and succeed in the exam. There are 10 students who will take the exam from CPU and I have confidence that they will do well. PRC just opened a testing center in Iloilo and there will be 17 who will take the exam. Most of my students will be taking it in Manila.

It's my first time to teach this semester and also my first time to teach in a review class for the board exam. The important thing is to know the basics of each subject, learn to analyze multiple-choice exams, and the most important thing is faith coupled with hard work.

The results will most likely come out on Friday or Monday next week. For sure the results will also be posted here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My top 11 stories from Jorge Luis Borges' Collected Fictions

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is an Argentine writer and Librarian. He was the Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955. Collected Fictions is a comprehensive collection of all his short stories from 1935 to 1983 is an exciting, scary book full of surreal and mythological elements. Though, I don't really like his stories that deal with reality compared to his magical and surrealistic stories. Libraries with an infinite number of books, books with infinite pages, many mazes and labyrinths, dreams, impossible texts and objects.

Here is my list of top 12 stories from the book with links to where you can read them. I recommend that you click on the links, since most of these are short stories you can read in one sitting, and I think this writer is very skilled in creating atmosphere, character, and plot in with a limited word count.

The House of Asterion
And the queen gave birth to a child who was called Asterion.
This is a story about the Greek legend of the Minotaur, as narrated by the beast himself.

The Library of Babel
The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.
This story envisions an alternate universe composed of infinite libraries and books.

The Book of Sand
The line consists of an infinite number of points; the plane, of an infinite number of lines; the volume, of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume, of an infinite number of volumes…
A man comes across an ordinary-looking book, but finds that it actually has an infinite number of pages. Each time he opens the book, it is not the same. How can he deal with something that defies logic?

The Rose of Paracelsus
Down in his laboratory, to which the two rooms of the cellar had been given over, Paracelsus prayed to his God, his indeterminate God—any God—to send him a disciple.
A story about alchemy and alchemists.

Hakim the Masked Dyer of Merv
A certain dyer of fabric disappears in mysterious circumstances, and comes back wearing a mask and claims he saw the wonders of heaven. The people soon worship him, but the they soon unmask him and uncover the truth.

The Circular Ruins
No one saw him disembark in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe sink into the sacred mud, but in a few days there was no one who did not know that the taciturn man came from the South and that his home had been one of those numberless villages upstream in the deeply cleft side of the mountain, where the Zend language has not been contaminated by Greek and where leprosy is infrequent.
A man goes to the ruins of an ancient temple and tries to dream another man into being.

The Immortal
As I recall, my travails began in a garden in hundred-gated Thebes, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian.
A man travels to find the City of the Immortals and mythic water that grants eternal life. This is the longest of Borges' short stories and my favorite. 

The Writing of the god
The cell is deep and made of stone; its shape is that of an almost perfect hemisphere, although the floor is something less than a great circle, and this fact somehow deepens the sense of oppression and vastness.
The story is told by a shaman of a dead tribe who is imprisoned for life by the people who have conquered their land. He is inside a chamber with a jaguar, they are separated by a wall. With no other company than memory, he recalls everything of his life and his god. He recalls that there is one word the god uttered in the creation of the world that can prevent the destruction of the universe. He finds that the answer to this unknown word might lie in the skin of the jaguar.

The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
Chroniclers worthy of trust have recorded (but only Allah is All-Knowing) that in former times there was a king of the isles of Babylon who called together his architects and his wizards and set them to build him a labyrinth so intricate that no wise man would dare enter inside, and so subtle that those who did would lose their way. 
This is a very short story, but still has power in so few words.

Blue Tigers
A famous poem by Blake paints the tiger as a fire burning bright and an eternal archetype of Evil; I prefer the Chesterton maxim that casts the tiger as a symbol of terrible elegance. 
A man goes to India in search of blue tigers haunting his dreams, but finds something else: blue coins that seem to lessen and multiply, impossible to count.

There are More Things
The story was written "in memory of H.P. Lovecraft", and it works well as a tribute. It made me want to read Lovecraft, and now I'm reading the whole collected short fiction written by H.P. Lovecraft (good thing his works are in the public domain) and that's the next book and stories I'll be writing about.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SEAFDEC AQD Iloilo Librarians publish research paper on SAGE Journal

Daryl L. Superio, Stephen B. Alayon, and Mary Grace H. Oliveros, Librarians from Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center - Aquaculture Library (SEAFDEC AQD Library) has published a paper on "Disaster management practices of academic libraries in Panay Island, Philippines: Lessons from Typhoon Haiyan" in Information Development, an information studies journal published by SAGE.

"A disaster management plan is essential because it can guide library personnel on what to do in a critical time. Using an eight-part survey instrument, this paper documents the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on 22 academic libraries in Northern Panay, Western Visayas, Philippines and the disaster management practices that were implemented. The results revealed that although the majority of the libraries do not have a disaster management plan, they all had common disaster management practices that enabled them to save parts of their collections. Moreover, the study revealed that librarians lacked knowledge and skills on disaster management. This paper was presented at the 40th International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) Annual Conference, Noumea, New Caledonia, September 14–18, 2014."

You can access the paper through this link.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reviews and Reactions: Zines from #Zinezoned3

I wrote about the experience in the #ZineZoned3: Iloilo Zinefest 2017 last time, and now here are my reactions to the few zines I bought during the event. I think next time I should buy as much as I can afford because from a librarians' perspective these are rare materials that would be difficult to acquire in the future. I also think that zines showcase local culture in a more personal and interesting way than traditional print media. Since they are made by the authors in any way they want, the authors and artists can freely express themselves in a genuine way without the dictates of the market or censorship.

As a librarian, we were taught that Filipiniana (books made by Filipino authors, about the Philippines, and Filipino culture in general) are rare materials and if libraries can afford them, they should be a library collection priority. It would be interesting if librarians and libraries also collect zines, which are small self-published efforts that reflect local interest and culture. I just recently discovered the blog ZineLibraries.info and found that in other countries, there is a growing respect for zines and libraries there do collect them. So maybe next time, I'd promote zines to librarians and libraries I know who might be interested. Zines have so much potential and from the zines I saw in the Zinefest, there's a wide variety of zines on almost any subject and anyone can find something interesting.

So here are my reviews/reactions:

You are Beautiful: coloring zine by Maria Clarisse T. Jaro
This zine is my favorite - the poetry is simple yet meaningful, and the drawings are beautiful, and I did color some of the artworks. The short poems are accompanied by a related illustration, and they form a whole story. The first page says, "Dedicated to all the women, you are beautiful!" and I think most girls and women can relate, as we all have probably felt 'ugly' and inadequate compared to standards of beauty bombarded to us by media.

The poems are written from the point of view of someone (an older, more experienced woman perhaps, maybe a mother?) who comforts a girl suffering in the "prison" of the expectation of perfect physical beauty and how we can't reach it - and the imagery is quite powerful - women in cocoons, girls growing butterfly wings yet stay in closed bottles, but in the last illustrations we see her finally accepting herself and embracing her own unique beauty. I like that the drawings aren't that complex to color compared to the extremely complicated patterns of most adult coloring books that can take weeks to get done.

You are more than what you look
You are more than what they say
So wipe away those tiny tears
All will be okay.

Just come and take my hand. 
Can you see what I can see?
Before me is a strong woman.
She looks beautiful to me.

A page I colored 

Radical Dreamers Anthology by lordcloudx
This zine has three short stories. Blackbird is a story about three young boys and narrated by Jerry and his childhood adventures with his friends Joey and Michael. Jerry became fascinated with the Blackbird plane, a war aircraft. Once when they explored an abandoned building, he finds a toy replica of the plane, which eventually causes the three friends to fight. It's a good story about childhood memories and carefree days. The narrator tells the story as a memory, ten years after it happened. The Wonders of Glue is narrated by a woman who is taken back to past memories before television while meditating on the uses of glue.

Unrequited is a story about unrequited love as indicated by the title, and it's the story I find most striking, probably because it's sad. Anyway, since most people whether woman or man (or LGBT, or whatever), have experienced this kind of loss in one way or another, I think many can relate even if the narrator is a guy. I think its a universal experience.

This quote at the beginning quite sets the tone for the whole tale:"I knew in my heart that she has found her happiness - and this was definitely good enough for me. These were my most honest sentiments at that time. However, somewhere inside me - perhaps within the most repressed, most depraved recesses of my psyche, my emotions felt somewhat contradictory. While I felt filled with an overwhelming sense of happiness, there were also some faint feelings of envy and loss within me." 

There were three free visual novels that went with the zine, and it's my first time trying something like this on a phone. I also downloaded some stories/games like these before, but that was a long time ago. It is more entertaining than just reading a plain story since there are visuals, color, and music that accompanies the text and you won't get bored. The stories are amusing, funny, simple yet meaningful, but these are my reactions to the two visual novels I read so far (there are two others that I haven't tried yet):

Samantha and the Pieces of a Heart
Description: "As a "heartless girl," Samantha is on a quest to find the seven pieces of a heart so that she may have her own. Samantha will meet many people from all walks of life in her journey and at the end of it all, she will discover just where the heart truly exists."

This is an interactive visual novel that I really liked. It's a story that both children and adults can enjoy, about a girl named Samantha who is heartless and is on a quest to look for seven pieces of a heart. On the way, she meets other interesting characters and finds the truth about herself. She asks Siri for help and a neighbor who is a doctor suggests people where she can get pieces of her heart. She meets an angry painter in a park, two quarreling sisters, a boy who claims to be a robot due to his body parts being replaced, and a beautiful woman stuck inside a seemingly magical/creepy mansion that exists outside of time. Even if Samantha has no physical heart, we see that she has compassion for all the people she meets and tries to do what she can to help them.
Screenshot form the app
One Week of Eternity
This is about a girl who got into an accident while playing and only has one week to live. Alyssa lived with leukemia for a long time before she was healed. During the incident, she has overheard adults talking that she has only seven days to live. Though, a women tells her that she has "One week of eternity." Alyssa enjoys playing with her friends and she narrates her observations about her family who is trying to keep the truth from her. I found the story quite sad but it ended in a hopeful tone.

You can read the author's website here and download the Samantha and the Pieces of a Heart in Google Play through this link.

Short Literary Pieces by Charlyn Mateo
The author is my friend who convinced me to join ZineZoned in the first place. This contains 3 short stories in Tagalog and a poem. The stories are mainly about motherhood and the love of mothers (including non-biological mothers) of their children, and vice versa. The author is great with the Tagalog language, and though I try to write in Tagalog sometimes I still have to use Google Translate.

The story I like best is Mitera (Greek for 'mother'), and I didn't expect the twist ending. Nanay Maam is about a teacher encouraging and helping a poor student reach his potential, and Unang Sahod is about a daughter thanking her deceased mother and celebrating 'unang sahod' at the cemetery. Though my only comment is the title should have reflected the content! Overall, its a short, inspiring read and a must-read for mothers (and their kids).

You can read her other stories and novels under her Wattpad pseudonym, Seshate Matthews.

Party Animal by Alahna Sy, illustrated by Katreena Enriquez
At first I was attracted by the cover which has a sleeping white cat, which reminded me of our cat. The personal poetry was touching and I love the minimalist illustrations in their pastel colors. I liked the poems "Anxiety" and "Notes on Mourning." It also contains two poetic prose pieces. The zine has an excellent design and a simple feel, overall.

Pinoy Banana and Paper Jam: a poetry collection and portable workshop by Anna Slater and Jam Lebrilla
The 'portable workshop' in the title made me curious, and it contained poems, illustrations, and drawing and writing activities to try. The poems I like best are "The storm" and "Doing nothing."

Com[mute]: tales told in transit by Mae Sheilou L. Conserva
A collection of poetry and prose inspired by bus travels. My favorite poems are "An art exhibit and a walk," a short poem about a couple on a date, "Ode to that roadside mass grave," on the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, and "Forgetting something," which is about remembering someone you already moved on from.

pa.sa.KAY pa.SA.kay, mga binalaybay ni Michael Caesar Tubal, gindibuho ni Gil Montinola
This is the only zine I bought in Hiligaynon, and it made me want to read more works in our native tongue. These poems are inspired by the author's thoughts during long bus rides. The poem I like best was "Magalong" (Noisy) which has a spot-on description of the stress of commuting in jeepneys and buses. I laughed at "Para sa Tisay nga tupad ko sa bus." "Sa Pagpauli sa Dueñas" describes the various interesting scents that assault the smell in commuting, with the different people and all the things they're carrying inside buses.

Its a short and sweet read with amusing drawings - and perfectly illustrates the Pinoy experience of public transport. In jeepneys and buses we see a slice of everyday life and ordinary people, and in the waiting time between somewhere to somewhere there's a lot of memories, ideas, and insights that can run through your head and observing passengers come and go can keep you from boredom.
As for my zine, I am sending the last copy to a friend in Luzon. But a second printing is on the way since friends reserved copies. As for my next zine, I'm deciding whether to do an inspirational non-fiction zine, a poetry collection, or a novella. Or maybe all three?

Zine cover pictures from the Iloilo Zinefest Facebook page.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lessons from a nearby fire

The last day of August 2017 started like any other normal day. Around noon, we heard some people panicking outside and thought there was just another fight or drug raid. Then someone said there was fire! The smell of burning was so strong and filled the air. I panicked myself and quickly gathered things that might be important: my folder with vital documents, ATM cards and IDs, my laptop, wallet, and stuffed a few changes of clothes into a couple of backpacks. Good thing my father was at home, and we loaded our stuff in the car just in case the fire reaches our house.

I ran outside and saw the largest fire* I ever laid eyes on, just four houses away from ours. Then I panicked like never before. I was alternately praying and making a mess of my room, trying to think about what to save. Then I pulled out the large plastic box filled with my diaries since 2008. Then I thought that it was really useless and hauling this heavy box into the car isn't a matter of life and death. My struggling-for-survival brain told me to hurry, and who cares if it burns, it's the past anyway!

Then one last look at my room, I just realized that I had kept so many useless things. My room would be the worst fire hazard in our house, with all the books gathering dust and unfiled paper for school (both for graduate studies and teaching). There was a moment of regret at losing these things I spent time choosing and buying, but getting away from danger was more important at the moment. Then the fire trucks started arriving and there was some sort of relief, but our father instructed us to leave, he'll just take care of what's left and leave if the fire ever reached the house.

We left the place and walked fast in a daze of adrenaline rush, and went to our grandmother's house in Jaro. About an hour later, my father called and told us that the fire was cleared, our house wasn't affected, and we can go back home. I was so relieved, but at the same time I told myself to be more prepared next time for unforeseen accidents. I looked carefully at the things I have and asked myself if I really need them. We may accumulate a lot of things, but in the end we don't really need them all to live.

After the fire, we did an overhaul of our house and got rid of things that may only be fire hazards. We always hear that we shouldn't get attached to our material possessions, but there's nothing like a real disaster that will force you to make a choice and it made me realize just how much we are defined by our things. I realized that the real key to non-attachment is asking myself "Will this be important enough to be saved if there's a fire?" If not, then I should be ready to let it go.

*note: just to give you a clue just how high the fire was, many tall trees there were burned and what remains are dead leafless trees that are now mostly standing coal. Good thing no one died in the fire, though several were injured. Here's the news article from Panay News. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Visiting a replica of the Tabernacle

Last Sunday, me and two other friends at church visited a replica of the Tabernacle. This is the 'portable' place of worship and sacrifice of the Jewish people during the time of Moses. In Bible, the Israelites traveled for 40 years in the wilderness, and the Tabernacle (which means 'tent') is the center of their religious life. If you read the Torah, the specifications for the Tabernacle is very detailed. I tried reading them and imagining what the Tabernacle might have looked like but didn't understand that each of these things has a meaning. In the Old Testament, only the High Priests from the tribe of the Levites were allowed inside the Tabernacle.

Visiting an actual replica of the tabernacle is a great learning experience. Seeing the three-dimensional and life-size thing is different from just reading it from the Bible or seeing a picture or video. There was a guide who walked us through the Tabernacle replica, explaining the signs and symbols, its significance for the Israelites and how these are relevant even until now.

From the entrance of the Tabernacle area to the Ark of the Covenant, each element had a symbol and meaning. Its amazing that almost every aspect of the Tabernacle can be read and understood in the light of Jesus Christ.

We can also understand the New Testament better if we learn about the Tabernacle. We won't really understand the concepts of 'sacrifice' for sin, how the blood of Christ and his death sanctifies believers, until we know the Jewish customs and history. We learned that they used sheeps in good condition and killed them in the altar as a sacrifice. This blood is used and sprinkled inside the curtain in the Tabernacle, representing our sin which only God can forgive and purify.

The inner area of the Tabernacle is a sanctuary where the Ark of Covenant is kept. Inside is the tablet of stone with the Ten Commandments, Aaron's wooden rod with almond leaves and flowers, some manna, and the scroll containing the Jewish ceremonial laws.

I'm not that good in explaining it and its best if you visit and listen yourselves. We left the place feeling thankful and overwhelmed by God's grace and design. We also felt the urgency that we should be more guarded against the enemy, and at the same time strong in standing firm in the Gospel and sharing the Word of God in this temporary and perishing world.

The viewing period for the Tabernacle replica has been 'extended indefinitely', and I recommend it to anyone interested in Christianity and history. I'm planning another visit with my family. It's a great place to bring your friends and loved ones.

Viewing schedule for the Tabernacle replica
This Tabernacle replica was made possible through HCBN network. You can find it just across S&R in Iloilo City.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#ZineZoned3: Iloilo Zinefest 2017 experience

A zine (/ˈziːn/ ZEEN; short for magazine or fanzine) is most commonly a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images. Usually zines are the product of a single person, or of a small group.  A zine is a cheaply-made, cheaply-priced publication, often in black and white, which is mass-produced via photocopier and bound with staples.

Most zines revolve around a music scene of some sort, but others are dedicated to artwork, poetry, cartoons, editorials and short stories. Because zines do not have any sort of corporate backing, they are very rugged, individualized, and much more charismatic than larger, more popular magazines whose content is often dictated by their advertisers. (Definition from urbandictionary.com)
Last August 26-27, 2017, the 3rd Iloilo Zinefest was held in Robinsons Place Iloilo. This event was organized by KasingKasing Press, Hubon Manunulat, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), and the University of San Agustin Fine Arts program. I had marked the event dates on my planner, thinking I might like passing by the event, but a writer friend invited me to join with her. I had a few short stories that I thought I could use for a small zine, so we paid CPU Press to print some copies for us. Its my first try at "self-publishing" and trying to sell something, even if most who bought were only my friends and relatives!

We had to think about ideas that could make our small booth interesting to passers-by. We called ourselves #WritingLibrarians and aside from our zines, we also sold poetry! We had "Poetry in the Moment" where we let the customer choose a topic and we would write about it. We didn't expect that it sold out more than our little books. I brought a small 60-page pad and by the end of the last day, there were only 2 pages remaining! It was amusing how people wanted us to write about their problems (especially love problems) and shared their woes. They didn't ask us for advice, but we had listening ears and we tried not to judge them, and we did our best to write for them. Most of their reactions were surprise because we happened to write something near to their experience.

I got this idea of "Spontaneous Writing Booth" from Natalie Goldberg's classic book on writing, Writing Down the Bones: freeing the writer within.  The point was to try to contact our first thoughts, the original thoughts that have original creative energy. This exercise helps us let go of self-consciousness and be confident in our own minds and writing voices. I have been doing this kind of writing (for myself) since 2008, so I was confident that I could do it. Charlyn, my companion, wasn't that sure at first but also got going in writing.

We got around 400 pesos total from the poems alone and we both wrote a total of more than 50 poems! We charged 5 pesos per poem at first, but we realized it was also quite difficult to write a poem and let it go in such a short time, so it went up to 10 pesos the next day. People asked us to write about love (of course), coconuts, work, parallel universes, faith, war, and the most difficult topic was "the shape octagon related to love." The girl really wanted to challenge us!

I also got to see Manix Abrera, the author and illustrator of the Kiko Machine comics that runs in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His talk on "Mga Malagim na Lihim ng Pagkokomiks" was enlightening and funny. He uses his real-life experience and stories from others, especially about life in UP Diliman (he was a Fine Arts student there, and my brother who's also from UPD says Kiko Machine is a funny portrayal about student life there). He also emphasized that writers and artists need to trust themselves and their own stories.

During the ArtTalk panel with Manix Abrera, John Iremil Teodoro, and Paul Marfil, anyone was invited to ask them questions. I asked them how they handle criticism. I mentioned that there's criticism that can help us improve, while there's criticism that's intentionally harsh. John Teodoro said that if we are artists, we shouldn't be 'balat sibuyas' or too sensitive - we must expect that there will be people who will dislike our work. I like how he said that we also can tell if a comment can help or not, and we also have the choice if we choose to accept it and use it on our work or not. Manix Abrera replied that its better that at least, if they criticize, it is a sign that they read your work and were affected by it. He said that silence (with only the sound of crickets in the background) and no reaction from the audience can actually be worse in a way.

Our booth

These are the zines and stuff that I bought from the other exhibitors (I wouldv'e bought more if I had more cash):
• You are Beautiful: coloring zine by Maria Clarisse T. Jaro
• Party Animal by Alahna Sy, illustrated by Katreena Enriquez, a poetry and prose compilation
• Short Literary Pieces by Charlyn Mateo, with 4 Tagalog short stories and a poem
• Pinoy Banana and Paper Jam: a poetry collection and portable workshop by Anna Slater and Jam Lebrilla, with a bookmark
• Radical Dreamers Anthology by lordcloudx (with three interactive story apps for Android)
• pa.sa.KAY pa.SA.kay, mga binalaybay ni Michael Caesar Tubal, gindibuho ni Gil Montinola
• Com[mute]: tales told in transit by Mae Sheilou L. Conserva

About my zine, it consists of 4 short stories and a poem:
Genesis retold - a short retelling of a Visayan creation myth
Pleiades upon the Stones - fairy worlds
Labyrinth (a poem) - inspired by Jorge Luis Borges and his story "The Library of Babel"
Shoreline - two cousins meet in a university, and there's the sea, mermaids, and insanity
Sirena - mermaids again, told from the perspective of a half-mermaid

Frankly, I'm cringing at these old stories, but they are about critical times in my own life, just symbolized beyond recognition as stories and fictional characters. I happen to write about lost worlds and mermaids because at that time I wrote them, I was obsessed with reading works by Caitlin R. Kiernan who often wrote Lovecraftian tales about the sea (though she also writes about other topics, and her science fiction stories are the best, I just wish that she's more popular here but her print books are not sold in the Philippines, I think).

Me and Charlyn are still planning to join the next Zinefest and we hope that we add more members to #WritingLibrarians (yes, we want to make this a 'group' of people who are interested in writing, books, and libraries, and not exclusive for librarians only). I'm already brainstorming ideas for a better zine next time and I plan to have something more light and funny. We're still keeping Poetry in the Moment for next time. The organizers said that the 4th Iloilo Zinefest will be on February 2018.

Overall, it was tiring, but fun! We were self-confessed introverts who were afraid to interact with others at first, but soon, people were approaching and loved the poetry we wrote for them. It was a lot of social interaction for me (I seriously thought I couldn't handle that much and I'm still 'recovering' at the moment), but it was worth it. Thanks to ZineZoned for this opportunity to showcase our work and get to know other writers as well. I learned a lot from the experience and look forward to the next Zinefest!

Just one thing I didn't like was the music that was too shrill and annoying. Sometimes we had to speak loud just to get heard by others.