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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Monday, May 11, 2009


4. Still Points: Silliman, Dumaguete City

Still points are there where you want them still –
not in earth, water, fire, nor air.

Lust as death to Rev. Fernández dictum,
tonsure as navel is worm or form, as God is.

“Cramp on my navel defies the argument
of tonsure combed away, talced lock and crucifix
counterpointing – tonsure to navel turning,
garment-soutane for the night’s purpose
nuded to caprice.”

Páscua-Sánchez, a prancing bull, believes:

“Not good nor evil the flower sprung,
but vile the tongue of wave that laps
the crack of soil dampened into limbs of sand.
So, soil is sand, is laving wave, is Sea cupping
the bowels of the blue blue hills, and you blended
gutlike as earthfire with the sad acid sun.”

Movement of movement moves
to trace the face of a dying clock.
Still point is point of steel,
a pause between hickory & dickorydock.

(Still Points, Manila)

About this time, the Dumaguete Writers Workshop at the Silliman University in the southern Philippines, would be hosting young writers from all over country. The fellows would be carefully chosen by the Workshop Director/s (the formidable team of artists in residence Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, internationally acclaimed writers. Edith Tiempo has since been appointed a National Artist by the Philippine Government.)

These young published and unpublished writers would invariably populate the brief roster of the country's best poets and fictionists. Some would continue writing as journalists, freelance writers, or academicians in the various universities that dot the archipelago.

Two of these fellows stood out in a 1970s workshop I attended: Rev. Mike Fernandez and Wilfrido Pascua Sanchez.
Fernandez belonged to the Order of Preachers and Sanchez was a University of the Philippines prodigy who had broken through the austere literary standards of the Philippines Free Press and considered at that time Philippine poetry's enfant terrible whose long poetic lines represented the long-awaited departure from the lyricism of Philippine-American expatriate Jose Garcia Villa.

Fernandez, clean and serious, and Sanchez, grizzled and flirtatious satyr on-the-loose, nevertheless come from the same pool of angst and sensuality.

Peas from the same pod? In one mischievous recollection, I remember them as the opposite sides of an arresting oxymoron -- one side gentle, priestly, and furtive; the other side clownish, irreverent, and lusty. They were both, however, at a still point in their lives.

I included the poem on this recollection in a group of poems Still Points in my 2009 A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (UST Publishing House, Manila)
Fernandez would not be heard from again in Philippine literary circles, and Pascua Sanchez left for the United States, worked for the Post Office and drove a cab to support himself. Primum est vivere (Life comes first), so what art lost, life gained. Better deal.

Pause between hickory & dickorydock.

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