You can write us

Those who want to interview me via email about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights can send an email to

Those who want to volunteer for the campaign of Ang Ladlad can send an email to Ms Bemz Benedito, Ang Ladlad Secretary, at

Those who want to volunteer for my senatorial run can also send an email to me at the above-mentioned email.

Thanks a lot. Super.

Sex, drugs and the young Pinoy

By Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and Analysis section

Are Filipino teenagers having more sex than their elders? Are they safe when they do it? Are they getting married earlier? What gives them their high? These questions and more are answered by the book Youth in Transition: The Challenges of Generational Change in Asia, edited by Fay Gale and Stephanie Fahey.The Philippine essay is done by Joseph H. Puyat of the Department of Psychology, University of the Philippines. Happily, Professor Puyat reports that more and more Filipinos are delaying their marriages. That would be good for maternal health and lesser children mortality rate for the country.

“As of the year 2000, around 73 percent of males between the ages of 20 and 24 are still single. For females, the proportion is about 57 percent. Ten years ago, the proportion of men who have never been married is 63.3 percent, whereas for women it is 45.5 percent. The figures are significantly smaller for women, which indicates that the women in our country tend to marry much earlier than men. Twenty-one appears to be the average marrying age (Ericta, 2003).”

If, to paraphrase the golfer Tiger Woods, you’re coming from another angle, then the study done by the UP Population Institute seems to bode bad news. A series of nationwide surveys called the “Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS)” shows that today’s young people “are becoming more and more liberal with regards to their sexual attitudes and behavior.”

Blame it on media, the Internet, pop stars, Hollywood films or that old, reliable “peer pressure,” but it seems more and more young Pinoys are open to issues, if not the practices, of sex and sexuality. The most recent YAFS study in 2003 indicates that “18.3 percent of the youth agree to live-in arrangements, while about 15 percent find pregnancy without marriage acceptable. Some 11 percent reported currently having live-in partners and about 23.5 percent admitted having had premarital sex.”

An earlier YAFS study (1996) showed that those who engage in premarital sex are boyfriends-girlfriends who did it — no, not in motels, for these are out of the range of young people’s budgets. They do it right in their homes, when the parents are out and the housemaids are, right on cue, out of the house, perhaps in the malls watching a film with their own dates. So it’s now rarely done in cars, in cinema houses (yuck) and in motels, as it seems to have been during our time (according to my male classmates, right).

And who had sex with whom? The 2003 YAFS study shows that “of those who engaged in premarital sex, 11 percent said they did it with same-sex partners and 3.3 percent claimed they did it on their first, single date.” The 11 percent for same-sex partners jibes perfectly with the 10 percent that the Kinsey Report claims is the percentage of Americans who have had same-sex encounters. The 10 percent is also pegged as a figure that cuts across countries and cultures, which means that, generally, 10 percent of any population is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

When asked how the sexual encounters occurred, “many said they either wanted it to happen (40.5 percent), or that it just happened and that it was not their plan for it to happen (31.6 percent).” And as with the earlier YAFS study, most of the young people in the 2003 study claimed having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends (70 percent). And why on earth did they do it? For that old, reliable reason: love. And that thing that killed the cat: curiosity. And the final thing that dear, old Sigmund Freud said is as urgent as hunger and thirst: lust.

The next finding should shock the bejesus out of our high-school counselors, nuns, priests and parents. It should also raise the red flag about a possible rise in sexually-transmitted diseases. Listen: “Many of those who engage in premarital sex do so while in high school. Asking around about contraception and actually buying contraceptive devices such as condoms will undoubtedly arouse parents’ or other adults’ curiosity and suspicion. Because of this, the majority of those who engaged in premarital sex do so without any form of protection. For the small percentage who claimed to have used some form of protection, they cited withdrawal as among the more frequently employed methods. So if the YAFS I study (1984) pegged premarital sex at 12 percent and the YAFS II study (1995) pegged it at 18 percent, the figure for the 2003 study has risen to 23.5 percent.

In short, premarital sex is on the rise, something that we have observed but which now carries concrete, statistical proof. I always tell my students I don’t encourage premarital sex, but if you do, then the next best thing is to know how to protect yourself. But if the parents and the guardians — and most certainly, the schools — fail to offer intelligent information about sex and sexuality to the young, then they will get it from their peers, or in actual practice, from their sex partners. It’s like the blind leading the blind, in more ways than one.

But the worst is yet to come. The Filipino youth, like all young people around the world, have a strong sense of curiosity. But this curiosity also leads some of them to explore and experiment with risky behavior. The YAFS data show that 90 percent of those surveyed believe that smoking, drinking alcohol and doing drugs impair one’s health. However, this knowledge did not stop them from dipping their toes in these waters.

“Close to a half (46.4 percent) of the respondents has tried smoking and of this number, about 45 percent continue the habit. Likewise, around 70 percent have tried drinking, while 11 percent have tried using prohibited drugs such as marijuana, shabu (crack) and the designer drug ecstasy. Even more distressing is the finding that the young adults who engage in risky behavior are also the ones engaging in other high-risk behavior (Raymundo and Cruz, 2003).”

The conclusion is stark and dark: “It seems that quite a number of young adults are allowing themselves to be exposed to multiple risks at the same time.” These are the risks of pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infections, sexual addiction, drug addiction and, in the later years, the onset of cancer.

As parents and guardians, we are enjoined to stop this dark plague from eating up our young people. One thing we can do is get to know our children’s friends, and encourage them to visit our houses, most especially when we are there. That way, we get to know the company our children keep. Also, if we cannot teach them sex ed, then by all means, give them books that explain, in clinical but informative ways, all about the birds and the bees and the consequences thereof of cross-fertilization. Tell them to enjoy their health while they are still young, and this includes not doing anything that will impair it.

One reason my classmates stopped smoking in college was because of our Chemistry teacher. During lab one day, she trapped cigarette smoke in a jar, showed the black traces clinging to the jar, and then said: “These black traces cling to the jar, which is like your lungs. The longer you smoke, the deeper and the blacker are the traces, like tar around your lungs. Until one day, your pink lungs turn into the color of asphalt.”

I think that stopped one generation of Ateneans from ever smoking again till kingdom come.

Gay rights group prepares for 2010 elections

Published on Sun.Star Network Online (
Cebu Sun Star Newspaper
Front Page
May 16, 2009

WHILE Ang Ladlad may have been dropped from the official list of party-list candidates for the May 2007 elections for “not having enough members,” it assured that next year will be different.

“We now have eight regional chapters,” said Danton Remoto, the group’s chairperson.

Ang Ladlad has “enough” for the elections, with the group hoping to establish 12 regional chapters across the country before May 2010. It is a national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos.

It will file its certificate for accreditation as a party-list organization with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on July 30.

In a meeting with local supporters, Remoto appointed Orly Cajegas as Ang Ladlad-Cebu chapter head.

“We are aiming, for sure, for one seat in Congress. But I’m personally hoping that we would get three seats,” Remoto said.

Under Republic Act 7941, 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for party-list groups, which are supposed to represent the “marginalized and under-represented.” Each group gains a seat by winning two percent of the votes cast in the party-list elections, for a maximum of three seats per group.

Remoto admitted that the May 2010 elections will be a tough one, considering that they would be up against other well-known party-list groups.

“Based on surveys done in 2006, Bayan Muna would come out first, then second would be Ladlad. For 2010, it would be a stiff competition. There’s always Bayan Muna, which has been around for a very long time, and Buhay as well,” he said.


Ang Ladlad has been actively lobbying for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, which seeks to make it a criminal act to discriminate against LGBTs in the workplace, schools, entertainment centers, hotels and restaurants.

Remoto said that LGBT rights have gained more respect and discrimination has not been as bad as it was years before.
“It’s better now. I’m not saying that it’s just great, but things are better,” he said.

Social stigma and discrimination against LGBT Filipinos have lessened and society has learned to respect that they have equal rights, he added.

“We are now even given more social and political space,” he said.

In Cebu, Remoto was “especially happy” because even trial courts have become LGBT and gender-sensitive.

Also, Ang Ladlad hoped that the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas would rule in favor of the patient who sued a government hospital and its doctors, after a video of his surgery was circulated online. The surgery was performed to remove a body spray canister from his rectum.

While the party-list group Akbayan has offered to work on the patient’s case, Ang Ladlad has also been actively involved by talking to the Philippine Nursing Association, the Department of Health, and the Philippine Medical Society.

“We wanted to give him a psychologist, because the event was so traumatic,” said Remoto.

He said it was best that those who were involved in the operation should be jailed to serve as an example.

“Kung ako yan, gusto ko makulong ang mga (If it had happened to me, I would want a jail term for the) doctors,” said Remoto.

He was in Cebu to promote his new book, “Rampa,” which is a compilation of stories that focus on various Philippine cultural icons.


Source URL:

Straight from the mouths of babes

Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis

Several weekends ago, I visited a college and talked to their students. They usually ask me about communication and the art of writing. If not that, then they ask me to give a talk on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and issues.
I always like talking to young people because they are so vibrant. They ask so many questions and that is good, because they want to know the answers as well. I think it is this casual impertinence and insatiable curiosity that are the hallmarks of the young and the restless. And it is these qualities that might fuel the so-called youth vote that all presidentiables are now angling for. This reminds me of a small run-in with a presidential wannabe in 2010, a man who loves to shoot his mouth off without knowing the facts and figures at hand. With imaginary poise, he told me breathlessly: “Professor Remoto, there is no such thing as a youth vote. They would rather go to Starbucks or watch MTV.” I answered him that the kids would rather go not to Starbucks but the fastfood places, and they would rather watch MYX. “MYX?” he asked, his big, wondering eyes glazing. There you go, I wanted to tell him, you will lose this election because you do not know your voters.

With this in mind, I talk to the young during weekends. Lolo Pepe Rizal was correct then, and now: hope for this scandalously colorful country only resides in the young.

And so several weekends ago, I gave a short, spicy talk about the images and stereotypes of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in the mass media. Then I asked them for questions, which is always the more fruitful part of any discussion, especially with the young. And the questions, they came in such a deluge that I wasn’t able to answer everything. I gathered up the rest of the unanswered questions, and promised to answer them. Here they are:

How do you define LGBT?

Lesbians and gays are people whose sexual attraction and affection are directed at people of their own sex. Therefore, women to women, and men to men. Bisexuals are people whose sexual attraction and affection are directed at people of both sexes. I quipped that they are like AC-DC electrical outlets: plug them in and they will electrify everybody. A young man asked me if I believe bisexuals exist and I said, “Of course! They may be fewer, but I believe that bisexuals exist, and bisexuality is not just a step away from homosexuality, nor is it a phase that can be outgrown.” And how about transgenders? They are people who believe they were assigned the wrong sex. Transgenders are not gay men; their whole being rests on their gender identity of being women.

What causes homosexuality?
Some people say it is nature, that is why there are gay papayas — (they flower but do not bear fruit) and there are gay crabs — they have big bodies and they have eggs, that is why housewives love to buy them. So if you follow this argument, then gayness is part of nature and nature was made by God; so why would you despise something that God has made?
Another point of view is that of nurture: that gayness is acquired through upbringing and socialization. That young men whose fathers were absent when they were young grew up to be gay (something straight from Freud). And that young men who were molested by same-sex partners when young grow up to be gay. Of course not.
I think it is, like most things, a combination of both nature and nurture, birth and breeding.

What are metrosexuals?
Ten years ago, the concept of metrosexuality started in the West, crossed oceans and cyberspace, and reached our shores. Metrosexuals are men who have appropriated the style and even the sensibility of gay men in clothes, décor and even language. But some of them are still straight. I guess it has come to a point where it has become déclassé to be anti-gay. To know gay fashion and gay language is to be hip, to be young, and to be fashionable. If colegiala language was the youthspeak of the 1980s, then gay language is the youthspeak of the present generation.

How do you deal with all the discrimination?
Personally, I have never felt discrimination because I never let people oppress me. I oppress them. This must be because I was born in a military base to a father who was a military officer and a mother who is the soul of stoicism. My father, who also went to law school, insisted that you should always debate and argue with your nay-sayers. If he is a bully and bigger than you and challenges you to a fistfight — go, girl! But first, get a bamboo stick or a slab of wood to beat him up, black and blue. Because if you go home black and blue and mewling that the enemy was bigger, my father himself would give you a dose of the fabled military discipline. That was one of my earliest lessons in justice and fairness.
But there are others who did not have my, uh, pure, Amazonian breeding. Social structures created by people oppress them. One of the lesbian members of Ang Ladlad, a UP graduate, applied for a job in Makati. She was number one in the exams, and during the interview, the HRD officer’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when in came this mega-butch, super-dyke of an applicant.

HRD asked point-blank: “Are you a practising lesbian? Because we do not hire practising lesbians.”

Ang Ladlad lesbian’s answer: “No, I am no longer practising. I am already good at it.”

Naturally, she was not hired.

Another of our Ang Ladlad members, a transgender who took her MA in Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University, applied for a call-center job in Ortigas. Again, she was number one in the exams. And the HRD officer’s eyes really popped out of their sockets and flew to the wall when in came this tall, long-haired transgender. With boobs.

HRD asked point-blank: “But the application form said your name is Rogelio and you are supposed to be male!”

Ang Ladlad transgender’s answer: “But I am a woman.”

HRD: “We cannot hire you because we do not hire men with breasts!”

Ang Ladlad transgender: “Why, will my boobs answer the phone and say, XYZ Corporation, may I help you?”

Naturally, she was not hired.

Are there more homosexuals today and why do you keep on multiplying even when you don’t procreate? Why is that?
I love the needling and insistent tone of this question. Parang she (the questioner is a she) is so shocked by the fact that we are now here, there, and everywhere. Do I detect here a babe scorned by a cute, buffed, and bright dude who happens to be a dudette? Hmmm.

Anyway, gays are not like gremlins: the moment water is thrown at them, they multiply. There have been gays before, but they were in their closets, living the life of mummies in their coffins made of stone. Sexuality studies by Alfred Kinsey, et al, have confirmed that at least 10 percent of the population must be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. If there are now 88 million Filipinos that translates to 8.8 million Filipinos who are LGBT.

That is the big news that our friends — my politician-friends included — should think about, now that the 2010 political cauldron has begun to bubble and boil.

ANC Leadership Forum Monday 7 pm

The first salvo of the ANC Leadership Forum for presidential candidates gets underway tomorrow, Monday, 7 pm. It will be broadcast live from Leong Hall of the Social Sciences Building, Ateneo de Manila University.

The line-up so far of those who have said yes: Mar Roxas, Chiz Escudero, Jojo Binay. I am sure Loren Legarda and Manny Villar would also join. What about Noli de Castro? I hope so. But this being a discussion where questions will be taken from a live audience, I do not think Noli will be too eager to join this one. I do not mind if the presidential candidates answer in Filipino or in English. What I do mind are brainless answers from minds not fully engaged, or not engaged at all, in the issues of the day.

Franklin Drilon: One Night with Mo Twister

Posted on: Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 3:17 pm


Well, well, well, I was surfing the web when I saw this. I was not able to watch the show of Mo Twister because I go home late from my work at the United Nations Development Programme in Makati. I thank Senator Drilon for considering me. I have already signed up with LP, but have not yet taken the oath of office.

That means, in simple English, I am still a free agent. And is still talking to the rest of the world. Which I am doing. Every week. Which accounts for these short, elliptical sentences. Talking to political operators and campaign managers. Leads to a meltdown in one's brain cells. Which makes me wonder. What am I doing here?


“Unless the Filipino people remains vigilant, the prospect of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo extending his stay in power as prime minister is a real possibility and the primary reason why Liberal Party President Sen. Mar Roxas is my favorite presidential candidate in 2010 is because I believe in his integrity.”

These, among several other current issues, were the highlights of a very interesting and insightful interview I had with Mo Twister last April 28. Mo Twister, who was described to me as one of the most provocative and straightforward interviewers in Philippine media today is a radio-turned-TV jock who is currently the host of the In My Opinion talk show aired on ANC Tuesday nights.

Here are some of the quotes he extracted from me:

On my alleged ‘intimidating’ public image: Maybe I am too serious in what I do as a public servant. But sometimes, it is good to intimidate people, especially those who are up to no good. But you are doing well, Mo, so I should not intimidate you.

On the infighting among senators: I was Senate President during half of the time when I was in the Senate. As Senate president, you try to keep things cool so you can move legislation. What is happening in the Senate now is a little embarrassing. What you see on television are people fighting; it’s not good. It does not project (the institution) well.

Am I running for the Senate in 2010?: It’s in my agenda, but I haven’t decided fully yet. In the first place, I don’t even know if there will be a presidential and senatorial elections next year, given the fact that the House of Representatives is now pushing a patently illegal and immoral way of changing the Constitution.

On the youth running for public office: The youth always had that chance. In fact, in the Liberal Party, we are looking at a number of young politicians who are being considered for the 2010 senatorial elections. Certainly, I agree that the youth should lead the country now. Our generation will soon belong to history.

On claim that the Senate was better managed when I was there: I had my time. You don’t pass judgment on people coming after you. Let the people judge.

On reuniting the Senate: It’s a question of you being able to reconcile conflicting interests, and I am sure the present leadership of the Senate would be able to do that.

On being away from public office: Right now, I have an “apostolate,” meaning I take care of my “apo (grandchildren)” and I am enjoying every bit of it. I was taken back by my former law office. I go to office everyday.

On gay marriage: (I believe me must) allow it. Everyone has the right to pursue happiness. That is my personal opinion and it does not have anything to do with my belief in God or in the Catholic Church.

On divorce: I don’t believe in divorce. There are enough laws that would allow a legal remedy in case a couple cannot live together anymore.

On term extensions for gov’t officials: I am not in favor of that because you have a mandate with the people that under the Constitution, you are to serve only for three terms, in the case of Congressmen, three terms for Senators, and one-term in the case of the President.

Pay hikes for public officials to fight corruption. I am open to that suggestion. I believe we should provide sufficient compensation to public employees so that the temptation to commit corruption will be diminished.

On the Arroyo administration. I think history will be very harsh on its judgment of this administration, for various reasons including corruption, the lack of respect for the law and the lack of respect for our democratic institutions.

On Erap running for president again: I believe at the end of the day, it will be the Supreme Court that will decide on that question.

On the right of reply bill. I am not in favor of that bill. I think there are enough laws that will make media responsible, like the laws of libel. To require media to print every response a government official makes would be tantamount to allowing government officials to dictate what news should be in media, and that is not the way it should be.

On legalizing prostitution. I am not in favor of legalizing prostitution. We can help those who have gone astray. I don’t think I am prepared to accept it.

On poll automation. We should have it. It’s about time. We are still doing election in the manner that it was done before World War II. The debate whether we are prepared for it is now a thing of the past. The (poll automation) law has been passed. I think it’s about time we should have it. We just have to prepare. There is no other choice.

On Gloria Arroyo becoming prime minister: Unless we watch out, that will happen.

Will you welcome (gay activist) Danton Remoto in the LP: He has not applied for party membership. But we will consider it (if he does).

On your choice of Mar Roxas as president: Senator Mar Roxas is my choice for president in 2010 primarily because I have never seen him take advantage of his government position for his personal benefit. Integrity to me is very important. I have worked with him and I think he is a very competent person.

answers to questions from bloggers

1. I have read the book gerilya sa powell street but need to re-read it so i could write the review.

2. maybe the blogger who commented on the "shit" comment on ricky lee's unfinished novel is right, but let me check again my copy of the phil free press. it must be my senior moment.

3. my name is danton and not john, john is so generic a name. i was named after a french leader of the revolution -- whose head got cut off.

4. somebody asked me who gave me the idea i will win as a senator in the 2010 elections? how dare you, he berated me, for running with only a pink blog as your publicity weapon.

i have no idea that i will win. but what i can tell you is that several political operators and campaign managers of different parties have asked me to meet with them.

and since my training is to talk to all comers and listen to all offers, i have set meetings with them. since i live in quezon city, i said to one of them could we meet in gateway, cubao? too public, he answered. how about morato? too public either, he added.

then he gave me three choices: 1. manila polo club 2. manila yacht club 3. manila hotel.

i said, oh no. that means i have to get a cab to get there, since i do not drive. and he gallantly offered to have me picked up, in one of his SUVs bigger than my library at home, driven by a chauffeur wearing a stiffly-starched uniform.

uh oh. i think i am no longer in kansas.

and i am quite sure that when i meet them, we will not discuss the literariness -- or lack of it -- of ricky lee's novels.

Mama's Boy

Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis

Thirty years ago I joined an essay-writing contest for Quezon City high-school students and won for this piece, written when I was 14 years old. I recently unearthed this while fixing my files. Let us see if times have changed for the bagets nowadays.

* * *

It has been said that a mother’s hands shape the world. From cradle to college and even long afterward, a mother nags, laughs, cries and goads you to be not just what you are but what you can be.

“Your mother belongs to the old school,” my father will say when we are baffled by her actions. She barks orders like a platoon sergeant, telling us children to fold our blankets, flatten our bed sheets and not to leave our dirty clothes on the floor like molten snake’s skin. She also orders us to arrange our books, dust the windows, and sweep the leaves in the yard now that the maid has gone back to her hometown to join the fiesta and the baile (dance).

My mother is a worrisome woman who hates villains in soap operas, tends to her orchids as if they are diamonds, and plays well on our upright piano, which our father bought for her after they were married. She came from a musical family in Oas, Albay, and she required us to study the piano under her tutelage. When she has time, she installs herself in front of the piano and plays, her fingers running on the keys like spindly spider’s legs.

Her warts of worry multiplied, though, when we all grew up to be lanky teen-agers. She thought it was a bad reflection on her, a home economics major who teaches music in school. She requires us to eat, and eat a lot. Since I am a rebel and always do the opposite of what my elders tell me to do, I ate less and less. She is a mean cook, all right, but sometimes, I would rather just sleep, or read, or watch TV.

Her exercise of motherhood is simple but not simplistic. She sticks to the essentials: study well, do not quarrel with each other, learn the house work, and keep away from bad company in the neighborhood and in school. Also, look both ways when you are crossing the street, do not poke fun at the disabled, and attend Sunday Mass.

Of course, she has her weak moments: she will frown when my father comes home late from work; she will frown when we come home late from school, and she will frown some more when the house maid takes hours to return from the market. And she also talks a lot. I guess this happens, by reflex, from being a teacher. But I guess all these have made her more real, more human, and more alive for us.

We sometimes have our skirmishes. Being the eldest, I’ve been told to take care of my younger siblings until those words have clogged inside my ears. Like most Filipinos, we are a tightly-knit group. But sometimes, I just want to climb the roof of our house and stay there, under the aratiles trees filled with their tiny, red fruits. Sometimes I feel smothered, lost in the confusion of voices and faces and movements in the house. Sometimes, I just want a space where my spiky elbows can move about without hurting anyone.

But when I get sick, my mother becomes a mother again. No more drama from my part about wanting some space and distance. My mother’s blurred outline becomes sharp once more, clear in my mind. When my tonsils swell, like a fatal fever in my throat, she will rush to the room I share with my brother. She brings with her standard paraphernalia: blanket, rubbing alcohol, antibiotics, thermometer, and a glassful of lukewarm kalamansi juice that she herself squeezed.

She begins the ritual, naturally, with her scolding me for taking cold soft drinks, for letting sweat dry on my back. But after this, she settles back beside my bed, takes my temperature, shakes her head, pops a capsule into my mouth and washes it down with the lemony juice.

And then once again, I become the child, remembering the lullabies and the warm, gentle hands and not caring a bit if I am called, uh, a mama’s boy.

* * *

how to succeed as a writer

i have received many inquiries on how to succeed in a country where people do not read books. first, let us define what success means for you. if it means the ability to write well, with technical expertise and the gift to transmute ideas into emotions and experience on the page, then maybe the following would help:

1. If you write prose, master grammar and the elements of style. That is also the title of the iconic book of strunk and white.

2. Read the classics. I do not mean just the Western classics, but also the Eastern ones. And as important these days, the Asian and Southeast Asian writings, focusing on the Philippines. As TS Eliot said in Tradition and the Individual Talent, we stand on the bones of our ancestors not to bury them deeper, but for us to reach loftier heights. In short, you should know what has been written, build on it to enrich your writing, and scope around for some new things (Ezra Pound's "make it new") that can be the focus and fulcrum of your work.

This is what the young punk who wrote a withering review in the Philippines Free Press of Ricky Lee's first novel failed to consider. He called the novel shit, and the next novel, an unfinished one whose first chapter was printed in the first novel, as shit as well. Unless you are drawing attention to yourself, how could you call shit an unfinished, unpublished novel whose entirety you have not read? That, ladies and gentlemen, also smell not of roses but of something fecal as well. And if you are an advocate of new, experimental writing, fine. But one day, when you have finished and published your great new experimental Philippine writing, then do show them to us so we can read them as well.

3. If you write poems, then also devour the classics, Western as well as Eastern, including the multicultural, bybridized ones of the last 30 years. I personally favour the Tang Dynasty poets, Wang Wei and Li Po and Tu Fu, as well as the masters of the haiku, Basho and Issa and Buson. And also the crazy Westerners: Rilke and Roethke and Plath, and the magical Spanish and Latino Americanos: Lorca, Neruda, Vallejo.

4. Write and write and write. In my time we wrote in journals. Every day. Now it is the blog. But whether journal or blog or thesis or the great Filipino Novel, pour everything you have into it -- skin and soul and something else that only you can give.

5. Join contests. Not to make a lot of money, because you won't, but for two things -- to get validation from the so-called masters, and to build a strong CV that is required by the publishing houses. True, many publishers will not touch the work of a young writer with no award, no grants abroad, a CV without a spine, as some would put it. It may be unfair, to the writer who did not join contests or send an application for a fellowship abroad, but whether here, in Alaska or in the Daily Planet of New York, things are basically the same.

As for the definition of success as financial, you only make money as a writer in the Philippines:

1. If you write a political biography of somebody running for elections. Nick Joaquin did, and his going rate before he died was at least P1.5 million. But he was Saint Nick, writer par excellence, and literary godfather of us all. Some of his political biographies read like riveting fiction, and maybe, that was his intention after all?

2. If you write a series of elementary or high school textbooks. One of my friends did, and every March, he would collect millions of pesos in royalties and would buy lechon for the whole department to feast on. When you write a series of textbooks, the whole marketing machinery of the publisher goes to work on the superintendents, the supervisors, the head teachers, the chairmen. I did not say they would bribe the whole kit and caboodle: I just said they would go to work.

3. If you join advertising and PR. I now work as a Communications Officer at the United Nations Development Programme, and in our tall and ritzy building at the RCBC Plaza in Makati I would see my former students -- now hotshots of the biggest ad and PR companies in the country. Some of them also worked for multinational companies in SE Asia. It is good money, and money honestly earned, if you have the facility, the slippery ability, with words, their nuances and shadows, their very essences.

4. PR also includes political PR. You can get rich quick if your boss is a senator who has an IQ below sea level, arrives early for the attendance checking, and leaves ASAP to go carousing not in the bookstores but in the dim, dark chambers reeking of sulfur where politics in this country is ran. Since yours is the only brains in his office, naturally you can do magic realism and get the fattest paycheck every fifteen days.

5. Run for elections. But then, you do not run for elections to make money in this poor but beautiful country. Otherwise, you would just end up like the blood-thirsty politicians that you loved to satirize when you were younger and poorer, and had stars in your eyes.