Monday, 28 March 2011

0003 The Philippine Star, Cesare Syjuco Launches Poetry Album & Book Set, March 2011


Multi-awarded painter, poet and critic Cesare A.X. Syjuco will release his 15-track poetry album and book set titled “A Sudden Rush of Genius” at Fully Booked High Street, Bonifacio Global City on Friday, March 25 at 6:00 P.M.

The album, which fuses poetry and music, was recorded in the reclusive artist’s home-studio by his son, A.G. Syjuco, who was the principal composer and arranger of the art-rock band Faust in the late 1990s.  The book was a finalist for Best Design in the recently concluded National Book Awards.

Performing at the event will be special guests from the visual arts and literary fields: Alfred Yuson, Gemino Abad, Vim Nadera, Maxine Syjuco & Utakan, Ramon Sunico, Marne Kilates, Eghai Roxas, Bob Balingit, Igan d’Bayan, Yanna Verbo Acosta, Danny Sillada, Trix Syjuco, Lirio and Meann Salvador, Elemento, Mitch Garcia, Ian Madrigal, and others.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

0014 The Philippine Star, Posters from Cesare, April 2007

ZOETROPE By Juaniyo Arcellana
Publication Date: [Monday, April 16, 2007]

The "axman" cometh sometimes in the mail, courtesy of a series of poster invites to this or that gathering, across town about town, in Mag:net Katips, along the old Reposo in Bel-Air near the Alliance Française, at the CCP, last remnant of an edifice complex by the bay.

The name’s Cesare A.X. Syjuco, and he’s been painting the city red with his art and varied literary hybrids, sundry homonyms in progress, armed with guitar and vodka, lines rhythmic á la Robert Fripp. He’s King Crimson come to life, a dream in red with wife Jean Marie and daughters Maxine and Trix in tow. Since we haven’t found time to go to these gatherings, and having more than a passing acquaintance to Cesare the artist enfant terrible, through the first "Chromatext" exhibits more than 20 years ago in Pinaglabanan Galleries in San Juan to his recent extrapolations on poster and canvas and then some that made us sort of a fan of his, maybe it could serve us in good stead to take a closer look at these invite foldouts that boggle the mind.

"She is parallel to her rectum at all times... unwavering in resolve.," featuring a blond babe arching her back against the backdrop of a sleek car’s opened door is very Cesare, and announces a series of changing small showcase installations at the Poet’s Alcove in Mag:net Katipunan, curated by Jean Marie in a space conceived by Krip Yuson and Rock Drilon. The western symbol of the blond may have references to Dylan ("Blond on Blond"?), but the rectum aspect is, shall we say, universally anal. Rather Freudian and American rock and roll it is too, what with the tipping of the hat to sex and fast cars and pretty women. Only the lonely, as they say, can seek solace in such art.

Next up: "He’s out there somewhere., :If we could find him we could kill him... then there’d be no one to kill us., :If we could find him he wouldn’t be out there.," is part of his "Mighty Big Headstand" of brand new literary hybrids. The poster itself was designed by Maxine, who incidentally was named after a Donald Fagen (late of Steely Dan) song from the album "The Nightfly." A group of four outcasts or possible mutants from the Mickey Mouse club are gathered atop a stone staircase overlooking a bleak brown landscape, resembling more Middlesbrough than Marikina. The mysterious fab four could be refugees of the ersatz avant-garde group Faust, deprived of their instruments, and so also possibly devoid of funk. What abstract philosophies are found on those very steps of stone? Let Jung go hang, hunghang.
"Let’s talk about the anti-Christ., :It looks like a dog to me., :Don’t let that fool you, stupid.," is the text for the poster of "Homonyms of Recent History," a site-specific installation of Cesare’s newly expanded work at the Ricco-Renzo Gallery, LRI Business Plaza on Nicanor Garcia Street, Makati which opened on March 22 with live poetry performances by the usual suspects. Pictured is a relatively healthy mutt with spots, but not a Dalmatian, more like an askal with a fancy hat on. I guess we could call it the artist’s Lenten exhibit in a dog-eat-dog world, where one man’s meat is another man’s murder, and so on and so forth, bring that Fripp-fropp guitar on again.

Then finally, "Word of Mouth," a series of photographic self-portraits by Maxine that served as an invite to the closing of the "Chromatext Reloaded" exhibit of the Philippine Literary Arts Council last February at CCP, subtitled "Mouth Over Matter" and featuring Maxine with different likenesses of mouths pasted over her mouth, the real, ever omnipresent but alas, unseen one. By the poster alone, one could tell that PLAC turned yet another chapter in its existence and that of the art world with the latest "Chromatext," and only goes to show that all lines and labels blur in the advent of self-expression, in this case, a drawing of a mouth that could as well be reciting poetry. The surreality of it all extends the imagination into what, but an imitation of life.
I saw Cesare last year during the 25th anniversary get-together of PLAC at founding member Jimmy Abad’s hillside home in Antipolo, where the spirits flowed and the Ax artist documented the proceedings with Jean Marie on handy videocam. Cesare was in his element to say the least, chunking out those guitar riffs while the poets recited their verses to the rain and wind and sumptuous food. The words almost sounded superfluous, no offense to the poets, but David Byrne could have been reciting his "Imelda" libretto and the effect would have been the same. Picture Cesare Ax with his toothless grin, swigging vodka and playing his guitar with the same rhymic hammering he did 20 years ago on the walls of Pinaglabanan. And I thought, since this guy whose shyness is criminally vulgar is not in a straitjacket, he must be a genius of intertextual art. Either, or.

Source: The Philippine Star 

0013 The Philippine Star, Upstart Poets, April 2007

KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson
Publication Date: [Monday, April 16, 2007]

Heh-heh! Now, don’t take that heading seriously. You know me. I’m here in your planet to spread love, joy, and good cheer. And sometimes a bit of humor, okay?

Why, I even appear on TV trying to do the same, besides drawing all kinds of texted plaudits on how buddy Jimmy Abad and I were so, uhh... (far be it for me to draw comparison with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in that "Cassidy" film; besides betraying vintage class) — but that the Syjuco girls, Trix and Maxine, were decidedly more telegenic, even more eloquent.
For you out in the boondocks this summer, quoting poetic lines to yourselves like "April me with branches," all this is in reference to ANC’s Media in Focus program aired last Thursday and repeatedly replayed owing to insistent public demand... Wait, wait, jocose there, too. Credit regular scheduling.

Anyway, the weekly show hosted by Cheche Lazaro, one of our finest-ever television journalists, may have inexplicably taken a turn for the strange with a special focus on Philippine poetry. And of course its weird practitioners.

So there we were, making sosi with Cheche for a full hour, in live public view all over our cable-channel-strung archipelago and then some, explaining what poetry we wrote, where, when, why and how. (Hey, even fellow poet Wendell Capili who’s still on academic sabbatical in Canberra SMS’d kudos to his former UP mates, right after the show.)

As producer Twink Macaraig (my sis-in-law, by the by; so now you get the konek) and her assistant, Pat Evangelista (former mentee gone wildly on her own; can’t blame her), explained to us guests how Cheche’s show had three "gaps" — which would feature a pair of poets each.
Thankfully, my vast experience in television (as a censor and sometime adept, both) allowed me to explain to my fellow guests that "gap" actually meant "segment" — and that they should just nod brightly and accept the license taken with language, heightened language, and nod brightly again and accede to their placement in Gap One or Two or Three.

Okay? Okey po. That last came from the three young ’uns, as against the three veterans ("pillars," as Cheche kept subtly inferring about our senior citizenship status). So Jim Abad and I took the first gap (as pillars of salt, for always trying to look back at a storied past), while the decidedly electric pair of sisters (progeny of that handsome cum brilliant couple Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco) filled up the second, and delivering the coup de grace were the balagtasero and premier poet in Filipino, Teo Antonio, and bilingual page-turned-page-trasher poet Angelo Suarez.

Good mix, good flow, good show. ’Twas a pleasure to commingle anew with the youthful trio of Gelo, Trix and Maxine — each of whom was allowed to perform as gap openers or closers, heh-heh. And all three were brilliant, as performance poets.

Well, what do you expect? When they learned at the feet of the masters, namely that legendary rock pop Cesare A.X. of De La Salle-Taft, the love diva Ophelia Dimalanta of UST, and the living icon Cirilo Bautista of both Taft and España?

That’s what Jim and I tried to say during our 15 minutes of fame portion (er, gap): that the torch keeps getting passed, that poetry and all other forms of art must necessarily evolve, since they’re trans-generational, blah blah blah. And that that’s why we admit upstart poets, oops, within our radius of salty significance.


Why, Trix Syjuco, Maxine Syjuco, and Gelo Suarez, exciting avant-gardists as they have been, should tow in all the other Spoken Word, Open Mike, Hip-hop Rapstyle readers and performers taking a stab at, and drawing a lot of blood from, poetry.
So hooray for evolution!

Take the recent Philippines Free Press awards night at the Mandarin Ballroom last Tuesday the 10th of April — a day that will glow carmine red in the millennial literary calendar as the Changing of the Guards milestone or some such. When important poets like Eric Gamalinda, J. Neil Garcia, Joel Toledo, and a namesake of this chronicler landed on the seat of their pants, after being upended by... why, who are these... upstarts?

Oops. Come to think of it, it’s about time that multi-awarded (that modifier our buddy Butch Dalisay hates and excoriates) poets and writers take a back seat, or bottom seat, to the upcoming, far more than promising, entrants in literary derbies.

And so we must congratulate the judges for the Poetry category, namely Jimmy Abad (him again?), Marj Evasco ("goldened by... tongue"), and RayVi Sunico (who knows "the secret of graphite") for their wizened deliberation that not only opened the trophy doors to fresh poetry but also produced two gorgeous winners, apart of course from finally giving credit to an underrated, oft-absent poet, in the person of Victor Jose "Bimboy" Peñaranda, who’s currently in Macedonia!

For the record, here are the prizewinners of the richest poetry contest in town, The Philippines Free Press 2007 Literary Awards, with a first prize worth P80K, second P50K, and third P30K (and those are for single poems!):

First Prize (one winner): Mookie Katigbak for "As Far As Cho-Fu-Sa";

Second Prize (two winners): Victor Peñaranda for "Josefina Sleeping" and Ana Escalante Neri for "Lightscape";

Third Prize (one winner): Eric Gamalinda for "Qana";
Honorable Mention (four winners): J. Neil Garcia for "Torso"; Alfred A. Yuson for "Concealment"; Joel M. Toledo for "Ascension"; and Joel M. Toledo (again!) for "New Century, With Dragon."

Some honors, of course, come with nary a cash prize but great distinction, so there.
And for the Short Story category, well, alas! No winner for First Prize, but two winners for Second Prize: Rhea Buela Politado for "Southbound" and Anna Felicia C. Sanchez for "Inventories" — and three winners for Third Prize: Timothy R. Montes for "To the Slaughterhouse"; Dean Francis Alfar for "Six From Downtown"; and Douglas Candano for "A Visit to the Exhibition of the International Committee on Children’s Rights."

For the Essay category, again, alas! No winners for First Prize and Second Prize, while there were two winners for Third Prize: Rosario Cruz Lucero for "Singer on the Mango Tree" and Sandra Nicole Roldan for "How to Deal With Dying."

The panel of judges for both the Story and Essay categories was composed of Menchu Aquino, Susan Lara and Luis Katigbak. Hate mail re parsimony may be addressed to... Wait, just kidding.

On this matter, let us reiterate that it often becomes a sore point at literary contests when cash prizes are held back. One school of thought has it that even a race featuring turtles ought to produce a winner, while a contending thought says simply, "But we gotta have standards that can’t be compromised."

Uhh, well, I dunno. Don’t ask me, I’m just a jokester, quipster, chronicler and gossip. And eavesdropper. Was that the great novelist Charlson Ong grumbling (sounded like him) over unnecessary remarks about having to preserve the prestige of a Free Press First Prize in Fiction, since previous winners include such a one as Jose Garcia Villa? Yeah. Who him again? An upstart in his own time, we may presume.

In any case, the FP contest is certainly something for our young writers to look forward to, especially since next year, on the magazine’s centennial, greater cash awards were announced by no less than Rep. Teddy Locsin: P100K for First!

Wow! Repeat: that’s for a single poem, or story. FP literary editor Sarge Lacuesta did mention that the Essay category might have to give way for either Children’s Story or Young Adult Fiction. Or maybe I wasn’t eavesdropping well enough.

Suffice it to say that the contest produced two youthful winners in Ana Escalante Neri and Doug Candano, both barely a year away from their stint as writing fellows in the National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete. They were part of that illustrious batch of May 2006 — the rest of whom will surely make their mark as well in our literature.

That’s what we mean by the torch being passed. But must it be passed so fast? Should Mookie Katigbak, a student of mine at the Ateneo only some years ago, show up her, uhh, dementors so precipitately? Indeed she has every right to do so. For her edgy yet delicate poetry grants her the privilege. Just as the young Syjucos and Suarez, Candano and Neri, Sanchez and Roldan are starting up and taking hold of that torch so early.
Bravo the precocious bravura!

Source: The Philippine Star 

0018 The Philippine Star, Cesare's Mighty Big Headstand, February 2007

With words, text and poetry appearing more and more often in our art galleries today, Cesare A.X. Syjuco is now, more then ever, considered to be “an undisputed master of visual / literary hybrids” – acknowledging his groundbreaking experimental works since the ‘70s and ‘80s that fused art and literature into an indivisible whole.

Cesare’s mammoth-scale exhibition “Flashes of Genius” at the CCP Main Gallery in 2004-05 -- his first Manila appearance after an absence of nearly 12 years -- was unanimously hailed by both art and literary critics as “a stunning comeback… a major achievement for the arts as a whole”. And the 53-year-old renegade painter and poet, a TOYM awardee well known for his temperamental and reclusive nature, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since then.
His latest one-man-show, aptly titled “Mighty Big Headstand”, opens at Mag:net in Paseo de Roxas, Makati, on February 2, Friday, at 6 P.M. And far from renouncing his trademark texts, Cesare is turning on the heat and upping the ante with even more words and less paint than ever before.

“Mag:net is a lovely little gallery with intelligently planned spaces,” says Cesare of his intention to show his very latest transparent acrylic panels and lighted neons. “I thought it would be nice, for a change, to avoid the usual and to use the gallery like a kind of ‘book’ with clean new pages. I do miss that from showing too often in bigger, older spaces like CCP… and I’m looking forward here to a tighter, more aggressive show full of interesting twists and turns.”
The exhibit will be on view until February 17 only. For particulars, call Mag:net at 8177895 or email or visit