Creative Endeavors

This Article from Michael O’Riordan’s column Outside Looking In at the Dumaguete Metropost was first published on 11th of March 2018.

I’ve just finished writing a story for my next book, More Almost True Irish Stories. It’s a collection of short stories. Finishing a story is, for me, always a bittersweet experience. It’s sweet because of the satisfaction of having created a story from nothing other than imagination, perseverance, and skill. It’s bitter because it creates a sense of loss. It’s similar to a child being raised who suddenly leaves home.

I believe writing is a form of musical composition. Each letter, word, is part of an overall sound similar to notes in a musical score. If poorly written, it grates like chalk against a board. Sometimes when I think I’ve written a solid piece, I then read it out loud, and realize it’s rubbish. The redemptive aspect of this solitary writing vocation is found when the opposite happens when the sound is beautiful and emotionally evocative. It’s during those rare occasions my work process is justified. It will surprise you to know it usually takes me six hours to write each column for you. And even then, it’s imperfect.

Did you know that the last military action of world war two happened near Valencia? The place was called Nababoy because of the inevitable slaughter. It happened 25 km from Valencia on Mount Talinis. That’s what Felix Constantino V. Cata-Al recently explained to me. A war that covered all inhabited continents, that killed at least sixty million including over one million Filipinos, while also displacing countless millions worldwide, ended in our back yard!

America dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9th 1945. Japan officially surrendered on September 2nd. But it wasn’t until September 23rd that Japanese soldiers on Mount Talinis finally surrendered.

Felix Cata-Al is a man with an honorable mission. He created the Cata-Al World War 2 Museum to honor his soldier uncle who died in July 1942 when imprisoned by the Japanese near Manila. Felix proudly showed me a letter of commendation from US president Harry Truman written to his fallen uncle’s family.

The museum contains an astonishing amount of WW2 paraphernalia such as uniforms, bullets, guns, mortar shells, commendations, books, and rare photographs of soldiers. Equally impressive is Felix’s vast knowledge of WW2. This man has an encyclopedic knowledge about this complex subject.

When you have time, and even if you don’t, go visit this historically important museum. Many people visit the Japanese war shrine. Why not instead visit a memorial to fallen Filipinos? Driving up from Dumaguete, it’s located on the right-hand side just before you arrive at Valencia Proper. And don’t forget to leave a donation!

How healthy is the creative arts scene in Dumaguete? Does it even exist? If it does, it definitely keeps a low profile. Are there theatrical groups that regularly perform Filipino and foreign plays? Is there a cutting-edge musical scene? For any city to be meaningful it must have a vibrant creative community. Where is it in Dumaguete? If anyone knows, please email me so I can experience it and also help spread the word.

I don’t remember the last time I went to see a movie in a theater. I’ve loved films since I was a child back in Ireland. What we got then were American western movies such as Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, and others in a similar vein. I’ll never forget my excitement on my confirmation day because of the joy of receiving an autographed photo of Hopalong Cassidy.

There was a time when an actor or actress had to be able to act, sing, dance, and look good. Nowadays the main requirements are for the females to look sexy and the men to be handsome. If they also happen to have some idea about acting that’s a bonus, but sadly not a requirement.

Because of the acting deficiencies, pathetic plots, and poor script-writing, producers now spend huge sums on special effects in order to overcome the movies glaring deficiencies. Think of Casablanca, Laurence of Arabia, The Field, A Day At The Races, then compare them with current movies. It’s a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous. It’s sad to see a formally noble art form reduced to deplorable mediocrity.

You probably have heard the story about the polite young man escorting the old lady across the road. Well the opposite happened to me yesterday in downtown Dumaguete. I wanted to cross the road on my way to interview Don Ramos of Russi Motors. The traffic was horrendous. I was waiting there for five minutes when an extremely old lady took pity on me. She held my hand, put her arm authoritatively up against the oncoming traffic, then safely guided me to the other side. My sides ached because I was laughing uncontrollably at the irony. Before parting, I raised my hat, bowed to this lovely lady, then took her hand and kissed it before thanking her for her kindness. Salamat indeed!

I promise you this is my last time saying this. After flying back from Cebu on Tuesday, I was driving up the Valencia road. Seeing partially cloud covered Mount Talanis looming majestically in the distance, I was, as usual, moved to a feeling of happiness. Up there my lovely home was waiting on me as would my crazy dog Blackie. But my happiness was diminished by the realization this experience will inevitably end. Everything is temporary in our brief, crazy dance through time. Someday I will pack my few material possessions into my well-traveled backpack, close the front door of that elegant house one last time, and leave my mountain. Then Valencia, my mountain and it’s lovely people will become a treasured memory.

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