The story of Sining Bodega
MANILA, Philippines - There are always stories to tell, and wars to fight.
But of course, stories vary, and wars can be fought in different ways and with various tools.
This story is about a group aiming to eradicate “prolifically bad” writing and go beyond standard writing topics — and they have chosen to fight back through an unconventional workshop.
The group's name? Sining Bodega.
Their weapon? Inkblot: The Essentials of Writing Fiction.
Sining Bodega, headed by 5-time Palanca awardee Dr. Joachim Antonio, began in the mid-2000s at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) as Dulaang Bodega, a supplementary group for student theater organizations Dulaang ROC and ViARE.
The “bodega” concept comes from the members' view of the group as a storehouse of ideas, and their penchant for working only with what they currently have.
The original group — that includes UA&P alumni Norman Tan, Bok Gil and 2011 Palanca awardee Jonathan Guillermo — provided valuable support for scriptwriting and other production aspects. More goals were added later, including making students' plays more stageable, and increasing participation in year-round theater productions.
Over time, Dulaang Bodega became an underground organization for members and pre-selected students to improve their writing skills, and those who just wanted to hang out and learn. Along the way, the original members garnered a reputation as the go-to folks for stage productions.
As the Bodega's membership grew, so did its scope: it dove headlong into guerilla filmmaking.
A short film named Pizza Girl was shot in 2007 with a Sony MiniDV camcorder and a meager Php3,000 budget; it had, of course, its own share of mishaps and frustrations. It was eventually shown in 2008 to a small audience, and the proceeds were used to send a student to that year's World Youth Day in Sydney.
The experience gave the members various lessons, helped them form strong bonds and pushed them into other ventures.
The current storyline
By 2009, many of the group's members were entering the workforce. Everyone concurred that the transformation into Sining Bodega started with Tan — and most of what transpired was unplanned.
Tan graduated that year with an Integrated Marketing Communications degree, but without any job opportunities due to the financial crisis and consequent hiring freeze. He kept attending their workshops while waiting for those opportunities to pop up.
Also around this time, Dr. Antonio was taking his PhD in Creative Writing at UP Diliman, and used their weekly meetings to test his theories and ask for feedback.
They eventually realized that they can offer their workshops outside UA&P, there was a demand for it and the participants consistently produced great output.
By chance, Tan had a job interview at Fully Booked, and saw The Forum at the top floor of the Bonifacio High Street branch. He didn't get the job, but he did find a new home for their workshops. Dr. Antonio then decided on the lessons he wanted to teach, and exchanged ideas with Guillermo and the rest of the group.
Their very first workshop at The Forum had only 4 participants and consisted of 6 two-hour sessions. The themes and stories that came out of this initial effort convinced everyone of their approach's effectiveness and (above all) uniqueness.
What exactly is their approach?
Sining Bodega seeks to avoid the two general workshop types (the standard type and the “therapeutic” type).
Instead, Inkblot focuses on the techniques and elements that would help writers with each aspect of their story. Topics include proper word usage, detailed plots, clear characterizations and logical story progressions — all of which can be overlooked by writers.
Objectivity throughout the writing process is a vital goal, as well as maintaining the writer's voice.
This approach has led to interesting and original results. The participants learn how to transform their ideas into workable, believable and tightly-written stories; and the facilitators use writers' comments to tweak future sessions and exercises. Former students also consult them for their works in progress, with some becoming award-winners in their own right.
The most recent 4-session Inkblot workshop (this writer attended 3) was held on all Saturdays of May 2012, again at Bonifacio High Street. There were 30 writers — the largest number they've handled so far, and the most they're willing to handle.
The next chapters
Even with all those transitions, Sining Bodega has no intention of ending its story here.
The group will continue offering Inkblot despite other concerns and commitments. “As long as there are people who want to take our workshops, game kami,” Dr. Antonio said. “We will probably never be able to eradicate trash, but we can reduce its percentage.”
There will be more deviations from the original game plan.
Guillermo has taken on the main teaching duties, and Gil is establishing a new theater group at PAREF Northfield School, similar to the old Dulaang Bodega.
The facilitators' day jobs and other endeavors will also help shape the overall program. While Inkblot remains their priority, higher-level workshops for previous participants may be offered in the future. - Rappler.com
Sining Bodega usually holds its second set of Inkblot workshops at around August to September. For inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or text Erin Locsin at +63917-3016760.