Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Learning from Dean

Those of you who’ve been visiting the blogs of the other gang members should have discovered by now that our very own Dean Francis Alfar bagged his fifth Palanca award this year for his one-act play Onan’s Circle, a piece which explores the modern-day phenomenon of online and eyeball encounters.

The play was originally meant for the full-length play category, and the gang had a chance to do a reading of the frenetic first act quite some time ago. But as Dean explained in his blog, Onan’s Circle underwent round after round of editing under his critical eye. The characters were primarily homosexuals, though I’m not sure if the final one-act version keeps that line-up.

During his initial Palanca-collecting spree about a decade ago, Dean won in the same category for his emotionally-charged First Time. This three-character one-act tells, on its surface, about a man who comes to terms with his sexuality through the unsolicited help of his gay friend. We read this play with gusto some years back, complete with emphatic cursing, in Dean’s then condo unit in Makati.

I’ve learned a whole lot from Dean in the few years I’ve known him, from the simple lessons of life to the complex workings of the writing craft. (Especially using the word ‘sensibilities’ wherever applicable, to the point when I’ve decided to exercise total discernment over it.) Opinionated and sharp-witted, he sometimes shocks me with what comes out of his mouth and, admittedly, there’s some facet about him that reminds me about my dad. Heck, he sometimes acts like one.

He’s one of the few people whom those close to him would describe as lucky in love, as his wife Nikki, an eloquent, witty, and exotically-featured woman, shares just about every bit of interest he has, from reading to writing to comics to the arts to Neverwinter Nights to The Amazing Race, etc. etc. And her calm demeanor beautifully complements Dean’s animated character.

At work, he does his best to make his staff comfortable and, at the same time, inspires professionalism. The workplace has a very casual air, thanks to his managing style. When he and Marc discuss business matters openly, it’s like watching a segment of some reality TV show – very entertaining and yet very insightful. His style would definitely not work in most stiffy corporations and, thinking about it, might even get him into trouble.

Needless to say, there are some noodles where we find ourselves in disagreement, but that’s the beauty I find in my friendship with Dean. We may disagree at times, but we respect each other, acknowledging that each one’s opinions are shaped by unique personal experiences..

He’s been encouraging everyone to take a leap at next year’s Palanca’s, even taking the gang through a series of serious writing exercises via our mailing list. Though there are a lot of aspects about writing that I still fail to grasp, Dean has been very patient as a teacher and, thankfully, blatantly honest in his critique. I know for a fact that I won’t become a super-fantastic writer, but with his guidance, I think I can muster being at least a capable one.

Again, to Sir Dean, congratulations!

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