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Eric Francis Tinsay Valles Archives


Welcome to my world in transit.

        Kamusta? Ni hao?

 

As a Chinese Filipino, I have had brushes with otherness in my native and adopted societies. While growing up in Manila, I was aware that I was fairer and had smaller eyes than most people around me –and for a while got teased for this. Living abroad, first in Taipei in the 1990s and now in Singapore, has made me realize that I speak and, in certain ways, think differently from many of my colleagues.

 

This otherness could be frustrating, especially when I was just starting to learn Mandarin, the language of my maternal grandfather’s family. How could one make sense of noodle-like brushwork on billboards or bus guides everywhere, for instance? But might this otherness also be liberating? It gives me some objectivity in exploring ways of looking and voicing my experience of self and others in a much more integrated world. It also opens up possibilities for cobbling together words, imagery and poetic forms from more than one cultural tradition in my writing.

         Formerly a journalist and editor, I currently teach English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore High School of Math and Science. I have been published in Routledge’s New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, the Hispanic Culture Review (George Mason University), the Singapore National Arts Council-published anthology Reflecting on the Merlion, the Ethos-published & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond, Ceriph as well as in online journals Double Dialogues (University of Melbourne) and Bukker Tillibul (Swinburne University of Technology). I have also been invited to read poetry at the University of Melbourne and in the Poetry and Voice conference of the University of Chichester. In 2011, I won the City Loves Writing competition of the British Council’s Writing the City website and was admitted to a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Centre in the US.

         I draw inspiration from all sorts of music and feed off great writers (and souls) such as St. Augustine, Geoffrey Chaucer and Flannery O’Connor.

         I am also a veritable citizen of the global economy, with some achievements in editing, journalistic writing (for the English-language Taiwan News, Asian Infrastructure Monthly and the Far Eastern Economic Review) and teaching overachieving students (e.g., in Hwa Chong Institution [College] and NUS High). Among the places I have called home are Manila, Taipei and Singapore.

        In my 20s, I became like Clark Kent—that is, a journalist. I was so for an English-language daily in Mandarin- and Hokkien-speaking Taiwan. I reinvented myself and, along the way, picked up a foreign tongue, that of my maternal grandfather.

        In the prime of life, I teach English—spelled in British fashion—in a place that is uniquely Singapore. This island is both Asian in its vaunted Confucian values and Western in its occasional high-risk, high-gain investments.

        I face the future with a sunny outlook that has served me well but with slight quavering.

       I am also exploring the use of St. Augustine of Hippo's interpretive theory of reading (distinguishing between literal and figurative interpretations) in the study of cupiditas (disordered love of self that prevents communion with others and the Other) in the works of Chaucer, Jonson, Pope and Flannery O'Connor.

       St. Augustine says that the end of interpretation (principally of the bible and secondarily of other Christian-inspired texts) is charity, the ordering of values with turning to God on top and turning to the self at bottom. It follows then that any allegorical text that may seem to subvert this order should be interpreted not literally but figuratively.I am trying to see now just how each writer brings the uniqueness of his or her time and culture to the shaping of allegory in depicting evil or the lack of good in fictional characters. In so doing, I am testing just how fruitful still is the classical interpretive mode of St. Augustine in generating criticism and, in that light, will outline some fictional models for the depiction of cupiditas (which necessarily presupposes a prior and superior caritas).

      Singapore is a grab bag of things representing the full continuum of goodness (It's clean, all right, but no Disneyland.). The heat is unbearable (worse than in Manila), but its lush gardens make it a pleasant home (Looking out the living room window, I'm treated to a soul-soothing sight of a palm-lined garden that conceals the awkward backhand of some NUS dormers at the tennis court.).The weather here sort of reminds me of Taiwan's spring: it rains at least once a week. Because of that, Singapore's shrubbery looks a deep shade of green all year round --unlike Japan or Texas in late winter.

       This city-state is not really as uptight as most people think. Some people jaywalk; I've seen a housemate without a car seatbelt on; teenagers can now stand up and dance at concerts; a pair of my slacks once got smeared with -- chewing gum. Hey, they're loosening up!

      Prior to postgraduate research, I worked in Taipei as a business reporter and columnist at the English-language daily Taiwan News. I stretched my mind by covering diverse fields from information technology to cross-strait relations. That experience gave me opportunities to grab freebies and to chat with world shakers (great salesmen too) such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Intel Chairman Andrew Grove, Acer Chairman and CEO Stan Shih and Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang.

        A decade ago in Manila, I tried to put sense into the papers of woolly-headed economists as an editor for top think tank and academic institution University of Asia and the Pacific (formerly Center for Research and Communication). I was also privileged to have taught Composition to four batches of "creme-de-la-creme" students at UA&P.

       As there are many sources and intensities of light, so are there many shades of truth in this fractured world. Given our very limited stay here, I think it is quite good to reach for the fullness of truth that faith and reason can make us attain (As Pope said, "What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,/ The soul's calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy,/ Is virtue's prize.... [not] 394 erring Pride....").


       This is a struggle for me and most people.

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I'm an English teacher and poet at the National University of Singapore High School. I'm completing a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center. I'll speak at a panel discussion on migration on August 13 from 2 to 3pm at Kinokuniya on Orchard Road. I hope to see you there.
 
A World in Transit, a poetry collection, offers a migrant’s perspective on the new world order in our Age of Migration and the central issues which settled inhabitants may overlook. The book explores the migrant experience sometimes with humour and always with empathy for otherness.

Click for photos taken during the launch of A World in Transit on June 10 at Books Actually.

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Buy a copy online if you are not in Singapore.

Reviews by top writers and academics in SIngapore and Australia (Click here)

VIDEO: Other teachers and me at a seminar. CLICK HERE.

NEWS

National Arts Council news about my presentation at the Poetry and Voice conference at the University of Chichester in June 2010

The program of the 2011 Philippine Independence Day celebration featuring the launch of A World in Transit (Click).

Photos from a poetry workshop I conducted during the Philippine Independence Day 2011 celebration at Hong Lim Park (Thanks to Ms. Amie Repizo)


BROWSE MY PAGES:

Vintage Column

Heartaches, High Hopes (Filipino Migrant Workers)

A Traveler's Journal (UPDATED)

My Fave Spots

A reflection on migrants' hidden stories in the Double Dialogues journal of the University of Melbourne and Deakin University

SAMPLE VERSES

An excerpt from "From Shekem to Dina" that won in the British Council's City Loves Writing competition (You may have to sign up to read it)

"Singapore River on Exhibit" closes the 2nd issue of literary magazine Ceriph, available at Books Actually (Yong Siak St.).

"Flor Reunited with Her Family" in Routledge's New Writing The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, Volume 7 Issue 2 2010

"Grazing" poem in the Table of Contents of & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond edited by Edwin Thumboo and published by Ethos

"Putting on the Merlion" in the Merlion poetry canon

Two poems on the migrant experience in Swinburne University of Technology's Bukker Tillibul website

"Picking Weeds" in the Hispanic Culture Review (George Mason University)

"Aceh Reborn" in The Thirty-first Bird Review.

Locution (Rosa's Story)

A Taipei Businessman at the Handover

PUSONG PINOY (Filipino at Heart)

Revisiting EDSA 1986

A Meeting with Joseph Estrada

My Stand on Censorship

TAN LIANG AN (Cross-Taiwan Strait Talk)

Some Notes on China-Taiwan Relations

The World's Richest Party (KMT) Restructures Investments

TSMC: A World-class Foundry

TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Notes on Daily Christian Living)

Work: The Stuff of Saints

Norms of Piety: Encounters with God

Notes on Avoiding Spiritual Lukewarmness

Reflection on the Relevance of the Ten Commandments in Modern Life

Confession

Holy Eucharist: More Than a Memento

Divine Filiation

Love of God Shown in Little Things

Holy Purity

CHECK OUT SOME LINKS:

Christian Classics

Catholic Educators Resource Center

Opus Dei

Elite Skills (online writing sharing and resources)

A Look at China

SCRIBBLE ME A NOTE.

HOBBIES AND INTERESTS:
 
Music keeps me sane. I have a very eclectic taste, with my faves ranging from Bach's Brandenburg concertos to the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour to the Black-Eyed Peas' "APL Song." Among current pop artists, I find Coldplay and Kanye West riveting.

'Used to be a big film buff ("Seventh Seal," "Rashomon," and "ET" top my list). Film is to our generation what theater was to the Elizabethans and the novel to Victorians.


"Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility." -- St. Augustine