Tell It to SunStar: The ghost book

A young emerging Cagayan de Oro City-based writer, who claimed to have written a book of essays, has fallen from grace after his lies were exposed by a veteran journalist.

Lina Sagaral Reyes, in her opinion piece published by Mindanao Gold Star Daily, exposed Alton Melvar Dapanas’s false claims of literary feats achieved by his non-existent book, “Cartographies of Our Skin.”

Dapanas sent Reyes a photocopy of an article which came out in Gold Star last Feb. 10 and the latter “leaped with joy for him.”

“It was an article titled ‘International Creative Non-Fiction Prize, Kagay-anon poet, writer long-listed,’ which appeared on the Features Page. The article’s tagline was Nagmac, short for Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro, meaning the organization was the source of the article. Dapanas said in a private message that it wasn’t uploaded online on Gold Star’s website because ‘hindi siya showbiz (he is not showbiz),’” according to Reyes.

Like a true detective, Reyes opened the website of “Malahat Review of the University of Victoria in Canada, which according to the article, conducted the 2019 Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize.”

“Then, on Malahat Review’s homepage, was the poster-announcement urging readers to check in later for the 2019 edition of the contest. How would he be longlisted in a contest that has not yet begun? I was puzzled,” Reyes wrote.

Reyes later learned that she was one of the few people who received Dapanas’ press release.

To make the long story short, Reyes and members of Nagmac proved that Dapanas’ ghost book was not shortlisted and longlisted. Most of all, it did not win any award.

I also researched the name of Dapanas in the internet and I learned that he was a co-editor with Roehl Joseph Dazo of The Libulan Queer Anthology of the Southern Philippines. In his Facebook account, Dapanas asked for an apology for his false claims.

“It has been a bad week. What you have read is true. I screwed up. One person’s words are on point: I have been sucked into the vortex of self-marketing,” a portion of his open letter read.

His statement proved that he had made up the press release for Narcissistic reasons. Some of his friends offered comforting words, but this guy should see a counselor, an existing professional.

This Dapanasian narrative is not a first in Philippine history. National Artist Resil Mojares, in his book “Isabelo’s Archive,” narrated the story of a Spanish friar named Fr. Blanco, who was “tasked by his order to write a treatise on the character of the Philippine native (indio).”

The friar became a hermit in a monastery as he focused on his task. He “admonished his confreres that the book he was working on should be opened only after his death.”

Fr. Blanco’s fellow friars opened his “magnum opus” after his death, but they only found blank pages.

This story is similar to that of Dapanas, who wrote ghost words in a ghost book.

“Cartographies of Our Skin” should not be forgotten by literary scholars and it should be kept in the imaginary library of Philippine letters.—Pablo Eluard Paz


SunStar website welcomes friendly debate, but comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SunStar management and its affiliates. SunStar reserves the right to delete, reproduce or modify comments posted here without notice. Posts that are inappropriate will automatically be deleted.

Forum rules:

Do not use obscenity. Some words have been banned. Stick to the topic. Do not veer away from the discussion. Be coherent. Do not shout or use CAPITAL LETTERS!