C.E. Gatchalian
C.E. Gatchalian

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Vancouver Presents continues to check in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

Today we check in with author, playwright and theatre-maker C.E. Gatchalian.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

Through all this, I have remained quite disciplined with my artistic practice and have actually been pretty productive. This pandemic has stirred up a lot of emotions in me, as I’m sure it has in a lot of people. I’ve managed to be and sit with my emotions rather than run away from them – to sit with them and investigate them in a nonjudgmental way. I think this openness on my part to WHAT IS – a real struggle for me initially, but I’m getting better at it – is helping keep the creative juices flowing.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

Writing and reading. Reading and writing. As always.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

Social media, mostly Facebook. With people very special to me, through email, text, Whatsapp, and the occasional phone call or audio chat – a big thing for me, because I’m not a phone person at all. My dear friend in Manhattan is keeping me abreast of what’s happening in NYC, which has become the epicentre of the virus. It’s my favourite city, and I try to go there every year. So I’m sad that it’s simply out of the question this year.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

That everything that we know and rely on and take for granted can be taken away, just like that. That human beings are truly horrible. That human beings are truly wonderful.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

That I have a roof over my head and some work during this time. Too many people have neither. I am privileged in this regard.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

Obviously, the mask and hand sanitizer routine. The thing is, when I was younger, I was hypochondriacal, so I was a little nervous that the pandemic would re-trigger this tendency. But it hasn’t really. I’m finding the sweet spot between protecting myself and not living in fear. Also, practicing gratitude. Because of the lockdown, I have more time on my hands, which has allowed me to explore these ostensibly mundane practices that I would “normally” be too busy to do. But practicing gratitude, I have found immensely helpful and vibration-elevating. It’s something I intend on doing regularly, even if/when this is all “over.”

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

The skill of sitting with it. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but I’m better at it than before the pandemic.

Also, live-streaming. I’ve never done it before. I did some poetry readings on Facebook Live this spring that went well. I’ll probably start live-streaming again this fall – video-essays on topics related to the pandemic and Black Lives Matter/race politics. So watch out for them.

8. What have you missed the most?

Cafes. Like many writers, that’s where I do so much of my work. I’m glad that they’ve reopened. I’ve started frequenting them again, mask and hand sanitizer in hand, of course.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

As one of my all-time favourite authors, EM Forster, wrote: “Only connect.”

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

Pot. (Don’t tell my mom.) And ice cream. The two together are heaven.

11. What have you stockpiled?

Nothing really. I dislike shopping. It may be to my detriment. But I just can’t be bothered.

12. What have you been reading?

So much. Anti-racism books, Brene Brown, the Canadian poet Lisa Robertson, the Filipinx poet Jose Garcia Villa, the anti-oppression thinker and activist adrienne maree brown. Shout out to The Paper Hound Bookshop and Massy Books for helping keep me and countless other bibliophiles sane during the lockdown.

13. What have you been watching?

I don’t watch TV – all I watch is YouTube. Brene Brown, Reverend angel Kyodo Williams, Angela Davis, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag. And The Golden Girls.

14. What have you been listening to?

Lots of classical and jazz, but I’ve recently rediscovered my love for Destiny’s Child – they were a big thing back in my clubbing days in the early 2000s. Not exactly sure why they crept back into my head, but there it is. Also, traditional Indian music.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

Well, I’ve decided to cancel my gym membership – it just doesn’t make sense to go to the gym right now or for the foreseeable future. So I’m jogging, doing push-ups and free weights, and augmenting my yoga practice.

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

Books.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

Under full lockdown, I was giving myself little trims to keep from looking completely hideous. Thankfully, my stylist is back in business. So I’m getting professional haircuts again, in a responsible way.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Early riser. My favourite time of the day is 5 in the morning. My mind is really clear at that time. I get a lot done.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

I will confess that I’m not a homebody, so when the restrictions were lifted I very avidly returned to my favourite cafe downtown. I made sure to bring my mask and hand sanitizer, of course, and sit on the patio.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

Well, as soon as it’s deemed safe to travel internationally again, probably book a trip to New York. And, after that, a trip to my ancestral homeland, the Philippines, which I haven’t visited since I was four. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to do but have been putting off. I just hope it’s not too late.

Meet C.E. Gatchalian

C.E. Gatchalian is a queer Filipinx-Canadian author, playwright and theatre-maker.

The author of six books and co-editor of two anthologies, he is a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist and the recipient of two Jessie Richardson Awards for his work as a theatre artist and producer. In 2013 he received the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, awarded annually by The Writers’ Trust of Canada to an outstanding emerging LGBTQI+ writer.

His memoir, Double Melancholy: Art, Beauty and the Making of a Brown Queer Man, was recently published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Watch out for his series of video essays on Facebook Live this fall.

During the pandemic, he’s maintained his sanity with pot, anti-racism books and old eps of The Golden Girls.

You can find out more about C.E. Gatchalian at cegatchalian.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.