An International Mention

 

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Well, this is unexpected.

While vacationing in Singapore, I found my name in a book in Books Kinokuniya. My ego purrs with delight as it is stroked.

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This is perhaps the most flattering rejection I have ever had. I sent a play for inclusion in Southeast Asian Plays, edited by Cheryl Robson and Aubrey Mellor and published by Aurora Metro Publications in the US. I didn’t get accepted, but it seems they acknowledged the writers who sent in submissions.

Normally, publicly accepting you were rejected would be unflattering. But this time it isn’t.

  • For one thing, I see my name in a book in Singapore. Beat that, HaveYouSeenThisGirl!
  • Then, the only Filipino to get in is Floy Quintos, and I don’t stand a chance against the likes of him
  • The other writers acknowledged were pretty accomplished writers too, so I’m in prestigious company

The least I could do in return, of course, is to promote the book. It’s available in most branches of Books Kinokuniya!

Every rejection should be like this!


SALEM 2017 Writers Workshop Fellows

(My old club in Ateneo de Davao is doing well!)


The Pasmodern Manifesto

The Pasmodern Manifesto

By Frank Edwin Macapanas

  • The very nature of modern Filipino identity is of hunger – for belongingness, for recognition, for resolution. And yet the Filipino is unaware of this, for he is sustained with the bahaw (stale) – pan-os (spoiled), even – ideology of the past. He is essentially hungry and malnourished, he is pasmo. This is called the Pasmodern Condition.

 

  • What are the stalenesses and spoilednesses that the Filipino partakes of? These are foreign essences he imbibes to define himself: Spanish holy water, the American spirit, and today for those in the regions the water of the river Pasig. And yet this does not help him define himself, it only ascribes unto him the identity of the cultures from whence these objects are pirated. We are all just indios, just little brown Americans, just variations of Manileno, or a combination of all these with K-pop bangs. The Filipino identity is a Budots identity, a repetitive and heterogeneous pastiche of influences, but forever devoid of coherent substance.

 

  • The condition of being unaware of one’s hunger for identity is called Dinanghag. The Filipino must liberate himself from this ignorance, from the blindness at his own malnourishment, and realize that he is hungry. Only then can he move forward as a human being.

 

  • The duty of the artist is to dispel Dinanghag by exemplifying hunger. He must embrace his own emptiness and let it define his art.

 

  • Prolonged hunger begets delusion, and the acceptance of the Budots identity without knowledge of it is itself a delusion. And yet this is a world of lies, we are all caught in Indra’s net, all beneficiaries of Nietzscheian balikbayan boxes. Nothing, therefore, is truer than the delusions of the Pasmodern.

 

  • True cultural incorporation is the making of borrowed elements our own. We however make ourselves what we borrow, we adjust to what we take, compromising our identity creation in the process. The artist must redeem the Filipino identity of such compromises, purge it of its anomalous voids. Before the Filipino can recognize he is malnourished of actual identity, he must wretch out all the otherness he has swallowed. He must kill the Spanish Jesus, he must kill Uncle Sam, he must kill Rizal. The beginning of Pasmodern awakening is purgation.

 

  • And yet truths that establish themselves are difficult to remove, like addictions to the immediate and familiar pleasure of junk foods. Dinanghag is most problematic when it is permeated by a sense of attachment, of seriousness. But the solution to this is whimsicality in derision. To move the Filipino with art, the artist must yaga-yaga, but he must not only yaga-yaga, he must yaga-yaga with the intention of hurting in order to scrape off barnacled old ‘truths’: the artist must bugal-bugal. The artist must initiate Bugal-Bugal Revolution, for the individual Filipino and for the Filipino people synchronically. This will lead to identity purgation.

 

  • The initial result of successful Bugal-Bugal Revolution is Kahasol – an immediate feeling of somewhat bereft consternation, as if sense had been ‘hustled’ away from one. This then leads to alienation, the Filipino finally seeing he is not an indio, not a brown American, not simply a variant of Manileno. And he will realize he cannot continue thinking he is any of these. Everything he has come to know as familiar will be unpleasant and different. And there will be nothing, other than these now strange lies, but emptiness. He will be incapable of determining then who he is. This is his recognition of his own hunger for familiarity, and the discomfort he will feel is Kalain (difference/unpleasantness).

 

  • And yet he will continue to see delusions, for hunger always begets delusions. But this time he knows he is seeing delusions, and these delusions will consciously emerge as an attempt to fill in the void where truth is supposed to be. The Filipino must embrace the delusions of the Pasmodern as they are, and not as truths, for it is better to be deluded and know that one is deluded than to see the truth and not know that the truth is a delusion. There is no truth, so we must make it. This is Pinataka, the deliberate creation of truths in its inherent absence.

 

  • The role of the artist is to create. The artist must take Filipino identity in his own hands, grip it firmly, stroke it violently until it blisters, and let liquid possibilities spurt out of it. The artist must not be limited to who the Filipino is, or who he seems to be, but must be preoccupied with who the Filipino can and in his own opinion must be. The Pinataka artist consciously contributes to the endless discourse of identity creation.

 

  • Any artist who believes he is ‘depicting’ realities is being deluded without knowing it. The nostalgics who hark back to long gone precolonial times, the colonialists who deify the Spanish or the Americans or the Koreans, the activists decrying anything not dealing with farmers or the urban poor or the environment or gender as ‘socially irrelevant,’ the removed poets aspiring for ‘moral universals:’ all of them are deluded without knowing it. The only serious artist is the Pinataka artist.

 

  • The Pinataka artist is also superior to De Man’s ‘deliberate misreaders,’ for more often than not the deliberate misreader is not really misreading deliberately but accidentally, inadvertently forging new meaning out of the old. The Pinataka artist is conscious even of his deliberate accidents.

 

  • There are two types of Pinataka artist: the ones who are completely devoid of any tradition, and the ones disowned by their tradition. Both types contribute to the creation of identity, but the latter is superior to the former, as the former, out of native genius, may simply produce unwittingly what has already been produced, while the latter are aware of what has been said in the discourse before and will deliberately be different.

 

  • The Pinataka artist is a prophet, and as such he cannot be encumbered by the mundane communicative difficulties of class in conveying his prophecy. And yet in his attempt at initiating Bugal-Bugal Revolution he can take advantage of class. He can Lim-buwag – shatter (in Tagalog ‘buwag’) the established Dinanghag by overturning (in Cebuano ‘limbuwag’) the accepted hierarchies in that class. Bakhtin calls it carnivalesque, but we will not borrow his term (we must rehabilitate ourselves for the time being of our addiction of borrowing!) as we already have our own. By presenting lower class culture to the upper classes and vice versa, they will see not that their class has defined who they are, but that they have allowed their class to define them – seeing what is not one’s own does not present universals, it alienates one from the familiar. This will lead to Kahasol, then ultimately Kalain.

 

  • The end of the Pasmodern endeavour does not exist, one Bugal Bugal Revolution must come after another endlessly. The Filipino identity will never be fixed. It is the duty and mission of the Pinataka artist to make Filipino identity one of permanent kalain, one of Ka-ugaling-on, ‘however-ness,’ the state of identity that will always have its insufficiencies and contradictions. Liberated from Dinanghag, the Filipino will never be complacent and will forever be a being ahead-of-himself, constantly taking his own identity as an issue.

 

  • It is not strange for the Pasmodern Filipino, enlightened by Pinataka art, to embrace his Budots identity. Rather it is expected, as true and complete rejection of any sense of inherent essence will make incongruous hybridity as acceptable as, if not preferable over, any delusions of purism. Filipino identity may easily become its own question. It is the duty of the artist to constantly ask that question.

Expectations for the SALEM President

The President of the Society of Ateneo Literature and English Majors (SALEM), student literary org of the Ateneo de Davao University, has a colourful history.

SALEM

The club was revived from a defunct course club in 2010, and has since become one of Mindanao’s most prominent student literary organizations. Since re-founding, it has had five presidents.

Over the years, certain expectations of the student occupying the post have become conventions, many of them solidifying as responsibilities and qualifications. As the second to hold the office, I think I can say that the SALEM President is expected to:

  1. Begin his/her term by helping out with the Ateneo de Davao Summer Writers Workshop
  2. Be one of the leading – if not the leading student literary writer in Ateneo
  3. Be published, at least once, at least on the local level (meaning at least the Davao Writer’s Guild’s Dagmay), with a literary work, preferably before taking office
  4. Be a voracious reader, who can namedrop at least three Filipino writers he/she has read, and talk about at least three literary theories in informal conversation (the numbers are arbitrary but you get the point)
  5. Be well versed in Ateneo de Davao’s own literary tradition
  6. Be an intellectual with a chagrin for any proud display of ignorance, but must never be a grammar prescriptivist
  7. Actively, audaciously, and prolifically conceptualize and initiate activities that will lead to the growth and development of the school’s aspiring writers  – ‘Keep the AdDU Writers awake,’ as the battle cry from Ricky de Ungria puts it
  8. Connect Ateneo students to the greater literary community in Davao, in the Philippines, and if possible in the world
  9. Have the wide network of literary contacts necessary for the above two
  10. Inform, involve, and exploit SALEM’s large and moneyed pool of alumni about in and for club activities
  11. Regularly represent SALEM and AdDU in all literary gatherings and events in Davao
  12. Help outside parties who want to bring literary events to AdDU
  13. Bring outside parties into AdDU to have literary events
  14. Actively cooperate with other club presidents in Ateneo (SALEM pioneered collaboration between clubs)
  15. Be inclusive and accessible to students, specially members, and be contagiously passionate about literature
  16. Nurture and take special care of the new members,making them feel the love of the club through the President
  17. Groom, as early as possible, the next President who meets, or who has the potential to meet, the above qualifications.

 

 


‘Police Blues’ from Abdon Balde Jr.’s 100 Kislap: A Formalist reading

(Something I wrote in college for I forgot which class)

The Kislap is a sub-category of Filipino flash fiction that the Palanca Awardee Abdon Balde Jr. invented, and exemplified in his book 100 Kislap. The defining characteristics of this type of flash fiction are the maximum of 150 words and the use of the Filipino language (making it the first manifestation of strictly Flash Fiction in Filipino literature).  In the book’s preface, Balde explains that what made the Kislap unique was that the word limit did not define the writing process, but the other way around: if the story happened to be less than or equal to 150 words then it happens to be a Kislap.

With just 74 words, “Police Blues” is among the 100 Kislap in the collection. The story, whose text is written in the silhouette of a police badge, begins with a sentence that describes the time (hatinggabi), the antecedent action (pagkatapos naming magtalik), the action that starts the conflict (narining… ang ingay) and the setting (“ibaba” hints that they are on an upper floor). The first paragraph ends with a speculation of the sound being caused by a burglar.

The second paragraph simply reveals how the narrator asks the unnamed partner to remain. Then, in the next paragraph begins its sentences with the actions “bumangon” and “hinugot,” and also mentions the .45 and its holster, hinting the character might be a policeman, or at least someone licensed to hold a gun.

The following paragraph, just one sentence, subconsciously confirms our speculation that the narrator is a man when it mentions “briefs.”

When the narrator mentions that Supt. Nicodemus Ferriols is pointing a gun at him, the climax comes.  But somehow, the reader might feel suspicious of something when he addresses the superintendent as “Nicco,” which sounds like a nickname of endearment.

The last paragraph’s first word (taksil) explains everything. To add to this, the words “lalaking yan,” referring to the partner (whom the reader had assumed was a woman) confirm the homosexuality. The ending is humorous because it completely ignores this unexpected fact and continues its theme of policemen.

The main thrust of the twist in the story lies in its skaz. The narrator treats homosexuality as a completely mundane thing, failing to even mention it or hint of it until the end. To the reader who does not have that point of view, it completely defamiliarizes it. The same is done to sex. The narrator casually mentions having sex, and again, to the virgin reader, it cannot help but come as a shock.

The story also has some metonyms in it. The mention of the .45 strengthens the hint that the narrator is a policeman (a notion established by the title and by his initiative to come down). The briefs, at first humorously and defamilarizingly but later on glaringly, establish his being a man.  To the reader equipped with only an AI level of reading comprehension, these metonyms would not have such meanings.

There are two instances of using free motifs to cause defamiliarization. The first, the slow descent, features (as mentioned) the briefs, which later on proves to be a Chekov’s gun.  The second is when Nicodemus Ferriols is introduced, the time when the narrator decides to reveal the setting of the instance (the sofa in the salas). It is evident that this rather out of place exposition is meant to prolong anticipation.

But perhaps the most interesting fact about the story is its brevity. It ends right when that realization by the reader is slightly mocked, leaving the reader feeling somewhat tantalized. He (the reader) has already modified his expectations as to the text, but his modification is now left unfulfilled. The prolonging of achieving pleasure (which the formalists emphasize and which the poststructuralist Lacan would later call jouissance) is very much present in this story.


15 Fellows to the 23rd Iligan National Writers Workshop

Fifteen writing fellows have been selected for this year’s 23rd Iligan National Writers Workshop to be held at the MSU-IIT on May 30 to June 3, 2016. They are:

Luzon:
Poetry (English): Thomas David Fillarca Chavez, UP Diliman; (Filipino): Rogene Apellido Gonzales, UP Diliman; Fiction (English): Dominic Paul Chow Sy, UP Diliman; Erwin Escarola Cabucos, (Filipino): Arbeen Regalado Acuna, UP Diliman; Drama (Tagalog): Josephine Villena Roque, De La Salle University.

Visayas:
Fiction (English): Charles Dominic Pelaez Sanchez, University of San Carlos; Poetry (Kinaray-a): Elsed Silfavan Togonon, University of San Agustin; Drama (Waray): Amado Arjay Babida Babon, Leyte Normal University (Boy Abunda Writing fellow).

Mindanao: Poetry (English): Saquina Karla Cagoco Guiam (Manuel E. Buenafe writing fellow), Mindanao State University-General Santos; (Sebuano): Krishna Mie Ceniza Zabate, Ateneo de Davao University; Al Bangcolongan Gra-as (Ricardo Jorge Caluen writing fellow), Lyceum of Iligan Foundation; Fiction (Filipino): Eric John Betita Villena, Xavier University; (Filipino): Jack Aguid Alvarez; (Hiligaynon): Nal Andrea Cabao-an Jalando-on, Koronadal National Comprehensive High School.

The panelists this year are: Pranesh Prasad, John Iremil Teodoro, Victor N. Sugbo, Erlinda K. Alburo, Shirley O. Lua, Steven P.C. Fernandez, German V. Gervacio, the Project Director Christine Godinez Ortega and the Keynote speaker, Isidoro M. Cruz.

Highlights of the Iligan workshop are the Jimmy Balacuit Literary Awards and the launching of the Proceedings of the 22nd Iligan National Writers Workshop (2015) entitled The Mythopoetic and Creative Writing published by the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology-Office of Publication & Information (MSU-IIT OPI). The workshop is funded by the MSU-IIT and the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA).


5 Works of Davao Fiction to Read

It is Araw ng Dabaw! And what better way to celebrate the primate city of Mindanao than to read the works written about it! Fiction is the way by which we write places on the maps of our souls, and it is one way of making a place becomes part of a people’s cultural consciousness. Reading about a place in fiction gives one’s experience of it a new dimension, a refreshing distance that allows one to experience the familiar all over again – Verfremdung, Brecht calls it.

And Davao has a substantial body of fiction written about it! So this Araw ng Dabaw, put that American teen novel down for now and pick up any of these five quintessential stories:

People on Guerrero Street by Leoncio Deriada: the first novel to be written about Davao, this semi-autobiographical story is set in the eponymous street in the 50s, when Davao still had the feel of a rural town. The story chronicles the coming-of-age of Leo, who grows up in an intimate but very Filipino neighborhood of Guerrero Street in the house of his brother’s family, and the tragedy he suffers with his childhood friend.

The Dog Eaters by Leoncio Deriada: Another story by the Palanca Hall of Famer, this short story is set in Artiaga street when it was still a small neighborhood. It features the struggles of a low-income couple living together in this grimy street, where people are barbaric enough to eat dogs. Now a staple in college Literature classes, the story inspired a poem (I forget by which poet), which was read by the novelist Jessica Hagedorn and which subsequently inspired her novel of the same title.

Nanking Store by Macario Tiu: This short story by the Datu Bago Awardee (another great writer of Davao) gives a rare glimpse into the life of Davao’s reclusive Chinese community. Told inadvertently from the perspective of a little boy, it is about the marriage of an heir to a Chinese family to a Filipina woman, a marriage constantly strained by the demands of the husband’s family and culture.

Sigaboy by Macario Tiu: While technically not set in Davao (Sigaboy is now Governor Generoso, a town in Davao Oriental), this story, another one from Tiu, nevertheless shows the early beginnings of a key player in Davao’s history, the local chieftain Mangulayon. The story is set in the man’s youth, just before he became the brave leader who would eventually kill the American governor of Davao. It depicts Mangulayon’s struggle to get his wife from the domineering chieftain who steals her from him. At times thrilling, heartbreaking, and romantic, this story demonstrates the historian Tiu at his best, breathing life into history by making it fiction.

Love in the Cornhusks by Aida River Ford: the most popular story by the grand dame of Mindanao literature in English, few readers know that the story is actually set in Mintal, once the commercial heart of Davao during its days as a major Abaca producer. The story is about Tinang, erstwhile maid to a landed family, who returns to her former masters for a visit a marriage to a native and a baby later. Her visit makes her relive her past encounters with Amado, the family’s former driver. At some point she is torn between her past and the seemingly hopeless future waiting before her. Oh the melodrama that can happen amidst cornhusks!

There are of course so many stories set in Davao, and this list is far from exhaustive. I have yet to read the fiction of Karl Gaspar (aka Melchor Morante), but considering how enjoyable his drama is, he is bound to be a fun fictionist too (his novel Si Menda ug ang Bagani’ng gitahapan nga maong si Mangulayon also deals with Mangulayon). Other bodies of fiction I have yet to explore too are those by Margarita Marfori and the poet Tita Lacambra Ayala. And of course (because I am a shameless self-promoter),  you can check out my story In the Manner Accustomed too!

Happy Araw ng Dabaw!