Kidapawan’s Public Student Papers go online!

I am proud to say that Kidapawan’s many public elementary and high schools’ student publications now have online platforms!

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I recently gave a 3-day training to the different publication advisers of the city’s public schools. It was under the auspices of the office of Mayor Joseph Evangelista, who hired me and my friend the journalist Armando Fenequito to give the training. The Mayor’s office covered almost all the expenses for the training, and this is the first time the training has been entirely free for the teachers.

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While the local division of DepEd is clearly focused on winning more places in the competitive schools’ Press Conferences, I had other agenda: enjoining the advisers to explore student publication outside journalism. As a literary writer, I wanted them to nurture my hometown’s next generation of fictionists, poets, playwrights, and essayists.

 

This of course meant I introduced the teachers to Kidapawan’s two other writers, Rita Gadi and Paul Gumanao. It is not every town which can say it has writers, and Kidapawan should be proud that it has three.

I also required the advisers to make online platforms for their publications, whether it be a blog, a Facebook page, or a twitter account. This is unprecedented, as even private schools in very urban Davao don’t have online platforms. Now their publications are much more accessible to those outside of Kidapawan!

 

Here are the links to some of the schools’ online platforms:

The Pupils’ Journal of Marciano Mancera Integrated School, Singao

Ang Pagsibol of Onica Elementary School

The Flame of Katipunan Elementary School

Malinan Ngayon of Malinan Elementary School

The Horizon of San Isidro Elementary School

The Greenfield of Amazion Elementary School

Ang Kadsambi of Patadon Elementary School

The Bamboo Organ of Kalaisan Elementary School

The Shade of Sumbac Elementary School

The Genesis of Binoligan Integrated School

The Messenger of San Miguel Elementary School, Macebolig

The Striver of Sayaban Elementary School, Ilomavis

The Mulaan Newslette of Mua-an Integrated School

Ang Bagwis of Cayetano A Javier Memorial Elementary School, Ilomavis

The Meohao Scribblers of Meohao Elementary School

Kagoo of Ginatilan Elementary School

The Footprints of Balabag Elementary School

The Highlander of Sumayahon Elementary School, Perez

Ang Suu of Ray Buenaventura A. Sabulao Memorial Elementary School, Singao (with a wordpress blog)

Ang Sigaw of Singao Integrated School

The Vigor of Isidro Lonzaga Memorial Elementary School, Magsaysay

Su Suara of Bangsamoro Elementary School, Bangsamoro Village

The Urbanite of Upper Singao Elementary School

The Nuang Ilbimumba of Nuangan Integrated School

The Puasindanian of Puas Inda Elementary School, Amas

The Pilot Gazette of Kidapawan Pilot Elementary School

Ginintuang Buwig of Amas Central Elementary School

Od Sobbu no Linow of Lake Agco Integrated School, Ilomavis

The Mateo Journal of Mateo Elementary School

This list is not complete because the high school advisers did not give me the URLs of their publications’ sites, and many of the elementary teachers gave URLs that don’t work.

Here’s to hoping the advisers and their student staff maintain these sites!

 

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Buwan ng (mga) Wika: Localization, Hybridization, and Popularization of Filipino

Buwan ng Wika is an odious thing.

Throughout the country, it is the month when elementary and high school students are  made to memorize drab speeches by Manuel Quezon, quote Jose Rizal in their essays ad nauseam, and weed the onions in their sections’ Makabayan gardens of sampinit while wearing barong and terno.

That last scene in particular I got from the 2013 Cebuano indie film Iskalawags, directed by Keith Deligero and based on a short story by Erik Tuban (a thoroughbred Bisdak). The film, set in the Bantayan islands of Cebu, offers many glimpses of the Buwan ng Wika experience for those outside the Tagalog world: in one scene, a character, a student, struggles to memorize and pronounce a Tagalog talumpati in spite of his hard Cebuano tongue, only to deliver it on a stage with nobody watching.

In the regions the celebration of Filipino is like this: it is arduous, it is tedious, and it is pointless.

Because you see, behind the festive facade of National language pedagogy, there is a longstanding debate, one that is currently at a stalemate: are Filipino and Tagalog the same thing?

What many inside the Tagalog world and the bubble of conventional education don’t understand is that eighty years since Manuel Quezon proclaimed Tagalog as the National Language, there is still strong resistance against it.

The fact is that the Philippines is a very  linguistically diverse country: the 170 odd tongues being spoken in the archipelago which teachers like to call ‘the vernacular dialect’ are, linguistically speaking, distinct and full fledged languages, and the majority of them have proud literary traditions. Giving Tagalog national status created a homogeneous myth, and worse ended up dismissing the value of these other languages – nothing short of cultural discrimination.

This imposition of Tagalog to non-Tagalogs is at the core of what we from the regions call Manila Imperialism. Speakers of other languages are systematically forced to learn Tagalog, while Tagalogs themselves are not compelled to learn other languages.

To distance the so-called National language from the Tagalog ethnicity, it was later called ‘Filipino,’ but when that cosmetic solution didn’t work the Marcos government redefined Filipino from a fixed language to a ‘language under construction,’ one whose dynamism is made a national concern rather than merely a strictly Tagalog one.

The mechanism, successive officials of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino have said, is to have the Tagalog language as basis, then influences from the other regional languages be allowed in.

The majority of intellectuals championing their regional languages called this attempt at nationalization a homogenization in disguise. With the ‘nationalization’ occurring almost entirely from Metro Manila (a Tagalog heartland), regional influences merely trickle down academically, usually obscure regional words  that nobody is bound to use.

‘There is no such thing as Wikang Filipino,’ many regionalists have concluded, and they continue to champion their regional languages.

But on the other hand, decades of institutional imposition and the dominance of a Manila-centered media have made Tagalog the de facto national lingua franca, and but for the continued ascendancy of English over Tagalog in official contexts, refusing to learn to speak Tagalog has more disadvantages than it has merits (a Cebuano may well find it awkward to speak English to a tricycle driver in Aklan).

Either the Regional speakers learn Tagalog and lose their regional identities, or they keep their regional identities, lose out on opportunities, and we remain divided as a country.

I belong to a small group of writers who see a third way: that of localization, of hybridization, and of popularization.

Because Tagalog has taken for itself the role of  National lingua franca, it has opened itself up for regional alteration  – ‘bastardization,’ as some Manila Imperialists would call it. As such, there ought to be no standard that should be considered more correct than others.

And speakers of the Regional languages ought to take advantage of this.

To use a very crude metaphor, Tagalog is the name of the woman, Filipino is her name as a whore. And it is incumbent upon the Regions to make bastards out of her.

Instead of shunning it, Regional language speakers must steal the agency of Filipino from Imperial Manila, to own this imposed Tagalog language (which has opened its legs up as Filipino), mangle it to suit their own linguistic realities, and produce for themselves their own version of Tagalog, one which is tailored to fit their regional identities. Nationalization will – and must – entail localization, suppressing that is tantamount to cultural imposition. This is the best way by which Regional language speakers can adapt to Tagalog’s dominance without losing their identity.

Practically this will mean lots of Regional language influences will come in, on a regular basis, until the interlanguage becomes naturalized: vocabulary, pronunciation peculiarities, and specially idioms. When the Tagalog corrects the Davaoeno for his Filipino, the Davaoeno will correct the Tagalog for not knowing Davao Filipino. ‘Pataka ka lang diyan uy.’

Idioms in particular need to be owned, as they are culturally idiosyncratic. In Davao when a friend  is too lazy to take a bath we tease him in Tagalog with an idiom transliterated from Cebuano, ‘kambingon ka na masyado!’ ‘You are so goat-like!’

To some extent this is already happening – but it needs to happen more, and it needs to happen in the classrooms and formal venues. Filipino teachers should actively encourage the localization of Filipino, calling out the oddity of speaking Manila Tagalog in Iloilo while encouraging the distinct lilt of Hiligaynon into the students’ Filipino utterances, or requiring Ilocano students to look up idioms in Iluko and translate it literally into Tagalog for everyday use. For linguistically diverse places like Mindanao, the hybridization must involve an even more diverse array of languages.

It sounds ridiculous now, until one realizes this is precisely what the classic French poet Pierre de Ronsard enjoins the Parisian poet to do with his French, to enrich it with the stuff of the other tongues in France. The French even have a term for transliterated idioms: calques, idioms that serve to expand the breath of French expression beyond the capital.

The absurdity of this idea in the Filipino context only shows how underprivileged the regional languages in the Philippines are.

Current moves to shift to a Federal form of government may make this localization easier: as cultural and education governance are devolved, concerns will invariably be more localized. It will not be surprising if the Federal system ends up shunning the National language policy while ultimately resulting in the creation of standard regional varieties of Tagalog distinct from Manila Tagalog.

Of course as we are talking about language contact here – Tagalog adjusting to Tausug or Manobo realities – what is produced is not merely a dialect of Tagalog, but a creolized dialect, almost a different language. Hybrid tongues. Tagalog as Filipino without being a hybrid is just Tagalog, with nothing truly National about it. Balagtas was merely a regional poet because his Tagalog did not have enough influences from other regions. Because the Philippines is a multilingual country, the true Filipino is a polyglot, and his language must necessarily reflect that.

What would this do to intelligibility though? Wouldn’t it only double the number of tongues to make us even more of a Babel?

As a matter of fact it leads us closer to understanding one another. We can already see signs of this thanks to President Duterte. Multilingual Davao and the many shades of the Cebuano-Tagalog hybrid widely spoken in it demonstrate best what I mean by the localization and hybridization of Tagalog, and while as a native Cebuano speaker he speaks the crudest form of the hybrid (the unstable codeswitched TagBis), the former Davao mayor nevertheless takes the hybridity of his tongue wherever he goes.

And that has included the national spotlight: thanks to his frequent (and often profane) use of them in his Tagalog, Duterte has made many Cebuano words and pronunciation peculiarities more popular among Tagalog speakers – ‘bahala’ with a glottal end, pisting yawa, buang, bayot, pataka.

He has done more in his one year of cursing in public to make Filipino more National than the KWF has in all its years of existence.

Ultimately this tells us that far from the classroom or those linguistic conferences in Manila that nobody really pays attention to, Filipino will be nationalized in the streets, by the Igorot speaking his Igorot Cebuano as he shares some tuba with his Manobo  neighbour in Mecebolig, Kidapawan, or the old Karay-a lady visiting relatives in Pasay asking the Tagalog traffic aid where the nearest baraka is, or the volunteer teacher from Naga teaching T’boli children in Lake Sebu how to sing a song in Bikol.

The creation of an authentic national lingua franca is popular, not institutional. It is the dynamic bartering of regional influences, naturally reflective of our ever increasing cohabitation with and appreciation of cultures not our own.

And when we master one another’s tongues we are made stronger as peoples, because as Jose Rizal himself put it (and this time I do not make those two now trite quotes about the youth and rancid fish), ‘Man is multiplied by the number of languages he possesses and speaks.’

In Cebuano there is a less lofty but more pragmatic way of putting it: dili na ka mabaligya, it will be harder to sell you off in the market. You’d be able to understand the transaction already.

I think it is when we recognize our rich diversity as peoples like this – when the stuff of our yearly celebrations every August is the many cultures of our archipelago rather than this mothballed homogeneous lie of a Filipino identity we require our students to celebrate – that we can truly say our love for the country is genuine. We are a country of many tongues – Bayan ng Mga Wika – and I think that is very much worth celebrating.

 

 


Ten Types of Authors Who Can Go Fuck Themselves

I needed this

CLASH

So yesterday I was thinking about an upcoming piece I’ll be writing for LitReactor and chuckled at the amount of reactions I’ll surely get. You see, I’ve been doing the columnist thing for almost a decade. It all started back home with a monthly political column. By the time I stopped writing it in early 2016, I’d received four death threats. In any case, I tweeted this: “Everyone who’s gotten angry at one of my columns should hear the stuff I don’t even bother to pitch.” The result was almost immediate; a bunch of authors said they wanted to read it. I’m all about making my friends happy, so here we are. Thank the writing deities that we have crazy, brave venues like CLASH. Let’s get started, shall we? Here are ten types of authors who can go fuck themselves (God I’m good at making friends!):

1. Authors who hate…

View original post 1,725 more words


The Controversy on Datu Siawan Ingkal

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In a refreshing turn of events, Kidapawan history is suddenly controversial as local attention is focused on the crucial but mysterious historical figure known in documents as Datu Siawan Ingkal.

I say ‘known in documents’ with necessity: the controversy began when the Deputy Mayor for Kidapawan’s Indigenous Peoples, Datu Camillo Icdang, went on the local radio station DXND last July 14 and said the man was named ‘Ingkal Siawan’ (first name Ingkal), and was a full blooded Obo Manobo.

Icdang was making the statement as a response to reports that the Datu was a Meranaw, flatly denying these reports. The local reporter, Malu Cadelina Manar, subsequently reported these pronouncements from Datu Icdang as fact.

This version of the Datu’s background is now being hotly disputed, and I have gathered at least four alternative explanations of the man’s name and heritage.

The only printed source so far that gives a detailed background on Siawan Ingkal is Ferdinand Bergonia’s 2004 history of Kidapawan (commissioned by the city tourism office of the Malaluan administration), which cites him as a Manobo and the first person to be Mayor of Kidapawan, albeit appointed during the Second World War. He is also cited as being instrumental in the founding of Baranggays Manongol (then called Tagbak, his father’s domain) and Lanao. Bergonia gives the name of the Datu’s father as the Manongol chieftain ‘Datu Ugos Ingkal,’ who had been appointed Cabeza de Baranggay of Kidapawan District by the American colonial government in 1901. Bergonia is inconsistent with the Datu’s name, as at some point he mentions ‘Datu Siawan Ingkal,’ but at others ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan,’ and he does not attribute his sources for the information on the Datu.

Another earlier printed source that mentions the Datu, former councilor Lino Madrid’s write up for the Cotabato province guidebook in 1952, only mentions ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan’ as the community leader of Old Kidapawan. Madrid was a contemporary of the Datu and his version of the name holds some weight. He nevertheless makes no mention of the man’s ethnicity.

A third alternative, espoused by Bai Nelly Kelly Austria  (widow of the late Vicente Austria, the Sultan Omar Kiram, whose family came to Kidapawan in the 1950s) has it that Siawan Ingkal (as was his name) was a Meranaw (not specifying if part or whole) who married a Manobo and who was appointed mayor of Kidapawan by the Muslim Udtog Matalam, then governor of the Cotabato province (the official FB page of Mayor Joseph Evangelista cites this version in a press release ten days before Icdang’s public statements).

In separate accounts from a related source adding to the above version, Siawan Ingkal named the Baranggay ‘Baranggay Lanao’ after his people’s home country of Lanao.

And yet a fourth version, cited by a Manobo family whose members recall the accounts of the Manobo historian Datu Pinantao, instead says that Siawan Ingkal was half Meranaw, whose father was Meranaw stock but had settled at the foot of Mt Apo and was not a Muslim (and Siawan too consequently did not practice Islam). According to this version, Siawan’s mother was a Manobo named ‘Ingko,’ from which ‘Ingkal’ was taken (making his given name ‘Siawan’), and Siawan chose to identify as Manobo but remained fluent in the Meranaw tongue.

As I do not have permission to cite them, I am not naming my sources here for now, and save for Bergonia’s and Madrid’s, these accounts are not the full and fixed accounts of each source (they may well add to it as they recall their family histories, or even change their minds and decide they were told wrong).

I’ve reached out to one descendant of the Datu, and he acknowledges that his grandfather was a Meranaw (although he did not specify if he had any Manobo blood), and many social media users claiming to be descendants  have agreed with this. And yet in an interview with DXND on July 17 Evelyn Ingkal, youngest daughter of the Datu, insists he was pureblooded Manobo, contradicting the statements of other descendants and Evangelista’s press release.

This is a post meant to be dated, and I fully intend to update it once I obtain more information.

What is certain about the man, however, is that he was appointed Mayor of Kidapawan’s Emergency Civil Administration in 1942 as the Second World War reached Cotabato, making him the first man to ever be Mayor of Kidapawan, and he was also the first ever Vice Mayor of Kidapawan when he was elected in 1948 after Kidapawan became an independent municipality, serving during the Mayoralty of Alfonso Angeles Sr. NCIP ethnographer Bai Era Espana confirms that he identified as Manobo, but does not categorically dismiss the possibility that he had Meranaw blood.  A street in Kidapawan (created presumably by Provincial Board Resolution) is named ‘Datu Ingkal Street,’ but it is not clear if this is Siawan Ingkal.

Whatever explanation the Kidapawanon chooses for this crucial figure’s heritage, I think this is a very good opportunity for the city’s residents to start going back to their roots and ask questions. For the first time locals are talking about their own local historical figures, and this should not be the last time they do, Kidapawan is full of interesting historical characters!

I am, however, not entirely happy with the definiteness with which the local media are dealing with the matter, the dispute is not being aired and it is being broadcast almost as if the matter is already concluded (This is not the first time DXND reported on local history inaccurately: in 2009 Manar reported that mayor Joseph Evangelista’s father had also served as Mayor, an error of fact as Dr Rustico Evangelista never held any city-wide public office). Worse, they’re making the question of Siawan Ingkal’s ethnicity as a question of the Obo Manobo’s primacy in Kidapawan history, and there is a hint of anti-Meranaw sentiment. Nobody has ever doubted that the Manobo are the original residents of Kidapawan, I do not understand why the issue is going towards that direction.

But it would also only be fair to say that the Municipio office behind the Press Release is equally guilty by stating Ingkal’s being a Meranaw in a way that sounded like it was a pronouncement of fact rather than relating Bai Nelly’s opinion.

I think it would be much healthier for Kidapawan’s people to reevaluate for themselves the things being presented to them as facts, and reaffirm, amend or contradict them after cross examination.

For in the end history will only belong to the people if they themselves take an active role in problematizing and confirming it, because history must not only be taught and curated, it must be discovered and lived.

 


On the Insensitivity of the Region 12 Hymn

Tribal Leaders in Kidapawan have raised an uproar over the regional hymn being mandated by the Department of Education for Region 12.

The leaders contend that the lines ‘mga Muslim, mga Kristiyano, at mga iba pang tribu’ reflect an ignorance in history and serve to marginalize the Lumad.

The full lyrics of the song can be seen here.

The Lumad are justified in raising this matter. The mere dismissal of the Lumad as ‘iba pang tribu’ just shows their othering, and their position in that sequence further implies their marginal position, mentioned merely almost as an afterthought. This is a gross injustice to the Lumad, who are Mindanao’s original peoples. This is why when I write about the tri-peoples of Mindanao I always write ‘Lumad, Moro, and Settler.’

The lyrics also show an ignorance in the sociopolitical complexities of ethnic and religious identity in Mindanao. The mention of ‘Muslim’ and Kristiyano’ only adds to the erroneous conflation of ethnic identity with religious identity. The more politically correct terms for the three peoples (at least in my experience) are Lumad or Tribal Peoples, Moro, and Settler. The Moro are the Islamized tribes but they are defined as an ethno-linguistic identity (a Tagalog who has converted to Islam can’t be a Moro).

The saddest part about this whole debacle though is that this is DepEd mandating it. It is the department which manages the country’s education system – the country’s learning and thinking – and yet it does not even understand the postcolonial and regional nuances of the tri-people arrangement. And because this is government we’re talking about, the mention of Muslim and Kristiyano may be taken as institutional religious segregation, a violation of the Constitutional provision on separation of Church and State.

This is far from the first manifestation of the ignorance of Philippine educators. For generations our teachers have called the regional languages like Cebuano and Hiligaynon as ‘the vernacular dialect’ (in the dismissively homogenizing singular). And I grew up hearing my teachers calling the tribal communities ‘indigents,’ the word ‘natives’ used in pitying condescension. ‘Settler’ and ‘Christian’ have always been conflated, and nobody ever taught me the audacity with which the Islamized tribes owned the colonial label of ‘Moro’ as their own.

If our own government and its teacher-bureaucrats aren’t even sensitive to Mindanao’s issues, how on earth do we expect our kids to?

 


On Senior High School Students Interviewing Filipino Writers

Recently in Mindanao, local writers have been surprised to receive emails and private messages on social media from senior high school students about their life and work. These questions and requests for interview seem to be from requirements being asked in school, an innovative class activity, I suspect, by idealistic young teachers who want our young people to get in touch with our local literary scene.

This is of course unprecedented, specially among local writers, as Filipino literature in general is largely underrated, unread by the Filipino readership. This is particularly the case with the youth, which largely consumes foreign literature, and if there is ever local consumption it is limited to works of popular fiction, very far from the literary crop.  Our writers rarely get so much attention.

How, you ask, did the writers react to this sudden surge of attention? Scorn.

Many writers decried the intrusive nature of the interviews. Others deplored how the students did not even bother researching basic information about them before asking. Still there are those who called on the teachers to teach their students to be formal enough and write a request letter. And others simply complained that with the barrage of interview requests, they don’t have time to write.

 

There is, first and foremost, nothing mature or professional about bashing senior high students on social media. If there are rude requests from them (and admittedly there have been), simply tell them off or ignore them without making it public that you have done so.

Then there is a certain arrogance to demand that any interview be conducted in formal terms.

This, I think, reveals the underlying elitism that so defines our literary – and our artistic – community.

The pervasive attitude among artists, specially writers, is that their art – and their dedication to the field of art – makes them important, somehow worthy of utmost respect and veneration. The artist is a sacred person according to the Filipino writer (many will always think of the celebrity of Neruda or the venerability of Hugo), and one ought not to treat them the way one would treat other, more ordinary people.

Filipino writers dismiss the dearth of readership they should be getting as the result of the unwashed masses’ lack of education and breeding. They scorn teenage Filipinos for reading Wattpad novels and Kilig Romances. Ironically they do so while espousing generally Gramscian ideologies.

The Filipino writer has long decried the lack of attention, and when she finally gets it, she complains it is not in the necessary note of reverence she thinks she deserves.

The truth of the matter is (and it is a painful reality I am saying as a writer myself), a writer who is not read is an irrelevant writer, and the vast majority of our so-called ‘literary writers’ are irrelevant writers who are not even read by one another. We are no important Hugos and Nerudas to whom formal letters of request have to be given so interviews can be asked, it is just downright arrogance to demand something like that when a polite, even if informal private message on Facebook, would have done.

There is even more arrogance in those saying students ought to research about the writers first. It assumes, first of all, that the writers in question are important enough to be on the books (trust me, even National Artists sometimes have very little information out there). They also forget the fact that in the Philippines, Filipino books and other material that deal with Filipino writers (academic journals, literary magazines, etc.) are both often prohibitively expensive (a 350 peso novel is average), and excessively difficult to find. I cannot even find anywhere the birth places of so many Filipino writers that I have to ask from common friends. This all just goes to show how out of touch our writers are to their own realities.

But I think the biggest manifestation of delusions of grandeur are in those saying they don’t have time to answer questions because they have to write. How utterly snobbish can you get. You refuse to entertain what can be your potential readers because you have to write stories and poems nobody will read.

It is very counterproductive. One of the frequent reasons cited by less egotistic writers as a reason why Filipino literature remains so inaccessible is because our writers are not introduced to our children. That is now being remedied, and even if the efforts are facing challenges, the sheer snobbery with which writers respond to them are far more damaging to the efforts than whatever glitches these first efforts may have.

We need our kids to start appreciating our very good body of local literature, but how do we expect them to like our work when their first experience of it is a writer publicly humiliating them on social media?

 

 


Leoncio Deriada’s ‘People on Claveria Street’

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I just finished reading Leoncio Deriada’s latest novel, People on Claveria Street.’

A prequel to his last novel ‘People on Guerrero Street,’ it’s about the author’s first year in Davao in the late 1940s, when he was still an elementary student. It is to date only the third novel written about Davao.

The books offers a fascinating glimpse at Davao in the past, back when the now highly urbanized metropolis of Mindanao was still a semi-rural frontier town recovering from the War. This has always been one of the charms of Deriada’s work, specially as Davao and much of Mindanao is terribly apathetic to its own history.

I will be writing a review of the book soon!