Almost twenty years ago, the writer and scholar Christine Godinez-Ortega invited me to Iligan City, Philippines to deliver a keynote address for the INWW literary workshop. To prepare, I read up on previous keynotes and made notes.

For a long time, these notes remained hidden, even to myself, as I could not locate my own notes, buried among hundreds of files in my portable drive. I have killed way too many authors, it seems…

Anyway, I hope you find insight in these scintillating gems of wisdom from some of our foremost Filipino writers in English. There are many, many Filipino writers in English and not all are represented in this essay. For this I apologize in advance because…I will not be deprived of intelligent conversations over homecooked meals and beers that were already promised to me on my next trip back home!

So….here are some of my notes, in no particular order:

Gemino Abad: To ferry across the words, to carry the world over to text…the living reality always resists its translation.

Refuses to use the word “vernacular” because the Latin vernacula means “ a slave born in his master’s house.”

Merlie Alunan: Mythmaking…is also the main course of activity of cinema and television, the myth spinner supreme of our secular age…from the monovocality of our tribal traditions, we have been brought to the multivocal condition of our postcolonial age…let us go back to the stories of our race. The lifeways…

Leoncio Deriada: The Philippine genesis is superior to the biblical genesis. .. Maganda could not come from a man’s rib…English words are sexist…now what happens to the worldview of a Filipino who does not know kapatid or utod or bugto but knows only brother and sister?

Erlinda Alburo: For Cebuanos, palusut and sal-ak, both meaning “butting in on a conversation,” do not carry negative connotations but are tolerated especially if the remark happens to be witty and entertaining.

Bienvenido Lumbera: …All too often, we have repressed a young writer’s expressive freedom and authentic voice by insisting on the same kind of correct English that one finds in the writings of American and British writers. Our demand in the use of English has been nothing less than the English of writers born to the language.

Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta: More than just the flaunted scholarship, which is of course to a certain measure quite important but should be dispensed in small doses, what is called for is a heartening promise of what literature can offer to the serious, well-intending student, even the non-serious, not too well-intending one. Learning, even the supposed to be light and pleasurable one, will always entail an amount of pain and unease.

Rosario Cruz Lucero: logos, or the act of reasoning, is twin sister to art, and both are inextricably intertwined with food production, or the basic skills of survival. Because of the sort of postcolonial literary education we are still having to submit to unquestioningly, we are immersed in the Western attitudes of nihilism and despair, of ennui and angst (or in mock Visayan, buangst). And yet we find ourselves remaining suspicious of, and uncomfortable with, them. Our center is what gives impetus to both the centrifugal and centripetal movements of our artistic and literary creations. Only when we look inward to our center can we expand the circumference of our artistic expressions.

Isagani Cruz: without God, wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky, everything is permitted; without literary rules, everything is permitted and nothing is permeated with insight or beauty or permanence…Writing without laws is not writing.

Charlson Ong: From Toni Morrison’s Sula. “At least my lonely is mine. Your lonely is somebody else’s.”

When the artist is ready, society may provide the means for the telling of the tale: in song or in dance, in water or in stone, in print or celluloid, by body or by spirit, mummified or digitized.

Vicente Groyon: The mass of Filipinos is poor, and yet we are all encouraged to aspire to the lifestyles of the outrageously rich…situation exacerbated by the ubiquity of mass media and personal media, both of which were and continue to be conceptualized, produced and controlled by entities that exist in economic realities far different from our own.

#writers #filipino #literature #english