Friday, May 16, 2008
Philippine Literature in English, because it is in English, carries with it the concept of colonialism. Even as it is so, it can reach the proportion of a “minor” literature only compared to the canonical European/Anglo-American masterpieces. If this literary ideology is already revolting, it is more so with the peripheralization of “minority” literature—gay, women’s, prison, popular, etc.—in the Philippines. The twice-removed Philippine Literature from the Margins, the literature in the vernacular included, is so neglected that in the last decades, commissions in the arts and education aiming to showcase the original beauty of Philippine culture have intensified contributions for the advancement and full flowering of this culture. The University of the Philippines, for instance, completes the triumvirate of universities tasked at publishing the Panitikan series in the hope of, first and foremost, presenting the richness and color of literature in the islands.
All the same, Philippine Literature in English remains “the most vigorous as well as the most promising Philippine Literature” primarily because of two reasons: the perceived prestige of its use of English as medium and the possibility of the Filipino writers’ works becoming integrated to the greater body of world literature. In the case of the choice of the short story genre, this “true representative and product of contemporary age…continues to reflect, to express, life in all its manifestations,” beside the notion that it “is the most popular form of literature in the country….[T]he output in short stories is richer and more significant than that of any other form of literature.” The decision to study the novel genre is influenced by the fact that “the novel [is] the most interesting genre in the considerable body of Filipino Literature in English today” because it is the writers’ way of “confronting the historical crisis” bedeviling the nation, having been colonized and, therefore, “unable to either accept or to change [its] history.”
It is inescapable that the Filipino writers in English, as in any Philippine language, will write about their country because they are writing as Filipinos, whether consciously or unconsciously. In the case of the authors of the fictions under study, Rosario Cruz Lucero was not just able to explore slices of Filipino life and Vicente Garcia Groyon, a larger picture of it; more specifically, these Negros-rooted fiction writers were able to produce works that manifest the lushness and potency of the West Visayan culture, “a society whose milieu is largely rural, its rhythm pastoral and its concerns sometimes pre-technological.” While Feast and Famine (Quezon City: UP Press, 2003) and Sky Over Dimas (Manila: DLSU Press, 2003) are both set in Negros Occidental, they capture nonetheless the imagination of a Hiligaynon country, an imagination that, having been articulated in the dominant language of the current lone world superpower, the US, may “situate Hiligaynon literature in its niche in world literature.” How is West Visayas imagined by two Bacolod-linked writers in English?
The origin of the Philippine Short Story in English may be traced in the UP, where the first crop of American English-bred Filipino intelligentsia, produced three ghost stories or tales in the maiden issue of the State University’s first literary journal, the College Folio, in 1910. The establishment of English as a vehicle for education and literary expression gained full ground by the 1920’s, and the “attrac[tion into magazines and writing organizations of] the most gifted literary men and women…hamper[ed] the technical development of writing in the native languages (i.e. Hiligaynon), and alienating the writers in English from the popular culture.”
Jose Garcia Villa’s fiction anthology, Footnote to Youth, had by 1933 won accolade from American critic Edward O’Brien, and his annual project (until 1940) of selecting what he deemed as the best Filipino short stories in English served as a compass for the progress of the genre. While the derivation of style and elements was undeniably from the western patterns, the writers were aware of their necessity to veer away from their American and British prototypes. With the founding of Commonwealth Literary Awards in 1940, the same year when Salvador P. Lopez criticized Villa’s “art for art’s sake” through the socially-committed Literature and Society, this need for capturing a more Filipino short story in English with social utility was meeting destiny.
The likes of Manuel Arguilla of La Union, NVM Gonzalez of Mindoro and later writers who would attempt to lay claim on a certain locality in their fiction provided the vital element of location in the progress of the short story in English.
The publication of Nick Joaquin’s Three Generations in the Graphic marked 1940 as the onset of the new period in the literary scene, what with his fantastic weaving of English and dexterity at narration.
The ravages of the World War II for a while halted Philippine Writing in English, which was to be resuscitated after the US’ bestowing of Philippine independence, with such developments as more honesty in sensual expression, setting of a handful of stories abroad, and tackling of ethno-cultural minority issues. Long before Latin American texts became part of the literary canon being taught in Philippine schools, the trend of marvelous realism like that in Joaquin’s stories shied away from conventional realism (as Feast and Famine did). The Philippines Free Press and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards having been founded in 1949 and 1950, respectively, another development in the post-war era emerged, as both contributed to the formulation of aesthetics in the short story genre.
When the pre-Martial Law period ushered in, “the Filipino writer had mastered the English medium and familiarized himself with diverse techniques”16 as was evident in the works of Gregorio Brillantes, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, and Kerima Polotan. During this time when Ninothcka Rosca also began to emanate heat, the reigning themes included the quest for identity, crisis of illusion versus reality, and alienation.
The Martial Law Years motivated writers to set aside personal epiphanies and to shift to more political concerns, even as the Marcos dictatorship has virtually paralyzed literary production, especially those that were antagonistic of the regime.
The Ninoy Aquino murder in 1983 jolted Filipino writers from complacency about their role as social transformers, and that event that spiraled into the so-called People Power was a pre-cursor to the new flowering of Philippine Literature.
The present scenario boasts of the younger generation of writers whose “chosen issues tend to be those of gender and sexuality, the environment, cultural identity, and individual freedom.”17 As the trend brings the Filipino writer closer to the world via globalization and the Internet, developments such as children’s literature, writing in the Diaspora, 1000-word-or-less flash fiction or “fiction that can be consumed in minutes”18 and stories written in the texting language provide prospects for the future of Philippine Short Stories in English.
It is interesting to note that while the novel was mastered later than the short story, the former manifests a clearer position of imagining the nation than the latter, as may be gleaned in the fact that in the last quarter-century, many novels take the nation for a subject, albeit in varying degrees. From the naïve and sentimental A Child of Sorrow by Zoilo Galang in 1921, the historical novel The Filipino Rebel by Maximo Kalaw published in 1927 trail blazed what would be the theme and style of the post-war novels like NVM Gonzalez’ Winds of April in 1940, Stevan Javellana’s Without Seeing the Dawn in 1947, down to Kerima Polotan’s The Hand of the Enemy in 1962. The period saw the fiction in English taking three different courses, best embodied by the works of Bienvenido Santos, NVM Gonzalez and Nick Joaquin. Santos’ language approximates American English, Gonzalez’ is nuanced by the Philippine dialects and Joaquin’s flaunts the vivacity of Spanish.
As the novel traipsed into the contemporary scene, it carried with it the Filipino short story in English’ same commitment of becoming more and more Filipino for its English to become less and less American-sounding. In the 1987 Criticism book Major and Minor Keys, Ricaredo Demetillo stated that a critic must ascertain that a literary work must not only be “beautiful as a work of art” but also socially functional, thus heaping praises for Edilberto Tiempo’s To Be Free and F. Sionil Jose’s novels for their catalytic role of helping fashion the society. Meanwhile, what Soledad Reyes called the “aesthetic-historical approach” encompasses the criticisms of Bienvenido Lumbera and Cynthia Lumbera in Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology and Caroline Hau in Necessary Fictions. Both books judge contemporary novelists in English to be engrossed in thinking and feeling Philippine, as reflected in today’s crop of works (i.e. Sky over Dimas). In short fictions as in long prose, the ripples of the Filipino identity continue to be in the works.
In this study purposed at drawing connections between the Negrense/Hiligaynon psyche and milieu and the imagination of these in the two books, the reporter had to know that the Hiligaynon prose—one record of such culture—“aims to convey the theme of protest against the existing social structure.”19 What else? “…[R]ural poverty, children dying of malnutrition, desperate peasants burning sugarcane fields, violence both random and systematic, political ‘disappearances,’ lives warped by feudal values.”20 What more is said about it? “Most worthwhile stories deal with poverty strivings, sufferings, hunger, the gap between the rich and the poor, the lack of concern for one’s fellowmen, aspirations. Stories dealing with social involvement. Stories which can guide, touch the heart. Relevant themes leading towards a life under a democracy.”21 Who will escape the renowned impression that Hiligaynon is the Philippine counterpart of French as the language of love, what with its speakers’ characteristic as “cariñoso, or gentle and warm”22? “In general, the people of the Western Visayas are generous, kind-hearted, friendly, hospitable, indulgent, and liberal to a fault.”23
Arambulo, Thelma E. “Notes on the Short Story.” In Prism: An Introduction to Literature. Edited by Yolanda Tomeldan, et al. Mandaluyong City: National Bookstore, 1986.
Balarbar, Corazon V. “Philippine Literature in English in Perspective.” In Gems in Philippine Literature. Pasig City: National, 1989.
Bernad, Miguel A., SJ. “Philippine Literature: Perpetually Inchoate.” In http://www.geocities.com/icasocot/phil_lit.html
Dalisay, Jose, Jr. Y. “The Filipino Short Story in English: An Update for the ‘90s.” In The
Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English. Gemino Abad, Gen. Editor. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998.
David, Milagros and Josephine Serrano. “The Philippine Short Story in English.” In English Communication Arts through Afro-Asian Literature. Quezon City: Phoenix Publishing House, 1976.
De Jesus, Noelle. “Introduction.” In Fast Food Fiction: Short Short Stories to Go. Pasig City: Anvil, 2003.
Groyon, Vicente Garcia. Sky over Dimas. Manila: De La Salle University, 2003.
Hidalgo, Cristina P. “The Philippine Short Story in English.” In an unpublished draft for a textbook to be used in the UP Open University, written 2003.
_________. “The Philippine Novel in English.” In an unpublished draft for a textbook to be used in the UP Open University, written 2003.
Hosillos, Lucila V. Hiligaynon Literature: Texts and Contexts. Quezon City: Aqua Land Enterprises, 1992.
__________. “Introduction.” In Bahandi-i. Marcella, Juanito, Editor. Manila: Lyceum Press, 1970.
Legasto, Priscelina P. “Literature from the Margins.” In Philippine Post-Colonial Studies. Hidalgo, Cristina P. and Priscelina P. Legasto, Editors. Quezon City: UP Press, 1993.
Lucero, Rosario Cruz. Feast and Famine: Stories Of Negros. Quezon City: UP Press, 2003.
__________. “Introduction.” Sugilanon. Manila: DLSU Press, 1991.
__________. Dulaang Hiligaynon. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1996.
Mojares, Resil. “Foreword.” In Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros. Lucero, Rosario Cruz. Quezon City: UP Press, 2003.
Villareal, Corazon. Translating the Sugilanon: Re-framing the Sign. Quezon City: UP Press, 1994.
Legasto, Priscelina P. “Literature from the Margins.” In Philippine Post-Colonial Studies. Hidalgo, Cristina P. and Legasto, Priscelina P., Editors. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1993, 46-49.
“Mula sa Pabliser.” In Dulaang Hiligaynon. Rosario Cruz Lucero, Collector. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1996, vii.
The other two are the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University.
“Mula sa Pabliser.” In Dulaang Hiligaynon. Rosario Cruz Lucero, Collector. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1996, ix.
Bernad, Miguel A., SJ. “Philippine Literature: Perpetually Inchoate.” In http: //www.geocities.com/icasocot/phil_lit.html
Arambulo, Thelma E. “Notes on the Short Story.” In Prism: An Introduction to Literature. Edited by Yolanda Tomeldan, et al. Mandaluyong City: National Bookstore, 1986, 3-8.
 David, Milagros and Josephine Serrano. “The Philippine Short Story in English.” In English Communication Arts through Afro-Asian Literature. Quezon City: Phoenix Publishing House, 1976, 152-153.
Hidalgo, Cristina P. “The Philippine Novel in English.” In an unpublished draft for a textbook to be used in the UP Open University, written 2003, 3.
Dr. Lucero grew up and spent her pre-UP years in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental; likewise, Groyon’s mother, as told by Dr. Lucero to the reporter, hails from the said provincial capital. DLSU-Taft-based Groyon, according to the “Notes on Contributors” in the first Ladlad: Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing (Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 1994), has taught in DLSU-Bacolod.
Villareal, Corazon D. Translating the Sugilanon: Re-framing the Sign. Quezon City: UP Press, 1994, 8.
The fictions under study being an imagination of the bewitchingly beautiful Hiligaynon culture, the reporter takes the liberty of considering them as Hiligaynon Literature in English.
Hosillos, Lucila V. “Preface.” In Hiligaynon Literature: Texts and Contexts. Quezon City: Aqua-Land Enterprises, 1992, v.
Hidalgo, Cristina P. “The Philippine Short Story in English.” In an unpublished draft for a textbook to be used in the UP Open University, written 2003, 8.
Balarbar, Corazon V. “Philippine Literature in English in Perspective.” In Gems in Philippine Literature. Pasig City: National Bookstore, 1989, xxvii.
Dalisay, Jose, Jr. Y. “The Filipino Short Story in English: An Update for the ‘90s.” In The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English. Gemino Abad, General Editor. Quezon City: UP Press, 1998, 150.
De Jesus, Noelle. “Introduction.” In Fast Food Fiction: Short Short Stories to Go. De Jesus, Noelle, Editor. Pasig City: Anvil, 2003, xv.
Lucero, Rosario Cruz. “Introduction.” Sugilanon. Manila: DLSU Press, 1991, v. Translation by Dr. Villareal.
Mojares, Resil. “Foreword.” In Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros. Lucero, Rosario Cruz. Quezon City: UP Press, 2003, vii.
Hosillos, Lucila V. “Introduction.” In Bahandi-i. Marcella, Juanito, Editor. Manila: Lyceum Press, 1970, xi. Translation by Dr. Villareal.
Villareal, Corazon. Translating the Sugilanon: Re-framing the Sign. Quezon City: UP Press, 1994, 13.
Hosillos, Lucila V. Hiligaynon Literature: Texts and Contexts. Quezon City: Aqua-Land Enterprises, 1992, 4.