Sunday, February 08, 2009
South America has become a goldmine for magic realism stories, thanks primarily to Noble laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The avalanche of magic realism genre in literature is a reprieve from the modern and colonial artworks for this amazing postmodern/postcolonial tool fuses the real and the unreal so that these two worlds' distinction is blurred.
Like in our Latin American counterparts, magic realism is inextricably embedded in us Filipino people, no matter how bleak its manifestation seems. Oral traditions and even current tabloids are replete with peculiar things like manananggal or half-bodied batwoman hovering in Manila, torrents of frogs, dead people rising from their coffins, animals morphing into erect humans, icons shedding tears of blood, schoolgirls being possessed by elves and the like. I even heard a story from a fellow teacher whose paternal aunt gave birth to a squid and a mermaid. The mollusk died at postbirth, but the greenish, jelly-bodied half-fish, half human went on to spend a few days before the family was forced to throw it onto the raging Cagayan River, under the vigorous threat of ill-meaning neighbors who had constantly thought the mermaid to bring an onslaught of misfortunes in their sleepy village up North. While the aunt had not too much affinity with her kids, she sometimes claimed to have heard the mermaid playing a song on her flute as she rested ashore, according to the teacher.
However, modernity and science brought by the colonizing West define the reality of the world according to their parameters solely. The West's dominance has irreparably wrought practically everything imaginable under a single meaning only. Things have causal nature; everything may be explained away by science. Just because the computer age has rendered the cosmophiles within the sphere of one global community to be always in-the-know, the existence of, say, barang or sorcery is doubtful. If an item does not get reported in the Cable News Network, it is already not true. How does a doctor explain the blood-and-pus lesions appearing in a kulam victim? Medical practitioners have to invoke their scientific expertise even as they cannot probably understand why beneath said lesions emerge all sorts of winged insects.
The West's imperialistic way of making sense of the world has suppressed magic realism, which persists anyway. Most of us have faith in the modern and the scientific, but a good number of us still carry superstitions, the belief in divine apparitions atop katuray trees as well as in ghosts, the possibility of one’s being lost in the forest because a santelmo’s fire carried one right in the shifty ground of a quicksand or a human-disguised diwata lured a visiting Manileño from a barrio dance. Underneath the Hollywood, MTV and McDonald cultures pervading irreparably in our midst lies the “lost” myth to remind us of the prevailing existence of the extraordinary.