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Sunday, June 27, 2010

20/20: poems and short stories in english from contemporary philippine publications


the following is the introduction i had written for the poem and fiction anthology i submitted to professor gemino abad for my philippine literature in english class, with a dedication that reads "For the Muse of Laguna Lake, whose fire kindled this scholarly fruition." Read on!:D
***
A century after English was introduced by the Americans to the Filipino nation with the former’s imperial project in mind, Philippine literature in English appears to have failed the Filipinos’ colonial masters in their attempt to produce “Other” Americans out of us. With the type of appropriation that Filipino writers carried out while using that colonial language in imagining our experiences, our conditions and, ultimately, our nation, Philippine literature in English proves to be a manifestation of how the postcolonial people that we are have written and are continuously writing back at the center.
The twenty poems and twenty stories appearing in this anthology are but a survey of the Philippine literature in English published within the last twenty years (1990-to date), a milieu wherein postcolonial criticism across the globe gained vigorous attention owing to the lingering effects and forms of colonialism in former and present colonies’ politics, culture, economy, religion, among others. A good number of them seem to have been produced with the nation in the writers’ consciousness, while the others that do not indicate the slightest of hints of being postcolonial in their subject matter nonetheless display so in their turns of phrases, their employment of idiomatic expressions, their Philippinization of the imperial tongue. I believe that since our colonial history cannot be rewritten anymore, there will always be a kind of alienation in our writers’ handling of English, such as the fact that their fictional characters from far-flung barrios, for instance, could not have been conversing in that language flawlessly. This estrangement notwithstanding, our writers’ continued and flourishing command of English is gaining international recognition (getting our literature closer to being integrated to the larger corpus of world literature), among other, more satisfying rewards like fortifying the position of Philippine literature in English as a legitimate offspring of Philippine Literature.
Various concerns and styles may be gleaned from the anthologized pieces herein, informed by contemporary trends foremost of which is globalization. Due to this phenomenon, social issues affecting the country as a participant in the affairs of the shrunken global village get immortalized in the pages of Philippine publications. Hence, the Filipino Diaspora gets treated in Danton Remoto’s “Green Rose,” Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s “The Woman in the Box” and Mookie Katigbak’s “Postscript,” not to mention that some writers like Miguel Syjuco of “The Faithful Old Lady,” Merlinda Bobis of “Fish Hair Woman,” Eric Gamalinda of “Professor Quemada’s Last Words,” Bino Realuyo of “Glue Children” and R. Zamora Linmark of “The Muse This Time” are migrant Filipinos themselves. Hollywoodization, Coca-Colanization and other breeds of consumerist popular culture also invade some of the works like Ian Casocot’s “Old Movies,” Luis Katigbak’s “Happy Endings,” Alfred Yuson’s “On This Site Will Soon Rise a Shopping Mall” and Isabelita Reyes’ “Too Many Movies.” Finally, cultural hybridity likewise suffuses Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “Fishbone,” Paolo Manalo’s “Echolalia,” and Vicente Garcia Groyon’s “Tenacity,” while the metafictive style in Arvin Mangohig’s “The Year of the Comet” and Mabi David’s “Letterpress,” the fragmentation, pastiche or bricolage in Tina Cuyugan’s “Corporeality,” Maria Elena Paterno’s “A Song in the Wind,” Conchitina Cruz’ “Geography Lesson” and Lourd Ernest de Veyra’s “hi-density” and the magic realist mode in Dean Francis Alfar’s “Six from Downtown,” Ma. Romina Gonzales’ “Sanded Soles,” and Rosario Cruz Lucero’s “The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros” all show our writers’ imbibing of current literary fashion from the West and the Latin American Boom (made further accessible via worldwide web), thus creating a literary amalgam of native narrative and poetic techniques and foreign influences.
Of course, all of these would fall into a disfavor if the Philippine context, the location where these fictions and poems were mined, does not get the credit it is due. Therefore, turn-of-the-millennium events like the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, abandonment of the United States’ bases in Central Luzon, Ozone Disco Tragedy, the Brain Drain phenomenon among Overseas Filipino Workers; character places like bewitching Siquijor, seedy Manila, chilly Baguio, crowded Quiapo and Ninoy Aquino International Airport, lahar-stricken Pampanga, militarized Bicol, Americanized Olongapo, Hispanic Negros, coastal Visayas, the asphalt jungles of Quezon City and the University of the Philippines; cultural signs like the bakla beauconera (gay parlance for Miss Gay contestant), the mall, the babaylan/shaman, the Nazarene, the NAIA salubong horde, the tuyo/dried fish, the manananggal/viscera-sucking split-woman, National Hero Jose Rizal, the ambulant shoe-shine kids, the videoke; and traditions and historical sites like Catholicism, hospitality, epic-chanting, refugee caves during the Japanese Occupation, the perpetually renamed boulevards—these are Philippine-specific markers that populate the chosen stories and poems.
Speaking of selection, not a few times did I experience option paralysis over the voluminous masterpieces from the interesting post-EDSA era. Reading the landmark Likhaan and other anthologies as well as individual authors’ story collections, soliciting tips from writer professors, friends and classmates, and excavating files from various libraries, I came up with about forty poems and forty short stories which, reluctantly, I still had to trim down to half for each set. In the end and in consideration of the prevailing literary aesthetics of the contemporary period, I managed to collect this harvest, arranged chronologically, from the last twenty years of Philippine publications. May poetic justice and delight be served.

Part I: Contemporary Philippine Short Stories in English
1. “A Song in the Wind.” Paterno, Maria Elena. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Cuyugan, Tina, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1992.
Paterno teaches English in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Among her Palanca Award-winning children’s stories, “Sampaguita” was published by Cacho Publishing House.
Paterno’s story is a postmodernist re(-)vision of a conventional myth: a mermaid that gets entangled in a star-crossed love for a human male.

2. “Green Rose.” Remoto, Danton. In Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Garcia, J. Neil and Danton Remoto, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 1994.
Before becoming a Communications Officer for United Nations Development Programme, Remoto taught English at the Ateneo De Manila University. He is the leading spokesperson of the progressive gay movement Ang Ladlad.
Remoto’s fiction tells of the ease with which gay men, like green buds, bloom out of their closets the farther they are from their macho, conservative Philippine homes.

3. “Fixing a Flat.” Ong, Charlson. In Conversion and Other Fictions. Pasig: Anvil, 1996.
Ong is the author of several award-winning titles as well as a teacher of creative writing at the UP-Diliman.
Ong’s story is the bittersweet encounter of estranged husband and wife, the former still harboring marital what-if’s while the latter having moved on with a new partner who splits the conjugal properties.

4. “Fish Dealer’s Tale.” Montes, Timothy. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1996. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Ricardo de Ungria, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Silliman University-bred Montes teaches creative writing in the Mindanao campus of UP.
Montes’ tale is an oral tradition whose narrator is a rural folk who realizes her feminine power while peddling fish to a young unwed mother.

5. “The Faithful Old Lady.” Syjuco, Miguel. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Schooled in ADMU, Canada-based Syjuco is the first Filipino to win the Booker-linked Man Asian Literary Prize for the novel The Ilustrados.
Syjuco’s fairy tale-like fiction is about an old devotee whose death was hounded by poverty and ignorance.

6. “Fish Hair Woman.” Bobis, Merlinda. In White Turtle. Manila: De La Salle University Press, 1999.
An award-winning writer as well as a performer, Bobis teaches in the University of Wollongong in Australia.
Bobis’ story is about the ill-fated love between a Caucasian writer and a red-haired corpse trawler trapped in a hamletted Bicol village.

7. “Sanded Soles.” Gonzales, Ma. Romina. In Dream Noises: A Generation Writes. Go, Miriam Grace, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1999.
A journalist by profession, Gonzales attended Assumption College before moving on to UP to study Creative Writing.
Gonzales’ fiction tells of a girl whose family lives in the lahar-covered Arayat country frequented by indifferent tourists.

8. “Happy Endings.” Katigbak, Luis Joaquin. In Dream Noises: A Generation Writes. Go, Miriam Grace, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1999.
Katigbak is an award-winning author who studied Creative Writing in UP-Diliman.
Katigbak’s story centers on an advertising writer’s realization that everyone pursues happy endings, whether or not life is cut out for these.

9. “Portents.” Zafra, Jessica. In The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century. Cruz, Isagani, ed. Manila: Tahanan, 2000.
UP-bred Zafra is the author of the Twisted series and the owner of the blogsite www.jessicarulestheuniverse.com, both of which have a strong cult following.
Zafra’s story presents the dilemma of a Catholic-raised woman whether or not to commit abortion.

10. “Skin Art.” Pasion, Andrea. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1998. Garcia, J. Neil and Charlson Ong, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2000.
Pasion took up Creative Writing and Law from UP and is an editor of Cosmopolitan Philippines.
Pasion’s fiction shows a young lady’s graphic anguish over an unreturned love.

11. “Reconnaissance.” Sering, Tara FT. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1999. de Ungria, Ricardo and Jose Dalisay, Jr., eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2001.
Sering received a Literature degree from De La Salle University and works for Cosmopolitan, producing chick novelettes for the magazine.
Sering’s story is an initiation into the adult world after a girl discovers the intimate lives of a socially-respected couple.

12. “Corporeality.” Cuyugan, Tina. In Fast Food Fiction: Short Stories to Go. de Jesus, Noelle, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 2003.
Cuyugan earned a master’s degree in Publishing Studies in a Scottish university and is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow in Washington, D.C.
Cuyugan’s fiction presents the affair between a man and his diseased lover whose breaking body parts signified their conjugal loss.

13. “The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, Conquistador of Negros.” Lucero, Rosario Cruz. In Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003.
Lucero is an accomplished writer who teaches in UP-Diliman.
Lucero’s story is a gothic tale of a Spanish priest out to conquer a savage island, only to realize that it was he who got colonized.

14. “Old Movies.” Casocot, Ian. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2002. Lanot, Marra and Carla Pacis, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Casocot teaches in Silliman University where he was educated.
Casocot’s fiction is about a gay man whose life was shaped by campy Hollywood films from the past.

15. “Weight.” Sitoy, Lakambini. In Fourteen Love Stories. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Angelo Lacuesta, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Silliman-trained Sitoy is an award-winning writer enjoying the T.K. Wong scholarship that gives her the privilege to crisscross Europe.
Sitoy’s story is about a feminist nongovernmental office worker who takes the romantic chance of escaping the city with a male colleague.

16. “Tenacity.” Groyon, Vicente Garcia. In On Cursed Ground and Other Stories. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
DLSU-schooled Groyon won the Palanca Grand Prize for his novel Sky over Dimas. He currently teaches in his alma mater.
Groyon’s fiction is about a young hustler who gets betrayed by a G.I. who promised to take him abroad and out of poverty.

17. “Failure to Punctuate.” Eliserio, U. Z. In 24/7 Walang Panahon: The 2004-2005 Philippine Collegian Anthology. Fajarda, Jayson, Gen. ed. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2005.
Eliserio teaches popular culture in UP-Diliman.
Eliserio’s story traces the day in the life of a begrudging UP student who strikes a horrific deal with a desperate shoe-shine kid.

18. “The Woman in the Box.” Dalisay, Jose, Jr. In Soledad’s Sister. Pasig: Anvil, 2008.
A columnist for Philippine Star, Dalisay teaches creative writing in UP and has a new novel that got shortlisted in the inaugural Man Asia Literary Prize.
Dalisay’s fiction plots the arrival of a dead OFW in the airport where a bunch of salubong crowd awaits the casket of a beheaded relative.

19. “Six from Downtown.” Alfar, Dean Francis. In Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://philippinespeculativefiction.com/alfar.html.
Alfar is the author of the Palanca-winning novel Salamanca. He specializes in fantasy, magic realism and other types of speculative fiction.
His story presents six different plots—about a mermaid connoisseur, a murderous call center agent, a macho dancer, a disappearing music teacher, a word-eater, a manananggal’s husband—woven together by magic realism.

20. “Professor Quemada’s Last Words.” Gamalinda, Eric. In The Antouylia Bookshelf. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/Antouylia.
Gamalinda’s latest novel was shortlisted in last year’s Man Asia Prize. Originally from Bicol country, he now makes New York his new home.
Gamalinda’s self-reflexive fiction is a re-telling of Faust’s story, with the protagonist churning out words that lose their meanings as used.

Part II: Contemporary Philippine Poems in English
1. “Elemental.” Evasco, Marjorie. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Cuyugan, Tina, ed. Pasig: Anvil, 1992.
Evasco teaches at DLSU where she directs the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center.
Evasco’s lyric poem mimics the sensuality of Pablo Neruda’s poetry.

2. “Queen.” Baytan, Ronald. In Ladlad 2: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Garcia, J. Neil and Danton Remoto, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 1996.
Baytan teaches literature in DLSU where he also studied.
Baytan’s poem reveals the fantasy of many bakla that’s to win an identity-affirming beauty title.

3. “Glue Children.” Realuyo, Bino. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1996. Dalisay, Jose, Jr. and Ricardo de Ungria, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Born and raised in Manila, Realuyo now lives in the US where his gay novel The Umbrella Country was published.
Realuyo’s poem examines the lamentable condition of rugby kids littering the city.

4. “Sturm and Drang.” Macansantos, Francis. In The Words and Other Poems. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1997.
Macansantos studied in Ateneo de Zamboanga and Silliman University and taught in several universities in Baguio City.
Macansantos’ poem is a satire on religious rituals.

5. “Ghost Pain.” Dimalanta, Ophelia. In Love Woman. Manila: University of Santo Tomas Press, 1998.
Dimalanta teaches in University of Santo Tomas, where she heads the Center for Creative Writing Studies.
Dimalanta’s poem records the tragic event of a disco fire wherein scores of young revelers lost their lives.

6. “The Year of the Comet.” Arvin Mangohig. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Mangohig has a poetry book called The Gaze published by UP, which conferred on him a master’s degree in Creative Writing.
Mangohig’s poem celebrates romance with a celestial phenomenon as backdrop.

7. “On This Site Will Soon Rise a Shopping Mall.” Yuson, Alfred. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 1997. Abad, Gemino and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.
Yuson’s latest novel was shortlisted in the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. He teaches in ADMU while maintaining a column in Philippine Star.
Yuson’s poem is a dirge on the notoriety of constructing temples of capitalism where natural space used to thrive.

8. “Postscript.” Katigbak, Mookie. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2000. Garcia, J. Neil and Charlson Ong, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002.
Ateneo-bred Katigbak taught in UP-Diliman after a stint abroad.
Katigbak’s poem shows that distance is relative, especially with longing as measure.

9. “Echolalia.” Manalo, Paolo. In Jolography. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003.
Manalo, who teaches in UP-Diliman, won a Palanca for his collection Jolography.
Manalo’s postmodern-postcolonial poem is a witty take on everyday Pinoy expressions.

10. “Fishbone.” Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. In Miracle Fruit. Dorset, Vermont: Tupelo Press, 2003.
Nezhukumatathil is a Filipino-South Indian university professor whose collection Miracle Fruit won the Tupelo Prize for Poetry.
Nezhukumatathil’s poem displays the tenacity for traditions while living in a land notorious for shattering them.

11. “The Muse This Time.” Linmark, R. Zamora. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Linmark shuttles between the Philippines and the U.S., where his campy novel Rolling the R’s was published.
Linmark’s poem is a realization of the true meaning of love after a disastrous series of gay relationships.

12. “hi-density.” de Veyra, Lourd Ernest. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
de Veyra is an associate in the UST-CCWS and performs for Radioactive Sago project.
de Veyra’s prose poem shows the sensual intensity of one’s yearning for the absent beloved.

13. “Double Takes.” Valdellon, Naya. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Valdellon studied in ADMU where she also teaches. She was the recipient of the first Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry.
Valdellon makes a romantic take at the classic W. H. Auden poem “Musee de Beaux Arts.”

14. “Flood.” Suarez, Angelo. In One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
UST-bred Suarez won the Bridges of Struga Prize from UNESCO/Macedonia for his poem collection The Nymph of MTV.
Suarez’ poem likens the beloved to the ubiquity of city floodwater.

15. “Too Many Movies.” Reyes, Isabelita. In The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction 2002. Lanot, Marra and Carla Pacis, eds. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
Reyes teaches creative writing in the State University where she edits The UP Newsletter.
Reyes’ poem criticizes the urban decay that escapist modernity engendered.

16. “Apology.” Garcia, J. Neil. In Father Poems. Abad, Gemino and Alfred Yuson, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 2004.
Together with Remoto, Garcia edited the landmark anthologies of gay writings called Ladlad. He teaches in UP-Diliman.
Garcia’s poem explores the complex relationship tying a macho father and his gay son.

17. “Geography Lesson.” Cruz, Conchitina. In Dark Hours. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.
A Fulbright grantee and a Palanca awardee, Cruz teaches creative writing in UP-Diliman.
Cruz’ poem, composed of blank spaces and footnotes only, bewails the curse of collective amnesia among Filipinos.

18. “Letterpress.” David, Mabi. In Unto Thee. Quezon City: High Chair, 2005.
David earned a Creative Writing degree from UP, for whose Press she is working.
David’s poem shows the plight of being torn between domesticity and career.

19. “Baguio, the Return.” Galan, Ralph Semino. In Baguio Calligraphy. Macansantos, Francis and Luchie Maranan, eds. Pasig: Anvil, 2010.
Galan co-edited Bongga ka ‘day: Pinoy gay quotes to live by with Baytan and Garcia. He teaches in UST.
Galan’s poem displays an ambivalent longing, heightened by the Baguio cold, for the missing beloved.

20. “The Cave.” Toledo, Joel. In panitikan.com.ph. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://panitikan.com.ph/poetry/thecave.htm.
Toledo, a Palanca awardee, graduated from UP-Diliman and is now teaching in Miriam College.
Toledo’s poem is an examination of a war refuge site that, despite its present existence, seems already pushed away from memory.

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