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The Racial Affronting Apparatus of “In the Land of the Head-hunters”
Friday, October 10, 2008
First of all, I would like to note that I’m writing this final paper in english (therefore, from English) in contrast to my previous papers to make a statement that we, Filipinos, can write and discourse in the language. Meanwhile, I'm aware that my usage will be quite different from that of the native speaker. Nonetheless, I won't apologize for anything in my usage of the language however erroneous others might find it to be. This is not being arrogant, but being authentic. Everything I wrote here is intended to be it, and exactly it. But this should not be taken very seriously because, in reality, I do not know what I’m saying.

The “In the Land of the Head-hunters, Being an account of a summer holiday in Baguio, 1924” appears to me as a racial slur. However we (in class) are advised not to use this term in criticism, this is the best time to use it to refer to this kind of a writing which exceedingly sucks. This does not go without any elaborate explanation and qualification why it’s that and I will point out the reasons one by one in the succeeding paragraphs.

The miseducated British traveler exoticized and insulted the natives of Baguio all throughout her/his travelogue. In his first paragraph, s/he immediately stated that the government bungalow where s/he was sheltered is little. At first glance, this seems like an accurate description of the edifice s/he’d stayed. But if we’re to qualify what “little” is for an alien from a supposed superior culture, whose architecture s/he considers “advanced”, there rests now the problem. What is little is easy to build. What is little is cheap. What is little is not grand, and therefore, something that is and should be looked down on. What s/he sees here is not just the house but as extension of it—everyone/thing in Baguio—nothing but small things (to mean in the Filipino context: maliit and, consequently, its verbalized form maliitin). This claim, again, will be supported in the following paragraphs.

S/he went on to say that aside from its smallness, it’s also made of “wood and some sort of thick canvass material—the latter giving it a fragile appearance” with “a corrugated iron roof”. This is another seemingly innocuous statement but greatly constitutes to the label that is the “Orient”. Corrugated iron, a noun, meaning: sheet iron bent into a series of alternate ridges and groves in parallel lines giving it greater stiffness . Small, fragile and stiff. Aren't these the usual depiction of the Asians in Hollywood movies, say Jackie Chan in Rush Hour and Kal Penn in Van Wilder in contrast to the big, macho West, like, say Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford?

In her/his second paragraph, s/he narrated how s/he tried to chop wood but nearly sliced off her/his toes until s/he “gladly relinquished the job to two native Igorot boys...” There is something at work here: the alien is saying that s/he's not used to chopping wood, why? And who did s/he hire to chop it? Although s/he is not explicitly saying, s/he is implying that manual labor such as chopping wood is not fit for somebody like her/him (because perhaps, s/he's a writer and/or an academic) so s/he let the native Igorots who must have chopped wood all their lives do the job. Binary opposition is doing its job in this instance in illustrating what kind of people these Igorots are (being other-ed) by showing what s/he is not (the Self) and vice-versa. S/he continued to enumerate what else the natives did for her/him: they “chopped wood, lit the fire, cleaned the dirty dishes, fetched distilled water from the neighboring depot...” These things reinforce the point I raised earlier, and only to conclude by saying, “all for ten centavos each (roughly two-pence half-penny): labour is cheap in the Philippines.” The alien narrated the entire thing as though s/he had tricked the natives by just paying two singkong duling. Regardless of how much these natives really charged the alien, in effect, s/he was saying that the natives are easy to trick through the manner s/he had worded the narrative. What are the implications of this? First, s/he put them in an equation where the smarter intended readers of this travelogue including her/himself is above these cheap laborers from the much exoticized Baguio, Philippines. Another is that, s/he was opening Baguio to conquest and exploitation because anyone who'd want cheap labor could avail of the Igorots: a case of commodification. To a certain extent, s/he was implying that the Igorots will do anything for much greater amount—and to qualify “anything” here may mean from house chores to infinity. And lastly, it affirms the idea of the “third world Philippines.” There is the “third world-ing” apparatus here, entailing that manual labor is cheap because many of the Filipinos are just manual workers and are illiterate and dumb (?). And up to now, because of this ideology, Filipinos have become marketable domestic helpers abroad, and again, in extension, caregivers, nurses, teachers, sex workers (?) and the like. Now that I've mentioned this, to examine the etymology of what they call “third world” in contrast to the highly civilized and industrialized countries is something that must be brought to the fore: the mere invention of the phrase explains how far we are from becoming equals. We are, again, here, determined, defined and reified by means of our economic status by those who are powerful and wealthy. Of course, this merits a longer discussion, but let me go back to the travelogue before I digress even more.

To justify my statement that the alien's travelogue sucks is exemplified in the third paragraph. “These Igorot tribesmen fascinate me” is then followed by “their faces are scarcely handsome”. This statement is then reinforced by a spectrum of derogation: “flat-featured, broad-nosed, eyes far apart, and lank black hair.” Should the natives be happy about this description? To a point, this is true, but these descriptions wouldn't be so insulting if there we weren't aware of the west's notion of the beautiful: fair-skinned, small nose, small feet, tall, slim, shiny hair and so on. This just merited important and glaring focus because what the traveler is doing here, in fact, is maligning the Igorot's physical appearance.

In the same paragraph, the alien made fun of the Igorot clothing saying that it's “reduced to the minimum” plus shamelessly added:

They seem to find clothes irksome, especially when they are at work, and so (to Vera's embarrassment!) we sometimes come upon stark naked brown men, whose only concession to decency is a narrow-strip of embroidered work (reminding me of a piece cut-off an old-fashioned pull-bell).


The power of the “Other's gaze” on the other is being epitomized in this quotation and I have to say many things about this. First, saying that the Igorots find clothing irksome is almost directly saying that these Orientals are primitive and uncivilized. Second, it gave me the impression that the alien is fetishizing the naked brown men they seldom saw, which made me think/explore of the many possibilities the meaning of the word suck than I have previously used many times over in the earlier paragraphs. Third, that the length of the clothing is directly proportional to one's decency. And to underscore this, the alien stated, “And yet these unclad folk go about quite gaily and unconcernedly, and no one seems to mind.” Reading in context, the alien is generalizing that all of the inhabitants of Baguio must, to an extent, be indecent to be letting these almost naked men walk along the streets without any apprehension. Lastly, to bring to mind an old-fashioned pull-bell upon seeing a bahag is crossing the line from tasteful to distasteful description. Are these culture-sensitive? Are these the workings of a proclaimed civilized and cultured person? Aren't these manifestations of narrow-minded judgments and Bush-isms, with all due respect to the American president (s)?

The continuation to the above quotation is even more fascinating (deja vu?). S/he said:

The dress they more usually adopt is a curious blend of western civilization with Igorot savagery—to the waist a singlet, and then, from there downwards, nothing. To see an Igorot walking through the streets of Baguio, as I saw one today, clad in abbreviated vest, a Bill Syke's cap, stuck rakishly on his head, and carrying a mackintosh over his arm, but with not a shred of trouser-cloth to cover his lower nakedness, makes a man wonder whether he is wide or merely dreaming dreams and seeing visions! [emphasis added]


These are very heavily laden statements. First is the direct opposition between “western civilization and Igorot savagery”. The alien here was representing the natives “as less civilized or less capable and as needing western paternalist assistance ”, with the mention of Bill Syke’s cap (alluding to “Oliver!”) and mackintosh, which are identified with the west, to make it appear as though the Igorots are little English wannabes who are so wanting to adopt the western living. I am theorizing that the alien just sweepingly assumed that the rainwear the native was carrying was really Mackintosh, parallel to the case of the Portuguese naming the Aztecs “Indians” and the Spaniards naming the Filipinos “Indios” despite the fact that what they’ve separately reached weren’t in fact India but other archipelagos. And to paraphrase Professor Michael Coroza, in our Filipino Literature class, commenting on the misnomer: They’re the more hilarious fools, in retrospect. Second among the slurring in this quotation, because of the appearance of the native clothing, the alien was saying that the native must be hallucinating or something to that effect, because he was walking ‘round town without covering his “lower nakedness”. Why should this be a big issue to the writer? Why should s/he be repeating this fact over and over again? Did s/he have issues that we apparently do not know? I was not about to say that, perhaps, dark-skinned, petite, and nearly naked men are her/his fetish, but even fetishizing the Igorots is a form of Orientalism.

In the fourth paragraph, it’s the Igorot woman and children who were caught by the traveler’s gaze. By mere describing the Igorot woman as “heavy featured, wild-eyed, clad in native cloth, stripped in native colors, staggering along with a heavy basket hanging on her back and kept in place by a strap across the forehead,” she is already objectified as a barbarian who carries a peasant’s basket, whose design was derived from some far-distant land like Switzerland, to make it, in effect, not original and authentic. In short, the Igorot woman is painted as a peasant barbarian who is nothing but a copycat, who wears scanty clothing. There is no other way of reading it but that, confirming my previous conjecture that the alien has no knowledge whatsoever in what s/he was talking about making her/him appear obtuse. On the other hand, there were the little children who are “attractive in their naked simplicity, and some of them have winsome faces, and great, dark, lustrous eyes [emphasis added].” How very normal and neutral descriptions this time, you might tell yourself. But then again, only if you’re Jessica Zafra or Bob Ong, to a certain extent. This is clearly a working of exoticization: making an “other” out of a beautiful yet foreign object. According to Professor Cesario Minor, Jr. in our oriental literature class in explaining the concept of “the exotic”, the standardization of western notion of beauty put exoticas under its subordination. If exoticas have to be beautiful in a western fashion, they have to be appropriated under the homogenizing tactics of the west. The little, naked, Igorot kids now became exoticas without their knowledge. The sad part is that, the traveler who was watching them was contentedly attracted (being the verb form of “attractive”, which the alien used to describe the, again, naked “objects”).

The fifth paragraph describes a scene one Sunday morning at the marketplace. The natives going about their busy and practical living entertained the foreigner. She accounted seeing colorful native dress (and again, undress, with an exclamation point [this is really becoming very curious]) which comes in different materials (maybe from a dog’s skin or dried human flesh (?) because of the head-hunting reputation of the inhabitants of Baguio, who knows what s/he saw), white turbans which look like towels, smokers of enormous cheroots, brass-ornamented limbs, and all that weird jazz, Igorot style, which according to the alien was all an “entertaining sight”.

Even local guidebooks are complicit to the scheme. Edward Said posits, according to Hans Bartens, that “through seemingly factual descriptions, and through claims to knowledge about Oriental history and culture, form a Foucauldian discourse—a loose system of statements and claims that constitutes a field of supposed knowledge through which that ‘knowledge’ is constructed” . In the sixth paragraph, the alien quoted a guidebook which apparently labels the scantily dressed natives as dog-eaters. The picture—smoking foot-long cigars, then “haggling over the price of rice and camotes” and other produce—presents a much calloused image of Baguio women. Such depiction, “although seemingly interested in knowledge, always establish relationships of power…The West’s representation of the East ultimately work within a framework of a conscious determined effort at subordination…This Western discourse about the Orient has traditionally served hegemonic purposes” .

Paragraph seven, yet again underpins my supposition of the alien. S/he apparently took a photograph of a native with nothing on him except a girdle and a hat. He went on to say, that the Igorot’s arms and chest are heavily tattooed. Doesn’t it sound like a Tommy Lee or something? He wasn’t just photographed, he was pornographed! Obscenity is in the eyes of the beholder. Why in the world would one take a picture of a nearly nude man? While it was almost established in the prior paragraphs that the alien has a curious liking to these native exoticas, I wasn’t about to give a conclusion about it.

While I’ve already given everything racist in the entire essay, I hope I already made my answer clear whether this writing is Orientalist or not, and that if it, in fact, sucks or not.

So what if the natives’ houses are made up of kerosene tins? Don’t they have houses in Britain as novel as these? What if they are head-hunters? So what if the children go to Olag at a certain age? So what if their idea of marriage is based on procreation and not what the westerner’s funny idea of love being the giddy feeling, the sensation one gets when his ass is being tickled or to that effect? What if the world is suddenly infested with cockroaches and there’s a world-wide brownout, what will happen to these spoiled bratty racist races? What if, due to the impermanence of everything (well, except change, as my teacher in elementary English likes to repeat over and over again) the economy of Britain like America drops to rock bottom, and everything falls apart? What will then become of the notion of the Orient, the Orient who can survive the harshest of conditions, like the Africans and the other-ed others? What if everybody dies? But of course, who would want that?

Others are others depending on the perspective, especially when it’s the west seeing the non-west. But if this has to be modified to see things in an objective manner, it’s easy to see that we really are different, not just by race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, language and identity, but it will also be easy to see that everybody’s equal. No one should emerge superior. Consequently, no one should be other-ed.

Ironically, although not really, I’ll quote Eleanor Roosevelt as an ending statement not because she’s of high distinction or because she’s from America, but because I know that I can quote her as freely as she can quote me, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Other is in the eye of the beholder, but then again, is it a requirement to other?



Works Cited
Bartens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics (Routledge, 2001)

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology (Blackwell Pub., 2004)

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posted by Diablo @ 9:47 AM   42 comments
Pagbasa ng Teksto Bilang Pagbasa sa Sarili: Ano ang mahirap sa pagbabasa ng “The So Magisterial Truth of Your Fall”
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Bilang babad sa kultura ng peryodismo—literal at diretso sa punto—bago sa akin ang pagdaan muna sa masalimuot na proseso ng pagdalumat sa pagpapakahulugan ng isang teksto, na tila ayaw paintindi. Kabaliktaran ito sa nakasanayan kong paraan ng pagsulat, sapagkat ang laging layunin naming mga dyornalist ay ang maintindihan sa mabilisang unang pasada.

Magtungo na tayo, kung gayun, sa tulang “The So Magisterial Truth of Your Fall” ni David Tenenbaum. Sa unang pasada, parang wala akong mahalaw na kahulugan sa tula. Kung tama ang aking pagbasa sa literal na lebel, isang umaga diumano, sa boses ng kanyang kaibigan ay nahinuha niyang may malagim na nangyari. At sa oras na iyon, nanginig pa ito sa kanyang narinig at tila di matanggap ang kaganapan. Nalaman na lamang niyang ang you na tinutukoy at kinakausap ng persona ay tumalon mula sa kataasan. Nagkaroon ng iba’t ibang haka-haka at interpretasyon ang persona at ang mga taong nakabalita sa pangyayari mula sa letrato ng kanyang irog, sulat at tawag—pawang mga parikala sa tila mala-paradisong larawan ng mundong ginagalawan ng you, na hindi man lang nailarawan.

Marami akong tanong na hindi ko masagot sa pagbabasa lamang sa teksto, kaya’t sinubukan kong saliksikin ang bakgrawn ng awtor, ngunit sa kasamaang palad, isang inhenyero at isang artista lamang ang lumalabas sa search sa ganitong pangalan. Sino nga ba ang awtor, anong pilosopiya ang kanyang pinanggagalingan, at sino ba ang kanyang kinakausap?

Habang binabasa ang tula ng makailang ulit, pumasok sa isip ko ang tula ni Emmanuel Torres na “On the Suicide of A Neighbor in Apartment D”. Iyon nga lamang, hindi natin masasabi sa tula ni Tenenbaum na patay na ang tumalon mula sa kataasan. Wala sa dramatikong sitwasyon ng tula ang aktwal na kamatayan ng tinutukoy na you. Sinabi lamang na “Dying is an art”, ngunit walang aktwal na death. Ngunit namatay na nga ba ang tinutukoy? Marahil isang puwang ito na kailangang bigyang kasagutan para maanalisa ng mabuti ang tula. Datapwa’t wala na ito sa loob ng teksto, tila sumisigaw ang tulang basahin siya sa hindi niya sinasabi bukod sa kanyang inilalantad.

Naisip ko rin ang kaso ni Maningning Miclat na ibinalita ng mga kakilala kong nakasaksi sa kanyang labi, mula sa kanyang pagtalon sa ika-pitong palapag ng edipisyo sa Far Eastern University, dahil sa hawak diumano niya ang larawan ng kanyang irog sa kanyang pagpapatihulog. Kung sasabihin ko namang ang tula ni Tenenbaum ay tula ng pag-ibig dahil sa imahen ng larawan, sulat at tawag, hindi ko kayang patunayan ito sapagkat walang sapat na batayan dito; kung one-way love affair ang sitwasyon niya, hindi na sana lover ang terminong ginamit kundi beloved. Kung mala-paradiso pala ang buhay niya (at ang love life niya), bakit kaya siya tumalon? Tatanuningi’t tatanungin talaga ng mambabasa kung ano ang problema niya, at sa teksto, wala akong sagot na mahanap.

Dahil naka italiks ang katagang “Dying is an art” sa tula, maaaring dito hinihila ng awtor ang ating atensyon. Sa normal na palagay ng nagbabasa ng literatura, ayon kay Prop. Butch Dalisay sa isang komperensiya, ang pag-iitaliks ay isang daya, na nagsasabing “basahin mo ako”. Dapat diumano’y tatawag ng pansin ang linya dahil sa kanyang sariling kahalagahan, at hindi dahil ito ay nakaboldfeys o nakaitaliks. Pero baka hindi ganoon ang oryentasyon ng manunula, maari ring ipagpalagay iyon.
Mahirap basahin ang tulang ito kung walang iisang lente na gagamitin dahil sa bawat basa ko, nag-iiba ang sentro ng aking atensyon. Isa rin akong literal na tao dahil sa aking predisposisyon bilang peryodista, kaya’t malimit ay kailangan ko muna ng magti-trigger sa aking isip para makita ko ang metaporikal na lebel ng babasahin. Marahil, wala pa akong malawak na repertoire sa pagbabasa kaya limitado ang aking perspektibo, at hindi ko makita ang mga anggulong nagtatawag ng atensyon sa isang alusyon.

Kung gagamitan ko ito ng lenteng pormalismo, marahil ay malilimitahan lamang ang aking pananaw sa paghahanap ng mga teknik na ginamit, mga balintuna, parikala, mga tema, at kung anupaman. Kung babasahin ko naman ito batay sa kung ano ang sinasabi nito sa kasarian, malamang ay hindi ako magiging epektibo, dahil walang anumang nabanggit tungkol dito. Mas lalo na sa lahi at sa uri ng ekonomik na istado ng perspektibo, ngunit maaari kong ipukol sa tulang ito na dahil hindi nito tinutuligsa ang naghaharing uri, ito ay walang konserng panlipunan, at minimintina nito ang status quo.

Maraming lente at maraming paraan ng pagbasa. Babalik at babalik ang pagbabasa sa isang teksto sa kung saan ang mambabasa ay nanggagaling. Dapat ay naisapuso na nito ang kanyang bakgrawn, sapagkat sa aking palagay, hindi sapat ang pagbabasang disembodied o out of context. Importanteng malaman kung sino ang nagsulat, ano ang isinulat, paano isinulat, kailan ito isinulat, at para kanino ba ito, para sa akin. Dito ibabase ang pagpapahalaga ng isang mambabasa sa isang akda o tula, at dito rin mapapaningning o makokondena ang isang obra base sa kanyang posisyon o sinasabi.

Ngunit bilang mag-aaral ng panitikan lamang, saan nga ba ako manggagaling?

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posted by Diablo @ 11:47 PM   0 comments
Matalik na Pagbasa sa Traveling Through the Dark ni William Stafford
Monday, August 4, 2008
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Sa paspasang pagbabasa ng tulang Traveling Through the Dark ni William Stafford, aakalain ng mambabasa na ito ay isa lamang pagsasalaysay ng isang pangyayari sa pormang prosa ngunit hinati-hati mga linya’t talata. Payak at halos hindi mala-tula ang lenggwaheng ginamit ni Stafford na tila kumbersasyonal, ngunit kung susuriing mabuti, makikita na gumamit parin siya ng mga kumbensyon ng panulaan.

Ang Traveling Through the Dark ay mayroong labingwalong linya na hinahati sa apat na taludtod bawat saknong at isang couplet na panapos. Ang tula ay walang tiyak na sukat, ngunit may mga nakapaloob na internal at half rhyme; panakanaka lamang na linyang decasyllabic; at may ilang mga linyang iambic upang magmukhang natural at hindi teknikal.

Naratibo ang ginamit ni Stafford na moda ng pagpapahayag sa tula. Seryoso rin ang kanyang tono habang siya ay nagsasalaysay ng mga pangyayari, na sa aking pananaw ay naging epektibo sa kabuuan kasama ang mga napili nitong detalye ng imahe’t tayutay. Upang mapaningning ang tula, ating, kung gayon, suriin ito sa bawat linya.

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.

Sa unang taludtod, ang persona diumano ay naglalakbay. Sa halos lahat ng mito, ang paglalakbay ay isang napakahalagang bahagi ng kwento upang ipakita ang kagitingan o kagalingan ng bida rito. Si Kristo ay naglakbay upang ipamahagi ang magandang balita ng Ama. Si Odysseus ay naglakbay ng napakatagal at napakalayo bago ito nakabalik sa Ithaka. At si Ninoy ay kinailangang sumakabilang bansa bago siya bumalik sa Pilipinas at ituring bayani. Sa aking pagbasa, tila nagbabadyang mayroong mahalagang gagampanan ang persona dahil sa kanyang paglalakbay. Ano kaya ito?

Samantala, sasabihing siya ay naglalakbay sa dilim. Bakit kaya sa dinami-dami ng pwedeng lakbayin ay sa dilim pa nito napiling maglakbay? Ayon sa aklat na Dili’t Dilim (Coroza, 1997), “Ang dilim ang una’t pangmatagalang katotohanan, ang magulang at wakas ng buhay.” Marahil, ipinapakita ng manunula na sa dilim nagmumula ang buhay, at dito rin magwawakas ito. Kung gayon, kung ang isa ay naglalakbay sa dilim, maaaring ipakahulugan ito bilang pagmumuni’t pagdidili tungkol sa simula wakas ng buhay, o sa buhay sa pangkalahatan. Ano kaya ang makikita o mararanas nito tungkol sa buhay habang siya ay naglalakbay?

Dito sa unang talata, sinasabi ring may namatay na usa sa gilid ng kalsada. Bakit usa? Ano kaya ang kahalagahan ng detalyeng ito sa tula? Maaari namang ibang mailap na hayop na malamang ay makikita sa lugar na iyon ng pinangyarihan. Malamang ay dahil karaniwang ang usa ni San Nicolas ay may alusyon sa pasko o ang pagkasilang kay Kristo. Ngunit sa ikalawang taludtod, biglang babaliktad ang mga pangyayari kung saan sasabihin ng persona na ang usa ay patay na. May bumabalot na parikala at kontras sa mga imaheng ito ni Stafford: ang masayang imahe ng usa at ang malagim kamatayan; at ang pagsisilang kay Kristo kontra sa pagpanaw ng usa upang ilarawan ang daykotomiya na ipipinta nito sa tula.

It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

Sa mga linyang ito, mapapasok natin ang kamalayan ng persona. Sa kanyang pagpapasya, pinakamainam diumano na itapon ang usa sa bangin sapagkat sa kipot ng lansangan, maaaring makadisgrasya pa ng mas maraming tao ang nakahandusay na usa sa daan. Ngunit kung papansinin, siya ay may pag-aalinlangan na tama ang kanyang gagawing pagtapon sa usa sa paraan ng kanyang pananalita, “It is usually best to…” na kung aanalisahin, may karugtong dapat na “but”. Marahil sa saglit na iyon, naiisip na ng persona ang implikasyon ng kanyang gagawin o hindi gagawin, depende sa kanyang pasya.

At kanyang mapagninilayang, “to swerve might make more dead.” Ang swerving ay bawal ayon sa batas trapiko. Ito ay ang biglang pagliko mula sa diretsong takbo ng awto. Kung biglang liliko ang isang sasakyan para ilagan ang usa, maaaring magdulot ito ng disgrasya kaya’t ayon sa manunula, pinakamainam na alisin nalang sa daan ang usang iyon. Sa kabilang banda, maaaring ipakahulugan ang salitang swerve sa di paggampan sa obyus na responsibilidad para sa ikabubuti ng iba. Kung siya’y magsu-swerve na lamang, maaaring ikamatay pa ito ng marami.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

Ayon sa mga saknong na ito, nakita ng persona ang patay na usa dahil sa tail-light ng sasakyang nasa harap niya na malamang ay siyang nakadisgrasya dito. Bumaba ito sa kanyang sasakyan upang makita ang biktima. Isa na lamang diumano itong “heap” o tumpok—isang bagay na nakabunton. Hindi na ito nilalang, kundi isa na lamang basura. Samantala, sa tantya ng persona, isa itong babaeng usa na kamamatay lamang. At nang ito ay hilain niya, napagtanto niyang malaki ang tiyan nito. Ang detalyeng ito ay pupukaw sa mga mambabasa na ang biktima ay buntis, ngunit hindi ito tuwirang sinabi ng manunula. Sinabi lamang nitong ang usa ay “large at the belly”. Malamang ay estilo ito ni Stafford: ang hindi na padramahin ang mga sitwasyong madrama, sapagkat minsan, ang labis na kadramahan ay nakakaumay na gaya ng mga tele at radyo-nobela. Dyornalistik at obhetibo ang pagkakasalaysay at paglalarawan ng persona sa pangyayari na tila wala itong isinasaksak na damdamin sa pagpapahayag.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

Nang kinapa ng persona ang tagiliran ng usa dahil nga sa ito ay malaki, napagtibay ang kanyang hinala na may laman ang sinapupunan ng biktima. Ito raw ay “warm”. Meron nanamang kontras sa mga imaheng iprinisenta ng manunula. Ang usa diumano ay “almost cold” ngunit ang kanyang tagiliran ay “warm.” Sa aking pananaw, ito ang juxtaposition ng kadiliman bilang source of coldness, at kadiliman bilang source of warmth. Kadiliman bilang kamataya’t kadiliman bilang buhay bago isilang at makita ang liwanag. Ayon nga sa tula ni Michael Coroza na pinamagatang Dilim: Lahat tayo’y takot sa dilim/ gayong ito ang ating simula/ at kung totoo ngang/ eternal ang Maylikha,/ dilim, mutyang dilim/ ang ating tadhana.

Balintuna ring maituturing na sa kamatayan pa madidiskubre ng persona ang buhay, ngunit sa kasamaang palad, ito ay buhay na hindi na makakasaksi ng liwanag. Sabi pa nito, ang nasa sinapupunan ay “alive, still, never to be born.” May mga pakahulugang maaaring ipukol sa salitang “still” sa kontekstong ito: maaaring hindi pa ito bumibitaw sa kanyang buhay; maaari ring sabihin hindi ito gumagalaw at nag-iingay na marereinforce naman ng katagang “the wilderness listen” sa susunod na saknong. Gayundin na marereinforce ang naestablish na pag-aatubili’t pag-aalinglangan ng persona sa unang saknong nang tahasan ng sabihin ng persona sa taludtod na, “Beside that mountain road I hesitated.”
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.

Umulan ng personipikasyon sa mga taludtod na ito upang ipakahulugan na buhay ang kotse dahil sa mga pandiwang “aimed” at “purred”. Ang sasakyan ay umastang aparang tao na nangangapa sa dilim (aimed ahead its lights), habang ang puso’y namimintig (purred). Ang mga paralelismong ito ay nagpapahiwatig ng malungkot na ironiya ng mala-buhay na kotse na wala namang buhay, at ang buhay na usa sa sinapupunan na nagbabadyang mamatay anumang sandali. Gayunpaman, ang mga personipikasyong ito ay nagpapahiwatig ng pagiging “persona” o pagiging tao. Na sa aking palagay ay sumasalamin din sa ating pagkatao o pagpapahalaga bilang naturingang maging tao.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

May juxtaposition uli sa personipikasyong ito sa persona: “glare of the warm exhaust turning red.” Ito, gaya ng sitwasyon ng kanyang sasakyan, ang kanyang dinaranas sa mga oras na iyon—uminit ang buong katawan habang namumula sa bilis ng pintig ng kanyang puso na parang inaatake ito ng altapresyon. At dahil nga pati ang kotse ay naging mala-tao sa pagsasalaysay ni persona, ang grupo—ito, ang patay na usa, ang usa sa sinapupupunan, at ang kanyang sarili—ay pinakinggan diumano ng “wilderness”. Ano ang maririnig ng “wilderness” dito? Ang katahimikan? Ang taimtim na panalangin at pagluluksa sa namatay?

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Ang mga mambabasa ay inihanda na ng tula para sa panapos na couplet, ang konklusyon. Matagal na pinag-isipan ng persona ang gagawin bago niya itinapon ang usa sa ilog. Matagal na itong nakapagpasya na ito ang kanyang gagawin, ngunit dito lamang niya isinakatuparan ang kanyang tungkulin para sa mas nakararami. Pansamantala siyang natigilan ngunit wala naman talaga itong ibang magagawa kundi ang inaasahan. Ang kanyang tanging “swerving” ay ang pagpapatagal sa kanyang kailangan gawin para sa lahat. Oo’t mayroon ngang moral dilemma sa kanyang gagawin, ngunit para sa nakararami, dapat ay hindi na ito nag-atubili pa.

Ano ang mahalagang gampanin ng naglalakbay na persona sa kwento gaya nina Kristo, Odysseus at Ninoy? Ano ang nagawa nitong taong ito? Mahirap labanan ang kasalanan, gaya ng ginawa ni Kristo. Mahirap lagpasan ang mga balakid gaya ng mga nasalubong ni Odysseus. At mahirap kalabanin ang diktaduryang Marcos, gaya ng ginawa ni Ninoy. Pero ang pinakamahirap kalaban ay ang sarili, gaya ng ginawa ng persona sa tula. Nakipagbakbakan ito sa kanyang konsensya bago siya nagwagi. Nanaig ang kanyang isip kaysa emosyon, at hindi lahat ay nagtatagumpay sa labang ito.

Ang tulang ito ni Stafford ay tungkol sa paglalakbay sa buhay. Lahat tayo ay naglalakbay, at lahat tayo ay may mahalagang gampanin gaya ng mga manlalakbay na sina Kristo, Odysseus at Ninoy. Lahat tayo ay naglakbay sa kadiliman, ngunit kailangan nating ipinagpatuloy ito, gaya ng persona sa tula, kahit na may masamang pangitain sa daan, ang namatay na usa, ito’y nagpatuloy parin upang makararating sa nais paroroonan. Gaya ng sabi ni Coroza sa tulang Dilim, “Sa dilim makikita/ ang sariling walang kulay,/ sa dilim madarama/ ang pag-iral ng latay,/ sa dilim maaasinta/ ang ganap na hantungan//.”

Saligan:
Coroza, Michael. Dili’t Dilim. Manila: UST Publishing House. 1997

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posted by Diablo @ 7:11 AM   0 comments
from a spiderman fan
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
i met spiderman and fell in love with him. i tried to resist. i struggled to get rid of this feeling because i know he'll never even notice me, but his flaws just drew me nearer. i felt for a second there that he needed me. i could take care of him, you know. but the thought, as i think it over now, is plainly pathetic. i knew falling in love with him was just another big mistake, not that i did anything right in my life.

who wouldn't fall in love with a hero whose torso can freeze mr. freeze and make a joke out of the joker's wits? but wait, do they actually know each other? or am i mixing things? where was i? oh yes, the way he weaves his instrument of metaphors can leave anybody stung, dumbfounded, until they realize they were about to die. yes, they: all at once.

spiderman, you own the web. no, you are the web!you're the reason why i came here even if it means ending up all sucked up and empty.

you're the biggest irony i've ever experienced. why did you salvage me from sadness only to kill me with depression afterwards? why are you called a hero at all? i don't really get it.

do you know that spiders should not be playing with fire because it's dangerous? the more i feel your fire's warmth, the more i feel hot. wait, was that irony or paradox? where was i? oh, i was just about to ask if this is just another kind of burning, with no conclusion? or was your real intention to burn me?

truth to tell, i didn't expect this to happen. i know you were cautious not to inflict this curse upon anyone, that why you wear a mask. but what if the mask doesn't matter anymore? i heard your friend harry osborn tried to take advantage of you sometime in the past, when you were at your rockbottom, but you should understand, he was just confusing things. maybe, signs. or he just wanted to comfort you and care for you, and cover you with himself. yes, however you want others to see you as this tough superhero with extra-human abilities. maybe he just saw the baby in you, and he just felt that moment that you needed care. and i can't say i wouldn't have done the same, but...

o spiderman, i hope a lizard catches you, and chew your head off so i wouldn't be so interested in having you at all anymore. so i would stop desiring for your disjointed, incoherent, incredible, and scattered body... and sensibility.

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posted by Diablo @ 6:55 PM   2 comments
Walang Panginoon ni Deogracias Rosario, Isang Matalik na Pagbasa
Friday, March 28, 2008

Makailan kong binasa ang kwento ni Deogracias Rosario na Walang Panginoon. Gusto ko mang magkaroon ng kaunting bakgrawn tungkol sa awtor upang malaman ang kanyang pinanggagalingan ngunit walang mahanap sa aklatan, at gayundin sa internet. Marahil ay bunga ito ng kawalang interes ng mga kritiko at mga manunulat sa kanya, o di kaya’y lubhang nalunod na sa kalumaan ang lahat ng tungkol sa kanya’t wala nang nakakaalala.

Ang tangi lamang tumatak sa aking isip ay ang katotohanang napakaluma na ng kwento at hindi ko lubos ma-appreciate ito. Samantalang naroon naman ang halos lahat ng elemento ng mahusay na kwento, marahil ay sa pagkwento ako mayroong problema, at iyon ay aking bibigyang paliwanag sa mga sumusunod na talata.

Sisimulan ko, kung gayon, ang pagsiyasat sa pinakaunang elemento at bahagi ng kwento patungo sa huling elemento para lamang magkaroon ng sistema ang gagawing tangkang panunuring basa sa kathang ito ni Rosario.

Una muna’y ilalahad ko ang buod ng kwento na nagsimula sa pagdidiliryo ni Marcos sa hudyat ng animas. Pagkaraa’y may matatanggap silang mag-ina na kautusan mula sa hukuman na kailangan na nilang lisanin ang lupang kanilang binubuwisan, na kung tutuusin ay kanila naman. Dahil sa nangyari, lumiyab uli ang kanyang galit kay Don Teong. Binilang pa nga nito ang lahat ng kasalanan ng may-ari ng lupa at isinisisi ang lahat ng miserableng nangyari sa kanyang buhay. Dahil sa hindi na niya makayanan, diumano, ang mga nangyayari sa kanila, nagpasya na siyang ilagay ang batas sa kanyang mga kamay. At natupad nga ang kanyang plano, ang patayin si Don Teong gamit ang kanyang kalabaw. Nagtapos ang kwento sa pagtugtog ng kampana, hudyat ng animas.

Hindi maikakailang napakaganda ng point of attack ni Deogracias Rosario upang ipakita ang epektong iniwan ng mga sakuna sa kanyang buhay—ang pagdedeliryo ni Marcos sa pagtugtog ng kampana sa ika-walo ng gabi. Sa aking tantya, hindi na bata si Marcos upang mag-asal bata. May mali talaga sa kanya kaya siya nag-aastang ganun. Hindi ko mapigilang siyasagin o saliksikin kung ano ang nangyayari sa taong ito. Bilang may kaunting nalalaman sa mga karamdaman, at bilang anak, kapatid at apo ng doktor, ako ay nagbasa at nagtanong kung anong sakit ang maaaring makapagdulot nito sa isang tao sapagkat maaaring tignan sa kanyang perspektibo ang lahat ng nangyayari sa kwento. At kung titignan nga naman, halos ang kabuuan ng kwento’y sa punto de bista niya inilalahad. Ano nga ba ang sakit ni Marcos?

Ipinabasa ko ang akda sa aking kapatid, na makaraa’y sumangguni naman sa aking ama, habang ako’y gumagawa ng aking sariling research. Iisa ang lumabas na konklusyon. Si Marcos ay may schizophrenia. Lapat na lapat. Siya ay nasa early adulthood, base sa edad ng kanyang kasintahang katataps lamang magcolegio. Tapos, kinakausap niya ang kanyang sarili. Ang masama pa nito, may quotation mark pa ang lahat ng sinasabi nito sa sarili (par. 8, 12, 24, 54), at may exclamation point pa kung mag-isip (par. 21). Ang nature ng exclamation point ay pasabi, bilang salitang may ugat na “exclaim”. Ganun din ang kanyang ina (par. 8). Isa pang sintoma ay ang perseveration/verbigeration o pag-uulit-ulit ng iisang salita o pangungusap (par. 3) na sinagot naman ng ina niya ng paulit-ulit din (par. 4). Nakakaranas din siya ng anhedonia o kawalan ng masayang pakiramdam sa buhay, dahil nga sa kanyang environment. Siya rin ay makikitaan ng social withdrawal ng alukin ito ng kanyang inang pumunta sa kubo ni Bastian (par. 11). Genetically at environmentally predisposed na siya para makamit ang underlying conditions dahil pareho sila ng kanyang ina na may ganitong sakit, bilang nakaranas ng parehas na stressor sa kanilang buhay (ang pagkamatay ng ama, asawa at anak). Si Marcos ay mayroong undifferentiated type ng schizophrenia ayon sa kombinasyon ng kanyang mga sintomas, samantalang ang kanyang ina nama’y malabong matukoy dahil sa hindi naman masyadong pinasok ang kanyang kamalayan.

Mahalagang matukoy ko ito sapagkat naging parallel sa kanyang akto ang pattern ng taong may sakit na schizophrenia, lalo na’t wala siyang tinanggap na kahit anong medication o therapy. Ang taong mayroon nito ayon kay Sheila Videbeck (2006), lalo na’t accumulated ang kanyang mga past stressor ay nagiging bayolente. Lapat na lapat sa clinical na basehan ng kwento ang paglala ng kanyang sakit na tila’y may naririnig na siyang salita mula sa kanyang sarili para gawin ang kailangan niyang gawin (par. 41). At gaya nga ng pelikulang A Beautiful Mind kung saan si Russel Crowe ay nagkamit pa Nobel Prize sa kabila ng kanyang pagiging schizophrenic, si Marcos ay nakapag-isip pa ng ultimate na paraan upang masupil na ang numero unong pahirap sa buhay nilang mag-ina. Napakagandang behikulo ito ng isang mailking kwento para mailahad ang katayuan ni Marcos at maging simbolo ang kanyang karamdamang psychological sa pangkalahatang kondisyon sa kanyang panahon, na nangangailangan na talaga ng pagkilos para mabago na ang sitwasyon. At masasabi ko rin na sa ganoon kabigat na suliranin nina Marcos, hindi gumamit ang awtor ng Deus Ex Machina, kung nagkatao’y pakiramdam ko, madadaya lang ako. Si Marcos mismo ang lumutas ng problema nila, at hindi ang kung sinumang may nakatataas na kapangyarihan, gaya nga ng titulo ng kwento, walang panginoon.

Maaaring basahin ang titulo ng kwentong ito sa maraming paraan. Una ay ang kawalan ng panginoon ng tao, ang Diyos. Tila’y pati ang Diyos ay hindi na pinakikinggan ang hinaing ng mga maliliit na taong gaya nila. Pangalawa ay ang pagkawala ng kanilang panginoong may-lupa. Pangatlo ay ang pagpapakita na ang lahat ay kayang mag-ala diyos na pwedeng kumitil ng buhay, at sa kabalikwas na paraan ng pagbasa rito, wala ring panginoon sapagkat ang panginoon ay siyang dapat nakatataas na nilalang. At ang pang-apat ay ang katotohanang walang dinidyos ang hayop.

Gayunpaman, natumbok narin naman natin ang punto de bista kanina, akin namang pupunain ang paggamit nito ng hindi malinaw na intelligence o authority in fiction. Sa isang pakikipag-usap sa aking kaibigang taga Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, nasabi kong magulo ang pinanggagalingan ng insayt ng kwento sapagkat pinapasukan nito ang kamalayan ni Marcos, ngunit pinapasok rin niya ang kamalayan ng ina. Sa aking basa, wasak ang kwento dahil walang iisang pinanggagalinagan ang insayt. Buti sana kung mahusay ang shifting ng intelligence o kamalayan ng kwento, magiging mas mabisa ang pagkaka-deliver nito, ngunit sa kaso ng Walang Panginoon, isang malaking pagkakamali ang hindi nito pagtuon sa pagpili ng angkop na point of view. Ang sabi nga ni Ophelia Dimalanta sa aming fiction class, kung inconsistent ang point of view na ginamit, ibabasura na ito sa Palanca. Dapat diumano’y conscious ang manunulat sa mga ganitong aspeto, na kung babaliin man ang rule na ito ay hindi dahil hindi ito alam ng manunulat, kundi dahil may mas mataas na purpose para gawin ito. Sa kasamaang palad, wala akong nakitang ikinabuti sana nito kumpara sa paggamit na lamang sana ni Rosario ng central intelligence sa katauhan ni Marcos.

Sa kabilang banda, habang nag-uusap kami ng aking kaibigang mula sa UP na kumukuha rin ng kursong literatura, natanong ko kung ano ang tingin niya sa pagiging inconsistent ni Rosario sa punto de bista, ang sabi niya’y “If a writer happens to be a genius who is ahead of his time by using the shifting point of view the way Sicat-Cleto use now among other fictive elements, why crucify him? There are many ways to skin a cat, and by the fact that other critics don’t agree on generally hailing him or trashing him, the guy proves his goal of de-labeling.” At ako’y napatango na lamang. Marahil nga’y iyon ang intensyon ng manunlat sa kanyang ginawa na akin namang hinahanap-hanap sa loob ng teksto, ngunit wala.

Para sa akin, pinaningning ng mahusay na pag-aayos ng awtor ang dramatikong sitwasyon at dramatikong kondisyon ang pagkakakumpul-kumpol ng mga problema ni Marcos. Ang kanilang abang kalagayan, na pinasidhi pa ng pagpapalayas sa kanila ng kanilang panginoong may-lupa. Tila maririnig mo na ang malungkot na pagtugtog ni Chopin sa bakgrawn habang binabasa ang kwento. Ngunit ang dapat pagtuunan dito ng pansin ay ang pulitikal na sinasabi ng awtor: dahil mayaman at maipluwensiya si Don Teong, kayang-kaya niyang gamitin ang hukuman para sa kanyang pagkamkam ng lupa. Nakuha ni Rosario ang aking walang-kahating atensyon ng sabihin niya ang mga katagang “ang pamahalaan ay nagkulang ng malasakit sa kanilang karalitaan upang tangkilikin ang kanilang katwiran at karapatan.”

Kumbaga sa pagkain, bakit ko kakainin ang inihanda ni Deogracias Rosario? Kahit nagkukulang ng appeal sa akin ang mga ganitong akdang ang setting ay sa malayong nakalipas, kakainin ko siguro ito dahil sa taglay nitong sustansiya. May tunggalian tayong natunghayan ng tao laban sa tao, tunggalian ng tao sa kalikasan, at ang tunggalian sa loob ng kamalayan ng pangunahin tauhan. Makikita sa tunggalian ng kwento ang kanyang ganda: ang manatili sa kabulukan ng sistema o ang pagbabago. Napakahalagang usapin nito hanggang sa kasalukuyan, at sa maraming paraan. Pwede itong tignan sa paraang Marxista, na dapat ay baguhin na ang sistemang feudal. Pwede rin naman sa perspektibong postcolonial, na dapat ay baguhin na ang ating colonial mentality. At sa perspektibo ng gender studies, na balikwasin na ang pagkokonsidera sa babae, bakla at tomboy bilang “the Other”.

Pagdating sa plot o usad ng kwento tungo sa pagbabago ng karakter, ito nama’y nagampanan ni Rosario. Sa huli’y ay mayroong heightening of an awareness, ayon sa lecture ni Mam Ophelia Dimalanta noong nakaraang semetre. Mayroon ding realization of a truth about the human condition, na gaya ng nasabi kanina, nagpasya siyang kailangan ng pagbabago at kanya nga itong isinakatuparan.

Sa kanya namang karakterisasyon, ugali na marahil ng halos lahat ng kwentista ang pagkahon. Isa uli ito sa mga akdang hindi pahihintulutan ng mga feminista. Dahil sa pati naman ang ina ay nakakaranas rin ng kawalang-katarungan, dapat siya’y nakikipag-alsa rin. Ngunit kukunin na lamang natin sa konteksto ng panahong nalimbag ang kwentong ito, 1933, wala pang usapin ng gender sensitivity noon. At de-kahon pa lamang ang lahat. Ang ina ay dapat umiiyak. ang mala-Romeo ang Juliet na elemento ay naroon, at mauuwi ito sa trahedya at iba pa. At dahil narin sa paniniwalang sosyalista nga mga Pilipino ayon kay Isagani Cruz (2000), na “poor people are innately more intelligent than rich people,” naging de kahon din ang kinalabasan ng kwentong dapat ay mautakan ni Marcos si Don Teong: makukuha niya ang kanyang inaasam na sweet revenge kahit pa may baril ang kalaban nito.

Ang paggamit ng dayalogo ay napakaunti subalit tama lamang sa haba at pacing na hinihingi ng kwento. At sadyang lapat na lapat ang pananalita sa karakter sa kwento.

Sa pagtatapos, ano nga ba ang tunay na ikinaganda ng akdang ito ni Deogracias Rosario? Sa aking palagay, ito ay ang pagtatahi-tahi niya ng mga detalye upang makarating ang pagbasa ng mambabasa niya sa kanyang nais na tukuyin. Kung anuman ito’y sa tingin ko’y wala namang makaka-monopolyo ng kahulugan o pagpapakahulugan, at sa akin lamang pananaw at pakiramdam, nagmumulat ang kwentong ito sa atin. Pakiramdam ko’y nais niyang sabihin na oras na para magbago, kahit ano man ang kabayaran nito. Walang panginoon, at hindi tayo maisasalba ng kung sinong nakatataas na kapangyarihan. Kailangan nating kumilos. Wala naman talagang happy ending, hindi nabubuhay ang tao na gaya ng sa telenobela. Isinisigaw ng kwentong ito na tayo ay gumising at langhapin ang katotohanan! Dahil at the end of it all, tayo lamang ang makakatulong sa ating sarili.

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posted by Diablo @ 9:43 AM   4 comments
The Status of Gay Lit in the Philippines
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The emergence of gay literature, including gay poetry, in the Philippines is unstoppable. Like Goethe once said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. As Danton Remoto reechoes National Artist Jose Garcia Villa said, have come, we’re here. Brandishing the now popular Ladlad anthologies and many other books, waving the words of the gay artists like flames in the wind, the flourishing of gay literature in the Philippines is underway towards the mainstream.

But what is gay literature?

According to J. Neil Garcia (1997), “Gay literature may be defined both as a self-conscious as well was unconscious production.” He continued to explain what gay literature is about, saying that, “Writing about gayness by gays who know they are gay, as well as any writings that can be read in a gay way may qualify as forms of gay literature.” Who would have thought that National Artists Jose Garcia Villa and Edith Tiempo, as well as Poet Extraordinaire Ophelia Dimalanta wrote gay literature? But as Dimalanta would always say in her class, there is no only one way of reading a poem, an in this case, I hope I wasn’t over-reading or misreading her lines, or else I’d get a failing grade.

We can therefore safely say that gay poetry are those that are (1) produced by gay writers, inevitably, because they are written in the consciousness and point of view of a gay person whose experiences are unavoidably coming from a gay perspective; (2) those pieces of poetry that talks about a homosexual experience; and even (3) those poems that are written by heterosexual poets but can be read in a gay way.

In light of the first category, there are many gay poems that we can’t see the gayness of the poet revealed in the poems. While this is not because they do not want to be read in a gay context or they don’t want to make that political decision of exposing themselves as gay, but because they are already in the “pangatlong tendensiya ng bakla sa panulaan ng bakla” (Evasco, 2003). Example of this is J. Neil Garcia’s poem entitled Poem in which he did not reveal his gay self but maintains that it is a gay poem because it can not but be coming from the perspective of a gay poet. This poem is a social commentary on poverty:

The train that stops the traffic
did not stop for the boy at play
outside his home. Today his home

is torn limb for limb by the government
that let him die in the meanness
of his childhood: accidents happen.

No ball however flew streetwise.
No small hands swiftly flung caught death mid-air
by the jaw. He was skipping but a foot away

from their lean-to. The train barely licked
the door as it blew his body and soul away
so gently, he did not even think

it was anymore painful than his hunger
or the sharply pointed dreams that came from it.
It even looked beautiful:

its footprints smoothest, straightest tracks.
Now the homes that flanked the railroads
are piles of jagged bones. The boy’s family

has buried him in memory, in haste.
They all have other things to live with,
like the city’s latest show of might.

Traffic stops. The train comes through.
The poor rebuild, endure.

Another is a poem, still by Garcia in which he included in his “Poems of a Religious Sort” entitled Nun. This, to my understanding, is a poem that talks about human nature where even though a woman chooses to be a nun, she still has human yearnings and silent needs. It is a description of the whiteness and supposed purity of a nun, which she well proves in the last for stanza. Take note of the role of irony in this poem:

All my sexual days
I am a virgin
Eunuched by habit,
Not by choice.
I wear the cloth
Of my lovelessness
Whitely, they say
With a cross
Hanging from my neck
Nike a noose,
But it is not this
That kills. Strapped
To my waist
Is a rope
That could. Its girth
Is a halo of thread
Binding up the mess
Of me:
Austere ribbon,
It keeps my pious shift
In place, my tummy
Hour-glass slim,
And time is cruelest
To a woman
At vespers.
Strangled at the crux
Where her womb lies
Entombed,
She is handmaid
To no man.
At the hour
Of twilight,
She hymns,
And hymns alone.

The second category of gay poetry is that which talks about a homosexual experience. While it is possible that a poem like this is written by a heterosexual person, I will include in this essay a gay poem written by a gay poet because more often than not, according to Evasco, “mas mapangahas, mapaglantad, at mapagsiwalat.”

Here is a poem by Nicolas Pichay which talks about oral sex. Evasco furthered that, “Ang naturang pag-adka ay isang paraang mapagpalaya at paghulagpos sa itinakdang limitasyon ng kasarian. Ang mga tula ring gaya nito ang nagtutulak sa makatang bakla na magkaroon ng espasyo sa diskurso ng paglikha.” This is a way by which gay writers be put outside of the box, proving that writing about these things should not be ashamed about because being ashamed of the truth is being shamed of one’s self. This poem is entitled This Is A Delicate Matter, Sucking Cock:

This is a delicate matter, sucking cock,
You might not like it right away.
Remember not to pounce it indiscriminately in the dark
Lest you gag with foot in your mouth.
Nevertheless, do not deprive yourself blind
To the call of truth in thyself
Nor accept as gospel truth society’s
Definition of what it is to be a man.
This is a delicate matter, sucking cock,
You might not like it right away.

The mouth must be perfectly shaped
Incisors are not permitted to claw.
The larynx should also be open
So that everything may be taken all the way.
If by these, he still does not groan in pleasure
Look again, your bedmate may be a fish.
Go look for someone else
Our community is full of mermaids.
This is a delicate matter, sucking cock,
You might not like it right away.

And there is no truth to the old wives’ tale
That a gentle man’s love is never ever repaid.
For how then that a poor shepherd such as I
Was able to find a matching slice of life
While walking along an unromantic river bank.
With a glance, he aroused the tip of my desire.
And after crossing swords without drawing blood,
We swore by the shimmer of the goddess moon.
This is a delicate matter, sucking cock,
You might not like it right away.

By my leave I give you a word
A simple advice, do not take offense
The severe and mindless tirade
Of pontificating men “holier than thou.”
Because the true mettle of a man
Is not found in his color, intellect, orientation or looks
It is in the purity and sincerity
Of his dealings with other men.
This is a delicate matter, sucking cock,
A fact that everyone must be made aware of,
No reason to hide in shame
Emerge from the dark, my friends!

The third category of gay poetry is those poems that are written by heterosexual poets but can be read in a gay way. There is quite a lot of this, since almost everything now can be read in the gay perspective. Since reading and writing both constitute to production of meanings, it is not surprising that when a gay person reads a poem in his point of view, another dimension of the writing comes out.

A classic example would be that very popular poem by Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta entitled A Kind Of Burning. A wary reader will ask right away why the lovers can’t meet but for that certain kind of burning? Perhaps, because, it is not meant to be. And what’s a more convenient way of interpreting it when it’s read by a gay person hiding in his closet? Yes, some incorporated reader’s response here and there, and if you look at it in a gay’s perspective, it’s can’t but be hailed as something true and honest in how the persona paints the situation, and how painful it would be to be trapped in that situation.

it is perhaps because
one way or the other
we keep this distance
closeness will tug us apart
in many directions
in absolute din
how we love the same
trivial pursuits and
insignificant gewgaws
spoken or inert
claw at the same straws
pore over the same jigsaws
trying to make heads or tails
you take the edges
i take the center
keeping fancy guard
loving beyond what is there
you sling at stars
i bedeck the weeds
straining in song or
profanities towards some
fabled meeting apart
from what dreams read
and suns dismantle
we have been all the hapless
lovers in this wayward world
in almost all kinds of ways
except we never really meet
but for this kind of burning.

I also picked out some pieces of interesting verses from National Artist Edith Tiempo that can be read in a gay perspective, in which a gay experience is well-described. In her Between-Living, she we all know that true love is almost unattainable in gay relationships because as they say, men are innately polygamous despite the sexual orientation. Sometimes, I am led to believe so, but I nevertheless hope that there will come a time when maturity and security will dawn upon them, us, and the ideal will be met:

When we love a wanderer,
We wait for footsteps
That may, or may not come:
First the hours, the days,
Then, the years. Then never.
Yet always we do know
Whereof we wait…

On the other hand, in the lines of her poem Belief, however illogical and incredible things are (frequently equated with a heterosexual male loving a gay male in spite of what he has or has not, and what he is and is not), this poem is a heartfelt statement of truth, not necessarily the truth but a truth believed:
Truth is the world believed:
Only what the eyes sees,
And the heart approves.


So where is gay poetry leading us?

Still according to Eugene Evasco, gay poetry has three phases. The first one is where the gay writers are writing poetry mainly to letting the world know that they appear and are present in literature. It’s a political decision to come out in the writings because they are already exposing themselves in spite of the patriarchy or the control of the mostly heterosexual male and those who share their machismo thinking. This first phase is largely characterized by aggressively graphic depiction of male to male sex as a vehicle of letting the world know who they are.

The second phase is where the gays are already made known in the scene and is now ready to actively go against the prevailing norm. This phase is often associated with the upholding of the ideals of those gays that they look up to, scrutinizing the social problems in the gay perspective, actively trashing the notion of males as the oppressors of the supposed weaker sexes, discriminating against the institutions that have gender insensitive policies, among many others. As Jun Cruz Reyes bluntly stated, “hindi na lamang titi ang pinoproblema ng makata,” on the contrary, they are already making active movements against those who manifest acts or even tendencies of looking down on them.

And in the third phase, as Evasco very well put it, “Nalulusaw naman ang kasarian sa ikatlo at huling tendensiya ng panulaan ng bakla…Hindi na maaaring matukoy ng mambabasa abf kasarian ng persona ng tula, maliban na lamang kung batid nito ang kasarian ng makata.” This goes to say, like how Neil Garcia talks about things around him without being known as a gay, that gays are not different from the heterosexual people around, thus eradicating the notion of the Other. In this phase, gays talk about history, academe, politics, agrarian reforms, government and other things without giving notice to the sexuality of whoever is saying it.

I would like to quote Zenaida Amador of the Philippine panorama who once said that, “It’s my hope that the time will come when the topic of homosexuality will be boring, irrelevant or unimportant. What is really important is to be creative helpful human beings, irrespective of whom you love.” This is an example of a very post-modern, post-colonial thinking. All that gay writers are working for and exerting all their efforts for is for this time to come that we all accept our differences at the same time, recognize our equality. This is supported by a certain Chong Ardivilla from the Manila Standard who said that, “Malate is only a tiny island and the ocean around it has yet to accept the reality that is gay.” He drove home his point by adding, “ Our society still needs a lot of growing up to do.”

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posted by Diablo @ 2:47 AM   0 comments
Mahal Ko...
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Gusto kong umiyak sa iyong mga balikat gaya ng dati. Magsumbong ng mga nararamdaman. Gusto kong ibuhos lahat ng sama ng loob at mga hinanakit, at kung bakit hindi ako makatulog sa gabi. Gusto kong ilabas ang lahat ng aking dinarammdam. Gusto kong yakapin mo ako at muling patahanin. Gusto kong sabihin mong ang lahat ay makakayanan nating lagpasan. Gusto kong padaanin mo uli ang iyong kamay sa aking likod at tapikin hanggang ako’y makatulog. At iyong hahalikan ang aking noo ng marahang marahan, at bubulungan ng “mahal na mahal kita.”

Pero kapag nalaman mong ikaw ang ugat ng lahat ng paghihinagpis ko, lahat ng mga luha ko, lahat ng sama ng loob ko… Na ikaw ang dahilan ng pagsakit ng dibdib ko at pagbaba ng tiwala ko sa sarili… Ano ang gagawin mo?

Ngunit sa likod ng mga ito’y hindi ko naman iniinda. Mabigat at masakit man ang iyong mga paratang, hindi ko magawang talikuran kita ng ganun ganun na lamang. Ikaw pa rin ang aking iniisip sa pag-abot ng mga pangarap. Ikaw pa rin ang aking iniisip sa pagsapit ng akinse at atrenta ng buwan. Ikaw pa rin ang aking iniisip bago ako mahimbing sa pagtulog. Dahil mahal kita. Ngunit kung hanggang kailan ay hindi ko alam.

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posted by Diablo @ 1:19 AM   3 comments
About Me

Name: Diablo
Home: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
About Me: Kung ikaw ay isang manunulat at ikaw ay sinabihan ng "isa ka lang malabnaw na tinta" (halaw sa gawa ni Rose Jabiguero), ito na marahil ang pinakamasakit na insultong pwede nilang isumbat sa iyo. Sa umpisa pa man, inaamin ko na, isa lamang akong patak ng malabnaw na tinta...na hinalo sa isang basong tubig kung saan ako'y naroroon ngayon.
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