Today is the first of the 50th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop.
Informally, it began yesterday at Bencab Museum where a simple yet Palm Sunday-ish welcome party was hosted by no less than National Artist Benedicto Cabrera. Later in the day, panelists such as National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, U.P. Institute of Creative Writing director Jose Dalisay Jr., Gemino Abad, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Neil Garcia, Charlson Ong, Conchitina Cruz, Rolando Tolentino, Mario Miclat, and Romulo Baquiran Jr. will share their expectations moderated by this year’s workshop director, fictionist Jun Cruz Reyes, the sacrificial lamb.
On the other hand, the incoming fellows for English are Jennifer Rebecca Ortuoste, Ronald Baytan, Clarissa Militante, Allan Pastrana, Nerissa Del Carmen Guevara, and Yvette Tan. Fellows for Filipino are John Torres, German Gervacio, Genevieve Asenjo, Axel Pinpin, Khavn dela Cruz, and John Iremil Teodoro will respond. For the past few years, Igorot Lodge at Camp John Hay in Baguio City has been the home for these young writers and literary giants such as National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario who is on sabbatical leave like us. But, in our own little way, we do our share by asking our country’s best writers in their crossroad or “mid-career” about their reasons for their passion.
Take it directly from the arts' 12 apostles' creeds:
Jennifer Ortuoste: “Where do I start this story? “Begin at the beginning...then go till you come to the end, then stop.” So said the King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and it’s a perfect answerto my quandary of knowing where to start telling a story that spans time and space, and weaves in and out and meanders and overlaps in my own personal wonderland, just like everyone else’s story, for such is the nature of life itself. Life isn’t clearcut or well-defined; it has ragged edges that poke uncomfortably like sinamay and smooth surfaces gleaming like satin and all sorts of other textures all mixed up, like a pieced and embroidered crazy-quilt. And like a quilt, life and its experiences wrap around one’s consciousness, molding and shaping and influencing, giving rise to an
individual’s personal mythos.”
German Gervacio: “Dalawa ang nakikita kong dahilan kung bakit kailangang balikan at namnamin muli ang kasaysayan. Una, nahirati tayong lantawin ang kasaysayan at tulang epiko sa pangunguna ng bayani sa kasaysayan at bayani sa epiko. Layunin ng tulang hinahabi na pagsalitain ang karaniwang mamamayan bago dumating ang mga mananakop at tantiyahin ang kanilang mga iniisip at dinarama sa panahon ng pananakop. Ikalawa, nais kong mag-eksperimento sa wika at porma sa muling pagsasalaysay at pagsasasaysay ng kasaysayan. Ibinabaling ko rin sa mula sa bayani ng epiko ang gahum tungo sa mas nakararaming masa, na sa tingin ko nama’y siyang tunay na may sukbit na gahum tungo sa pagbabago. Kung gayo’y bagaman, tulang epiko pa rin ng pakikipagsapalaran, pinili kong huwag bigyan ng eksaktong mukha ang bayani, bagkus, ang mukha ng rebolusyon o pakikibaka ay laging ang mukha ng bayangsama-sama.”
Yvette Tan: “I write for only one reason: If I didn’t, I would go crazy.”
Genevieve Asenjo: “Una kong napagdesisyunan magsulat ng nobela minsang nasa coffee shop at muling nadalaw ng mga katanungang “Kung tatapusin ko ang Ph.D., ano ang isusulat ko sa panahon ng bird flu, terorismo, at palawak na divisyon ng mahihirap at mayayaman dala ng globalisasyon? Paano mas magiging makabuluhan bilang akademiko at manunulat?”
Allan Pastrana: “If there is anything certain about writing, it is the anxiety with which we
have considered or examined this act since the crucial epistemological break introduced by Saussure and his contemporaries into the limits of language. In more ways than one, it has assumed the consequential force of the destruction of the Tower of Babel—not merely some modern-day retelling of the story but a veritable consummation of the polemics involved in the establishment of knowledge and its understanding.”
John Iremil Teodoro: “Kung ang lalaking makatang si Mike Bigornia ay sinasabing “bisyo ang pag-ibig” at ang sabi naman ng iniidolo kong babaeng makata na si Rebecca Añonuevo na siya ay “lasing sa pag-ibig,” ako naman na isang makatang bading ay “baliw sa pag-ibig.”
Nerissa Guevarra: “Guevara means galleon. I knew your father. He was a doctor. Ang yaman ninyo.”Dr. Perez of Perez Optical still stands behind the glass cases unchanged since my college years. The dust is just as thick as the vintage glass frames on sale. How he can sit there, his store jutting out like an appendix barely holding its seams together beneath the ateway Complex, I do not know. These I will write about and manyother stories yet. These are a group of vignettes, tangents. They might not amount to the long Story. But these are my stories.”
Axel Pinpin: “Wala itong iniwan sa isang eksena ng action movie. Kaming lima ang
mga tauhang sakay ng isang kakarag-karag na box-type Lancer. Iyon bang laging napasabog. Pagabi na noon. Takbong hindi nagmamadali ang aming oto. Nang biglang sumagitsit pabalandra ang isang puting L-300. Puno ng kontrabida. Mga batikang goons at stuntman ang porma. May naka-type B military uniform. May nakabonnet.”
Ronald Baytan: “The title of my current project, like the two previous books, contains the word “Queen.” Despite the fact that naming the self “queen” is lethal, almost self-immolating, in a very effeminophobic gay culture, I have no qualms about using the word. As I’ve always taught my students, nomenclatures will always be inadequate to fully capture the complexity of our lives. Given the title of the collection, the book is undeniably gay (after all, what else can the work be but gay, given my subject-position as a gay writer? And no matter what I do, even if I talk about “non-gay” matters, the collection will still be gay by virtue of the consciousness that engendered it)—but it is more concerned with midlife. Finally, the 25-year old queen is turning 40 in a year’s time. So what now?”
Clarissa Militante: “My reasons for writing may be changing. There is not one overarching philosophy or influence underlying these reasons. I can only cite specific occasions when I felt the need to acknowledge the question “why do I write?” When I’m deep into a novel—reading the work of others—I get convinced that I need to write too, as I realize that I make sense of the world and its chaos through fiction. I write because I am an avid reader of fiction. Fiction is the medium through which I understand histories, ideologies, philosophies, religions, etc. But I will contradict this faith in fiction by saying that it is only in accepting the limitations of literature that I am able to write.”
John Torres: “Naghanap ako ng panibagong panghihiraman sa ikatlo kong pelikula, Ang Ninanais (Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song). Sa pagpunta ko sa Iloilo, kung
saan gumawa ako ng pelikula base sa tono ng bose at hindi ng wika, humiram
ako sa mga bagay na hiwalay sa salita, na may paglalambing at pakikipaglaro sa
kanilang sariling kultura, paniniwala at kasaysayan.”
Khavn de la Cruz: “There is no day but today. So I seize it. This is my compulsion. This is my phobia. This is my philosophy. This is my morality. This is my aesthetic. I live in mortal fear of stopping because it leads to doing nothing. Momentum is my religion. Rust never sleeps. I die tomorrow. One day all will be made clear. One day when it’s too late. Everybody is a magazine. We all have issues. These are mine.”
Most people hate to parallel park. The other day, I saw this woman trying to get out of a tight parking space. She'd bump the car in front, then back-up and strike the car behind her. This went on about two minutes. I walked over to see if I could somehow help. My offer was declined though. She said, "Why have bumpers if you're not going to use them once in a while?"
To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little.
To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her