Sunday, August 31, 2008

the vanishing pen

Fred Jordan Mikhail T. Carnice
The Weekly Sillimanian
August 28, 2008

Any form of crisis forces people to panic. Panic, in return, causes foundations to crumble. People, with the aid of whatever available noodle is in their heads, go forward in eradicating chaos and defeat, chiefly because of the dangers they carry along. Unfortunately, this assurance of assistance rarely happens in the circle of literary writing. Especially for a city where acacias sprout the juvenile words of poetry, where the boulevard sunrise pushes fictitious tales to materialize on paper, and the inevitable wave of midday heat commemorates the birth of a timeless memoir; it’s saddening to know that Dumaguete’s artistry has become limited instead of being boundless.

There has always been a magic in this city that, unlike any other place, makes inanimate objects specially coexists with humans—a relationship that has caused a thousand thoughts to spring up into text. That is why the place is beautiful. In Dumaguete, the pen seems to enthusiastically scrawl virgin letters on the blank pages of the notebook though at some point in time, it halts its progression for a while maybe because of the needed rest or the required period of persistent rethinking. Literature succeeds in time; but what importance and use is this resilience against the natural capacity of change if man halts the process of creation? Most definitely, there is none. If the pen is gone, creation also stops. And currently, the pen in the city does not only have its ink drying up but is slowly vanishing.

I know the current ripples in the literary world that involved Sillimanians this year—our very own Ian Rosales Casocot won 1st prize in the English short story category of the Palancas and even got himself in the longlist of Man Asia Literary Prize 2008, along with Sillimanian Lakambini Sitoy, for an unpublished novel. Even Butch Macansantos, a Silliman literary artist, has triumphed as a 1st placer for poetry in English in the Palancas too. And this month, we shall witness Marjorie Evasco receive her Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Creative Writing. It is indeed warming to acknowledge all these but there’s no denying they are among the few bearers of the pen. Or maybe, they are the only bearers of the pen who strive hard to retain the city’s title as the Creative Writing capital of the Philippines. Well, such effort is still of little value if the people behind them, who could follow them, or should look up to them, wallow in apathy the size of their bloated egos.

And then the questions: What about the young sector that comprises the majority of universities? Have they bound themselves to the clutches of hypocrisy to the extent that they believe carrying T-squares, PH bags, and heavily decorated multi-colored classroom illustrations guarantees them the brightest future of awe-inspiring income? Have they just lost it that they’d disregard the fact that art is also a significant fraction of a community’s rich cultural heritage and growth? Or maybe both?

These questions may not have mushroomed if the root of the problem had been removed from the soil, way before it grew up. The practice is almost gone if not for the efforts of some university publications that encourage students to write. Because Sands & Corals, the university’s official literary folio that was born in 1948, has been nowhere in sight for two years, the Weekly Sillimanian created Dark Blue Southern Seas (DBSS) last 2007. There has been a wide circulation of its call for submission of entries, inside and outside the campus, but to no avail. The number of works that we’ve received was disappointing. Yet, we pushed through because we should. Because, to quote a line in the foreword I’ve written for DBSS 2008, “persistence in plans is still better than stagnation in actions.”

It’s really unfortunate to be facing this seeming lack of interest where only a few are really concerned, particularly in this institution that holds the oldest Creative Writing workshop in Asia. That’s why anyone can say that the life of the letters in Dumaguete is in a state close to extinction. The young ones have lost the touch of the pen, have lost the idea that people write for the affirmation of existence, write for the biggest enlightenment extracted from the smallest of things. But even though I am here in the city as the sole Creative Writing major of Silliman, along with a handful of non-CW major who are bitten by the writing bug, I am buoyant of a sudden mentality shift, remain positive that in the “nearest someday” people will develop an appreciation for writing—especially the students.

Dumaguete does well up with the divine, the dwende, or the muse that causes creation of stories, so let’s put them to good use. For even in the midst of crisis, the pen must move on.

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