Wednesday, October 29, 2008

unfinished hits

Vacation is nearing its end and the plans in my to-do list didn’t ensue. They just remain, ermm, like plans! To think of it, I am provided with an almost 3-week holiday, a relatively longer sembreak compared to last school year’s (maybe to compensate the one-week break the university “offered” before), and I just remain here in my hometown, almost becoming a part of the PC for being to glued to it all the time. Well, aside from this, here’s some half-baked goodness that I’ve done for the past few days.

Hit 1: Tidying Up
My old wardrobe is just filled with clothes and various things I do not use anymore. I grab one piece after the other, trying to get more purging than hoarding. From empty perfume bottles, ancient documents, oversized shirts reminiscent of yesteryear’s trend to faded jeans, I pile them up in one tower and set it aside. I am overly relieved but when I see this closet beside my shelf full of books and digests, in different sizes and is not arranged in alphabetical manner, all happiness go down the drain. I’m working on you, bookshelf, next time! (Cue roaring thunder)

Hit 2: Sketches
Because I’ve planned to stage an art exhibition in the university this second semester, I’ve started doing some sketches every late afternoon. The heat is too much I can’t concentrate but when I start turning on the air-conditioner in my mum’s room and work in there, the coolness bothers me too. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not the right time for me to work on something artsy.

Hit 3: Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
An acquaintance has suggested this book to me ages ago and when she has noticed that my attempts of buying the book is futile, she pulls from the bookshelf her personal copy and slaps it in front of my face (almost literally). I did enjoy reading the first few pages of it, some tales kind of leaning on the Marquez fantastical sensibilities, but then some things just get into your way. And the book is forgotten. Where is it, anyway?

Hit 4: The Epic of Staring
It’s actually a work in progress. I have started writing this poem many months ago. I am trying to submit it somewhere for possible publication. Yes, this is one my goals these days—to see even one bit of literary work in print. It is a bit longer than my usual works. Well, the title says its “epic” so it should be grander in scale. The gist? Umm, it’s hard telling what it is all about here. Let’s meet!

Hit 5: Revisions and Writing
There’s a script, a short story, and a bundle of poems. I’ve written these works last semester for my classes. And now, here comes the time that I have to face their inner demons. Yes, the flaws and all! I have even planned of writing another short story for LitCritters Dumaguete, you know, just to be ahead from the others (wink!). But my brain remains like a mechanical thing, non-responsive to my literary demands! This must be the reason why I just kept on staring at my poem mentioned before this last hit.

And in just a few hours, I'll be back in Dumaguete to finish some business.


Monday, October 27, 2008

goodness gracious!

Waaah! I’ve just sent my very first job application. I know it’s so much later than anyone else but who cares! I just did it, not of the impending need, but because boredom has finally drilled into my thinking cap. Yep, I do experience boredom once in a while. Well, so much for that. I’ve just sent my very first job application! Waaah!

Can’t help but scream, really (online lang po). Right now, I am mindlessly drifting between the imaginariums of glorious corporate skyscrapers and stinking unemployment bean bags. You know, it’s just hard to recover from this realization that I have to decide, to settle in one point or direction when all crossroads seem to suddenly materialize before you one day. It sure is hard… Well, pardon me but this needs one more scream: Waaah!


Friday, October 24, 2008

how clever

In all honesty, I am still updating my Friendster account. Yeah, I know, the site is obsolete in this time and age but doing it's my only way of getting in touch with my high school mates. I don’t really know why they are stuck with it but I forgive them. Anyway, back to Friendster. This morning, I asked this person if he/she has this or that account but then he/she only has Friendster (rolling of the eyeballs) so fine, I asked for his/her profile name (the stupid me should have asked for the email ad therefore more rolling of the eyeballs). Okay, he/she gave a name, told me to find him/her in another friend’s account and tried to find for it hours ago. After every running minute, anxiety hit me. “Where is this person?!”

Then, because of the person’s signature pose and that unmistakable smirk, I found it. And my goodness, how would you ever find the right person if his/her profile name has these weird, unreadable, almost-outlandish characters originating from the depths of the earth? Tell me, how would you read these names?

Okay, fine, these people think it’s cool but I guess they have to go back to kindergarten and learn how to write the alphabets the proper way. As for that person, thanks to his/her exceptional primary photo that I was able to find him/her. Well, this is just one of the many reasons I’m having a cold heart towards Friendster. He ain’t that friendly anymore.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

december six two thousand eight

I know the importance of current events. To know the happenings around you is not only beneficial, it makes you belong to this order of people who think and who care. This may sound a bit elitist but relatively it’s true. But who would have thought of having a test, a periodical examination to be specific, that has an item questioning when is Manny Pacquaio’s next fight? This is true, mind you. It exists in a Grade 5 class managed by clandestine sisters. Minus the biases against this sports star, this setup is just far too appalling. Sometimes, you can say it’s weird. So is this the kind of education the Philippines is bragging off? Well, I don’t really know. As for the answer to the question, look up, it’s the title for this post. Just correct me if I am wrong, or better, inform the nuns.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

go chrome!

I’ve just installed the latest browser that has been creating a buzz in the net, the Google Chrome. What I really appreciate with Google is their diktat for simplicity, order, and design. No clutter here! An open-source web browser built to support web applications and search with speed and stability, Google Chrome is currently available for Windows XP and Windows Vista (so Mac and Linux users, you wait).

One thing that also got me into it is that the features are cute, if not innovatively restyled. And tweaking the settings is so easy. You are not bombarded with a whole set of buttons and directions that lead you nowhere but a deadened headache when you want to change something. Well, that’s for a no-fuss person talking such as me.

Already considered a menace to Explorer, Firefox, and Opera, Chrome still has its downside though. According to, “...some images [that] do not show for no apparent reason.” Maybe, it’s the plugins that didn’t work. Hey, tell me, what else could go wrong with this? But so far, I am enjoying its fast internet browsing experience—faster than any fastfood resto in town.



And the wind stopped whistling when the bamboo bent the other way.
Oct 21 / 08 (12:59am)

There are some dusts in a room’s corners that are better off not swept. Just there, staying like little ornaments, to add a touch of rusticity and the like. You don’t remember them for a long time but suddenly, like the feeling of being stared at, there’s this flicker that makes you think of the dusts. You consider cleaning them up so that everything will be clean, spotless from the scrupulous and criticizing eyes, but then again, you think, how? What for? And most especially, why should I?

This is the irony of it all; you are seen as someone unclean but there’s no denying, you know, that once you’ve tried to settle things out but it won’t just work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

5th lamiraw creative writing wrkshop fellows

My friends are indeed active in this season’s writing workshops. This time a co-fellow of the Iligan Workshop, who represented the Visayas for Fiction in Bisaya, made it to this year’s Lamiraw. Humorous and always gay, Efmer E. Agustin, is among the twenty three fellows of the 5th Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop slated on November 5 – 7, 2008, at TTMIST, Calbayaog City, Samar.

This year's NCCA fellows from Samar, Leyte and Biliran and other regions are:

1. Reza Magdaraog (Capul, Northern Samar)
2. Dianne Marzol (Capul, Northern Samar)
3. Marlon Mente (Capul, Northern Samar)
4. Efmer Agustin (Abuyog, Leyte)
5. Edwin Briones (Abuyog, Leyte)
6. Michael Villas (Palo, Leyte)
7. Imelda Ruiz (Tacloban City , Leyte)
8. Jerby Santo (Tacloban City , Leyte)
9. Kevin Capablanca (Naval, Biliran)
10. Hermie Sanchez (Catbalogan City , Samar)
11. Arthur Macabasag (Borongan, Eastern Samar)
12. Jude Casaljay (Sta. Margarita, Samar)
13. Dolores Pitao (Calbayog City, Samar)
14. Jessie Baldomaro (Calbayog City, Samar)
15. Lorna De Veyra (Calbayog City, Samar)
16. Nemesio Baldesco (Calbayog City, Samar)
17. Rhea Rosales (Calbayog City , Samar)
18. Joseph Lim (Calbayog City , Samar)
19. Reynel Ignacio (Calbayog City , Samar)
20. Ryan Labana (Calbayog City , Samar)
21. Chuck Smith (Sampaloc, Manila)
22. Ma. Yasmin Doctor (Las Piñas City , Manila)
23. Jondy Bajada (Davao City)

The Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop is an annual activity held in the month of November at Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology (TTMIST) under the auspices of the Arts, Social and Cultural Affairs (ASCA) Office of TTMIST and the Research, Extension and External Affairs (REEA) Office of TTMIST in Calbayog City , Samar .

This workshop is jointly funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the TTMIST. The founding of the Lamiraw Literary Arts Organization, an arts discipline at TTMIST.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

students going overboard

Yesterday, I wrote a post that was just the tip of the iceberg matter on how students are losing their interest in education. But when I stumbled upon Sir Ian’s blog post entitled Death Threats for Good Grades, I discovered that it was not only the interest that they were losing but their sanity, too.

To mash up Sir Ian’s concern into one short summary, students are now capable of giving death threats to their teachers in order to pass a certain subject. Also, just recently, a friend of mine from UP Diliman even told me that there’s this specific teacher whose office building is terrorized by bomb threats and the like. Gone now are the traditional backstabbing, the usual labeling that the teacher is but a hellish one, the puncturing of the car tires. This time, they can go further by giving teachers a P3,000 prize money on their heads. And what more, the said “pricing” was formulated by the students’ parents so as to end the cycle of getting their children schooled-dropped-schooled. They are using poverty as an excuse to mask incompetence.

The news slapped me so hard in the face. Could students really stoop this low? This shallow that studying is the most tasking thing to do in the world? This desperate that one’s life merely equals a cheap DVD player at the tiangge? If so, then the nation is indeed in a state of turmoil. Imagine, compromise is out of people’s vocabulary and hardwork is considered exaggeratedly true to its word!

As a Sillimanian who is talking about fellow Sillimanians gone overboard, this pains me so much knowing that our institution still has teachers who are excellent in their careers, who still succumb to the demands of having a thankless job. The department Sir Ian mentioned in his post is also my department that’s why this whole no non-sense word spill alarmed me.

As what I have commented in the said post, if these students want to pass college that easy, they should find an institution that equals a day-cay center! And the nerve—these students still have the guts to complain why they are repeatedly getting F’s (Fail) when they, to quote a line from Ian’s post, “submit a paper clearly copy-pasted from the Internet (including hyperlinks printed in blue)….” My jumping bullfrogs!

I know this is not only a case that’s brooding in Dumaguete City but a national one, or maybe, even worldwide. What I am only hoping for is that everyone’s hearing this silent noise, this usually disregarded fact that from desperation springs mentality going out of proportion. Times have changed and all that has been circulating could possibly happen. Something must be done.

Friday, October 17, 2008

out of school

Yes, I’ve been lounging in our house for almost a week exam-free, article-free and basically everything that involves the university. It’s not that I’ve longed to get out of college (heck no, I wanted to extend it pa gani), but I am just enjoying the break. School is fun, really. Then suddenly, Donna, the ultimate source of gossip and all things seedy, has sent me this morning a message saying:

“I’m at the b/f and some mom just found out
that her son didn’t even enroll last sem….”

Isn’t this so tragically sad? My, for four months, what could her son be possibly doing in Dumaguete? The list of answers is actually eternal. I thought this only happens in American television shows that give a picture of the rich and the nasty. I am mistaken. For a third world country, I am still momentarily stunned that there are indeed some young people who do not value what they have and could possibly have.

URGENT UPDATE! It is just so hard to admit but university student these days are as desperate as rabid dogs longing for a bite. And what awful bite they could make! Students no longer sulk in a corner whenever they commit a mistake but this time they can do more than just cold stares and curses at one’s back.

Read this post here, entitled Death Threats for Good Grades, written by Ian Rosales Casocot, and you’ll see what I am talking about.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Alright, keep it that way,
wait for the clouds to rain on you
and let us see what good it is
to be drenched in cold water
when the sun has already promised us
the break we've always longed for.

Oct 16 / 08 (12:38 am)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the bells are ringing

Nope. It’s not the Christmas bells, it’s from the church. Or maybe not, but still, it has the same sense. Someone is getting married. You know who this is, I am pretty sure. One of the very few genuine activists of the university, this woman has shaved off her hair and walked around the campus like nothing has changed. Big deal? Well, she is just one of those who has appeared in Cebu and readied to rally the coming Asean Summit meeting only to find out that it was postponed. Wait, was it the Asean meeting? Forget it. I’ve just received this message in my Friendster’s inbox: “maybe i'm getting married next week! Friday, 24!”

She stated in her message to spread the news and I did. So, I have nothing else to say but congratulations and, ermm, take care!

25th cornelio faigao annual writers workshop fellows

Congratulations to my classmate, Sonia! You didn't tell me you are joining this. Anyway, this post is taken from RV Escatron. The upcoming 25th Cornelio Faigao Annual Writers Workshop of Cebu is to be held on October 17 to19 at the University of San Carlos Retreat House. Of the 15 fellows, 13 are from Cebu City.

Among the 13 fellows who are from Cebu City are Jona Bering, Bobby Cabangon, Charmaine Carreon, Pete Zaesar Galula, Jude Gitamondoc, Dennis Judilla, Maddie Llacer, Rhodora Magan, Neile Genica Mijares, Tez Marie Tan, Lilia Tio, Maria Eleanor Valeros, and Cindy Velasquez. Joining them from out of town are Sonia Sygaco from Dumaguete City and Elmer Agustin from Tacloban City. Panelists for this year’s workshop are award-winning writers Resil B. Mojares, Merlie Alunan, and Adonis Durado; and Erlinda Alburo, who will serve as workshop director. and two are from other cities in Region 7.

An outreach program of the USC through the Cebuano Studies Center, the workshop started in 1984 has served as training ground for around 250 creative writers writing in English and Cebuano not only in Cebu but also in other Cebuano-speaking parts of the country.

Monday, October 13, 2008

a literary competition in bohol

I read this article in The Bohol Chronicle yesterday and I thought, maybe, my home province has a hope in the Philippine literary scene. At the back of my head, I was thinking all along that Bol-anons did not care about anything artsy-fartsy. Well, perhaps, not anymore.

The article is written by Carmen Caga. By the way, I don't know if it's just with me but I feel there's something funny and wrong in the write-up. Sigh.

* * *

Deadline is on Saturday for the submission of entries for the 2nd Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Literary Awards for Poem Writing, J. Ning Literary Awards for Essay Writing, and Bob M. Mejorada Literary Awards for Short Story Writing.

The contests are open to all, except members of the Committee on Awards. Officers of the sponsoring groups, the Association of Writers and Radio Announcers Foundation, Inc. (AWRAFI) and the Bohol Literary Arts Circle (BLAC) are disqualified from joining the English category and officers of the Lubas sa Dagang Bisaya, Inc. (Ludabi), Metro Tagbilaran-Bohol chapter are disqualified from joining the Bisaya category.

All entries must be typewritten or encoded through the computer, double-spaced using short bond papers. Each entry must be produced in four copies.

Poem writing entries (English and Bisayan) must not be less than five stanzas but not more than 14 stanzas.

Short story writing entries (English and Bisayan) must not be less than four pages, but not more than 10 pages.

An entry must have a title and it must not bear the name and address of the contestant. However, the complete name and address of the participant and the title of the entry must be written on a small piece of paper placed in a small sealed envelope. The small sealed envelope must be placed in a large envelope together with the entry which bears the title only.

The criteria for the judgement of the entries shall be as follows:
Organization (unity, coherence, emphasis, grammar) - 50%
Relevance - 25%
Style - 25 %

Theme of the contest will revolve around truth and accountability.

The poem writing is in honor of Pres. Garcia who was known as the Prince of the Bisayan Poets while J. Ning Romea was renowned as feature writer of the Bohol Chronicle. Mejorada, on the other hand, was well known for his published short stories.

All entries must be submitted to:
Atty. Raul Barbarona
2nd Floor, K of C Bldg.
K of C Drive, Tagbilaran City

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the last sembreak, maybe

"I thought it will always be that easy,
rolling up the clothes, deciding the needs,
and packing the rest lightly,
but upon carrying the luggage one noon,
in every step, the load became heavier and heavier
that the whole trip made me ache in pain."
Oct 11 / 08 (02:16pm)

Someone just gave me a strong blow on the head. There was no bleeding, don’t worry. “This could be your last sembreak,” she said before I left Dumaguete to go back to Tagbilaran. Pausing for a while, her words seeped into my rational coconut. My goodness, she could be right. If all arrows point to that path everyone seemed to be so jittery and excited about, yes, this could be my very last.

Four years. That’s how long I’ve been living the life of a student meeting different people matched with different eccentricities. To me, these years are categorized in two sets: first is the Turtle-Slow Years and second the Fickle-Fast Years. The basics here is that the first set makes one to take things in perspective the overachieving way but tends to look at time to be so sluggish he or she ends up bored. The second part is the exact opposite. One just takes everything so lightly that an “INC” in a grade form is but a brush on the shoulder, a speck of dirt on the shoe. As long as it is done in the near end, everything’s just fine. Aside from that fact, days will just pass like a minute or so. One will just be surprised it’s the final examinations. And of course, the anticipated break follows. But this time, I am starting to doubt if I wanted this vacation.

Looking back, the trail I’ve made in the university is quite, shockingly, interesting. I have metamorphosed into various forms not known to many acquaintances. From a 3rd floor library bug, a student nurse shadow, a constant all-around competition contender, a radical regional organization leader, a lonely Creative Writing major drowning in the shadows of Katipunan Hall, a College of Mass Communication honorary member, to a broken piece of emotional apparatus and a features editor for two consecutive years, I can say that I’ve accepted a wide array of roles many would not like to take.

It is just oh-so fortunate that along the way, in the path mentioned earlier, I’ve met a few strangers that somehow possessed the same line of thinking that I had. Some joined in the stroll, had an animated chat, and left. Some even took the extra mile of carrying my things but, sad to say, the moves were just for show. Some remained and learned the way I walk that they’d run with me when I run for fun, jog in place with me when I jog in place to build up the mood, and rest on a bench when I rest on a bench for a much needed rest. In the coming days, though it’s too early to say, I put my hopes on solid anchor that all the people who I consider my “special” acquaintances will sit on the bench with me whether I am on sembreak or not.

Hope to see you soon, bullfrogs! Keep on hopping.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

camera whores

There are only a few good photographers in campus and I think there are only two of them. That may not be a good thing but it’s definitely better than none. What’s bad (and sad) is that the two are leaving for good. Primy Cane and Leon Medado, both Weekly Sillimanian shooters, are optimistically graduating this semester.

Well, instead of bumming around and breeding an anticipated sadness, we had an instant photoshoot that ate up most of our day. We had nothing to do at that time so I, Budjai, Donna, June, and Marianne grabbed whatever we can use for the shoot while Primy prepared an instant studio in the office. Everything was not a waste anyway—Primy could use the shots for her folio.

Friends, more pictures here.

And oh, for everyone’s sake, that’s the photographer by the way in her infamous “you’ve used my pictures for your Facebook and cropped out my watermark?” look. Who took that shocking picture? Well, it’s none other than Leon (whose picture I can’t find anywhere in my bucket of photos stressing the point that he should remain behind the camera). And don’t worry, Primy, I’ve used one of your shots with your copyright on.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

two women in two books

Philippine literature must be in good condition these days. Considering the tremendous outputs by Filipino writers, in various national or local publications and competitions, from across the country, we can support the idea that a sector of the public has finally gotten the much needed practice and leisure of reading—after a long literary drought.

But reading, in an unsatisfactory note, has its biases. People have its preferences on what to read and what not to read. Politics has even marred literature that what’s usually considered serious and worthy are those often praised by established (or commercial) critics. Approach a passerby at the street or a blue-collar employee around town and ask what Philippine novels they know. For sure, the answer will either be Noli Me Tangere or El Filibusterismo.

Jose Rizal’s books may be considered mature and important for they have been introduced to many in high school, to enhance the understanding of the past’s social setting, but how about the recent ones? Those writings that, though not widely circulated like the Noli or El Fili, have substance that equals the value of many social-realist and “mature” literature? Indeed, it is sad to say that literature right now is immediately associated with entertainment, the kind of entertainment that has no value, no factor for knowledge development, and has no relevance whatsoever. In short, they are not “real.” If a certain work presents a great deal of highfalutin, fantastical element interwoven in a political and domestic melodrama, then this fresh work would fall under the category of popular culture because, as what many “scholarly thinkers” would deem, it would not last through time or it would only gain its fifteen minutes of fame. It is not really bad to label a work as popular. What’s really bad bad is the misconception that anything popular is only worth a grain of salt and nothing more.

In this paper, I will put side by side the books Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal and Salamanca by Dean Alfar. Both are written by authors in different period; one is already touted a classic in the canon and the other a maverick in mainstream literature. Through this, the differences and the resemblances can easily be pointed out and that prejudices toward new literature, that is literature written early this decade, will be removed from many people’s minds. To add more grounding in this broad topic, let us focus on the two female protagonists of the books: Maria Clara and Jacinta Cordova. Through these two characters, issues on art as entertainment, feminism, and stereotypification in the context of popular culture will be discussed.

Means of Entertainment
The sole reason why most of the Filipino audience, especially the young ones, only know Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo as the only novels in the Philippines must be the seemingly lack of knowledge about the newer writings. Up to this date, many institutions are still confined to these canonized works, not open to recent ones that may still cater the information and enlightenment the former can provide.

Salamanca, an example of a social and magical-realist work, is one book that can be studied in many universities’ literature classes. The plot of its story is well-conceived and the barrio’s local color is believable; it even has characters as quirky as William Shakespeare’s plays. Definitely, the author has good narration of the events that leaves an imprint in our mind’s eye. And then add a pinch of magic into these and the integrity of the work is questioned. Why so? Because there’s no room for magic in the Philippines? Wrong. It is because most Filipino people are just overly conditioned by practicality and realism that it is very hard for them to accept something that goes beyond human aptitude.

But let us take a look into Jacinta, a native Palaweña with a powerful beauty that turns walls of different variety into glass. Though she has this gift, she is just like any other girl capable of both affection and apprehension. She is just as humane as the character Maria Clara, who, in one chapter of Noli, instantly goes into fits of childlike enthusiasm upon hearing her lover arrive in her place and suddenly goes out of the ordinary when she surprises her aunt by leaving immediately when the morning mass is over, not indulging in any prolonged devotion that is just heavily practiced in her times.

At present, we cannot deny that novel ways of attracting audiences is really needed, that there are many literary techniques that are as effective as using the common handling of a good story. Forget the touch of the clichéd realism, what is more important right now is the gist of the story. Basically, it all boils down to the writing skill and idea of the writer, not on the method— because how would one explain Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s inventive and fantastical tome One Hundred Years of Solitude winning the Nobel Prize Award for Literature? Why, some people must have noticed Alfar’s Salamanca for its prominence and cultural significance because in the 2006 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, it won Grand Prize for the English Novel.

Well, anyone can label such work as something for entertainment but we cannot deny that works such as Salamanca has sense. The novel by Dean Alfar is one work that is not only created for the mere reason of making an effective potboiler but also making a reader think. At least, it doesn’t bore anyone.

On Feminism
Our country’s people, undeniably, are too steeped on realism that borders on the stereotype. The affluent ride the latest automobiles or enjoy the privileges of what excessive money could bring while the poor settle with their worn-out tsinelas or enjoy what morsel they could possibly find. Filipinos are often living with this mentality that it is hard to completely get the supposed settings or standards off their heads. Likewise, the world of literature has its fair share of typecasts. Romeo is a pursuing romantic while Juliet is a delicate maiden; the slender Don Quixote is an ambitious dreamer; and even the countryside-raised Oedipus is a brave and brawny man. The list could go on and on.

And insert Philippine Literature. In the canon that has shaped what available writings we read these days, Jose Rizal’s works surely cannot be disregarded. And what more, his have characters that totally become the staple icon, the original copy of what many writers of today have in their literary works. It’s hard to say that there still something original that has been made. This may be an understatement for our national hero, that his masterpieces have spawned people to create, to gain the spark of creativity from his novels—that her fragile Maria Clara in Noli Me Tangere might be the ancestor of Dean Alfar’s Jacinta in Salamanca. Well, these are mostly my opinion, of course.

But wait, who actually stated that Maria Clara is a fragile creature? Where did we get that notion? When did this start? For some time, the various feminists of the world could be the culprit. In an essay entitled Hamlet and Maria Clara, written by Nick Joaquin, he said that the Rizal heroine has been constantly receiving a “thrashing” by “furious feminists,” pulling her down as a symbol. In the most direct explanation Nick Joaquin disagrees, if not condemns, the idea of Maria Clara as a dainty, soft-spoken, timid convent girl. To put her into such description would be like, to quote Joaquin’s words, announcing “…that Snow White had been lynched by Negroes, or that Mariang Makiling was being hunted by the vice squad.”

Nick Joaquin certainly read well Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. In the essay, he is not contradicting the stereotypical image of the female protagonist nor creating his own brand of criticism but, rather, he is simply illuminating the evidences present in the book that Maria Clara is not actually what most people think she is.

Even if there is some mentioning that Maria Clara is sensitive, we could translate this as a sign of passion and love for those she considers dear important to her, not exactly a sign of weakness. This black legend about the “weakling” Maria Clara has already been nailed on many people’s mind, further planted deeply by high school teachers collecting her as the epitome of a respectable well-bred Filipina but is, ironically stupid, debunked by “scholarly” feminists thinking that she doesn’t rightfully stand the position of a fighter, a super being. But if these people meticulously read Rizal’s tome, they must immediately eat their words. Actually, there are a lot more things to say but these are enough same with Jacinta.

In Dean Alfar’s Salamanca, though not entirely taken from the words of feminists, many readers react to the attitude of Jacinta the same way the character Maria Clara received. The story’s hint of “greenness” and so-called deviance, from same-sex relationships to human beings copulating in midair, are also misjudged. If those who have a closed mindset would, again, say that the feminine sensibility is attacked, I can defend this that those acts are not a display of promiscuity but a show of real human reaction, a natural response in the purest form of exaltation. Surely, the feminists must have missed a lot of interesting characteristics of Maria Clara when they were reading the Noli. And if ever they, too, consider the work of Alfar as problematic, these feminists must reread their literature.

No matter what issues that would sprout from a book, may it create issue about gender criticism, social constructs, or the definition of art, it remains a book and just a book until it is read.

Popularity, really, is not just an important factor to generate income but an efficient way of attracting more people to invest on what is new, what is out of the ordinary. That’s why we cannot blame Dean Alfar’s magical take of a barrio setting being published into actual form—it is revolutionary, especially for the Filipino susceptibility.

In this time and age, “freshness” does not only relate to the yuppies, to the power of money, or to pop culture, but also to the increasing interest of experimentation. Though this may be the fad for now, let us not entirely disregard some old works (such as the Noli Me Tangere of Jose Rizal) that, nonetheless, can be considered a proponent to what is Philippine Literature today. Like any other things, the past shapes the present, and the present gives hints of the future. As of the moment, let us just enjoy what available work we have. Whether what period a piece of literature is written, it is not (should not be) the main concern. It is the reading—the hows and the whys and the whats.

The real deal is this: it is basically how one work recreates a life subject effectively, how one work reflects an everyday matter into a magnified lesson for the reader to enjoy and learn. This way, more people would acknowledge that a single word in a book, old or not, is life printed and then published.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

the classroom as a stage for inequity

Education is a right, a requisite to any growing person until he or she reaches the prime of learning. Yes, there is actually no limit of the intake of knowledge, the absorption of information, but everything must come to an end. What matters here is that one has to go to school and comprehend as much as that person can. But what if, at school alone, the person is deprived of proper erudition? That the teacher does not give an encouraging environment for learning to this specific student because he or she shows signs of difference in sexual orientation? In a short article entitled Gay Discourse in Adult Education, the author Robert J. Hill delves into this situation and expounds the “whys” and the “hows” of it.

Without doubt, this is another matter of dubious tyranny. Like almost all forms of oppression, Hill states that patriarchy is still the main reason for this issue, the “driving force” that makes homosexuals earn such partiality. In his write up, he specifically sets the issue on the context of the American classroom. He says that “Early childhood education has historically been an atmosphere conducive to heterosexism. As a result, gay and lesbian students find themselves ostracized by their peers.” The downside here is that, if not none, only a few is openly willing to solve this problem. Even in this modern age, discrimination still lingers in a community like a wolf prowling on the next furry rabbit.

Basically, these are what Hill points in his article: homosexuality is not part of the dominant culture therefore they homosexuals are second class, homosexuality is not given the same educational advocacy and finally, homosexuality is suppressed due to the fact that homophobia is a vital component of maintaining a status quo. It is these words that struck me the most because, somehow, they ring a bell in some universities across the country. Knowledge, while it is a broad term, is always freely provided through education. But if knowledge is not properly relayed to one or two students because of lame reasons such as the student is gay and whatnot, then education is not as effective as it is supposed to be. Establishing certain boundaries between straight and not is not really making sense at all.

Like what Suzanne Pharr said in her article, Homophobia as a Weapon of Sexism, Hill also states that homosexuality is considered a threat to the equilibrium of patriarchy because it breaks the constructed “common” setting of what is good and what is apt. This also explains the reason for the “horse-blind” straight crowd to completely ignore the necessities of homosexuals. Since these gays and lesbians are just some small chunk of a much larger society, therefore, they must also deserve only a small chunk of respect, or more appropriately, a small chunk of everything. This group of people with such behavior (the homosexuals) is then considered a mistake—they could tarnish everything that is “right,” that even the stability of culture may also be threatened. Teachers are theoretically the second parents of a child ergo they nurture values, moral, and ethics aside from those being provided by the biological parents. Because of these alone, a teacher is already confined to a strict structure, for these three things—values, moral, and ethics—are based on the established norm that sustains patriarchy. To quote Hill, “Anything deemed as contrary to patriarchy will be suppressed to the best of the majority's ability.” In other words, no matter how glorified the image of a teacher, instilling integrity to both young and old, he or she cannot get away from being biased to a gay and a lesbian because what’s sensible to a heterosexual is not really rational to a homosexual (unless, of course, if the teacher is gay).

But just like Batman and the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, “one cannot co-exist without the other.” Unfortunately, I can say that it is an inseparable partnership that goes on and on through the years, this homophobics and homosexuals. Yes, key answers and elucidation have been formulated to eradicate this gnawing parasite from society but it will be constantly present if the majority’s mindset hasn’t changed. Robert Hill’s words may be opinionated, just like Pharr, but it is always like that. No one can get away from such reaction when he or she is ardent with his or her advocacy. His words may be leaning on angst, full of contempt but overall, I agree with Hill—instead of being a relaxed and beneficial four-cornered room, the classroom becomes a political setting, a stage of inequity that only magnifies the prejudices on homosexuals. It’s as if the biggest problems in the world are just hierarchy and corruption, economic fluctuation, poverty, and anything that comes out of a candidate running for the elections but, really, I think the biggest problem is ignorance. It is this ignorance that keeps all people confined in their shells, unenlightened to what is really happening in the world. What always matters most is that a person goes to school and learn, regardless of gender, for ignorance is not a good excuse for one not to know one.