Wednesday, June 10, 2009

literature in silliman unsustainable

It has just been three young years that Dark Blue Southern Seas (DBSS) is now an appreciative student effort more likely to thrive longer than it is first planned. A project of the Weekly Silliman that’s considered slightly impossible to pursue, it is at present a literary folio that holds esteemed Philippine writers such as Gémino Abad, César Ruíz Aquino, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Susan Lara, Francis Macansantos, Timothy Montes, Christine Godinez-Ortega, Danton Remoto, Myrna Peña-Reyes, the late Ernesto Superal Yee, and many more, in its three editions.

Such is its favorable feedback in the writer’s world that in Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas’s words, it is “…a brave reincarnation of that literary journal, also launched and sustained as an idealistic venture at Silliman half a century ago, Sands & Corals.” It doesn’t take too long that the aforementioned journal is said to be replaced by DBSS; especially that the famous anthology in the 70s to the 90s stopped existing in 2005.

But yesterday, silent news spread that certain university heads have to decrease the publication fee of the students. In order to fully realize this plan, DBSS is under negotiations (I don’t know with whom) that it is to be scrapped off from the Weekly Sillimanian’s yearly budget. These heads have a “brilliant” idea though: create an online folio! Yes, it’s that brilliant. But I like to stress a point. I am aware of the advantages of having an online version of DBSS but this, like anything else out there, should only be an add-on, an option, not a resolute and complete replacement of the book form. Why, do tell, is having the online version flawlessly accessible compared to a digest anyone could leaf from time to time, hand from one person to another, or read under the shade of a mango tree in the comforts of one’s province? No, unless, of course, Barrio Talinis, Purok Seven will go Wi-Fi!

To add more insult, a question has been pointed out by, nonetheless, a high-ranking faculty: “Significant pa kaha ng mga iyana?” (“Are those things still significant?”). There you go. This query is one notable account of how the interest for the art of letters in the university has gone downhill.

The issue of Silliman University’s literary culture does not only touch this little literary journal (I’ve just flared up a bit, considering that I am once an editor of DBSS). For instance, there is the abrupt change of the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop’s three-week sessions into two, making the panelists condense their critiques and the fellows receive lessons perhaps, maybe, sparsely. The excuse is that the organizing committee lacks funds but better instincts, aside from reliable sources, tell me it is the lack of enthusiasm to extend the job. That’s pretty ironic for an annual undertaking that’s nearly inching its way to its Golden anniversary (50 years) and is founded by two English professors of the university. Well, they’re just National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo and her husband Edilberto K. Tiempo lang diba?

It seems to me that this particular person, who has questioned the relevance of DBSS, thinks of the age-old partnership between “literature” and “Silliman” an oxymoron. If ever I’d get the chance (may the Highest Beings forbid) to possess the mind of this amoeba who’d better cut cogon grass or plant kangkong in their watery backyard, I am certain literature in Silliman University, as well as the entirety of Dumaguete City, is undeniably insignificant.

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