I’m in Cebu as I write is, attending the second edition of Taboan, the Philippine International Writers Festival which was first held in Manila at about this same time last year, February being National Arts Month.
Taboan will be making the rounds of the regions from year to year before returning to Manila, so this moveable feast (poet and NCCA commissioner Ricky de Ungria beat me to the metaphor) will see many places yet.
The Arts Council of Cebu under the very gracious festival director Mayen Tan and presidenta Petite Garcia is in charge of Taboan ’10, a project of the Committee on Literary Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
The festival got off to ...view middle of the document...
Jalandoni is hardly alone in this predicament; the Philippine literary landscape is littered with the skeletons of mute inglorious Miltons whom most Filipinos will have never heard of, much less read.
Critiquing the NA selection process — of which he himself was occasionally a part, one of the expert “peers” who sift through the nominees at the first level — Mojares noted that “In the discussion of the nominees of Jalandoni last year, all the 10 or 12 members of the ‘Council of Elders’ (except perhaps for one or two) had not read Jalandoni’s works, either due to language, unavailability of texts or translations, or simply because Jalandoni did not fall within their area of expertise.
This has been the problem in the three or four times in which she was nominated.
“This is abetted by a procedural constraint. Because of confidentiality rules, members of the Council of Experts know who the candidates are only on the day of deliberation itself. Hence, they have no time to prepare for the deliberations by way of reading, research, or consultations with those knowledgeable about particular candidates. Although brief research reports are prepared by the Secretariat for reference by Council members, these reports are made available only on the day of the deliberation and are not of much help.”
Again, Resil was really much less concerned about awards than by the inequality (and, therefore, the injustice) of popular perceptions.
“The politics of national recognition” he went on to say, “is such that it matters where you are read, in what language, and by whom.
Someone who publishes in Hiligaynon (or Cebuano, Waray, or Iluko) in a periodical with a circulation of 50,000 is a ‘regional writer.’
A writer in Manila who publishes a 500-copy of English poems is a ‘national writer.’” (Interestingly enough, we’re holding our sessions at the Casino Español de Cebu, a social and architectural tribute to a language we’ve almost entirely lost, literarily.)
The marginalization of writing from the regions has been a long-festering sore in the body of Philippine cultural politics, and Taboan’s discussions following Resil’s speech revived some of those familiar issues.
To the Antique-born poet and playwright John Iremil Teodoro, the common practice of denoting any writing outside Manila as “regional” literature merely reinforced “Manila-centrism,” according, by implication, a superior quality to products coming out of the capital.