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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LOL Literatures in Other Languages: Fiipino-ness in the global age

12 February 2009
Fiipino-ness in the global age

As moderator, I started the discussion on "Filipino-ness in the Global Age" in Taboan: The Philippine International Writers Festival 2009 by reading the following passages:

From Remapping Africanness, by Anouar Majid, 2008:

“To be sure, Africanness is a fiction, or at least a word with a long and changing history. Africa is a place defined less by the skin color of its inhabitants than by the diversity of its cultures and religions. One might say that all Africans – except for the handful of elite who benefit from the schemes of corporate exploitation – are united by the suffering and painful marginalization in the age of globalization. The common theme of African novels written by Muslims in the second half of the 20th century – whether such novels were authored by Moroccan, Senegalese, or Sudanese writers – was their protagonists’ attempts to survive the debilitating effects of European colonialism.”

From On Americanness, London Times Literary Supplement, 1954:

“With Hawthorne the exploration of Americanness, as something mysteriously different from any other national quality, is well under way. Its existence conditions the whole of American literature. The Englishman takes his Englishness for granted; the Frenchman does not constantly have to be looking over his shoulder to see if his Frenchness is still there. The difference is simple – being an American is not something to be inherited so much as something to be achieved.”

From a call for papers for 2009 on How To Be Chinese? Rethinking Chineseness in the Age of Globalization, by Enhua Zhang:

“How to define Chineseness? Is there one homogeneous Chineseness? Is Chineseness naturally ingrained into Chinese culture or culturally formed or even invented (by whom)? How does Chineseness travel and transform from its native land to its diasporic community?”

From "Filipino-ness in Fiction," Penman, by Butch Dalisay, Philippine Star, 2007:

“Anything written by a Filipino should qualify as Filipino literature. It doesn’t matter to me where it’s published, what it contains, or what language it’s written in. This may be a bold statement to make, but I think that writers who know what they’re doing – whether they’re realists or fantasists – don’t worry about Filipino-ness and such, leaving that to readers and critics to discern and to sort out, if it’s all that important to them. It will always be there, in any work that acknowledges or emanates from the writer’s rootedness in a certain place and time.”

From a posted comment on the topic What Makes Fiction Truly Filipino?, 2007:

“Sa totoo lang, umikot ang ulo ko sa usapang ito. Apat na websites na ang binasa ko tungkol dito, pero parang wala pa rin akong sariling opinyon na ipaglalaban ko talaga.” [Truth to tell, my head spins because of this topic. I've visited four websites about this, but I still have no definite idea of what to believe.]

The discussion featured novelist and playwright Leoncio Deriada, novelist and creative nonfiction writer Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, short story writer and historian-critic Resil Mojares, and speculative fiction writer Timothy Montes. After a wide-ranging discussion with a lot of audience participation, I realized that, whatever Filipino-ness is, it does not depend on the language chosen by the writer. Filipino writers writing in various languages are Filipino, not because they hold Filipino citizenship, but because of something that their writings offer. What that something is, we were not really able to pin down.
Posted by Isagani R. Cruz at 5:32 AM

12 February, 2009 08:07
Albert B. Casuga said...

Is the Filipino-ness of literature in any of the Philippine languages an important question? (Butch Dalisay and Paul Lim are au courant in their comments -- when one talks about "rootedness" in time and place as a facet of Filipino-ness, necessarily, the synecdochal significance of a particular fictive or poetic material may be appreciated as an expression of a universal verity (e.g., a particular "Filipino" condition that aspires to become a "human condition"). When Lim speaks of Filipino-ness as an "accident" (of culture, existence, angst, world view, milieu, etc.), he is saying the distinction is a red herring.

The more important question must always be: Is it literature worth the trouble of spending precious life time on? Worrying about the Filipino-ness of Philippine literature is unnecessarily delimiting. The important question is and will always be: Is the fiction or poetic material ultimately an aesthetic stimulus to broaden "manners of knowing" (epistemological function), and to define precise realities created by the writer to shape his grasp of reality (phenomenological function) -- both essential to literariness apart from the energies of language as a medium of creation and transmission.

Ultimately, "Filipino-ness" would ask other questions like: Is there a Filipino soul in the art piece? What is it? What is Filipino as a nuance (of culture, habits of thought, manners of cognition, etc.) in poetry or fiction? If the writer is condemned to merely limning Filipino-ness in his art, would that not be too parochial? This will only perpetuate the "inchoateness" of Philippine literature which must outlive a colonial imprimatur as if the confluence of a myriad of colonial influences is not part of Filipino-ness. Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" does not require "Filipino-ness" to reflect the Philippine condition in his time. Poet Alejandrino Hufana's "Poro Point" is everyman's "dive into origin" as well as his catapult to perch from "so that when he taps his fingers, he also disturbs the universe."

Looking for that "something" which sgnifies "Filipino-ness"? It is belated navel gazing. The Filipino-ness is, indeed, what the Filipino artist achieves in his lonely and painful journey (paraphrasing Joyce)to "forge into the smithy of his soul, the conscience of his race." -- ALBERT B. CASUGA

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