This is the self-reflective essay that accompanied my two story-portfolio in Creative Writing 111. Thanks to Doc and my classmates and fellow "writing persons" for the evolution of "When Angels Spoke to Margaret (final)" and "The Strange Yet Not So Fictional Adventures of El Diablo" and for a really neat final grade *winks* It's just a shame that I can't do as well in my majors *tears up* Oh well, this doesn't really have to be about me, so fuck it.
“Igiit man ng ilang manunulat na hiwalay ang sining sa politika, ang hindi paglalatag ng politika sa mga akda’y poltika ring maituturing.”
(“Even if some writers insist that art is a separate entity from politics, the mere act of not putting in politics in their pieces is still a political act in itself.”)
- Louise Amante, Philippine Collegian, Sept. 11 2009 issue
Creative Writing, for me, has been a welcome break from my being a Speech Major and technically, “Theatre Minor,” as we are required to take some units in performance arts as well. Along with courses on Fiction—I have taken only two, Fiction 1 and Fiction 2, so far—I have also invested on non-Speech and non-Theatre electives that I feel will give me more breathing space in terms of my personal artistic pursuits. Courses like Panitikang Pilipino and other Filipino subjects, have also brought me closer to my native tongue and the body of literature in which it is written that never fails to amaze me.
Speech Communication is a discipline that imposes strict—to me, I guess—rules on the ethics of communication, the importance of “how” one says it, and not exactly “what” one says, the many financial opportunities that would be available if one were to be an expert of communication, etc. As Speech Majors, we are trained to be call center agents, human resource personnel, salespersons, marketing and events leaders, TV and radio personalities, and many more eclectic choices that all involve communication in one way or another. I guess this is the reason we have been touted in the
and Letters as the “Jacks of all trades, masters of none.” Except for a few who opt to stay in the academe to further the discipline through teaching, most of us graduate and hold jobs that are defined by the material conditions of a capitalist society and a “globalizing” world. If it were not for my electives and other non-Speech courses such as CW 111: Fiction 2, I would not have realized how much I personally abhor my degree program. It is now too late, however, for me to decide to shift to a much more fulfilling academic program. And I am currently starting/finishing (for the process is indeed very erratic) my thesis just so I can finally graduate and hopefully deviate from the usual paths that Speech Majors take. Well, there is no telling whether I will decide to write, speak for a living, or even work for a human rights group, really. Just the same, I know that whatever it is that I will end up doing, I am certain that courses like CW 111 will always arm me with the alternative knowledge that I will need in my endeavors as an individual and as member of the larger society as a whole. College of Arts
As a “writing person” (I do believe that I cannot call myself a writer yet, unless I get published someday, just like the narrator in one of my stories in this portfolio), I believe that I have somehow progressed from the shy, “I haven’t written any piece of fiction in my entire life, so please pardon my writing inexperience” kind of junior that I was last year when I first took up CW 110: Fiction 1. I remember one classmate then—a CW postgraduate student—telling me, “Well, welcome to the dark side.” He was referring to fiction, itself. Based on my limited experience in doing fiction, I cannot help but agree with that classmate of mine. It is the dark side of literature, but then there remains the other, even darker side of it: life. Life in its most accurate realities, life without art mirroring what is seen and unseen. Being a student of the University of the Philippines for four years now (and I hope it will stop at only that) has since taught me that charity is trivial, that merely having knowledge is futile, that writing for one’s own sake is masturbatory and does not contribute any good whatsoever to the society—not even aesthetics or beauty is useful in times like these and in a society such as ours. If there was any development in the practice of this craft—this blessed craft that is writing—that I have accomplished, it is this, and only this: practice.
I have not exactly reached the level that Philippine National Artists such as Virgilio Almario (Rio Alma) and Bienvenido Lumbera (Ka Bien) have, but I am satisfied with my current disposition as a struggling writing person with regard to my fictional themes and proposed ideologies. If I were to examine my “skills,” though, I know very well that mine are still raw and are of an amateur, for I believe that one never really stops growing in literature even if one were to achieve Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s status. What I am happy with is my awareness of my own preference of readership. Although I intend to write for the general masses, I still want to write for those who think, for those who believe that literature is not absolute and that it is not defined by guide questions or pointing out of morals. The reader is a very intelligent reader. One makes his/her own perceptions and interpretations on the piece that he/she reads. In this way, the reader not only “reads” literature but “rewrites” stories, poems, and what have you. This much I have come to learn from Creative Writing, not only from writing my own pieces but more importantly, from reading exceptional pieces from writers—both classic and contemporary, both familiar and unknown. Aside from knowing the people for whom I want to be a genuine writer, I am also glad that I finally know what “art for art’s sake” means and how to break the walls of this particular box. An artist may not exactly know one’s purpose in his/her piece before the work even begins, but prominent Filipino writer, Ricky Lee, could not have said it better: “You should at least know where you stand, whether you are meant to follow the status quo, or whether you are meant to disturb.” I personally want to do the latter, although I know that I still have much to learn from mainstream art/literature before I even go far from this part of the spectrum. Again, I quote Lee when I say that “in order for you to break the rules, you must first know the rules by heart.” At present, I do not aim to stray right away. I am a Speech Major who will graduate with little experience on writing and with no books yet to my name. I am one of those nameless, faceless struggling writing persons who will want to either make a change or stay in the box.
It is my hope that I will transcend this current disposition of mine. With the two stories attached herein with this essay, I aim to ask my readers what exactly are the things that matter—aside from giving characters their full shape, their desires that are either satiated or thwarted, enough motives to justify their actions, and the changes that they have to go through in order to tell a “complete” story. Although these stories—“When Angels Spoke to Margaret” and “The Strange Yet Not So Fictional Adventures of El Diablo”—were both written from a tradionalist point of view (or so I assume), I want readers to question the status quo. “When Angels” is not just a story about a U. P. dormitory urban legend. As much as it is about a story on friendship, it is also a story about the crippling effects of patriarchy and religion as parts of the general ideological construct that has been built and tolerated in Philippine society in particular (and perhaps these themes can also be related to other societies as well). Meanwhile “The Strange Yet” is a story inspired by real-life events concerning Nicole, the Filipino victim who has been brought to international spotlight—although her identity was kept in privacy up to the time that the controversy just “died down”—by pressing rape charges against a certain Daniel Smith and company, who happened to be American soldiers assigned in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement. The issue regarding the country’s imperialist ties with the U. S. still remains fresh, especially recently that Filipinos have been reported to be shot dead by these soldiers even if the VFA clearly prohibits them from partaking in any combat while stationed in the country. I have nothing against Americans, with all due respect. I have something against the overall system, though—the overly dependent developing country that my nation has been reduced to. And I wish to make this manifest in my writings as a young artist.
In the future, I can only hope that a certain question will always guide me in my growth as an artist and in my journey towards becoming a writer. This question will remind me of who I am, who I will be, and what my particular “desires” are —say as a “character” of this bigger “story” that is the society—which primarily concern genuine social change: Para Kanino? For whom? And clearly, ideally, I will know that the answer is not me.