Wednesday, April 5


Weeks ago, the one-two punch of the GE brouhaha and Chingbee's newly published critique of the Silliman workshop left me penduluming between rage and nostalgia. Eventually, as was my wont, I found myself settling into a blessed catatonic space, no thanks to teaching-related exhaustion and the usual Darwinian composure. The point of contact between these two subjects is, to me, my writing, which is to say my life. Thinking about my GE subjects, I realized that my education in Philippine society began not with MKLRP or Kule, but in the Pan Pil 40 classroom of Dr. Tet Maceda, where we read stories like "Sulat Mula sa Pritil," "Sandaang Damit," and "Pulitika at Skateboarding" (which I tried to plagiarize with "Shooting"). Years ago, in the course of thesis-writing and the weekly consultations-cum-chikahan with Chari, I realized that my "odd" and "un-CW" sensibility was perhaps because I was a Tagalog writer writing in English. The "weaknesses" of my fiction reliably identified in workshops--the overwriting and being prone to stereotyping and the unshakable political baggage, among others--might have been misdiagnosis. They were the Tagalog stories flailing and crying for a salbabida, adrift in the ocean of English. This discovery, long overdue, brought me unbelievable grief. I had been complicit in the erasure of traces of my own tradition from my writing, correcting them when I should have been saving them. I had been corrected into English.

A one-two punch: the agency that I had thought my fiction dramatized turned out to be fictitious, a roundabout failure; worse, my writing was instrumentalized, however briefly, to sanction an imperialist apparatus. At a certain point, one has to account for this complicity in the question of language. English as an "accident of history"? Sure. This might have once been valid, but today--with neoliberal globalization's march in the backdrop--the defense it puts up is just untenable.