WHY SUBSTANCE AND ARTISTIC VISION
ARE NECESSARY IN THE PBA AND LFA
A Solver Agcaoili
Now that we have a new leadership at the GUMIL Filipinas, we can only wish Ely Madarang Raquel the best.
For now is the test of a new leadership that promises, we hope, to break away from the usual state of affairs—the kind of a moribund ‘flowing on’ that has defined GF for a long while.
There are challenges that this new leadership, now marked more and more by some younger writers, must face, and face squarely.
The first of this is that stagnation that is now twin to GF, that, except for the annual convention, there is nothing much that is happening really in terms of a politically conscious intervention to causes bigger than the problems of Leona Florentino Awardees and Pedro Bucaneg Awardees.
The current arguments—as can be gleaned from the second open letter of one Pedro Bucaneg Awardee and which letter he sent to all those who are in his list-serve—can be reduced to the following:
(a) That the Selection Committee manipulated the process to accommodate and
(b) That the age of the awardee, whether Leona Florentino or Pedro Bucaneg, must remain at 60.
In the April 7 email with the title “Command Responsibility” that Prescillano Bermudez wrote and sent to a certain Inez Ricafuerte, with cc to “Baldovino” [presumably Baldovino Valdez] and Mario Tejada [presumably Mario Tejada, a member of the Selection Committee], Bermudez says: “Ti emailko ken ni Kabsat Amado (Yoro) idi napan a tawen agpaay laeng kadakami a dua—awan sabali a nakaibagaanna. Private affair dayta. Dagiti naaramid iti Pedro Bucaneg Award 2009 naaramidda nga adda pammalubos ti Hunta Direktiba ken directly or indirectly responsibilidad ni Kabsat Baldovino Ab. Valdez kas president ti GF. Ket inawatna—sipapakumbaba nga immawat iti dispensar. Nagparintumeng a nagpadispensar—impagarupmi a ti pudno winayawaanna dagiti nagbiddut! Ngem anian! Adtoy manen ti silulukat a suratmo, most upright Brother, Judge, and Executioner (sic)! Imbag pay ti immoral a babai ta saan a binakal dagiti immoral a lallaki! Agbibiagtayo iti sidong ti demokrasia. Awan pilpilien ti PBA a padayawan—kameng man ti GUMIL Oahu wenno GUMIL Hawai’i wenno TMI. Manakem a kabsat iti pluma da Apo Manuel S. Diaz ken Apo Mario Tejada—saanda a madiktaran. Kas imbaga ni Kabsat Rogie Baysa, agpaparehokami iti pili. You might be right, we may be wrong. Kas tao, agtamedtayo iti di mabubos a pammateg ken panagayat ti Tao a nailansa iti krus a nagkuna: “Ama, pakawanem ida, ta dida ammo ti ar-aramidenda….”
The gist of the response of Bermudez to the gist of the accusations of the writer of the second open letter clearly cancels out the accusations, as we can see that procedures sanctioned by the GF Board of Directors were followed to the letter by the Selection Committee. We see a corroboration of this fact in the letter of Rogie Baysa, then Secretary General, to a certain Ric Agnes, thus: "Nabasak ti emailmo maipapan iti kunam a saan a mabigbig ti baro a cirteria ti pannakapili ti Pedro Bucaneg ken Leona Florentino Awards. A saan a rumbeng a maibaba iti 60 a tawen ti maikkan iti daytoy a pammadayaw.
"Ladingitenmi nga ibaga kenka a dimi mabalin a salungasingen no ania ti nagsasaritaan dagiti Board of Directors iti miting a naaramid idiay Metro Manila. Ta no dimi tungpalen daytoy, saan koma met a nagun-odan ni Apo Elizabeth Madarang Raquel nga innomenario dita Hawaii iti Leona Florentino Awards. Awan pay 60 a tawen ni Madam Ely. Ngarud, awan pay koma ti karbenganna nga umawat iti dayta a pammadayaw. Ngem gapu ta nasupusopan ti paglintegan iti Pedro Bucaneg ken Leona Florentino Awards, naited kenkuana ti pammigbig."
Thus far, the facts of the case are clear.
I should not be writing about these things.
I should just be keeping silence, my mouth shut, my eyes closed, and pretend that all is peaceful and quiet in the GF’s frontlines.
Like some other writers who believe that all of these eventually are useless exercises, with complete wastage of brainpower and creative rage that we otherwise could use for some other more fecund purposes, I could just lie low and wait for the tide to ebb and come back pretending unscathed, unharmed, with no bruises.
But all of these have been going on for sometime and there has not been any let-up as holier-than-thou writers and pretenders are always on the ready to pounce, paws ready for the kill.
For this is what we have become as Ilokano writers: we have tasted blood, and blood is so good we want some more.
And so, the many seemingly brilliant writers or pretenders could now act, according to Bermudez, as ‘judge’ and ‘executioner’.
This leads us to the purpose of this piece: the call to account all those who have received the PBA and LFA.
This call requires for transparency: for all documentations that provided justification for nomination so that these could be scrutinized by the public for the claims to:
(a) the substance of the body of work and
(b) the ‘great’ contribution of the awardee for the development of Ilokano Literature.
In so doing, we should be able to figure out how to respond to so many questions why some awardees of Leona Florentino, for instance, have been accorded that recognition, and the writing Ilokano public just kept mum about the whole thing as if God had decreed that it be so, this lording it over us by those in power at the GF.
The facts of one case of an awardee, for instance, suggest to us that only one member of the Selection Committee of the Leona Florentino Award made all the decisions, with the other members coming to know only of the result, ipso facto—after the smoke of triumph had settled to shameless breast thumping and to that characteristic swelling of the head and equally shameless swelling of the ego.
In the book “Saritaan ken Sukisok: Discourse and Research in Ilokano Language, Culture, and Politics”, a book published as the initial proceedings of the 2006 Nakem Centennial Conference of which I served as the main editor, Ely Madarang Raquel’s conference essay which she presented at the 2006 Nakem Conference speaks of “Four Ilokano Women Writing: An Exposition of their Select Work” (pp. 125-141).
In this conference essay, Raquel, following an exploratory sample, writes of the work of (1) Alegria Tan Visaya, (2) Aileen Rambaud, (3) Pacita Saludes, and (4) Gladys Menor.
The first three women writers we know well, their respective works something we can have a glimpse of what literary hope and vision for Ilokano literature are all about.
In that part of her discussion on Gladys Menor, Raquel wrote: “This poet and essayist (Gladys Menor) is still a neophyte but has already shown her ability to write in the Ilokano language.” She quotes Severino Pablo’s assessment of Menor’s worth in his book “Dalipato” and cites him, thus, “…an Ilokano poet to watch in the State of Hawai’i” (p. 137). The clue and cue here is "to watch": we are, indeed, watching!
This conference paper was read in 2006; Gladys Menor was awarded the Leona Florentino in 2005, per the list of the 2009 Souvenir Program of the 41st National Convention of GUMIL Filipinas, with her in that pantheon of Ilokano women writers and cultural workers in the likes of Josefa Edralin Marcos, Manuela Ablan, Pacita Saludes, Dedicacion Reyes, Luz Flores Bello, Estela Rimorin-Gordo, Onofrecia Ibarra, Cresencia Alcantara, and Ruperta Asuncion.
In 2006, Raquel had called her a neophyte, with but a meager production (“feature articles”, mostly), with few poems, one of which was the “Calayab” (pp. 138-139) that is not worth a Leona Florentino at all, as this lacks resonance, lacks poetic tension, but simply plays upon sentimentalism devoid of sentiment for a barrio she left behind.
If this is not a clear case of giving recognition to a neophyte, to borrow Raquel’s taxonomic label of Menor’s Ilokano writing life, I do not know how else one calls it.
If, indeed, the writer of those two open letters cares for truth—if indeed he cares for the survival and life and the thriving of Ilokano Literature, something we truly understand that is bigger than his swollen ego—then we ask, who nominated Gladys Menor to the Leona Florentino Award? What was the basis for her winning that recognition by her peers, many of which are 60-year old Ilokano writers like that writer of the two open letters?
Clearly now: the two incontrovertible requisite for recognition were—and are: (a) substantive and sustained writing that has produced some of the greatest work written by an Ilokano in any language and (b) great contribution to the development of Ilokano Literature.
The challenge—huge and heavy, on the shoulders of Ely Madarang Raquel is for her to prove that she is no longer president of GUMIL Ilocos Norte alone or a close friend of some other GUMIL chapters and leaders, real or having nightmarish fantasies, and GF awardees anywhere in the world.
Now we must begin to account. Now.