HOW CREATIVE WRITING MAKES US CREATIVE AND NOT DESTRUCTIVE AND THE ETERNAL LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY GF PRESIDENT
A Solver Agcaoili
I am not privy to the details of the 2009 Pedro Bucaneg Awards unlike one PBA awardee who pretends to be an Ilokano writer but can only write clumsy sentences in Ilokano in one clumsy column that he has used to announce his almost-absent presence and promote his senseless self-aggrandizement.
His pathological case is classic: he has the temerity to announce his own brand of good news, but his manner of announcement is that of the croaking of frogs.
He believes that he is the messenger incarnate to save Ilokano Literature from all its troubles but does not realize that he is himself one reason for all these troubles.
He probably does not even know that Ilokano Literature—and the ground of this literature, the Ilokano Language—is beset with all policy and related structural bottlenecks in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Using a post-Marxist critical frame to revisit what we have got in Ilokano Literature, this PBA awardee perhaps has no clue that the fight is out there and not in his myriad egotistical claims to some illusory puffy greatness.
Delusions, indeed, can be grand.
But we learn along the way, and humility, that virtue that makes you rooted to the ground, can teach a thinking--read: thinking loudly; read: logical; read: reasonable--writer a lot of things including the capacity to cry foul when injustice of any kind strikes.
Oh to remind this PBA awardee who probably does not know a whit about the Latin language what humility is.
Oh to remind him that he is clumsy with words that heal is pure joy.
Humility, sir PBA awardee, comes from ‘humus’, the ground.
You can check your dictionary.
I have known this before you even started to write in Ilokano, if you care to learn about your own personal literary history.
You understand the meaning of Johnny-come-lately, with the latecomers becoming in the end the oppressors?
And if this PBA awardee needs some lecturing about declension on the Latin language, I can recommend some good professors that taught me the magic of words that soothe and salve the bruised soul.
These are the words, sir, your honor, that heal.
And so he must be reminded: these are not the words that destroy, as he is doing, with his childish taunts and equally childish blackmails.
This is the reason why I have chosen to fight him back even if initially I did not choose this fight.
I have other better things to do than to stoop down to his level. The problem is in our silence, there could be a Goebbels. And so I have chosen to speak up.
And so I have chosen to speak truth to his own version of his own power however empty this is.
This PBA awardee has asked for it; his soldiers, unwitting as they all are, have asked for it.
And here I am, asking him, bring ‘em in, bring ‘em on.
Let me start by quoting the president I have served faithfully, that one president of GUMIL Filipinas whose vision and views and vantage points about GF as an organization and about our collective literary life intersected with my own.
He was the president who I could converse with.
The word--and the reality behind that word, for the sake of the PBA awardee, comes from con+verso, and which literally means 'with word'.
In the four years that I served GF and him as my president, we had that: con+verso.
I am certain the meaning of the word 'converse' is beyond this PBA awardee, as he probably had not had the chance to know anything about the theory of symmetry of communication by Harbermas, in his critical reaction to Gadamer, and which, for goodness' sake, Rorty would synthesize.
One hell of a requirement for symmetry—and thus, justice—in communication is that those who are hiding behind the veil must come out into the open.
Why hide in the shadows if you have nothing to fear? Shadows--oh, they are all afraid of the light. Bring 'em in, bring 'em on!
You have not heard of the ATheory of Justice, much less read its front cover--if only to brag that you have seen it--that book that could have taught us to be just, that book written by Rawls?
I pity the PBA awardee and his unthinking soldiers. Bring ‘em in, bring ‘em on!
But back to my president, Honor Blanco Cabie.
On March 17, prior to the PBA awardee’s admonition that all those at the 41st convention should either get out of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary Hall or should turn their back when my name would be called and my medal would be given, Cabie--Manong Honor, I called him then and it is the same honorific address I use today--emailed me.
Cabie's email, a copy of which I will always keep, is in full contrast to the PBA awardee's urgings to the convention participants--for all of them--to discredit me via the internet and some colluding website, the way he has done to me and to some other TMI officers several years ago and which he continues to do so.
Was the PBA awardee thinking that PBA is the be-all and end-all of my creative writing life?
What was he thinking why he was thinking that way?
Did he ever know that he did not know that he did not know what he was doing? (I guess he will be confused here. Bring 'em in, bring 'em on!)
He has started years ago this agendum to discredit anyone who crosses his path, uncomprehending as he is, to cite one creative writer I truly respect.
Since he is uncomprehending, since he is so full of himself, the least that he can do is discredit himself and his numerous illogicalities.
Or he can always opt to self-destruct.
I challenge him for a one-on-one on-the-spot creative writing in any literary genre in Ilokano, which he thinks he knows, and in Tagalog and English, which I doubt he has the linguistic and aesthetic competency.
In this challenge, he can take all of his unthinking foot soldiers--all his pawns--as his judge and arbiter.
These foot solders and pawns can also be trained by him to give him the applause he craves so much and the argumentum ad populum he so obsessively desires.
Of course, he does not understand this--he has no idea--what that ad populum thing is all about because that is his basic need in the first place.
On the other hand, he should at least allow me to take independent critics with me, independent-minded literature teachers, and freedom-loving students of Ilokano Literature.
Fair is fair. We will see where his inutile logic would lead him.
That PBA awardee does not know one thing: that some places are sacred, sanctified. And the sanctification comes from a living memory, one pulsing with the eros to keep on respecting life and people and the places where their memory thrives.
That PBA awardee does not know one whit: that I walked the halls of that sanctified place, the halls of that seminary, dined with the seminarians and clerics and monks when I was a professor of Philosophy of Language, and Ethical Theory, and Knowledge when Ariel Tabag was a student!
I know that hall the way I know the back of my hand.
I had a scholarly talk in that hall prior to GUMIL Filipinas getting in there many years after.
And I had delivered a professional talk there on the critical hermeneutic issues of language from the questions of signs, symbols, and meaning to the questions of ontology, epistemology, truth and lie when hermeneutics was just a new discipline even at the University of the Philippines where I was a student, and then as a professor, and then as fellow of the Institute of Creative Writing where I helped train some of our best Ilokano writers today, much, much better than the ability of this PBA awardee with his phony claims to greatness.
And seminary students and professors were there to listen to me long before the PBA awardee learned to write a stodgy column, a column that has become the wellspring of his endless boast.
He should be reminded, no, he should be given a stern warning because he is old to know what true knowledge and true conversion are: that there are two kinds of column writing.
One kind of column writing could last as flavor-of the-month and another one could enter into the timelessness and universality of literature.
As a critic of Ilokano literature, none of his works meet my standard for the second.
Now, he should go berserk for not giving him my approval of his work.
He probably does not even know that I was one of the first in the Philippines who tried to specialize in hermeneutic philosophy, one area he is trying to trod on, unsuccessfully, to say the least, with his consistency in 'illogicalities' and completely unknowing anything about fallacies, such as, for goodness' sake, his fallacy of accent, when he brings out only the part/s of a discourse he arbitrarily uses to advance his skewed, slanted, and stupid cause. (Think of a faded, botched, erased document here, as an example. There are erasures, true, but there are also palimpsests. And from these palimpsests, he will surely be found!)
But with so much boast he could now be bloated with all the air he is sucking in.
This PBA awardee of a man, believing that he is one brilliant messenger of Ilokano Literature, must know what these things are.
I declare a challenge if he knows any of these problems in Ilokano philosophy of language--and the huge, big problems that concern Ilokano language and Ilokano literature.
Now I share this lesson of humility I learned from Honor Blanco Cabie, my GUMIL Filipinas President.
His email is personal but I am making it public because of the public nature of what it says and because it provides a pragmatic context to the discourse I want to look into in these series of ‘pathologies’ on Ilokano poetics that I am working on.
Here is the full text of that letter (italics mine):
i have it from the usually very reliable grapevine that you have been chosen this year's gumil filipinas pedro bucaneg awardee.
your manang rose joins me in congratulating you. the award is long deserved.
the judges -- messrs. prescillano bermudez, manuel diaz (both of pangasinan) and mario tejada (of ilocos norte) -- did one helluvah good job.
malaksid no addanto pakakumikumam iti akademia, ammok nga addakanto ditoy pilipinas intono nailian a kombension ti gf -- april 11-12 -- nga isunto ti panangawat dagiti addaan gasat kadagiti addaan rimat a pammadayaw.
panawento dayta a panagiinabrasa, in the lingo of gumil "panagiinniliw kadagiti pada a gumiliano ken gumiliana, dagiti kukumpadre ken kukumadre."
i am bushed up by the award, having had the opportunity to work with you, up close, in pushing the agenda of gumil filipinas in making the literature of the samtoys something that younger generations of ilocanos would hopefully take pride in.
i am one of those who witnessed your unconditional efforts, sometimes criticized by some who did not have the level of your eye range, as we worked together when you were the secretary general of gf from 1997 to 1999, and from 1999 to 2001 when you were the vice president and i was sitting there as ex-officio director while shuffling feet between my very jealous mistress of a job and monthly meetings of the ncca committee on literary arts, even if joe bragado did not want, and never wanted, to course project proposals for gf through me.
from the sidelines, in mid stream of a thankless, if punishing, job in the academe and the almost always tensive newsrooms, i doff my hat and join the others in asking you to continue your strides in helping make iluko literature a show window of a rich culture.
you make us proud.
I did not know much about the details of the 2009 PBA.
The first persons I have had the chance to get to know that I was chosen were: (a) Ariel Tabag; (b) Honor Blanco Cabie; and (c) Amado Yoro. Aside from them, I did not get any official announcement, not even from the Awards Committee. And I did not do anything to know, and which is contrary to the vested interest in the letters of the PBA awardee.
My getting to know such news from Tabag was accidental.
GUMIL Hawai'i had asked me to work on the various advertisements the organization was able to solicit for the GF souvenir program.
I took the trouble of scanning those ads and remitting the money for these ads to the GF account in Manila. Tabag, among other things, was in-charge of the souvenir program.
When this recognition from my peers--a humbling experience, I must say--sank in so many days later, Yoro filled me in with other details, from which I got to know that my president, Honor Blanco Cabie, was also nominated and that I was chosen instead of him.
The first feeling I had was this humbling experience grounded on that humility that I have learned from Cabie my GF president, the same humility I have seen in him, that generosity of spirit that I have seldom seen from brilliant Ilokano writers, much less from some PBA awardees.
One thing I learned in this is this: that creativity and humility have so much power as these virtues put a premium on persons. Cabie has those creativity and humility—and these sterling virtues were au naturel in him.
The opposite of those virtues, of course, is pretense and its cousin, destruction.
Here is that gnawing feeling that you are the best of them all because you write bland sentences for a bland column that the literary history of the Ilokano people will never take a second look anyway.
Now I remember the story of demiurgus in my ancient philosophy that this PBA man has probably not heard of.
By the way, I received the Pedro Bucaneg Award exactly on the day of my birthday, April 11.
But I did not turn 60 on that day.
I turned to the God of truth and language and meaning and justice.
Pathology Number 7 is ready for uploading. Precy Bermudez has given his approval to cite from his letter. Tomorrow, I will upload it. Bring 'em on.