THE CHALLENGE ON THE SHOULDER OF GUMIL FILIPINAS LEADERSHIP
A Solver Agcaoili
Two things are clear in the brouhaha we call the ‘delusions of grandeur’ of one Pedro Bucaneg Awardee whose claims to literary glory are at best dubious.
These are the two requirements for recognition by peers, to wit:
(a) a body of work, not some lousy writings here and there: a body of work that reveals or suggests to us the artistic vision of the writer, his philosophical insight on human life, and his unique interpretation of the intricate connection between human life and the aesthetics of human experience, and not some lousy commentary of a commentary of a commentary; and
(b) an indubitable—and thus verifiable—contribution to the development of Ilokano literature, not contribution to its destruction by coming up with these power-tripping lousy open letters and equally lousy rejoinders to the rejoinders of lousy Ilokano writers whose claim to Ilokano literature is their ability to write endless chat messages that, at best, are all exercises in ad hominem and are examples of an illiterate addendum to other illiterate chat messages written by people whose courage is to sport a false name. Bring 'em on!
On these two grounds, if we want to be real with how to address this brouhaha that we have allowed to pull us all down, I am calling for the reassessment and revaluation of ALL Pedro Bucaneg Awards and Leona Florentino Awards.
In that recall, we scrutinize the qualifications of all awardees, whether PBA or LFA.
The scrutiny should be based on these two criteria and nothing else.
In doing this, that flimsy minimum age requirement being insisted in a Pharisaical fashion by this Pedro Bucaneg Awardee who always wants to wash his hands like Pontius Pilate before the gathered crowds of unthinking citizens is not to be part of this futile exercise as it rewards age rather than achievement, is discriminatory and unjust, and is based on exclusion for exclusion's sake and not merit.
The minimum age requirement—whatever is that—is one for the Dark Ages, medieval, mindless.
The minimum age requirement is an exemplification of a patriarchal perspective on what constitutes good literature and good writing and good contribution to the development of Ilokano culture.
Given the above premises, the claim of this presumptuous PBA awardee that age matters more than anything else is something that cannot be sustained and proven by the practice of GF of giving awards to writers during the last 41 years of the existence of this writers association.
Historically, the minimum age requirement was never a requirement but the quality and merit of the work of the writer.
The origins of that age requirement seems to be dubious.
If we review of the PBA awardees beginning 2000 based on the list in the 2009 Souvenir Program of the GUMIL Filipinas, the result yields one empirical fact: that a good number of those who have been awarded since 2000 are presumed to be not 60 when they received the PBA.
There are examples of this fact even among LFA recipients.
The insistence of 60 as a minimum age requirement can only tell us several things:
(a) the ignorance of the organization of its own twin criteria of substantial body of work and substantive contribution to the development of Ilokano Literature;
(b) the injustice of recognizing only those older people and yet leaving out the younger ones even if, as a matter of fact, some younger ones deserve the recognition more than the older ones;
(c) the obsession of the organization to exclude those who have not yet reached the age of the patriarchs, them patriarchs whose posturing has nothing to do with the substance of their work and the merit of their contribution to Ilokano Literature but their feudal ability to ink up compadrazgo tie-ups with the rest of them patriarchs who still call the shot in the organization.
There have been organizational entitlements and privileges, and some of these have become built-in in the giving out of these awards, if we only want to be honest about this exercise that has surprised and terrorized us during the past years.
One pattern that is clear is that of a ‘multiple manufacture’ of awards in some years.
I challenge those who have been involved in the giving of the awards to bring out the nomination forms and justification letters for all these awardees.
To do the cleaning up, a special committee should be had.
This committee must be able to withstand the pressures of compadrazgo in Ilokano Literature.
The committee must no believe in hearsays.
The committee must not believe in the threats of one desperate PBA recipient who always threatens everyone with maligning.
The committee must believe in the primacy of solid, hard evidence that invariably leads us to mediocrity or greatness.
These are principles that I insisted when the TMI Global Awards Committee was being formed.
I insisted on hard evidence—I call them proofs of the ‘body of work’.
I never even dared mention age as a requirement that some terribly insecure PBA awardees insist as the conditio sine qua non to greatness in Ilokano Literature.
The Katimpuyog Awards, in principle, maintains a more or less stable and permanent committee for the reason that is obvious: this committee must be true to its role of ferreting out the impostors and pretenders from the genuine ones who deserve recognition even if they do not have the proper springs to pull and more so because they do not have powerful patrons.
Let us start with the basics: a body of work, for that is the intent and the spirit of this peer-recognition exercise.
A body of work must be defined in all cases as never here-and-there feature stories or lousy columns or some other forms of work of questionable literary merit.
A body of work, by its definition, is the collection of most if not all of the creative writings of an Ilokano who is nominated for recognition.
In that collection, we must be able to see that the various works are meritorious and not some grandstanding claims of a work that won an award or two because, let us, admit it now, some members of the board of judges were people close to the writer, tied by compadrazgo alliances or some other ‘derivatives’ that have something to do with knowing each other on a first-name basis or by the virtue of ‘spiritual’ (read: drinking) alliances that is traced to some histories that the younger generations do not have any knowledge of.
In the assessing of the body of work of the potential awardee and those whose award will be recalled, the invisible power of the cabal of power holders should have to be made visible such that those who have any tie-ups, such as the compadre or the comadre, should honestly say so and decline to serve in the Awards committee.
First off, the members of the committee should bring out the archival document/s that relate to the nomination of all awardees.
Second, the members of the committee should rely on these hard, solid evidences, and not what is in websites that cannot even afford to protect nor respect the basic human rights of people.
In an effort to flush out all these, we have to look into the circumstances, in particular, of how, in heaven’s name, Gladys Menor, who was called a ‘neophyte’ of a writer by Ely Raquel, was nominated by Ely Raquel, and then was awarded the Leona Florentino in 2005.
The big question here is this: If Gladys Menor was a neophyte, why did Ely Raquel, now the president of GUMIL Filipinas, nominate Gladys Menor?
A corollary question is this: When Gladys Menor received that award and which she constantly flaunts, was she 60 years old?
We have not heard of Gladys Menor before, and as a Bannawag reader when I was in the grades, I did not encounter any of her writings in the 70s neither in the 80s when many of those in the pantheon of the LFA awardees were writing like crazy--and excellently--during those years.
In Hawai’i, Menor flaunts this award every time she gets the chance.
Now, let us see, let us see, if she deserves that.
O, there is this Pedro Bucaneg Awardee who is a Johnny-come-lately and whose name recall is via the backdoor of stage acting and useless column writing with no literary durability and timelessness and universality.
I wonder if he calls that clumsy stage acting as Ilokano Literature too.
Let us be real now.
Our effort to call for a change in the way we conduct the affairs of GF is an ethical obligation.
We cannot tolerate this Marcosian tactics of some PBA awardees whose mindsets are puerile, pedantic.
Need we also look into the Marcosian roots of the GUMIL Filipinas that some other patriarchs claim as one clean narrative of our noblest wishes to perpetuate Ilokano Literature in its most provincial and most parochial and most patriarchal sense?
We have cowered in fear for so long, we younger generations of writers.
We have only sat at the feet of some of these patriarchs who have somehow forgotten what justice and fairness and truth are. Some of them even have that unending capacity to malign those whom they do not like.
Let me be very clear: not every writer of Ilokano Literature is a patriarch in the most evil sense of the word.
Some are decent and self-respecting. Many of them are, in fact.
Some know and are sensitive to the demands of democracy and justice in our literary practices.
But sadly, some deserve to be encouraged to self-destruct for the future of Ilokano Literature.
Honesty and transparency are all we want.