POST-SABBATICAL NOTES. 1 SEPT 2014. MONDAY. N1.
The Palancas 2014 and the Ilokano Short Story. Or, how to challenge the next batch of Ilokano writers.
[For Prof Junley Lazaga, our budding critic, poet, and expert on Ilokano and Amianan discourse]
EVEN BEFORE the winners of the Palanca Awards came out, I have read so many disparaging comments on many things including the many doubts on who could be the judge of the work of Ilokano writers. I sensed swollen egos here, but I refused to budge. There are capable judges out there.
There is a problem here: Ilokano writing, as in Tagalog writing particularly in poetry, has become stodgy, with only one template to follow. Those in the know about literary aesthetics are aware of this, and those in the know of Ilokano literary history are aware of where our form of literary expression is leading.
It is systemic, this.
It is also pathological.
And at a certain point, let us admit it, Ilokano writing has become close to being an act of court jesting.
And in the main and at day's end, it is the fault of the Ilokano people in general. For so long since the start of the prose form of the narrative, we have been contented with the same 'gasgas' form of story-making, and year in and year out, we see the same way of unraveling human issues, the act of story-making not being elevated but darn right smack into the first level of meaning. There are no suggestions, there are no quirks of the Empsonian, there are no ambivalences.
There are no aesthetic challenges. What you read is what you get.
And so when I was asked to be one of the judges of this year's lot, I was somewhere else, but the organizers had a way of looking for me, and in the winter cold, I said, Yes!
And then the packet came and the procedures and the desire of organizers to not even talk about what we were doing. Which we did, until now. We kept mum about the whole thing.
And then I read those nasty exchanges about who could be the judge of their peers. Or, who could be the judge of good Ilokano writing.
Some writers forget that there are other people looking at their work, and silently evaluating what is happening to their craft, to the development of their writing, to the place of their writing in the context of other things.
There are critics, they have forgotten, these writers.
And these writers must be reminded: the critics are by far the better judge of the writings of writers. Let us remind them: the writers per se are not--never--the best judge of their work. Oh, well, there are writers who are also critics, but this is a different story altogether.
Critics study art, they study literature, they study history--the works. These critics may not be writers, or perhaps have not written in Ilokano, or if at all cannot write the way these writers can. But this does not diminish their ability to properly craft a good and solid logic to argue for a case of who wins and who does not.
For one, Leo Belen is a patriarch of Ilokano writing. He knows what is going on. He has been there far longer than many of the Ilokano writers writing today. So: he has that ability to look at these works fully in the round, perhaps more fully in the round than others.
And Dr Adelaida Lucero, from Vintar, Ilocos Norte, is an expert of Third World Literature, and she can rattle you with her enormous understanding of what constitutes Third World writing from Asia to Africa to Latin America and to the other emerging countries. Steeped in the literary arts, she chaired the University of the Philippines Department of English Studies before retiring.
So there: are we here for a case?