What bridges Lorca and Camus and Tony Perez


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Ang karugtong ng nasa larawan, ang warning ni Lorca ay “life is not a dream,” at sasabihin ng nagsasalita, Beware- and- beware- and- beware.

Ngunit ang mahalaga sa ngayon ay ang bridge, ang tulay kung saan daw naghudyat ng isang babala si Lorca.

Sa existential na kalungkutan ni Camus, lunsaran lang ang tulay upang magpanukala ng isang sentral na dilemma: “Till tomorrow, then, monsieur et cher compatriote. No, you will easily find your way now: I’ll leave you near this bridge. I never cross a bridge at night. It’s the result of a vow. Suppose, after all, that someone should jump in the water. One of two things—either you do likewise to fish him out and, in cold weather, you run a great risk! Or you forsake him there and suppressed dives sometimes leave one strangely aching. Good night.” Sa dulo ng pagmumuni-muni na ibinigay ng maikling nobelang The Fall, mapapalitan ng pansariling digmaan ang naunang kawalan ng pakialam: “O young woman, throw yourself into the water again so that I may a second time have the chance of saving both of us!”

Ang pagkahulog ng babae ay pagkahulog rin ng pangunahing tauhan: pisikal sa una, moral sa huli. Ang tulay bilang imahen ng transisyon, kaagapay ng pagkilos at pag-usad dahil nagdurugtong sa mga dating-magkalayo, nagdurugtong sa magkahiwalay. Ngunit tingnan ang tulay hindi lang sa mas lohikal na horizontal na pamamaraan kung hindi pati na rin vertically. Ang nasa ilalim ng tulay ay tubig, kadalasan. Ito ba ang tubig ng kasaganahan, o tubig na nakakalason, nakamamatay? In other words, saan nakatuntong ang tulay? Ano ang sinakripisyo para maitayo ito?

Sa pagkahulog sa katubigan na tinutuntugan ngunit dinidistansyahan rin ng tulay, sino ang kumakain kanino? Ang tao ba ang bumubuka ng bibig tulad ng ginagawa ng adventurers ‘pag naliligo sa waterfalls o ang tubig ang kumakain sa munting piraso ng buto, laman, kalamnan, utak at puso?

Sa “Diego Silangcruz” ni Tony Perez, ang ilog ang kumain, ang bumuka ng bibig, ang nanglaklak. Binugbog ang karakter na si Cruz nang dumalaw sa opisina at nalamang tapos na ang kontrata niya – mainly dahil tinangka nilang kalabanin ang pamunuan – hindi niya nakuha ang severance pay, masikip at mabaho ang sinakyan niyang bus pa-Guadalupe, at pag-uwi sa bahay at natulog, paggising niya’y “saglit siyang nagsisi kung bakit pa siya nagising.”

Kinain na siya ng kawalang-latoy at kawalang-pag-asa sa abang buhay. Lumabas siya at naglakad, “nagpasikot-sikot. Tumigil siya sa gitna ng tulay: pinagmasdan ang madilim na tubig, at doon nakita ang sinag ng araw, apoy na kaylawak at naglilikha ng sanlaksang isdang apoy, dambuhalang aninag na nagtaas ng braso’t nakahahalina. Inakyat niya ang barandilya upang salubungin ang liwanag. Nilaklak siya ng Ilog Pasig.”

Kinakain ang labas, binubukbok ang loob ng tao at ang tulay ay kay lumbay, kay lumbay, tinatalon para mabuhay, tinatalon para mamatay.

Hindi sapat na sabihing “Beware.” Kailangang pagnilayan: saan, sa alin o kanino ako mag-iingat?

 

 

The Thorns of Flowers and the Soil Where they Grow: On Valentines and Panagbenga


On the week immediately after Valentine’s Day, what can still be the merits of writing about flowers, and blossoming relationships and love being all around the corner?

In Baguio, Valentines is just about heating up for the much vaunted month of flowers, with the Panagbenga highlights – the Street Dance competition and the Flower Parade and then the one-week Session in Bloom after – still forthcoming in two weekends. In terms of location and period then, the celebration of Valentine’s Day attunes well with the context of Baguio. The city’s neighboring municipalities whose flower-growing is at peak during February makes the celebration of Valentines in Baguio extra-special. Add to this the fabricated image – among fabricated images — of Baguio as a haven for lovers of all kinds. While recent offerings of pop culture such as the movie That Thing Called Tadhana can come to mind, this image of Baguio as lovers’ lair is tenably decades old. In Amado Hernandez’ Luha ng Buwaya for instance, the young couple Jun and Ninet, both from well-to-do family, vacationed in Baguio with their friends. In the novel, the merry times these young people had in the ‘romantic’ City of Pines contrasted well with the growing uneasiness of the farmers back in their small town.

Cool climate to be heated up by the visiting lovers, chilly climate that suits well with the growing of flowers, a profusion of flowers and lovers that reinforce each other’s existence: Baguio is all giddy with all these intersections. Yet in terms of giddiness, in terms of anonymous euphoria and touristic love-hate, Valentines is dwarfed by the annual Panagbenga celebration. But a less quarrelsome view can be adopted: in the larger scheme of things, there is Valentines, feasting on emotions artificially made gurgling on a very specific date – the 14th of the second month, perhaps the unofficial halfway point of a Flower Festival that is so hell-bent to fashion itself as gorgeous and worthwhile it will import flowers elsewhere even amidst the local flowerings.

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February is also time for temperatures to drop in Baguio. (Jesa’s photo) 

The Importation of Beauty and Festiveness

An irony in the Panagbenga is that not all of the flowers that are paraded and boasted here every year are from Benguet. Some participants in the Flower Parade, mostly the bigger establishments, import the flowers that count for their existence on a day when the thousands of spectators gather on the streets anticipating with equal pulse the sight of the flora and of celebrities. The importing of the flowers offered for the tourists to see is another index of how current practices in Panagbenga have constituted a deviation from what it was supposed to celebrate. With the importation of flowers, Panagbenga’s celebration of the blooming enabled by flower farmers all over the province can be obfuscated as a mere celebration of floral beauty or colors. More intrigue can be added to the plot: is the act of importing premised on the view that ‘imported’ flowers are more appealing?

Yet: importation is not all. Some of the participants use plastic flowers, as two old ladies I interviewed told me a week ago. The idea is to lessen their expenses since the prices of the flowers sold in Benguet skyrocket during the Panagbenga season. With these, we can make a much greater case that instead of being filled with innovations that enrich its meaning, the Flower Festival is clothed with more and more artificiality that makes it less sure for whom and to what end is it being held. Definitely, community events like festivals are supposed to prop up some values, values that the community precisely cherishes and wishes to continue. But these values are grounded on the life of the people in the community; they are not free-floating kinds. In the case of Panagbenga, it is easy to espouse that this event values beauty, friendship among other jazzy words to the ears. But pronouncing such values become worthless without belaboring the community affairs and endeavors, the shared histories and passions which continually form and sustain them. Even in the plane of what is outright visible, the values being enshrined become ambiguous, even worse ignorable, if what are displayed out there are imported flowers, flowers made of plastic. If the realm of the visible is dominated by these “fake” flowers, even the most superficial attainment – the feel of Baguio, the highland feel – can reach a contemptible point of denial, a point when one realizes that the flowers one came to see here are not really from here. An even more laughable scenario: people from, say Manila, came to Baguio only to see flowers that are obtained from their place.

Manufacturing Emotions

A similar diminution of perspective is arguably at work in our celebration of Valentine’s Day. For people who still get ruddy and impassioned when talking of “true love,” “the One” and again, all the other jazzy words to the ears, dismantling our dominant notion of love can cause a fiery exchange – whether online or face-to-face. The absence of open minds and the necessary critical takes on our very own positions that I believe we must have is a major culprit in the fruitlessness of exchanges.

Shattering the idea of romantic love, hallowed by many, is often belittled as a remark of someone ‘bitter,’ someone who did not have enough of it, someone who’s perennially heartbroken. If one tries to intellectualize it, a possible rebuttal is that the matters of the heart cannot be illumined by the occupations of the head. But this is exactly a hurdle in adopting a critical take on one’s own standpoints. Adopting this kind of stance is blocked if we see our positions not just as self-enclosed but ultimately correct and justified. The same is at work if we see categories in this completely dividing manner (always heartbreak or happiness, not heartbreak and happiness at the same time; heart versus head, not heart and head working together).

This is the point when we can assert that if this is mostly the case, we are not the ones totally at fault. These ingrained predilections are not merely an effect of our individual choices, our interiority manifesting itself. Social occasions such as Valentine’s Day – with all the accompanying TV commercials, social media declarations, establishments carrying “Happy Valentines” banners among others – help in maintaining these predilections. When did Valentine’s Day celebrate the love between a granddaughter and her grandmother, between step-siblings, or even outside the familial mode, between boss and employee? Can we recall a time when Valentine’s Day was not mainly about Mr. Right and Ms. Quirky — or vice versa – and their frenetic quest for each other?

It is in this dominant way of making sense of and living Valentines that Baguio and February and flowers so prettily insert themselves. Flowers become the symbol of one’s love. Baguio becomes the place for lovers. What is accomplished with this seemingly innocuous insertion is nothing but the reinforcement of the dominance of the romantic-love-kind-of-love and its affiliated notion of love as a purely individual or interior feeling, something that one feels for another.

Alexandra Kollontai, one of the lesser known female Russian socialists (not that there were many of them) asserted that “Love is a profoundly social emotion.” It is not something that solely wells from within; it is not without a social dimension. To further vivify the Marxist congregation, let me cite Terry Eagleton too. He said: “My emotions are not my private property… I learn my emotional behavior by participating in a common culture.”

It is always the time to get out of the confines of the narrow; always the time to doubt and ponder one’s views so that they may be tested and improved, or gladly reaffirmed. One of the many things the celebration of Panagbenga and Valentines share is that they can make us easily settle on the unproblematic: Ah, this festival is just about flowers, and cheers and the Baguio people closing down Session for a week to sell Shawarma and Marikina shoes; Ah, this occasion is just about lovers, with the girl holding a flower, and so all sordid single persons and the old people and the young kids better stay at home on the 14th.

But not all flowers are the same. Some flowers are imported. Some flowers are shared by the loveliest couples. Some flowers divert the attention to those who grew them. Some flowers, as attempt at salvation, hint a collapsing relationship. Some flowers silently speak: Hey, I’m not just a flower. I have thorns; somehow, somewhere, I was planted and nourished on a soil. Consider them too.

 

 

 

 

Ang Laro ng Tagasalin, o, Sa Nangyari kay Maxine ay Nanalo Tayo in Some Ways


Prologo:

Ako, ang tagasalin, ay tagalansi, hindi tagalinis. Ang wika ay hindi isang kumpleto, malinis, perpekto at saradong sistema. Ang wika ay ikaw at ako rin, at ang mga nagbabago nating hininga at hangganan, hangin at hantungan.

Wala akong pangalan sa entablado ng pagandahan. Dito, ako ang nagsasalita.

 

 

I.

Tinawag na ang Top 13, bumibilis ang kolektibong pulso ng MOA Arena.

Kenya! (Yuhooo!)

Indonesia!

Mexico!

USA!
Peru!

Panama!

Colombia!

Canada!

France!

Thailand!

Haiti!

Brazil!

Miss Philippines!

Kolektibong palakpakan, hiyawan, talunan (dahil walang tanda ng accent: pwedeng basahin hindi lang bilang “act of jumping” kung hindi “loser”)!!

Kinakabahan rin ako. Kakailanganin pa ba ako ni Maxine? No shame daw in using an interpreter sabi ng ilang personalidad tulad ni Lea Salonga at Gloria Diaz. Bakit kailangan pang linawin ito? Bakit may implicit na ideya na loser ka ‘pag gumamit ka ng interpreter, ‘pag di ka ganun ka-eloquent sa Ingles? Bakit kailangan ng ganung reassurance: use Filipino if you are more comfortable with it!

Kapag nasa entablado na ako, delusion of grandeur ba ‘pag inisip kong nakasalalay sa akin ang magiging kapalaran ni Maxine sa pagandahang ito?

Tatawagin na ba ang Top 6? Lalo akong kinakabahan.

Binalikan ko ang notes ko:

“all great ‘dialogues’ in the history of philosophy were so many cases of misunderstanding: Aristotle misunderstood Plato, Thomas Aquinas misunderstood Aristotle, Hegel misunderstood Kant and Schelling, Marx misunderstood Hegel, Nietzsche misunderstood Christ… Precisely when one philosopher exerted a key influence upon another, this influence was without exception grounded in a productive misreading…”

“ang pag-banggit ni Lumbera sa kasabihang ‘Traduttore, tradittori’‘Traduttore, tradittori’ (sinasalin kadalasan sa ingles bilang ‘Translator, traitor’) bilang madalas na pagtingin sa pagsasalin—dahil wala nga namang one-to-one correspondence ang source text at target text at kadalasa’y may nadadagdag at nababawas sa orihinal na akda sa oras na maisalin ito sa ibang wika.”

Nabasa ang mga notes nang halikan ng pasmado kong palad. Ia-announce na ang Top 6, kay dami pa ring tanong: makakapasok kaya si Maxine; kung makakapasok siya, kakailanganin niya kaya ako?

II.

Hindi babawiin ni Steve Harvey ang tanong niya: “What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the world in the last 10 years?”

Did my translation make Maxine lose the pageant and thus, made her win in some other ways?

“Ano ang pinakamakabuluhang naganap na pangyayaring nakita mo sa mundo sa loob ng sampung taon?”

Nag-ingles sa Maxine – did she betray me? Ano ang punto ko sa entabladong ito kung hindi naman siya sasagot sa Filipino? Pero hindi, hindi niya ako ginawang inutil dahil nga mismo ang sagot niya sa Ingles ay sagot sinalin kong tanong, hindi sa ‘orihinal’ na tanong sa Ingles na may slightly ibang kahulugan.

“The one event that I saw all the people bringing in one event like this, the Miss Universe. And it’s something big to us that we are one. As one nation, we are all together.”

III.

If you will betray me, let it be “productive,” kung magtataksil na lang din, sana’y maging “malikhain.”

Tapos na ang pagandahan at bineso ako ni Maxine sa pinakailalim ng aking puso. Nagsasatsatan ang social media nation kung ang “inaccurate” translation ko ba ang nagpatalo kay Maxine; kung bakit hindi na lang daw sya nag-Filipino para mas nakasagot nang maayos, kung sino ba talaga ang nakikinabang sa pagandahang ito ng mga babae sa mundo, kung “we are all together” ba talaga tuwing Miss Universe o laban ni Pacquiao; ano ba talaga ang katuturan at kaninong interes ang namamayani sa pagandahan tulad nito?

Panalo na rin in many ways dahil napapag-usapan ang lagi-namang-andyang isyu ng wika and the often implicit values that we hold in relation to language and how we use it (how it uses us too?); ang lumang isyu ng mataas na pagtingin sa Ingles ay bukas muli; pwedeng hindi natin alam, habang nagpapalitan tayo ng kuro-kuro, lahat tayo ay nakatingin sa salamin. At hindi na lang ako o si Maxine ang tinitingnan ng mga usapan kung hindi tayong lahat at ang kunwaring solidong ideya natin ng “bansa,” “nation,” “beauty” at iba pa.

Matutulog na ang tanghali kasama ako, pumara ako ng taksi (ang mapagkalinga ngunit minsan ay taksil sa kalsada – kung saan-saan sumusuot, gumagalaw kahit pula ang ilaw) at tumitig kay Walter Benjamin bago makaidlip. Ang sinabi niya tungkol sa kung paano mas mainam nating matitingnan ang kasaysayan ay applicable rin sa kung paano natin maaaring tingnan ang wika: not as a “one-way street” but as an “object of conquest.”

Nakatulog na ako nang tuluyan habang lumipad ang taksi patungo sa katotohanan ng inyong mga pinakataksil at pinakamapangahas na imahinasyon.

Possibilities of Blood and Boldness: On Ardidon’s Three Traumas


 

Should we abandon the texts of JV Ardidon simply because they are a bit demanding, a bit too hard to comprehend? To do so would most likely mean a loss for us, for we would be deprived of the chance to experience and then make sense of traumatizing encounters in literature and art in general.

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What I did with “Three Traumas” is to grapple with them. The texts are difficult in that they apparently refuse the obscenely formalistic framework in its production. No “organic unity” can be promptly grasped here, which is not the same as saying that it lacks any organization, be it a principle or an actual structure. On the surface, the works appear to be deliberately scattered, and so the readers will likely be stumped: critical reading of “organic” texts is already hard enough; engaging with works which give more primacy to formal procedures than an outright message is equally challenging. “Three Traumas” is more performing than stating something (this is based on Searle’s categories of the perfomative and constative functions of language) and that does not mean that the two are mutually exclusive. (As sampled by critics like Eagleton: when the priest “said” “I now pronounce you wife and husband,” he is also “performing” the ritual of marriage; if I tell you that I feel hot and the aircon is off, I might be subtly requesting you to turn it on).

What is “Three Traumas” doing then?

Maybe inducing an “apoplexies” among its readers? Here, layers: (1) inducing an “apoplexies” in that the readers, stalled by the very term which is used to explain what is going on, will be left in greater confusion or (2) “apoplexies” in its literal sense: a neurological failure, or the more general physiological or emotional breakdown. Something which they can turn away from, or embrace, race upon.

All “traumas” are indeed traumatizing – not just in terms of what they are doing to the readers but to their very content: suspects being killed, poor suspects being killed, poor minor suspects being killed, escalator accidents, and the more philosophical lack of choice in Trauma #3.

Trauma #2 began with “losing”; Trauma #3 began with precariousness. Is this what “Three Traumas” is doing, presenting itself with utmost certainty as a work touching on uncertainties – a defeatist tendency of some postmodernisms? What if the joke is that the work itself is unsure of what it is doing?

And it is at this point that I can voice out again how we frowned upon what looked like a gratifying (although this only seems so) act of artistic na pagsasalsal. It is okay to give the readers loads of uncertainty; those can make them think, pique themselves, chew on the work more attentively. It is okay to give the readers blankness and fleeting thoughts (as opposed to Big Truths) if only they point out substances and sort of solid ideas elsewhere, outside the work. What I appreciate in “Three Traumas” is precisely what I think is its main weakness as well: in what I interpret as a conscious rendition of incompletion in order to spit at notions of “organic unity” or the self-enclosed artwork, it also ended up lacking too much and flirting with meaningless haziness (yes, some hazy things are productive).

Hence, two question that I think need to be asked by cultural workers – hardly novel questions but questions that are almost always important and, by virtue of being asked in varying contexts, gain new significance: the first one is a direct quote from Boris Groys, ““Who aestheticizes—to what purpose?” and (2) ang walang-kamatayang “para kanino?”

A reflexive note on the two questions: they implicate the other key agents that surround and mobilize the work: the writer and the reader. What is the purpose of the writer? What is she dealing with and where is she coming from; how aware is she of what she is dealing with and where is she coming from; how does she herself in relation to what she is dealing with and where she is coming from? Gusto ba ng writer na isulat ang susunod na ”Great Filipino Novel,” kung oo, paano nya nage-gets ang ideya ng “Great Filipino Novel,” kung “next” na lang ito, anong nobela o tradisyon ang sinusundan ng panulat niya?

At ukol sa walang-kamatayang “for whom”: asking this must not be seen as mechanistically done para lang ma-elicit ang ninanasang sagot na, ahem, ahem, “para sa masa” chuchu. Again, the writer’s conscious intention plays a key role. Sumusulat ba sya para sa kapwa manunulat; para sa barkadang may parehong interests at cultural exposures or tastes; para sa larger public, para sa Internet users?

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Suarez’ comments point to the necessity of clarifying intentions and how these bear on formal considerations

 

Last two points:

But the writer, the text and the readers dwell in something larger, they dwell in something definite and something that transcends them. Kaya may iba pang mga bagay na dapat isaalang-alang.

In “Partisan Poetry: A Metacriticism,” Edel Garcellano cites Ernesto Cardenal, the mode in Russia raw is to “create an art that can be understood by the people”; whereas in Cuba, it is to “educate the people to the point where they can understand art.”

What are the institutions in place and which are responsible for the production, consumption, distribution, discussion among others of artworks? Feeling ko, habang nagsasalsal ang may-akda, habang nagtatangka siyang bumuo ng mga bagong moda ng pagpapahayag, habang nagtatangka siyang bumuo ng mga bagong moda ng pagpapahayag upang magsulong ng mga bagong moda ng pag-iisip at bagong uri ng kamalayan, kelangan nya ring makipaghalikan at makipagtitigan sa masalimuot niyang kapaligiran – art traditions, art history, art institutions, art education and all – unless mag-fall under the tendency na maging “I, me, myself” tulad ng tingin ni Rolando Tolentino sa avant-garde practice sa bansa. (Interestingly, nang binalikan ko uli ang essay ni Paulino, I also found his opening lines pertinent: “Layunin ng mangangatha na malaman kung anu-ano ang kaganapan labas sa sarili upang mas mapalawig ang paksa ng sulatin at lumihis sa kinasanayang kumbensiyon ng panulaan.”)

Panghuling punto: In “Charmless and Interesting: What Conceptual Poetry Lacks and What It’s Got,” sinabi ni Robert Archambeau: “in contrast to the once-and-for-allness of our experience of, say, the sublime, the… interesting is the one we tend to come back to, asking to verify, that it is STILL interesting.” Dagdag pa: “The interesting courts controversy, not necessarily through its contents, or any polemical position about which it tries to be didactic, but through the way in which it collides with the expectations of the moment.”

Ngayon, binalikan ko itong “Three Traumas,” at medyo na-affirm lang naman ang initial readings ko rito. Ngunit kalakasan iyon ng akda, sa tingin ko. Higit pa, it succeeded in its tacit demand on the readers: di lang, basahin mo ‘ko, titigan mo ‘ko kung hindi banggain mo ako, buuin mo ‘ko.

Pero hindi lang dapat “expectations of the moment” ang isinasaalang-alang ng mga likhang sining, cultural products in general. Dapat ring pagnilayan ang mga mas solido, kung hindi man mga mas continual na tanong: ano ang gusto kong sabihin, ano ang gusto kong gawin, sino ang gusto kong kausapin o hawakan, ano ang gusto kong gawin nya?

Pwede ko siyang paranasin ng trauma: sana lang hindi mabagok, bagkus e mabago ang ulo nya.

Thinking Now, of Now and Ahead, with some help from Trainspotting’s Renton


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If we look at it closely, we can appreciate Renton’s jutting butt much better. For the mesmerizing irony is his butt is a whiff away from the subs, the subs which the butt’s projection (and the subsequent scenes) betray. Aside from this, Renton’s uneasy figure is overpowered by the colourful, clean and very organized background; hence, his littleness is in place precisely because he is out-of-place (almost an inconsequential presence) in the entire scene.

Which can be said as well to the last urinal in Do You Not Think so Far Ahead? The rest of the urinals in the work are mere backgrounders to each section’s title; even some of them are blurred. But the last urinal is presented in so meticulous details: with parts labelled, an inset and a see-through. What is a “wax ring,” a “ballcock”; how about “flange bolts”? The last urinal shows those. Before this, the urinals shown are dead daily company. In the last one, it is presented as an intricate machine, with all its mechanical workings implied.

I’m no longer alive, said all previous urinals. Not true. Renton went as fast as he could, looking for any decent toilet; while fantasizing too.

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Kristeva distinguished the symbolic from the semiotic mode of signification: the former is an “expression of orderly meaning” and the latter is a “discharge of subject’s energy, emotion, drives.” Renton had fantasies not only of order but of pristineness, not only a toilet seat but

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Eventually, what he had was an artless, if not perfunctory, discharge. He too anticipated it, he was aware of the circumstances, he was aware of the pathos of fantasies, his very own fantasies

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To posit, obliquely, that art is or can be autonomous is to flirt with fantasies. And most likely it is the pathetic kind of fantasy (I fancy it precisely because it not here, it is not real, I cannot make it real). But it can be read in more empowering terms: rather than art striving to be “autonomous”; art recognizing itself as “situated,” as located and invested and as “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead” put it, “such formulation certainly brings in the sociality and the materiality of a given work.”

I recall Zizek and his notes on “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and Desire: the very unfulfilment of Desire fuels Desire – fulfils it, why not?! In more solid terms that can defeat those defeatist undertones, we can say of art and autonomy that art, now explicit about its location, its situatedness, “bursts forth” “towards it,” towards autonomy, or more aptly, towards the abandonment of this very pursuit.

The notion of an autonomous art has long gone filthy; it is time to flush it.

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In many ways, we have these confounding contradictions: always have them, so the great differences will lie on how to confront them. “What if the very properties which were supposed to repel market forces are the same properties which pull it towards the market?”

What could be these properties of art? What are the forces of the market – the art institutions, the purchasers of art, the art auctions? But not all art institutions are the same; so are the purchasers and auctioneers of art. Here, not only raising questions are equally, if not more significant than raising a point; making explicit and interrogating, again, the very location, where one is making her point, where one is coming from is significant too.

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In the movie, it makes sense. What was just announced as the “worst toilet in Scotland’ revealed itself promptly as indeed, worthy of such title (an interpolation ‘outside’ of the film, for, if you let me spell it out, what Renton saw was just the “toilet,” not “the worst toilet in Scotland – now I feel like a loser for spelling it out).

Yet outside the movie again (literally “outside” for this was presumably hardly known until this  came out) there was a betrayal – a perfectly harmless and logical one for movies are all about representing reality using its techniques – props and effects included.

But not all makes sense neatly in this sequence in Trainspotting. Okay, it is the worst toilet in Scotland; but if that is so, then why this look on Renton’s face:

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Further, why this?

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And finally, this:

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Can we go back to Kristeva? Or, is this a going back to Kristeva? The motherly womb, the place of plenitude, oceanic fullness, psychoanalytic pleases?

Easy, we are forgetting that Renton was on heroin

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And as he said much earlier in the film and much famously: Who needs reasons, when you’ve got heroin? Who needs Kristeva and Zizek when you’ve got heroin? The heroine is not the Mother, but – sorry – heroin.

The contradiction is resolved in the film, in a way. Renton’s retreat into fantasy is an upshot of his drugs. But drugs are not explicitly the gimmick involved in “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead.”

So when it said that “we will never run out of gimmicks,” we can ask if the inexhaustibility being implied here is the liberal one – the surplus of ideas, the surplus of gimmicks, often without asking, for what purpose?. In “On Choosing,” a suggested answer: for every gimmick, a certain amount to be paid. Will it be a payment for resistance, a payment for individual glorification, a payment for lazy indoctrination, a payment to have, finally, a will? We choose.

(What did Renton choose? Interestingly, he chose something seemingly Zizekian):

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What did “Do You Not Think So Far Ahead” choose? In “On Access,” it chose to speak of “carollers from the gaps of the gate, tugging at each other, hesitant to sing their song” while it also speaks of people who “exude confidence and the importance of their words.” In a single page, it chose to speak of hesitance and confidence, exuding importance and tugging at each other and the access of art becomes an axis of the social divide.

And this divide is present not only in SOCIETY AT LARGE, but in one’s self, the tininess of one’s selves: the conflict, the “chasm” “between a person’s radical ‘principles’ and her/his decadent lifestyle.”

This paves the way for “On Choosing” and “On This Right Now,” with the latter I am opting to read not as a simplistic insistence on the now, the moment (ATM! ATM!). “On This Right Now” gets back to questioning, looking at the very ground where one is standing, where one does the thinking and the looking – whether it be looking away, looking and thinking against, looking and thinking ahead.

Which brings me to this conclusion: I should not think so far ahead, I should not forget to think of the here and now where I am doing this thinking ahead.

Baguio is the tears that you cry when you read Eco, the tears when you write chronicles (IN Baguio Chronicle, TO Adamson Chronicle)


The silent — though uncontainable – feeling is that the final fifteen, sixteen, seventeen days remaining in 20166 will be Baguio. As much as you want to EEWW the ‘looking-back’ stuff happening as the year ends, you also see some of its value: something cliched: putting the past to a thought-process in order to set fire to the future)

(This is not just nostalgia trip, and is that not a bit rude to the word ‘nostalgia,’ using it in reference to events just in the past months? You counter yourself, 2016 feels so big, the months seemed like the bookshelves of Calvino and the deaths in the name of the ‘war on drugs’ in our country)

Goodreads made me review my “Year in Books,” and the Baguio-to-Manila plotline is alive there and evil, wounding, adding salt to the wound, licking the wound with a salted tongue.

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Again, our Baguio window

The books you’ve read, they speak of memories that in turn speak of specific locus, concrete locations, situations. I was reading Eagleton’s “The Function of Criticism” upon waking up – 7am, 8am – in our Parisas home, and it was January and you know how Baguio is when it’s January, and we are not talking of city centers but a semi-secluded village in the fringes of Bakakeng. Bauman’s “Towards A Critical Sociology,” I remember bringing to Mt. Cloud’s Third Monday from the Sun and I almost left it, almost. F. Sionil’s “Vibora” I cram-read as I cram-conceptualized a paper for KRITIKA’s call for submissions. I finished the novelette in two days, I guess, but did not find it worthy of writing at least a ten-page paper about. Kruger’s “Remote Control,” Jameson’s “Marxism and Form,” Graff’s “Literature Against Itself,” all these man, I read them with brewed coffee and our Parisas windows which offered calmness and gathering dogs sometimes, sometimes a goat, sometimes a sheep, and always, the unassuming but pretty trees. All these three I borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, while I was a graduating Graduate student, erratically prolonging thesis completion mainly to continue availing of the library’s sexy books. Malabou’s “Changing Difference,” Mao’s essays, Gamalinda’s “Empire of Memory” were all borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, through Mam Brenda, through the cheery librarians of the campus (Sometimes, they will ask me, O kelan ka ga-gradaute? Thesis na lang ba? something).

“The Critical Villa” edited by Jonathan Chua is the bridge. I started reading it in Baguio, did not finish there, was able to finish it in – surprise – Manila, courtesy of Adamson’s library, the university where I am now teaching. “Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street,” I remember reading at Silahis, 100 meters away from NCCA’s office at Intramuros, while I was waiting for Jesa. Wark’s “The Spectacle of Disintegration” I remember reading during the dull moments of our retooling seminar, again at Adamson.”Days of War, Nights of Love,” I mostly read during LRT rides to and from work (I suspect my eyesight has to say “fuck you” to me about this, for I can feel it is deteriorating). Adamson’s library is not without its sweetness. I was able to read Badiou and Engelmann’s “Philosophy and the Idea of Communism” here, and Raymond Williams work on Modernism, and Kerouac’s “Tristessa” and Almario’s thick “Balagtasismo versus Modernismo” which was reserved at UP Baguio (and which curiously I hardly bothered to even check when I was there). Yesterday I finished in one sitting, Marquez’ short “Memories of my Melancholy Whores,” while I was eating time in the last week of school this year. I remember doing that to Apol Sta. Maria’s “Alamat ng Panget” too, only that, again, I was wearing boxers, and long-sleeves and exhaling fog even as Baguio’s own fogginess engulfs me some eleven months ago.

My writings will also make me cry about this (big) city shift. January, I was taking writing for Baguio Chronicle quite seriously, contributing essays about Whang-od and Panagbenga or reviews of an exhibit about film at Baguio Cinematheque. December, I find myself writing a riposte to a lampoon article published in the Adamson Chronicle. Last night, I just returned the revised draft of a paper on Session in Bloom. Nights ago, not only the writings were about Baguio; they were IN Baguio.

Here, right now, I try to chronicle 2016 via the books I’ve read and where I have read them and where I have sweated for them and via the writings I’ve done and there is Baguio, like God (and if there would be blasphemy here, it will be with respect to the former, not the latter): all-powerful, all-present, all-known (not “knowing).

Will I end this piece the way Cesar Ruiz Aquino ended his “Proheme to Zamboanga” (All you were amoeba-fashion Zamboanga Zamboanga Zamboanga)? Enough to put it there because I will not.

My tears for Baguio are so big I sort of bled for almost 1000 words and an earlier plan is yet to be carried out: I will write about Baguio, bearing in mind Cesar’s “Proheme” to his city and Umberto Eco’s own cry for his “Alessandra” – which he described thus, “Alessandria is made up of great spaces. It is empty.”

I almost cried man, while reading Eco’s piece on Alessandra, his city, his place, the locations that make him throb. I was having brewed coffee – still bought in Baguio’s dirty and yet somehow fragrant and charming public market (all markets are dirty, rarely are they eerily fragrant and charming) – in our apartment in coughing Pasay when I almost cried on Eco’s Alessandra, and though the sad thing is that that brewed coffee is the only Baguio remnant I had, the happy, dazzling thing is that Baguio is 256 kilometers away, six hours via Genesis, four hours via Joybus (we are very near the Pasay terminals). Baguio is away like that, just some kilometric count, and another big decision away, another city-shift, (more aptly, a reversal, a return), one that is most surely a lovelier and less agonizing one.

Fanatics are Losers, Pluralists are Losers: On Mocha vs. Tanganglawin


Of the recent brouhaha involving Mocha and Ateneo’s Matanglawin’s annual lampoon issue (called Tanganglawin), some observations can be made on how the first months of Duterte have shaken us out of stupor (whether ‘just’ in social media or in the fleshly streets of everyday) and how being ‘involved’ is not enough.

A few days ago, the Facebook page “Mocha Uson Blog” called attention to Matanglawin’s recent lampoon issue which is called “MOCHANG TANGA BLOG.” Apparently, Mocha took offense at the publication, as hinted at the way she continued talking about it in the comments section (There was implicit imputation of malice in the very way (or more aptly: how she thinks) the publication is being circulated: “patago daw na pinamimigay,” as if it is unlawful, illegitimate). In its own page, Ateneo’s Matanglawin was quick to clarify, accentuating the “officialness” of their lampoon publication, quickly negating Mocha’s implication that since she thought the issue was being spread around campus unopenly, there is something fishy about it.

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Mula ito sa Mocha Uson Blog

We even have a personal copy of the issue, which Jesa chanced to obtain sa Ateneo mismo when she had a work-related visit to its library last August.  Maliban pa syempre sa aming familiarity with Matanglawin being Ateneo de Manila’s official student publication and the inference that Tanganglawin is its lampoon issue. This is thanks to our quite special, quite notable involvement with the campus press during college – a stint that brought a libel case to Outcrop, a case based on – surprise, surprise! – a lampoon issue.

How then can we read Mocha’s response to Tanganglawin which obviously played around with the blog she is maintaining? Is this fanaticism, Mocha being the prototypical dutertard – the dutertard being, I strongly suspect one of the types of citizens Duterte himself detests? In his side comments, he often underlines how criticizing someone, mostly if he or she is a public official, is part of one’s freedom of expression and it is something that is essential to democracy. Following this, are the dutertards not the destroyers of the ideals of democracy themselves: instead of a critical and productive exchange of ideas about societal issues, they espouse a fervent and unknowingly passive behaviour, electing the Almighty Shepherd – in the person of the President – to lead them and chart the way for them?

Does this make then the other camp – contra the Duterte fanatics are the anti-Duterte – the favourable position to be in? That is, being fanatic of the President is to be unintelligent and submissive and being against him, specifically his iron-fisted war on drugs and the more recent anti-US stance, is to be a protector of human rights and more generally, to be the more ‘enlightened’ one? Am I even asking the right questions? What if not all supporters of Duterte are fanatics, and what if not all who oppose him are the same (reminiscent of the silent clarification: to criticize Duterte does not necessarily make one “dilawan” or a member of the yellow army)? To frame the possibilities of positioning in relation to Duterte as a black-and-white matter is to deny the complexities that surround his presidency and the various social issues that his first three months in office have boldly opened up. As these matters are simplified, so the ways by which we negotiate and think about them and eventually, imagine how we can intervene are limited.

Clearly, Tanganglawin is a gesture of intervention. How does it imagine Duterte, how does it want its readers to imagine and relate to Duterte? And what does it say about the potentials of critique in a society that narrowly understands democracy as casting one’s vote every three years?

Campus Journalism as Always-Alternative? Lampoon, Laughter and Avoiding Leniency

In my four years in college, I have been involved in campus journalism. I was writer and then editor in UP Baguio’s student publication, Outcrop. My stint there taught me how campus journalism can be a venue for alternative discourses to be aired. This is coming from two major premises:  (1) that student publications must serve the interests of the students, their being the student papers’ publishers (via the student fees collected every enrolment) and (2) that the main characteristics of the education system (colonial, commercialized and fascist as we call it) mostly put the students at a disadvantage in various ways (the collection of exorbitant fees – the very fact that education is being paid for, actually! — the stifling of academic freedom, the skewing of education’s orientation in general to bypass the needs of the nation and so on). Airing these alternative discourses is done by writing about things that are not normally discussed, if not overtly made hidden to the student; issues that otherwise they should be minding about. These alternative discourses hence act as propaganda – or more aptly, counter-propaganda, for what they seek to counter is ‘propaganda’ as well, propaganda of the ruling ideology. Since they carry more the baggage of what the term “propaganda” connotes (as dry, as dogmatic, as narrow-minded, as simplistic), the concomitant burden of complexly formal presentations is similarly heavier for the camp of the marginalized. The lampoon is one of the more effective ways by which student publications can downplay their status as ‘propaganda,’ with the formal ingenuity making the ideological content less explicit (again, a task that is less prominent for the ruling ideas, since they have this aura of being matter-of-fact).

This is where I am coming from as I venture to offer my reading of Tanganglawin; as I venture to offer this critique of a publication which in itself is (I believe, consciously) critiquing something.

That “something” being, what?

The cover page conjoins the parodied title of the blog (Mochang Tanga Blog) and the line “Dudirty Die hard Supoters”). An early jab at fanaticism?

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This will be sustained in the next page, “Kuta ng DDSS, Natagpuan!” The second and third paragraphs of the article read as follows:

“Nagsagawa ng isang raid ang Feelipin National Pulis Patola (FNPP) at Feelipin Bureau ng Imbestigasyones (FBI) tungkol sa pugad ng mga tagasuporta ni Pangulong Rodrigow Duteti na Die-hard Dutetians Super Square (DDSS) o “Dutetrolls.

Walang natagpuan sa nasabing gusali maliban sa 109 na abandonadong mga kompyuter unit at altar na may mga pigurin ni Pangulong Duteti.”

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Note the ironic play: the PNP, supposedly the main implementer on the ground of Duterte’s notorious war on drugs, is being parodied here (as the FNPP). It is the FNPP who raided the “pugad,” the place where the Dutetrolls are nestled. But the twist is that the FNPP found nothing but computers and Duterte figurines. What is being implied here: first and more solidly, how fanaticism over Duterte is getting alarmingly akin to the religious and second, how the presence of the Dutetrolls can be reduced to a cyberforce, a force enabled less by actual people than digital computer mechanisms.

What else does Tanganglawin read from Duterte aside from the Dutetrolls they evidently repulse (albeit the two must not be collapsed with each other; as hinted above, Duterte himself might be ashamed of what his avid supporters are doing)?

There are pages about two former Presidents and Duterte’s problematic attitude towards and relationship to them: first, the controversy surrounding former dictator Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and Duterte’s professed approval of it and the executive pardon given to Gloria Arroyo.

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Here are excerpts from the page dwelling on the latter:

“Dahil sa Acquittal Beauty Bar, naalis ang dulot ng plunder virus! Nakaalis na si Glory ng Veterano at nawala na rin ang kanyang neckbrace.”

And the last paragraph: “Mabibili ang Acquittal Beauty Bar at iba pang mga produkto sa Karte Supremo, Palasyo ng Mekelengyeng at sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Tanging kailangan gawin ay palihim na abutan ang saleslady o ‘di kaya naman kaibiganin si Rude Dutirtry para magkaroon ng pribelehiyong magamit ang produkto.”

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These concerns related to Duterte are valid points of discussion, and by bringing it up at the very least, Tanganglawin deserves some credit.

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It also appears that there is this existing notion that Ateneo is a bulwark of “yellow minions,” supporters of the Liberal Party, or the Aquinos. I am not part of the community so I do not have a more solid notion of how this is alive there although I suspect that this has something to do with an anti-Marcos statement that was released by the Ateneo professors early this year (This connects to another simplification: to be against the Marcoses is to be supportive of the Aquinos or the Liberal Party, a narrow view that symptomatizes how we look at history as a stage where big families (and not individual and collective agents) are at play.

But several parts of the lampoon make us reconsider this simplification.

Is this not precisely where the potency of the entire Tanganglawin is coming from: this exhaustion of the possibilities of play that are proffered by the chosen form – the lampoon? Notably, the lampoon issue does not exempt its creators, as can be seen here:

Since they are also part of the Ateneo community, the very community being tagged as “napaka-bias sa mga Akinoknow,” it can be argued that the writers of the piece are also poking fun at themselves, revealing the extent of their awareness of the issues which they are tackling, to which they are responding. Most importantly, this reveals that they are aware that they are part of this whirlwind of events, that in their practice of writing, they do not subscribe to the hackneyed and already-refuted idea that the writer is this privileged documenter of events. What this practice of writing evinces is that these campus journalists are aware that writers do not merely document; writers also analyze the events, and since they are also players in that string of events, they are also analyzing themselves and how they relate (and more vitally, act in relation) to the events around them.

And maybe this is where I would finish this essay – for now (and if that sounds paradoxical, then let it be paradoxical; after all, it is mostly through paradoxes, if we only unflinchingly negotiate them, that we advance our thought) – if only to finish in a sort of positive light.

In an old essay, “Hermeneutics for our Time: From Where do We Speak,” Edel Garcellano closes the essay by recalling the very opening he made in the title: “Finally, there is therefore only one question that must be immediately asked of all of us: From where do we speak.”

In the rabid, and rapid exchanges happening in our time, no thanks to social media (the very platform where Mocha calls attention to Tanganglawin), we become more oblivious to this very important question: where are things, opinions, dispositions, attitudes, coming from? We all know this: how most of the ‘discourses’ happening in the Internet have only reinforced generalizations, sweeping statements, sweeping attacks, non-dialogues pretending to be worthwhile exchanges.

This can remind us of the two pervasive attitudes when it comes to the pursuit and the production of knowledge, of ideas, of truth; two attitudes that are seemingly diametrically opposed each other but are actually two sides of the same coin (as two disparate things commonly are): the attitude that is adamant in claiming it represents the singular Truth and the attitude that resigns to the multiplicity of truths, all having equal valence and value. In the explosion of opinions in social media, we see these two attitudes dominate: (1) a close-mindedness stemming from stern belief in one’s position, blocking meaningful exchanges with contrary views and (2) a liberal celebration of pluralities, usually concluding (when tedium sets in) with the very loserly “Let us agree to disagree” statement.

What did Zizek say? This: “There is, among the multitude of opinions, a true knowledge but this knowledge is accessible only from an interested, partial position.” Forget about Truth, forget about the Master Opinion, the Most Right Opinion, the Most Valid Point-of-View. But also do not get charmed by the allure of the pluralistic and often non-committal let-us-respect-each-side eklat. What I propose is truer, more committed engagement, with each side showing awareness of the bases of their positions, the interests and biases that these positions articulate.

Is Mocha coming from her fanaticism, a fanaticism which she herself does not acknowledge? A closed doggedness she herself is blind to?

How about Tanganglawin? I want to believe that they are aware of the political functions of their “having fun.” The back page of the issue will appear to support this:

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Clearly, they are not just “playing around;” this “play” is aware of the very situations where their play is launched.

Maybe this is the most important reminder of all: when we type things, when we make our keyboards bleed with our emphatic sharing of opinions and views, when we engage someone in social media, we are located someplace, literally and symbolically. These social locations and our very identification with them, we articulate with our online presence. The cyberspace is not as big as we would like to believe; neither is it cut off from our social realities. Old thing to say.

Locations are significant. Adbots are real things – so are fanatics and pluralists — but we can be realer and more proactive and smarter and self-aware and self-critical than them.