After ‘After the Workshop’


The quixotic act of questioning the workshop—or making it quixotic, for in reality, I dreamt that it was not only necessary and expected but also tedious.

In cities of the past where a pedantic group of friends converged, we conceived a project that responds to workshop seasons—roughly about this time also. “After the Workshop, one of us tentatively called it. We were supposed, I guess, to collate works which from our own assessment will never pass a workshop application. My memory tells me that we were not really able to talk about that concept face-to-face and with bottles of mountain airs and beers; we mostly talked about it online. Or they did talk about it and I was not there.

Had we talked about it in the flesh, these I imagine are the little points we would be raising:

The work will be critical of enduring workshops and the way they constrain the standards of what passes off as ‘literary;’

The work will point to itself as an embodiment of an alternative—not so much as alternative standards as alternative forms, forms that present themselves as possibilities for the literary that is actualized. It is an alternative with respect to the workshops’ implicit, if not loose standards.

Maybe there will be some semantic quibbling on the work’s title itself: why ‘after’ the workshop? Because the contents of the project can only be finalized once the calls for workshop applications are over? Did we really have to send these works and then have them rejected? That was not the idea, I could remember. That would only hint a kind of juvenile bitterness, actually doubled: works were rejected in workshops and then compiled as protest to those workshops’ standards. Maybe because the work tacitly admits the hegemony of the workshops it questions?

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During workshops, we mostly walk.

How can we be fooled by the writings we write? In my imaginings, my pedantic group of friends was exchanging views for the concept of a project but in reality I construe and then construct it all here. I betray Bakhtin’s polyphony not by passing off a singular voice as voices that converse but by employing the term without properly understanding it in context.

As much as the fog, I miss the rains of Baguio. Can this not count as a betrayal too, wandering away from writing about workshops to interjecting embittered longing for a city? When I speak of my pedantic group of friends, I speak from the place of our Baguio interactions mapped in my head. When I speak of Bakhtin, I speak from the memory of reading him first in a Baguio classroom. When I speak of context, I speak from Baguio’s grip on me and how I grip it in return.

A week ago, I attended a workshop organized by another literary institution. I was thinking in the middle of fleshes how I could make use of the occasion as another venue to think about the function of these events and my participation in them.

The final betrayal here is that I really intended this as a reflection on the words of some people I know. Tilde wrote of pag-aalinlangan; Levi spoke of his dream of the workshops of the future.

Honestly, it is about to rain.

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