How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity


A seemingly insignificant anecdote in her notes on Nicolas Roeg’s “Insignificance” about Einstein can rain on vitality when put side by side other works. In “Remote Control”, Barbara Kruger recalls Einstein’s little act of defiance: “When the red-baiting senator tries to confiscate a pile of precious equations, Einstein outwits him by throwing them out the window. So it rains relativity on the hotdog stand and produces an insignificant spectacle of spectacular significance.”

Continue reading “How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity”

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?

Continue reading “The Thorns of Flowers and the Soil Where they Grow: On Valentines and Panagbenga”

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.

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Mula sa:

 

 

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.

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.

Chantal and Jean-Marc with Jesse and Celine with Franz and Odile, or, Kundera with Linklater and Godard


Jean-Marc: Everything changed when I met you. Not because my little jobs became more exciting. But because everything that happens around me I turn into fodder for our conversations.

Chantal: We could talk about other things!

Jean-Marc: Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that’s very beautiful. But what would they nourish their intimate talk with? However contemptible the world may be, they still need to be able to talk together.

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Maybe before their fallout with their director, Celine and Jesse were able to have one last conversation, albeit a shorter one.

Chantal: They could be silent.

Jean-Marc: Like those two, at the next table?

Jean-Marc laughed.

Jean-Marc: Oh, no, no love can survive muteness.

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But, via Godard, Franz, Odile and Arthur were able to survive muteness.

Pagtulak, Pagbuo sa Sarili: Ukol sa Salin ni Janine at Tilde sa Apat na Tula ni Mikael Co


(Kung may tinutulak ka, bakit? Kung may tinutulak ka, patungo saan? Okay gets, ang pagsasalin hindi na lamang bilang pagkakawil na siya mismo ay tinulak mula sa “pagtataksil,” kundi pagtataksil muli na tinulak muli mula sa pagkakawil.)

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Ang reaksyon (mala-pagdepensa) ng sinaling awtor na si Mikael Co sa Kidapawan Massacre noong Abril 1 ang isa sa mga pinanggalingan ng proyekto nila Janine at Tilde

Sa “Apat na Tulak,” kinalasan at pinag-aklasan nila Janine at Tilde ang apat na tula ni Mikael de Lara Co, dating manunulat para sa nalusaw, lumutang na rehimeng Aquino. Kumalas sila sa mapagtalimang uri ng pagsasalin; sinalin nila hindi lang ang tula ng may-akda kung hindi ang buong panlipunang milieu na kinabibilangan at tinutulungang paganahin nito. Akala ko ang tinutulak ng proyektong ito ay mga tula ni Co o si Co mismo, ngunit naalala kong ang kritisismo ay ‘di dapat nagsasayang ng laway sa vanity, sa mga personalidad o indibidwal lamang. Tinutuntungan lamang ito upang magsalita ukol sa mas masaklaw na sityong ginagalawan nating lahat, at ang mga uri ng ugnayang meron tayo rito.

(I hope it was noticed, and if not, then here I am, making it explicit: how I am not bifurcating the individual, the author (and the author’s works) and the larger environment to which he belongs and where he works. A few times before, I was flirting with the idea of tagging Tilde and Janine’s project as a kind of conceptual translation, or, translating conceptually. Then, as now, I am coming from a small proposition I made about conceptualism based on two works by Angelo Suarez: that conceptual works can make more explicit the social relations that underlie its production. The same is at work in Janine and Tilde’s “Apat na Tulak”: the translation both of the texts and the social relations (including its author’s position) that engender them. Perhaps strangely, while I see this as a strength, this is also where one of my problems with the project is stemming from. How to reconcile, how to harmonize these two translations? Should one be privileged over the other? And how should the translational work fashion itself when it is translating more than one thing?)

Maybe looking at how their translations went will be helpful.

Ang “nature-nature” na source text na “Elegy,” ginawang literal na madugo sa “Elehiya.” There is Gelacio Guillermo’s “War,” which I was reminded of here, painting the similarity between birthing a human being and birthing a new social setup. There is also Carlos Bulosan, whose poetry I find eminent in depicting nature as violent, as uneasy, as clamorous: “All the night the sea rushed in silence and knelt/ In the darkness, complaining in monosyllables.” “red tiger lilies are bravely shouldering/ Their delicate thinness above the parched earth/ Crying for rain”

Renaming the seasons becomes “baguhin ang panahon,” and it was not just what is being changed, but more tenably, what process of change will be enacted which was violated. The first one consists of a more forward interpretation – it is not just the natural seasons that are changing, that will be changed, but the “times,” with its more social connotation. But what kind of change will be inflicted? “Elegy” speaks of a “renaming”; “Elehiya” speaks of the more general “baguhin.” The former homes in on the language, the name. The process of change it speaks of is a shallow one, I think: a renaming, a changing of the garb, a changing of external appearance comparable to the way we replace the calendars as a year ends.

Can we equate the act of making the name notable – foregrounding it – to positing it as the horizon of understanding? The only way to change things is by changing their names, changing their external appearances? The limit of my language is the limit of my?

The get-up and the make-up vary but the clowns keep mellowing, weeping on the inside.

In the original, already notable is the slight veer from the naturalization of phenomena: Yes, the seasons are renamed; seasons do not just change naturally. But the act of changing is not just in terms of how they are called. The natural is bloodied. The natural screams, is made to scream.

Ang “panahon” ay di lang pag-ihip ng hangin o pagputok ng bulkan; ang “panahon” ay pagtaas-pagbaba rin ng presyo ng petrolyo at mga bilihin; ang panahon ay ang state of national emergency, ang dahas ng bombahan at sagupaan. This is elegiac.

In “Warrant,” what was “A sky, teeming with spears” in “War Chant” became “Ang langit, lango sa pulburang pumurga sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutumang nilunasan natin ng kaunlaran at kaayusan sa daang makatuwirang tadhana ng lahing maka-demokrasya.” Why such protractedness?

Again: the translation here explicates the web of social relations to which the author of the original text belongs and which he actively, if not smugly, reinforces. “Daang makatuwiran” and “lahing maka-demokrasya” recall the Aquino regime. The safe and universally sweet final line in “War Chant” became reeking of sour mockery in the lengthier, albeit syntactically and semantically suspicious (“sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutuman”?) final line in “Warrant.”

Not just elegiac but foreboding are the last lines of “Gravedad”: Minsan napapaginipan ko ang pagbagsak ng demokrasya/ Nagpapasalamat ako sa bawat paggising sa tuwid na daan. It cannot be mistaken: the “demokrasya” here is the same as the one in “lahing maka-demokrasya” in Warrant. This is another jab at the very role and position of the original author in society.

Elsewhere in the translational work are other cute parts: “I wish more creatures had evolved wings” was translated to “Sana mas maraming nilikhang binigyang-bagwis ng evolucion” in Gravedad. The sleek Hegelian sound of internal or self-development in the former is erased in the latter where a more complex relationship can be read. “Mind” became “naudyukang isip”; “sparrows” became “Sparrow yunit.” “The weather” becomes “panahon ng pagbabago.”

Generally speaking, I like this project, I like the concept most of all. I get what is being articulated in the work’s preface: “Kailangang kasangkapanin [sic ba ito dapat?] ang wika bilang larangan ng pag-aaklas at ang metodo ng pagsasalin bilang paraan ng paglikha at pagpuna. Sa huli’y dapat itulak ang “Four Poems,” upang ibunyag nito ang kanyang sarili, ang tunay nitong sarili, ang tunay na reaksyunaryong sarili. Itong tulak ang tangka ng proyektong ito.”

But I have questions, questions that concentrate mainly on the project’s form (even as frankly, I am also questioning my questions, clarifying to myself my premises). I am thinking if it would be dry and dull to demand some kind of internal solidity (“unity” is a word I avoided, because of its connotations not the least of which is the formalist one) from the work.

“Elehiya” is most effective in enacting the multi-layered translations: the text-in-itself and its sociality: “Ilang bala ba ang kailangan/ para sa isang masaker?” More vitally perhaps, “Elehiya” to me is the most solid in-itself; that is, not just as a work of translation, but as a work in its own right.

Which I think finally brings me – after a semi-circuity – to the core, the rock, the rurok(?) of my concern. Is it fair or reasonable or not too demanding to ask a work of translation whose task is to explicitly translate both texts and social locations — explicitly because while all translations speak of or symptomatizes social location, very few explicitly do – to be also solid in-itself? What does it mean for a work to be solid in-itself: this is somewhat akin to the formalist notion of organic unity but without the sound of closedness; this speaks of the work being self-organized enough for it to command meaning. In “Manikluhod” for instance, the pronouns (the “nila,” “sila,” “ating,” “aking” etc.) and their antecedents are confusing; blocking meaning-making in the process.

Varied a little: does this demand not miss the point of translations like this? Is a kind of internal solidity still desirable – if not possible – when the translations are openly working on both words and social relations? External logic (ibunyag ang reaksyunaryo) seemed to predominate the translations and so they become internally loose.

In their efforts to betray, reveal, burn the reactionary, can we affirm that the translations have forsaken to build themselves?

After Acquittal, Skies


When it’s finally over, when it is finally said that

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How do we sleep the first peaceful sleep and smile the grandly uninhibited smile?

There is no longer the slightly weak excuse: that it is hard to think about running  while one is running, that it is hard to theorize about the mechanisms that enable running (our bodily functions, our will or motivations to run, the complex meanings of our running and so on) while one is doing the very act of running. I guess it was Eagleton who used this example and a weaker, general guess is that he used this in explaining something about the link between theory and practice, experiences and making sense of them.

(Conversely, there is Lenin, at the end of “State and Revolution,” speaking about the 1917 Revolution — “It’s more pleasant and useful to go through the ‘experience of the revolution’ that to write about it.” – and in the process also subtly speaking about the sweetly complex relationship between theory and practice. There must be no fuss privileging one over the other; there must be pus when we collapse one to the other.)

Will I side with Eagleton or with Lenin? But it is a different context now: there is no literal running, there is no immediate revolution.

After running for a libel case, where do we go, what do we do?

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