AS “GUESTS” in that faraway home called the English language, Filipino poets have the great burden of having to write in a language where they may feel unwelcome. But At Home in Unhomeliness: An Anthology of Philippine Postcolonial Poetry in English (UST Publishing House, 2007) shows that Filipino writers have not only mastered English, but also built their own home there.
Featuring 82 poems from some of the countries most promising young poets in English, At Home in Unhomeliness has been released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists). Founded by Thomasian man of letters and National Artist F. Sionil Jose, Philippine PEN is the local branch of the International PEN, a worldwide association of writers that upholds freedom of expression and the coming together of various cultures through literature.
I start to rejoice inside.
“F-Fred!” Rissa gasps for air as I watch her move with all her might. “I’m sorry,” she adds, her voice trailing off like the wind. And then she passes out.
Hearing her say my name in distress for the first time again in so many years feels like cymbals crashing near my ears. All of me wants to see her suffer more.
No UST student figured in the winning column of this year’s Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, which serves as a barometer of the state of literary excellence not only in the writing profession but on campuses as well.
“It isn’t a good thing that not one (student) from UST won this year,” SEA Write Award recipient and UST alumnus Michael Coroza told the Varsitarian. He was the only Thomasian winner who attended the awards night at the Manila Peninsula last September 1.
HINDI lamang sa karagatan natatagpuan ang mga sirena. At lalong hindi sila eksklusibo lamang sa matatandang mitolohiya ng mga Griyego at Romano. Huwag akalaing sila’y bunga lamang ng mayamang guniguni ng tao noon at ngayon. Huwag silang habang buhay ibilanggo sa mga naninilaw na pahina ng mga kuwentong kutsero. Gabi-gabi, lalo na sa tuwing kabilugan ng buwan, sila’y pangkat-pangkat na umaahon sa dagat, ilog, at batis. Naglalahong kusa ang mga buntot nila habang nangangalaglag ang makukulay na kaliskis. Sila’y nakapaa’t sinusuyod ang sementadong dalampasigang hinihimod ng naglalagablag na pagnanasa. Malamlam ang mga mata nilang naghahanap ng kanlungang mapaglalagakan ng katauhang lupaypay. Tinig nila’y malambing. Awit nila’y mapanghalinang tulad ng mga along hinaharot ng hangin.
FAMILY feuds, though common, are never easy to tackle especially in a play reflective of its writer’s past.
But David Henry Hwang nevertheless ventures into the matter in his play, Golden Child which was staged last August 9 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Little Theater. It is the story of a Chinese family struggling with a conflict of beliefs. And it is also essentially Hwang’s story, a piece he wrote at the onset of fatherhood in 1995.
The Asian-American playwright then was anxious about the new phase in his life, to think that he was yet to come to terms with many areas in his own past.
FOUR decades had passed since David Henry Hwang last stepped foot in the Philippines — a time well spent to become a preeminent Asian-American playwright, screenwriter and librettist.
Hwang was born in Los Angeles, California to Chinese immigrants in 1957. He graduated from Stanford University in 1979 and attended the Yale School of Drama in 1980. He also holds honorary degrees from Columbia College in New York and The American Conservatory Theatre.
While still a college freshman, Hwang saw several plays and eventually decided to try writing his own. And he has never stopped ever since, “I just read and see as many plays as I could,” he recalled.
At 22, Hwang considered it a very lucky break when FOB (Fresh Off the Boat), his very first play, got picked by the US National Playwrights’ Club, which showcased new writers and plays, for a month-long workshop.
WHAT remains when there is nothing left to do? Nothing and everything, Luis Katigbak asserts in his collection of nonfiction pieces titled, The King of Nothing to Do (Milflores Publishing Inc., 2006).
In his compilation of essays which he had written for various publications like LegManila, MEGA, and Manila Bulletin, the Palanca and Philippines Graphic Awards winner presents “a pleasant conversation about writing, music, films, and pop culture.” The essays discuss more than just the ways that people entertain themselves, as they also tackle the underlying culture within the different methods of escapism that people incorporate into their lives.
His first essay, “Another One Rides the Bus,” reveals how Filipinos have gotten used to crimes in the city.
QUAKING worlds embracing breaking,
Under crowds of ashen suns,
Implode to singularity
Nearest our beloved: void
Impaled with clocks, cubes, and a bomb
Atomic and in critical mass—
Jazz croons our sacred hymns
Enmeshed in asymptotic hugging
Nights crawl, unknown as willed
In God’s favorite town, undimmed
Crashing central into that one
Arid wasteland called a heart.
NOT ALL creative writings are fictional or imaginary. Journalistic but imaginative, they go by the names personal journalism, new journalism, and creative nonfiction. They depict real events with the tools of fiction.
For Prof. Jose Victor Torres of UST’s Faculty of Arts and Letters, creative nonfiction is “a mixture of fact with the principles of writing fiction.”
Blood’s scent—the smell
of uncanny, putrid air—
tyrannizes all space, across
his nose. He shivers. Hastened tones
along deathbeds roll.
Can I get my dad back?
Silence. Then come the zealous machines,
to keep all these cyborgs away
from their destiny, alive
without a soul.
Can they wake my dad up?
People come and go. Beyond
the glass of parting
they say “Hello,” “It will be fine.”
What a farce. Take off your masks.
No, it won’t be fine.
He rushes inside, where men
in death’s embrace, all mire their souls as one—
as a force against ultimate destiny.
He meets the grim reaper,
Blocking the doorway, bearing the words:
“You can’t take my dad away.”