what we call "words,"
a lot of language,
each syllable made of air.
Then there was
s i l e n c e,
no talk at all,
no more syllables
shaped by living tongues
out of wandering air.
Thus all tongues
slowly talk themsleves
into s i l e n c e.
Last night, Akdang_Bayan (A_B) held its first sA_Bat, that is, the first in a series of discussions that aim to equip its members with the basics. These fundamentals cover an introduction to issues and opportunities in literature and language; the critical triad: class, gender, and race; globalization; the tri-media: film, radio, and print; the new media: digital arts and internet; the marketing of literary products; and other cultural venues.
It began at quarter to four in the Tree House of UP Diliman. Our resource person was Arnold Azurin, a political anthropologist. He wrote Reinventing The Filipino's Sense of Being and Becoming. We discussed the matter of language and its role in nation-building. Several roadblocks were identified. Primary of these was the Tagalog self-conceit that held the national language through the policies that perpetuate and mobilize. The scholarship and literature of the Tagalog writers of Azurin's generation did not have the breadth to encompass the nation. Instead of envisioning the nation through its interregional linkages, the nation was seen only in the wake of the Tagalog's struggle with the colonizers. Now, even freed of the foreign proponents of the Hispanizing drive that built UST and the Americanizng drive that built UP, the educational system still weaves a nation based on an assumption of inferiority of the Filipino vis-a-vis white scholarship and the rest of other Filipino thought-systems and literature to the Tagalog scholarship that studied and expressed only itself as the basis of the nation.
What is the challenge to the writer engaged in nation-building? Write what you know. But move beyond the Tagalog-based linguistic horizon. Know beyond the comfort zones!
There were many points raised. With these, many names were bashed (guess who's on top of the list). We have not yet collated the feedback, but I personally consider it a success. The assumptions A_B members regarding language and its dynamic with literature were provoked sufficiently to raise a number of questions and challenges.
We have long identified this inward spiral that now sucks in the national resources to a coterie promoting their Tagalog. I believe a new attitude and action is rising, the old elements of freethought, yes, but mixed and moving in a different course. The openness is promising. My fear? That this same involution shall infect us. The fact that these machinations have been recognized and vilified at the outset assuages me.
Bienvenido Lumbera is set for a survey of Philippine Literature on the first week of December. My dear hope is that I can get some of my Los Banos students to attend this one.