Ene 30, 2013

THE FALL OF RAJAH SOLAIMAN: Fourth Annotation of "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant"

Let us now attend the battle that ended Rajah Solaiman. After an exchange of challenges, "Rajah Solaiman said [to Omaca-an], 'Yes, that is why I am going around this province of yours, to kill you, as Lanao province cannot be inhabited by people unless you are killed.' Immediately after this, Omaca-an, with a fierce look, tried to grab Rajah Solaiman, but instantly he drew his sword and struck him. The giant being wounded in the thigh and nearly cut into two pieces said, "That is not the way a datu will cut off a man without cutting up the whole body into separate pieces." The giant after saying this again tried to seize Rajah Solaiman who immediately struck him and cut the gaint into separate pieces. But look! The giant became two giants instead of being killed." In [1] and [2].

Tilde began a line of thinking for us to pursue. According to his reading  "our folk stories (as in the repulsion felt towards the omaca-an and the bakunawa) never described in detail how horrible horrible monsters look. so, we would rather slay them and opt not to understand them, communicate, negotiate with them, because trying to do so will probably result to consequences such as being the omaca-an's dinner or losing the last moon forever into the dark of the bakunawa's gastrointestinal labyrinths." Where does such a "communication" with the monster lead? To a communion perhaps? As had been discussed in the third annotation, Rajah Solaiman and Omaca-an exchanged words before blows. I think that this dialogue allowed the giant to gain the upper hand even before the Rajah drew his sword.

Omaca-an had been taunting his adversary, reminding him of his station, how he was "pitiful", yes, but also that he was "Rajah Solaiman, son of Sultan of Bacaramandil of Komamaramantapoli". Was Omaca-an flattering the Rajah, strumming his pride, surfacing this weakness so he could easily manipulate it? For pride was indeed the Rajah's weakness. Through it, Omaca-an had been able to condition  how the highborn would fight him. The giant sealed the deal when he said, "That is not the way a datu will cut off a man without cutting up the whole body into separate pieces," because these words led his enemy to activate a secret power: Omaca-an's ability to replicate upon being severed.

So it came to pass.  Rajah Solaiman cut and cut Omaca-an until he could not cut anymore, until he had to fall to eight giants. "After a severe struggle, the giants overcame him and cut off his head."

Let us highlight three details related to the Rajahs' idea of clearing the land. First, Omaca-an's replication. This seems to me a certain kind of peopling, a multiplication of a mighty self so that a land could contain nothing but this presence, project nothing but this will. This multiplication may refer to some heterogenizing political system (think like I think, repeat what I say, do as I do), or it may have been a mockery of the brothers' project. Omaca-an was a people unto himself, the means of his eradication was itself the method of renewal. Violence begets violence.

Notice also how the Rajah brandished a sword while the giant used only his bare hands. This seemed to me part of Omaca-an's rhetoric, how he's setting himself against Omaca-an, declaring himself as no datu, no ruler of people, beyond the rules of engagement, perhaps someone less noble. Yet, despite such a station, it was he who reminded the Rajah how a datu ought to fight, perhaps poking a finger on a physical lack, or to paraphrase the giant on way:  "Are you sure you're a datu when you can't even cut an enemy properly!"

Thus provoked, the Rajah became Omaca-an's own sword, his first "clone". By means of measured taunts, his fighting stance, insults coupled with recognition, Omaca-an was able to wield the Rajah himself so that he could cut "himself" in the proper, most advantageous manner.

This brings me to one last observation. Omaca-an cannot split himself at will. In fact, there was no mention that his replicates could cut each other in order to speed up his multiplication. Also, as Omaca-an's fight with Rajah Indarapatra would later reveal, the process does not permanently multiply the giant. Rajah Indarapatra would have to fight only one Omaca-an, not eight, just one giant who was unable to replicate himself despite his desperation. It seems that this giant cannot multiply asexually, he needs another, someone he could seduce into his design. Maybe Rajah Solaiman was susceptible to Omaca-an's words because he took the path without women (a point made in the previous annotation), without intercourse with the natives, the land. Maybe Omaca-an was truly representative of the nature of war, that it never truly begins with weapons, that all it ever needed was one man, and then one other—of his own heart—against whom he could throw himself.

In the end, Rajah Solaiman indeed became of the land, through the battle that shaped it, the agony that offered it both a name and a ghost. These last things shall be the purpose of the fifth annotation.

[1] Damiana L. Eugenio. "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant (Maranao)". In Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002: 45-47.
[2] Lanao Progress, v. 6, no. 12 (1938), p.8. In Victoria J. Adeva's, "Maranao Folk Literature" (MA Thesis, UP, 1978).
[3] Tilde's illustration and notes | teasing | othering | re-viewing | leeching
[4] tekstong bopis | Prelude | First | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth Annotation

Ene 24, 2013

TWO APPROACHES: Third Annotation of "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant"

"Raja Indarapatra told his brother Raja Solaiman to pass at the Western side of the like and he himself would pass at the eastern side, and they would meet at Timbalangan cape. Rajah Solaiman arrived first at this cape but did not meet  his brother as he was delayed on account of his marrying the Queen of the Nymphs in Mimbalas who is called Ba-i Karimbang by the Moros." In [1] and [2].

The brothers divided the land into two paths, both strewn with struggle and murder, but only one marked by a marriage and women. Tilde has already touched upon a basic distinction between the Rajahs, and I would like to quote an essential excerpt from his reading:
omaca-an's might and magic was first faced by solaiman because indarapatra was busy with another other: the opposite sex. within the text, indarapatra is shown as a charmer of at least three women: 1.) the nymph he married while his brother solaiman waits for him at the rendezvous point; 2.) the baliti tree dwelling female demon who told him what happened and where omaca-an is; and, 3.) since we usually call our homeland 'motherland,' the province itself.
thus, there are types of the other that we find tolerable. remember that though lanao was then uninhabited by humans during the reign of the omaca-an, there were nymphs and indarapatra married their queen during those the fight of solaiman and omaca-an. the dweller of the baliti tree helped indarapatra, maybe because there is some sort of alliance between these feminine, not-human, perhaps divine inhabitants of lanao. and indarapatra's marriage could have been insightful of this alliance-building with these various types of other, and maybe through these connections, indarapatra knew what he would do and not do to defeat the omaca-an.
Negating the "before" does not suffice in establishing the after. Maybe Rajah Indaraptra had to see in himself and in his relations the land he had been envisioning with his brother. It's possible, even if only partially, that this was what the marriage meant. He had to perceive more than the fight. He had to understand—and therefore create—what he was fighting for.

Note however that, unlike the Rajahs, the Queen is of the land, her Mimbalas territory among those threatened by the monsters and the wild. Yet, she also represents some of the wild, being a nymph, perhaps the more peaceable, companionable, and provident aspect of the wild, as opposed to another aspect, the monster Omaca-an who was beyond domestication.

Here, I'm testing out a possible answer for something that's been bugging me: why would Indarapatra win where Solaiman fell? The two paths can offer some answers: Rajah Indarapatra went native, gathered intel, established roots. In a very real sense, Rajah Indarapatra made himself more vulnerable by assimilating the land, assuming the folk, throwing his lot (perhaps) completely with the people.

On the other hand, it was entirely about the battle for Rajah Solaiman. I see him lost in the bloodlust, noble still, maybe, but there was nothing for him other than the fight. Done with his share of beasts, having cleared half of the land, the Rajah waited for his brother at the Timbalangan rendezvous. In [1] and [2]:

"While he was patiently waiting, Omaca-an, a horrible monster, came upon him. The big giant neighed at Rajah Solaiman and said, 'O pitiful Rajah Solaiman, son of Sultan of Bacaramandil of Komamaramantapoli, why did you come to my dwelling place? You will never get back home.' 

"'You must return to your place,' said Rajah Solaiman, 'as you are a pitiful giant.'

Omaca-an the big giant replied and said, 'As you will not get back to your place, let us fight.'" 

Face to face now, and almost toe to toe We hear the taunts, mutual belittling of the other, the intimidation. But it's an exchange I find curious for at least two reasons: (a) by recognizing Rajah Solaiman's station, Omaca-an reveals his own, and (b) by means of dialogue, we find the combatants setting the stakes, already engaging in tug-of-war over the land.

When Omaca-an recognizes Rajah Solaiman as "son of Sultan of Bacaramandil of Komamaramantapoli" he sets himself apart from the beasts of the land. He has both intelligence and the accountability that goes with it. A man slain by animals differs from the same man, slaughtered too, but in the hands of someone who knows where he comes from, who he is, perhaps also, his purpose. Perhaps Eugenio was right when she identified Omaca-an as a "cannibal," as someone cut from the same cloth as basic humans. It's possible that Omaca-an was also a hero of an older legend (as what sometimes happens in myths and legends, for example, Baal was himself the Canaanite's idea of god long before Yahweh's people came and demonized him). If so, then it politically makes sense that the dominating culture who was carrying the song of the Rajahs would sacrifice one Rajah to him in order to appease the dominee, marry off the stronger Rajah to one of the heroines or prominent figures of that same older story (who the Moros name Ba-i Karimbang) and see that Rajah (now already also of that older folk) destroy the old order.

This brings us to the confusion of the dialogue. Who should be going home to where? Omaca-an tells the invader that Timbalangan is his place. Rajah Solaiman tells him to go back to his place.

One possible explanation: Rajah Solaiman is saying he is home, it is already his place, and therefore nobody else's. If Omaca-an has a home, it must be somewhere else. A complicated, yet possibly gratifying method of saying go away: "This was never your home in the first place."

Perhaps even without force of arms, the giant has already won, and not only because Rajah Solaiman was merely echoing his words "pitiful" and "place". Omaca-an knows that the Rajah hails from another place (Komamaramantapoli) while Rajah Solaiman could only say "you don't belong here, go home" without saying where that home was. Saying it's just not "here," because "here" is "mine" just won't cut it.

Another possible explanation for this dialogue is that "place" here means social station, therefore: claim. So to paraphrase Omaca-an: "You are prince of another land, Solaiman, son of a stranger to this land, but you have entered my territory without permission, beyond protocol, therefore with ill intent. You have lost any claim for safe passage home. Your royalty shall find no purchase here." Which might be a stretch, yes, I know but wait till you hear the Solaiman paraphrase: "You hold no sway here as I have come with my banner. You must return to servility as you are a pitiful giant."

"As you shall never again taste the comforts of your kingdom, your privilege, your power, Rajah Solaiman, let us fight."

I hope I've brought us closer to a certain point I've been trying to make: "place" is always a spatial and a political position. And this idea makes sense if we pay attention to Omaca-an when he said "As you will not get back to your place, let us fight."

The logical sequence here marks the difference. What Omaca-an said was not "We will fight, and therefore you will not be able to return to your place" (which would have meant merely that he means to slay the Rajah) but in fact "We will fight because you will not return to your place". The latter proves much more difficult to read. Could it mean "because you're too stubborn to leave" or "because you would rather place your life at my mercy" or "because you refuse to know your place".

"Because you belong to me now" or "because you belong to this land now, Rajah Solaiman". And indeed, Omaca-an will unite his enemy with the place, both frustrating the Rajah's hope and fulfilling his destiny.  This shall figure in the fourth annotation.

[1] Damiana L. Eugenio. "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant (Maranao)". In Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002: 45-47.
[2] Lanao Progress, v. 6, no. 12 (1938), p.8. In Victoria J. Adeva's, "Maranao Folk Literature" (MA Thesis, UP, 1978).
[3] Tilde's illustration and notes | teasing | othering | re-viewing | leeching
[4] tekstong bopis | Prelude | First | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth Annotation

Ene 19, 2013

KAINGIN VS THE WILD: Second Annotation of "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant"

"Raja Indarapatra told his brother Raja Solaiman that they would go around the province to slay all wild and dangerous beasts. Raja Indarapatra told his brother Raja Solaiman to pass at the western side of the lake, and he himself would pass at the eastern side, and they would meet at Timbangalan cape," in [1] and [2]. The story thus far seems to me the oral equivalent of a kaingin process, how we gain arable land by committing the trees to fire. It's much more than that though, for some important distinctions are being made in our minds.

In order to lay the groundwork for civilization, the brothers must clear the land of threats, of the wild (if natural, such as dangerous beasts) or of what is monstrous (if human or man-like, though presumably less civilized). We attend two ideas of killing: the terrible murder of "edible humans" and the heroic murder of murderers. These edible unarmed are the prize: either they succumb to the monsters or they establish the folk under the ideals and interests of the nobles. Perhaps we could view these unarmed folk of legend as a version of the disarmed of history, the civilized.

This set-up marginalizes many other likely struggles: wild beast versus wild beast, monster versus monster, the wild versus the monstrous, and also—the stuff of the mundane and non-legendary—"innocent" versus "innocent". Maybe the hero's exploits are worth more because of what is left out. Legend leaves it to the hero's struggles to draw the line between the wild and the civilized, between the self-interested man (the monstrous) and the civic-minded (the folk, but with the hero as paragon).

Interesting how this dividing line is drawn among the nuances of murder. We may either view this line as broad and glaring and therefore truly defining or as a too thin, even blurred, or non-existent, and thus a pure fiction. Whatever the case may be, we establish civilization upon that line (or the idea of such a line).

Perhap later—that is, only after civilization has been developed—we could attend to other struggles such as hero versus hero and hero versus folk. At first glance we find none of either in this particular legend. In both sentences above, for example, Indarapatra takes the lead without any opposition from his brother. There's no hint of discord, no visible struggle.

Is it possible, however, to read exceptions from the present case? Hero versus hero and hero versus folk will be the subject of the next annotations.

[1] Damiana L. Eugenio. "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant (Maranao)". In Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002: 45-47.
[2] Lanao Progress, v. 6, no. 12 (1938), p.8. In Victoria J. Adeva's, "Maranao Folk Literature" (MA Thesis, UP, 1978).
[3] Tilde's illustration and notes | teasing | othering | re-viewing | leeching
[4] tekstong bopis | Prelude | First | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth Annotation

Ene 14, 2013

CANNIBAL GIANTS: First annotation of Eugenio's recounting of Adeva's recounting of Rajah Indarapatra's slaying of Omaca-an not only to avenge his brother but so that Lanao might live to tell the tale

"About a thousand years ago, more or less, Rajah Indarapatra and his brother Rajah Solaiman came to Lanao. They found not a single human being because Omaca-an, a horrible and ferocious giant, ate many human beings that he ever found anywhere in this province."

Thus begins Damiana L. Eugenio's retelling of "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant" [1] as sourced from Victoria J. Adeva's thesis on Maranao Folk Literature [2].

I now intend to and annotate these retellings in order to populate a space for Philippine Folk Literature in my own creative and teaching acts. Damiana Eugenio shall be my main source, Tilde my main co-conspirator, and hopefully I can take at least three of my handful readers along for the ride (and, a further hope: that at least one of them would weave their own art or discourse from this material).

In Eugenio, the Omaca-an account takes only two pages and a half, tells the story straight, then indexes it with the motifs she learned from her particular school of folkloric studies (in this story for example, you see among her endnotes such markings as "G11.2. Cannibal giant; P251.3.1. Brothers avenge each other; P251.5. Two brothers").

As for this turn, I shall attempt to read "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant" as closely I would a contemporary short story. This process will inevitably marginalize concern for authentic folk representation in favor of creative speculation. I do not wish to undermine the good work of folklorists or disrespect folk literature, whether living or dead.

Still, this type of thing is known for its violence, and it's been bloody even before I got here. One example: How are we sure that all the folk sourced by Eugenio's sources (such as Adeva, and her sources) would have surrendered their myths and epics to a codification system if they knew that it would reduce their cherished tale—sung in the flavor of their own language, in the context of their communal tragedies, perhaps the occasional wedding celebration—into but one of many stories made English, itself only two and a half pages in a book of 490, third in a series of many neglected volumes stacked in the moldy shelf of a stranger, an unworthy reader, just one among other books, some of its companions rather unsavory, all of them vulnerable to the regular vandalism of the awful reader's young?

This ill-written question shall not absolve me, why, it's hardly a defense. It's just me, again, trying to convince myself  that I am no evil-doer despite the fact that I now represent a potentially evil, imperial Manila type of thought: "everybody owns every story." A tale belongs to hearer and teller both, or else it does not live. Yet that path from hearer to teller, that's live, shifting ground. I have mourned this fact of communication in the past, but in the case of these annotations, I have chosen to celebrate it.

I will try my best not to lie. I will guard my statements with as many maybes as I believe necessary. Still, the past of these stories is less important to me (mea culpa, mea culpa) than their future.

I will take these meticulous and delightful (but possibly inaccurate) accounts from Eugenio and her sources (and their sources) as I would a story I heard on the bus or over the radio. Then I shall do with these what I do to my own stories, and the narratives of my students, the yarns of the national artists the world over: I pay attention.

And, I attend with glad company. Below you will find Tilde's first work on the matter (sourced from the Carcosite where you will find his notes toward the illustration):

"Rajah Solaiman said, 'Yes, that is why I am going around this province of yours, to kill you, as Lanao province cannot be inhabited by people unless you are killed.'"

I will try my best not to lie, I said. Here then is my first attempt to not lie: Rajah Solaiman and Rajah Indarapatra wish to rid the land of monsters in order to make it Lanao, a peopled country, therefore a country with a voice, a folk that would sing the songs of the Rajahs.

The birth of a country involves two things: the destruction of giants and the peopling of the land. That is, however, merely the baby's breath. For the land to live, it must sing of broken giants.

[1] Damiana L. Eugenio. "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant (Maranao)". In Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002: 45-47.
[2] Lanao Progress, v. 6, no. 12 (1938), p.8. In Victoria J. Adeva's, "Maranao Folk Literature" (MA Thesis, UP, 1978).
[3] Tilde's illustration and notes | teasing | othering | re-viewing | leeching
[4] tekstong bopis | Prelude | First | Second | Third | Fourth Annotation | Fifth Annotation

Ene 12, 2013

BAKUNAWA: Prelude to the Annotations

In a few hours, Carcosite's Tilde shall share the first image for a certain collaborative project. The image may (or may not) look like this:

Pared down to its broad strokes, the Bakunawa's story tells us of a celestial serpent that swallows the moon, thereby causing the lunar eclipse. That's half the story. During the eclipse, the people pull out their pots and pans, the children their noise-makers, and they make as much noise as they can, stomping their feet too, for good measure, and raising their voices. The Bakunawa then slinks away from its meal, restoring us the moon, whatever "moon" was to us then: a diwata, or her souvenir, or her sadness.

The moon is the epitome of distance, and the Bakunawa was perhaps a method of bridging the gap. Unable to influence the moon—to make it go red or dance to our songs—we instead bestow a name upon the shadow that descends upon it. We perceive a body in that shadow, perhaps a will. And with our voices, we dispel that will.

We could not reach the moon, but we "touched" the thing that came close.

I am interested in that noise. Was it a trick? That a bigger monster was coming, that the pots and pans of the land were its scales? How self-aware was this process? Was it a matter of out-bogeying a bogey?

Maybe the noise was a lure: there is bigger prey, something more interesting than the moon. And much less obvious. Something in the darkness, Bakunawa, that will put up a fight.

I am keen on shadows that become serpents and voices that become monsters, and moons that emerge unscathed. These shadows and voices, they entered history and arrive in print, in textbooks of folklore, in recycled syllabi—and this is a strange form, ink on paper. Pots and pans make more sense. But we take what we can get.

This coming project, that's what it's all about. Over-reading unheard voices, over-drawing the shadows, a godawful merry clanging. Taking what we can get.

Ene 5, 2013

Archive 2012

Below are seven stories and nineteen poems, a translation and a book review. While some of these have been written much earlier, all were granted online presence this past year. I don't think I can assemble something like this for 2013. One reason is that I plan to write more in Filipino. Also, I've got something happy (and most likely unpublishable) planned for my English, and tekstongbopis shall have to take the brunt of that.

But we all know the song. Plans are plans, and life is life.

Let this offering close my 2012. I'd be gratified if you'll keep one or two with you, something to take home to your newer year.

Mar 11, Inventories

Mar 11, What was Wrong with Ikka?

Mar 19, Mr. Echo

Apr 8, F Pts of Plottng

Apr 20, Very Last Day as Fiction Apprentice

May 6, The Beloved Idiom

May 13, Blot Testing

May 29, Woman, After Ka Fort

Jun 2, Theme of Orange and Phthalo Emerald

Jun 3, The Long Summer of Old Arturo Contemplating Celibacy

Jun 10, You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Tarpaulins

Jul 7, Duwende

Jul 22, A post-‘Grand Narrative’ approach to the poetics of Filipino nation-building

Jul 22, John Steps Over the Rainbow

Aug 19, Flood was never only water

Aug 19, In search of soft hills

Sep 9 / Oct 21, The Stair-spirit

Oct 29, Solo Passage

Nov 11, Paracale Underground

Nov 11, Bird of Makiling

Nov 11, God of the Hour-long Rain

Nov 23, Full Deck, White Babel

Nov 25, Might

Nov 25, Pita

Nov 25, Sample Exploratory

Nov 25, Victoria

Dec 26, Tugon sa Kaibigan (salin kay Mao)

Dec 30, Before they're allowed to graduate

Dec 30, External Markings

Ene 1, 2013

Alin sa mga Kamay?

Makulay at balani ang mga letra
sa kaha de lamig.

Dalawang kamay ang inaasahan,
dalawang regalo.

"Ang mga mata," sabi mo, "pakipikit."

Huwag ka sanang magugulat
kung nag-iisa ang kamao.

Namimili lamang tayo sa espasyo o sigasig.

Nasa likod ang isa pang kamay,
baka sakaling may hawak, nakatago.

Alam na nating walang lobong pumutok,
walang amoy ng paboreal, walang pintig.

"Heto na ang ipinangako."

Binabahayan ng kislap
ang mga matang nakapinid.

Hindi na Nalalayo ang Huni

Kung paanong ang bukas
ay dalawang matandang tayo
sa ilang kabataang sila,

Magkatuwang na rayuma't buto
sa kiwal na hanay ng mga
nangangaglandiang bituka.

Kung paano nakukuhang uminog
sa ganitong paraan
nang pangilan-ngilan lamang

ang ngumingiti.
Ay, walang sinong makaiintindi.

May umaawit na ibon sa ating pagitan
na may pilay o ano sa huni
at hindi natin ito huhulihin, o mahuhuli.

Lumipas na ang dahong inipit sa kwaderno
ang samu't-saring pamamaraan
at may mga bagay na hindi tuwid

Sa ano ba namang nginig
nitong palad.
Ano pa ang nalalabi kundi