Peb 8, 2015

Annotation 1: Acuña’s “Entry Taken From The Encyclopaedia of Biomechanical Convertebrates”

This decidedly baroque offering owes its flow and structure to the online encyclopedia, a scheme that only barely regulates a deployment of a prose that almost escapes the category of ‘story’. It is possibly more instructive to begin by calling this a fictional piece that deals with stories rather than the usual plot or character-driven story.

Doom Maggot is the entry in focus. Presented as an animal, the information regarding Doom Maggot is decked according to such sub-entries as Taxonomy, Evolution, and Parasite Redefinition. After a list of subcategories (like the left-hand side bar of a Wikipedia entry), the first expanded subcategories are Place of Origin and Etymology:
Place of Origin: The Cabuneians, Proserpines, Fifth World
Etymology: There has been a century-long debate about the origins of the name “Doom Maggot,” which is just like most century-long debates that were either left unconcluded or completely forgotten because of information overload and public disinterest...
The Cabuneians seem the most transparent, sounding as closely as it does to Kabunian, a god among our remembered and forgotten pantheons who was responsible for originating racial distinctions. This god not only shaped man out of clay but also baked him. It took him three tries to make it right, the first was overcooked (origin of the black-skinned peoples), the second under-cooked (white-skinned), and perfection was achieved come the third attempt (brown). He breathed life into all three, but had already entered race distinction into the workings of man’s world. [2]

Like The Cabuneians, Proserpines also taps into the mythic. This time the reference is Greco-Roman, a Western and globally canonized pantheon. Proserpina is the fertility goddess (based on Persephone) whose identity largely depends on having been raped and tricked into marriage by the god of the underworld [3].

The term Fifth World seems to add  under-layers of poverty to the global south, the underdeveloped countries that has been collectively termed the Third World during the Cold War. The politically correct term (or euphemism, depending on your political view) is “developing country”. But the Fifth World seems too far below for even that aspiration. And while it seems we’re now referring to a location, the term Fifth World brings us to the Hopi Indian’s idea of the after-world (in this scheme, this present world is the Fourth World) [4].

Aside from mythic identifications, the three “Places” also share a sense of transition and dislocation: upward development from one race to another, seasonal cycles from fecundity to death and back, and downward spiraling from the most economically stable countries to peoples with the least security and self-sufficiency. These are not permanent locations.

Both The Cabuneians and Proserpines have been rendered plural, perhaps a reference to the multiplicity or races and states. This step takes us closer to Proserpines = Philippines, especially if taken along with two other mentions, this:
...in an area at the Southern Proserpines, somewhere between the biomechasphere and the thanasphere...
and this:
...the Yellow King—the reincarnating and recurring ruler of the Proserpines zinckepelago.
None of the three are definite places, certainly not as easy to locate as a municipality like Casiguran. Found in the province of Aurora, Quezon, Casiguran is the site of a tug-of-war of national importance: between the establishment of the government’s Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) and the preservation of the ancestral lands, dwelling places, and farms of the Dumagat [5]. So while locate-able, those who dwell in Casiguran can’t be said to have any sort of stability: the Dumagat (Doom Maggot), people of an even lesser world in a Third World country.

Traditionally, neither Proserpina nor Kabunian should have held sway over them: the goddess belongs to the literary canon embraced by the First World while the god belongs to the Ifugao, the Bontoc, and the Kankana-ey, to a legend that places the perfected brown skin over the imperfection of the blackened skin (and curly, “singed” hair), the same skin we see on the face and shoulders of the Dumagat.

“Entry Taken From The Encyclopaedia of Biomechanical Convertebrates” fortuitously began with the tandem of Place of Origin and Etymology. Representations of boundaries and beliefs are of primary importance here, especially as these inform the struggles between state and indigenous peoples—our shared identity, ethnic relations, and basic viability always at stake.

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[1] Acuña, Arbeen R. “Entry Taken From The Encyclopaedia of Biomechanical Convertebrates.” In The Anthology of New Philippine Writing in English: Kritika Kultura Literary Supplement 1. 2011: 89-96. [download pdf]
[2] The Legend of the Three Races. Introduction to Philippine Folklore. Philsites. net. Accessed 8 Feb 2015.
[3] Proserpina. Wikipedia. Accessed 8 Feb 2015.
[4] Fifth World. Wikipedia. Accessed 8 Feb 2015.
[5] Corpuz,  Gerry Albert. “Send the Aurora Free Port Zone project to the grave – farmers, fisherfolk.” In Bulatlat.com, archived in Piplinks.org. 23 Jan 2014.