On Filipino writing, explosions, and the local literati

What is Filipino writing? Living on the margins, a bygone era, loss, exile, poor-me angst, post colonial identity theft. Tagalor words intermittently scattered around for local color, exotically italicized. Run-on sentences and facsimiles of Magical Realism, hiding behind the disclaimer that we Pinoys were doing it years before the South Americans.

Our heartache for home is so profound we can’t get over it, even when we’re home and never left. Our imaginations grow moss. So every Filipino novel has a scene about the glory of cooking rice, or the sensuality of tropical fruit. And every short story seems to end with misery or redemptive epiphanies. And variations therof. An underlying cultural faith in deus ex machina. God coming from the sky to make things right or wrong.

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How can anyone estimate the ballistic quality of words? Invisible things happen in intangible moments. What should keep us writing is precisely that possibility of explosions. If not, what then?

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These are the literati of the Philippines: the merry, mellowed, stalwartly middle-class practitioners of the luxury of literature in the language of the privileged.

– Illustrado, Miguel Syjuco

How dare you scorn the explosive I employ?

– Cannibals and Christians, Norman Mailer

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