First, though, I would like to emphasize that I am no expert critic in Philippine literature, much more in regional literature. But I am a reader who enjoys a good story when I read one. I don’t delve too much on grammatical details sentence by sentence (I only do so as part of my personal grammar and composition studies); I read the story as a whole and reflect on it, like I have been doing in my previous blog posts on Philippine literature. Sometimes, I would factor in the life experiences of the authors, because, as Filipinos--sentimental and passionate--we are affected by our environment more than we care to admit.
Did I mention Philippine literature and regional literature, and probably give you the impression that they are two different things? There is a lot of debate, actually, about that and alongside other terms as well, such as Filipino literature and national literature. A clearer definition I found, to put my idea into proper context, is a criticism, “Harnessing Regional Literature for National Literature”, by Bienvenido Lumbera. Part of what he said goes like this:
The categories “regional literature” and “national literature” ought to be kept separate, with “regional literature” continuing to depict the specificities of life experienced and viewed within a narrower framework and “national literature” expressing larger concerns and broader perspectives. What ought to disappear, however, is the implicit judgement that “national literature” consists of superior literary products and “regional literature” is everything that could not make it as “national” literature. Such judgment was fed to intellectuals reared on colonialist culture by our educational system, and future historians and critics should have no truck with it.
This statement was enough to spur me into action. I decided to feature literary works by writers from the regions on Simple Clockwork, not because I want to show that these works are not inferior than national literature (they never were, anyway); I hope to provide readers--especially Filipino youth readers--with the picture of the Philippines “within a narrower framework” and help them come to appreciate the diversity of our cultures and the unity of the Filipino minds. That sounds a mouthful, huh? But I mean it.
This particular initiative will be under my Readings in Philippine Literature project with the subheading, “Writings from the Regions.” While I will continue my joint venture with Mel of The Reading Life on short stories by Filipino writers, I will feature writings (poetry, short stories, plays, novels, etc.) from specific regions or ethnic groups in the Philippines (and I will indicate so), such as Ilocano, Cebuano, Bicolano, Waray, and Hiligaynon, among others, for Writings from the Regions. As I only know Cebuano, Tagalog, and English, I will have to read the English translations of the works from the other regions and, to the best of my ability as a Filipino, I will shed some light on these works.
At the same time, I will strive to be more location-specific when describing the featured literary works because, for instance, Cebuano literature, as defined by esteemed Cebuano language scholar, refers to “the body of oral and written literature of speakers of Cebuano, the mother tongue of a quarter of the country’s population who live in Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, and other parts of Leyte and Mindanao”.
I know I will enjoy this thoroughly. I’m excited already. I already have a series of short stories lined up for Writings from the Regions project, including Cebuano writer Vicente Sotto’s popular short story, Maming. For now, this project will be a monthly event, posted at anytime of the month. Resources of regional literature is scarce online but are abundant in printed textbooks. If you wish to join me in this initiative (and you are most welcome to do so), we will try to figure something out together such that sources for you wouldn’t be too difficult to get. You can find some works here.
Here I open the “Readings in Philippine Literature: Writings from the Regions” Project. My first post will be in August. I look forward to your support and recommendations.
- Nancy -