Ping Pong

Panfilo Lacson;s brought the “Hello, Garci” issue back to center stage: ‘I heard Arroyo, Garci talk,’ says ex-sergeant: She asked about 1-M votes, claims ex-ISAFP agent. See Ellen Tordesillas and An OFW in Hong Kong for more.

I believe Dean Jorge Bocobo was the first to argue that the real story -and scandal- all along, boils down to a question: how could the President of the Philippines end up with a tapped phone? Senator Lacson seems to be inclined to pursue that question, trotting out Doble, who says the intelligence service could tap people, with the connivance of a telecoms firm. Doble says the President was, in a sense, “collateral damage.”

DJB may be right in that, if you ask how a President could be the victim of wiretapping, it establishes that wiretapping took place; you would then have to resolve whether what was wiretapped -the conversations- are useful for other cases, along the way verifying the authenticity of those conversations.

Who knows, maybe Ping and Pong are better-prepared this time around. The Senate, convened as a committee of the whole, has a chance to hold orderly but in-depth hearings, which can ask:

1. Who ordered the so-called “Operation Lighthouse”? For what purpose? Who decided it should be undertaken by the ISAFP?
2. On what basis did ISAFP conduct its eavesdropping operations, and how, and to what extent, and on what legal basis, did the telecoms company assist ISAFP?
3. How did ISAFP’s tapes end up being sold?
4. The President implicitly confirmed the authenticity of at least one event supposedly recorded in the tapes. What is the legal implication of this admission? At which point, if any, did she break, bend, or mishandle the law? Even if a victim of the wiretapping, what if she had authorized the operations in the first place, in aid of reelection?

Certainly, there’s plenty of opportunities afforded by these questions, for investigations in aid of legislation, much as I disagree with this limitation on Congress’ powers of inquiry, which I’ve long argued we already approach from a Wilsonian point of view, and it’s time our jurisprudence caught up. They are questions independent of the stand some like myself have taken with regards to the President’s fitness for office: as I explained at the time, what mattered less was what the tapes contained, but how the President (mis)handled the issue. These questions, in the time that’s passed since, goes beyond the President’s being in office or not, or whether the public is resigned to her finishing her term (I believe public opinion is inclined to let sleeping dogs lie). But whoever is president and will become president, has to worry about the possibility the ISAFP can run around wiretapping people, from the President to has-been movie actors.

Jove Francisco reports on how the President didn’t sound combative even when she insisted combat operations will continue in Sulu and Basilan.

Overseas, Paulson says no quick fix for credit problems. He’s the US Treasury Secretary; and so Wall St. remained on edge. Meanwhile, Chinese central bank raises interest rates, pointing to concerns over higher inflation. Economist Nouriel Roubini explains why “the Fed actions on Friday have been so far ineffective and the investors’ panic and rush to the safety is in full swing”.

On the other hand, guarded optimism from The Economist about the country in The Jeepney economy revs up. Its cautionary tone is explained as follows:

All good news, but worries remain. However welcome the growth in call-centre jobs, it is engineering and business graduates who are queueing to take them. A recent International Labour Organisation study noted that the country’s average annual productivity growth between 2000 and 2005 was just 0.9%, compared with 10.3% in China and 4.9% in India, suggesting that “many new job entrants are underemployed”.

A chief problem, despite foreign interest, is a rate of investment that is at 20-year lows as a share of GDP. Poor infrastructure, especially roads, hampers businesses of all sorts. Gil Beltran, a senior finance-ministry official, says the government intends to increase annual infrastructure spending from 2.8% of GDP to 5%. Successive administrations have had a poor record of keeping such promises.

The public finances still need a lot of fixing. Tax revenues as a share of GDP are still below pre-1997 levels, while public debt is high, at around 75% of GDP. The next big job, says Mr Beltran, is to simplify the mess of illogical tax breaks that cost a fortune in lost revenues. Efforts to drag big-business tax-dodgers to court have so far got nowhere. A swingeing tax rise on Jeepney owners looks like squeezing the poor to spare the rich.

The Inquirer editorial says former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa was wrong in suggesting finding out who ordered Ninoy Aquino killed is a lost cause. A fascinating comparison of Beijing in the 70s, 80s, and now, in Haggling and horror at Tiananmen.

A whole heap of interesting reading in the blogosphere. A heart-breaking entry in fish in a bowl, on a friend’s losing a daughter.

Iloilo City Boy is back to blogging, and has two insightful pieces: the first is Oil Spills Are Cheap In This Country : The Petron Oil Spill A Year After. The second, The New Hacendero.

Iloilo City Boy’s look at how landlord-tenant relationships are evolving in Negros serves as a reminder of how things on the ground are changing, ot necessarily for better or worse, but changing -this is something that caffeine sparks looks into, in terms of the OFW phenomenon, with its complex issues. The Journal of the Jester-in-Exile provides a thorough update on the debate sparked by Malu Fernandez’s writings, but caffeine sparks provides the broader context on OFWs and how they are increasingly flexing their political muscles. Incidentally, [email protected] points to another writer in trouble.

The language debates has a thoughtful piece by A Nagueno in the Blogosphere (who thinks regions should be allowed to formulate their own education policies, an advocacy I strongly support, and this means greater latitude when it comes to language policies), and Demosthenes’ Game (who does make a good point that there are probably those who oppose English instruction because it goes against the interests of the politburo, which is interested in filtering ideologically-inconvenient information) making an observation I find curious:

Which is something we’ve been doing here for ages, voting with our feet I mean. After all, no private school here can remain in business very long without giving English pre-eminent position in its curriculum. No, the issue here is the failure of our so-called democracy for the past two decades to heed the will of the people, instead paying obeisance to the all-knowing ‘nationalist’ academicians of our cultural politburo. Look where that got us. Only now is the situation being rectified, and none too soon. No, the issue was never which was the better curriculum. The issue was always about choice. And that those who had none should have the same as those who could, and did, vote with their feet.

What I find curious is that if you ask the owners and administrators of public schools, their problem is that people are voting with their feet -but not in the direction Demosthenes’ Game assumes. Generally, the problems I most often hear, are three:

1. Private schools are hemorrhaging faculty to the public schools, which now offer, at the very least, competitive salaries and in some areas, better salaries than private schools.

2. Private schools are also experiencing a decrease in enrollment. Parents are taking their kids out of the private schools and sending them to public schools. In some areas, it’s because substantial investments have been made by local authorities in the public school system, which then becomes competitive, but in other areas, the public school system has been expanded, is mediocre at best, but exists, and that’s all that matters; in these areas, parents move their kids from private to public school because it’s much less expensive for the parents, regardless of the quality (or lack of it) of the education being provided. The drop in enrollment is being experienced both by establish private schools (belonging to the religious orders, for example) and the increasing number of small private schools.

3. Whether public or private, school administrators face pressure from parents to pass the kids, regardless of whether they’re qualified to move on to the next level or not; for private schools, the pressure is to keep moving kids along from one level to the next, to keep parents happy; in public schools, it’s because so many kids are entering school, no one can be made to stay behind: the quota system at its worst.

Red’s Herring reflects on Nick Joaquin and Rizal; Philippine Commentary reflects on Ninoy Aquino and takes Conrado de Quiros to task for not exploring Jovito Salonga’s assertion that the Plaza Miranda bombing was ordered by Jose Ma. Sison. Big Mango offers up some thoughts on political parties.

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    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    “So, the foremost Filipino novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and biographer remains a revered National Artist, the highest award for arts in the Philippines.”

    Nick Joaquin was not a good novelist. All his novels were artistic failures. His short stories were over-written, though, accidentally, he did invent slow-mo. I hate everyone in the literary community who adores Nick Joaquin. You can ask Mr. Butch Dalisay and Krip Yuson that, although it was Nick Joaquin who first published me in the Philippine Graphic.

    When Brillantes resigned from the Magazine and Joaquin took the editorial reigns of the Literary section, he published an old story of mine that was collecting dust after the Graphic stopped publishing literary. God bless Joaquin’s soul. He was a true cono, but his influence in the literary community was bad: a lot of bad writers have been winning awards and getting grants because of his influence. Now, we’re the least published English-speaking nation in the world. What a shame.

  1. who’s Pong? Biazon?

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    “He was a true cono, but his influence in the literary community was bad: a lot of bad writers have been winning awards and getting grants because of his influence”

    He was a true cono. His influence in the literary community was bad: a lot of bad writers have been winning awards and getting grants because they were influenced by him. They won them undeservedly. All these Palanca winners are making us look like idiots. Maybe we are. We are enamored by hi-tech English, even when that hi-tech English badly expresses what was meant. The Filipino version of “felicitous” language is nothing more than the literary version of “over-acting.” Manolo Queson “himself” used to be an awfully mannered writer.

    Guys I am serious about this. If someone translated Lualhati Bautista in English, it would prove my point. There are a lot of good writers here, but it’s the pretentious morons who rule Philippine literature. Tama na pagalingan sa Ingles, padamihan nang semi-colo. Tama na. Kailangan sopistikasyon. Kailangan puso at kaluluwa… at hwag na hwag nating kalimutan and katotohanan maski ito’y pangit pakinggan.

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    brianb:what kind of sophistication exactly?

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    “brianb:what kind of sophistication exactly?”

    Huh?

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    brianb: you said “kailangan ng sopistikasyon.” What do you mean? What kind of sophistication is needed? Sophistication in what?

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    The use of the English language?

    • Beancurd on August 22, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    The trend in the provinces is that private schools continue to lose students to the public schools while the public school system subsidizes the students who cannot be absorbed by the public schools by keeping them in private schools. I guess the same is true in the NCR and in cities around the country but only to a lesser extent. And that tells us that poverty is increasing in the rural areas. But of course, Madam Glori! the economy is always better than the previous years and soon, the Enchanted Kingdom.

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    brianb:ah. so, mannered writing lacks sophistication? just out of curiosity, what would be an example of sophisticated writing?

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Manolo, read Iloilo Boy’s story. Hm, I know someone who’s like that too. He quit his job and went “farming” with the sakadas. Maybe it’s the same guy. Just one guy representing. Still, what of the “other” haciendas?

    • Jeg on August 22, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    What is ‘hi-tech’ English and how is it different from ‘sophisticated’ English? When you said ‘they won them undeservedly’ what criteria, aside from lack of sophistication that youre still to define did you have in mind? I believe youre serious about this, but you have to define your criteria and your, well, definitions. If this is a manifesto of a new clique youre looking to start that’s set to go mano-a-mano with the ‘unsophisticated’ Palanca winers, perhaps this would-be clique merits its own blog site, BrianB? Who knows, maybe one day youll have the BrianB prizes for literature. Think big, ‘ika nga.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Well, read Roth, Bellow, any Jewish writer born after the turn of the century. That’s the 19th century.

    But really, you don’t see anything weird with people who write like they’re in 19th century Britain? Calling them trying hard is being kind.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Jeq, Rom, later. I’m working. Give me two hours. But food for thought, and I quote myself:

    “He was a true cono, but his influence in the literary community was bad: a lot of bad writers have been winning awards and getting grants because of his influence. Now, we’re the least published English-speaking nation in the world. What a shame.”

    Especially the last sentence.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    No the last two sentences.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    ROM, whoever taught you English is just some turd trying to get allies for his cause at the expense of this country’s cultural future.

    http://jimfisher.edinboro.edu/writing/style.html

    • Jeg on August 22, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Id like to get my kids out of the school system altogether, whether public or private, if it were possible, and home school them. But that option isnt open to most parents since both parents have to work to make ends meet.

    • Jon Mariano on August 22, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    The new haciendero will in the future own the pieces of land he’s renting today. What’s keeping the new land-owners from selling their land?

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    brianb:hey, take all the time you want, man. no one’s forcing you to reply right away. 🙂 i happen to agree with what you said about most of our novelists and fiction writers nowadays. long on style, short on plot, sometimes even shorter on substance. one even managed to devote something like 20 pages to the ruminations of a girl who had just been date-raped on her way home.

    Speaking of Sul Bellow, just a question: I found this quote. Is this sophisticated?

    “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    About us being the least published, does it help that the publishers with access to the biggest markets are mostly in America? And that America produces like a bajillion writers every second? And That Filipino writers are pre-occupied with themes of poverty, homosexuality, and cults?

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Philippine Literature.

    ROM, Jeq. Literary writing is the summit of language. Poetry, fiction, etc. is the mount everest of language, one of the things that separate us from the rest of the animal world. Now, lets focus on Philippine literature. We have Philippine literature in English, which arguably is the strongest representative of the entire Philippine literature, which in turn is dominated by writers with a special obsession with the English grammar and a “sophisticated” vocabulary.

    My argument is that this “sophisticated” vocabulary is not sophisticated at all but a symptom of colonial mentality. More specifically, when you find Filipinos using unnecessarily “hi-tech” words you will be looking at a Filipino so insecure about his usage of English that he has to constantly prove himself by using big words. Does he use a thesaurus? Who knows. Mannered writing is writing where you lose the immediacy of literary language as a form of communication. This is psychic and cultural immediacy, what many traditional and non-traditional critics call the “soul” of literary writing. When a sentence hits your guts, hits your background as people in the middle-class, lower class or upper class, as Filipinos, you’ll know what I mean of “Immediacy” in language. Another word for it is “authenticity.”

    Besides immediacy and authenticity in writing, you also have continuity. A good writer has this in the very fabric of his writing style. What is this “continuity? Why, it’s your cultural background, it’s your racial roots, it’s your religion. It’s your father, your grandmother, your great-grandmother’s spirit inside you. It is the Jungian collective unconscious. I think many award-winning writers like this continuity in their writing. Why do they lack it, since like you and I, they are Filipinos too? Why, we’re back to “mannered writing” and styles that imitate the kanos (Europeans included here).

    But, of course, you’ll ask yourself if this cultural continuity and authenticity in writing style is possible using English as the medium. Sure it is. Sionil Jose is an example. Understand that many writers think Sionil Jose is a bad writer, due to the lack of “felicitous” language in his works. But dude and dudette, if you happen tonhave a copy of Sionil Jose’s lectures at Standford and any of his essays, you’ll quickly see that his style there is different, most sophisticated perhaps, than his novelistic style. Compare Jose’s essays with any of his enemies and “former” enemies and you’ll see a gap wider than any found in… where’s the Grand Canyon located?

    Clearly Jose is the better writer when put against the multiple Palanca winners that many younger writers admire so much. His novels may sound unsophisticated or even bakya for a very important reason: authenticity. Read how other wirters write dialogue, especially NVM. His Filipinos sound like Brits. Read “The Bamboo Dancers.” You may argue that it’s hard to translate Filipino idioms into English idioms and that it’s probably logical to make Filipinos sound like Brits or Americans. (to be continued)

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    You may argue that, but don’t forget the Indians who manage to capture Indian speech (both in English and in their native tongue) wonderfully. I’m thinking mainly of Rushdie and Roy.

    Philippine literature has been admiring the wrong writers. Maybe it’s our insecurity as users of English that makes us admire the soulless “bombastic” writer. Yes, some are so bad, the word is apt.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    ROM,

    Saul Bellow is the most sophisticated writer I’ve read. C.S. Lewis sure is a mighty fine writer. Do you consider him mannered. Most writers before Bellow were all mannered in a a way.

    • DJB on August 22, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    BrianB,
    You can’t be such a bad person if you like C.S. Lewis. I think the Screwtape Letters are works of moral genius and I actively imitate its polemic when criticizing the Media.

    MLQ3, The thing we did not know for sure but is now explosively revealed is the alleged complicity of a major telco, which explains how easily this wiretapping was done. But the implications of such a happenstance, if the accusation is proven, will be vast for that particular cellular service provider. the palace reaction is revealingly rattled and overdone.

    They’re going to the mattresses as Sonny Corleone used to say.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    “BrianB,
    You can’t be such a bad person if you like C.S. Lewis.”

    DJB, whoever had the idea that I was a bad person?

    • nash on August 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Er?

    In this day and age, we have an infinite (if you consider that the average lifespan is 70 and only 5 years, at most, will be spent on reading) supply of literature.

    To each his own. If someone wants to read Nick Joaquin, let him/her. So what if there are mediocre literary works out there? And who exactly defines mediocrity? What is sophisticated for one may be utter rubbish to another.

    Ranting is pointless.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    “Ranting is pointless.”

    Nash, YOU are ranting. If you don’t like to read my explanation, don’t. If you hate other people’s point of view, stop listening. You know the definition of rant? It’s “ranting” without bothering to think.

    There is always criticism. If people are stupid enough to think that even matters of literary valuing should be subjected to laissez faire, they are not thinking but ranting. Was I telling people not to read Nick Joaquin? I was pointing out the obvious: He was no novelist. Hell, Nash, if you don’t like opinionated statements why even go to this blog. I’m going to dinner and be back. Hold your horses.

    And please read first before calling my postings ranting. It’s a form of discrimination that some middle-aged writers/columnists are applying to younger people who don’t make pasipsip to them.

    • jaxius on August 22, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    BrianB,

    Are you then saying that those “undeserved” Palanca awards given to pretentious and unpolished writers should go to someone else? Probably someone who writes with sophistication, authenticity, and immediacy? Hmm, perhaps someone like you? Well, only in the sense of how you imagine yourself and your writing style to be.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    jaxius,

    I’ll do you a favor and ignore your comment.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    He he. Yeah. I get it. I speak too much therefore I’m stupid. Yeah, I was told that little gem when I was little. Then I started watching local TV. Such a snobbish concept. Filipinos generally speaking, think people who say a lot know a lot. I don’t agree but that do we ignore this fact and only deal with people with the well-bred? I tell you, sirs, I’d rather be like the masa than these smug, well-bred bastards.

    And Jaxius, for a moment there, you were as smug as a corrupt politician. D

  2. Since I am not a sophisticated writer; you can see in my posts that is so,just a reader,I will just stick to reading.

    Brian B, good points but learn how to take punches when you can throw punches as well.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Sorry, cursor keeps jumping. Here it is again.

    He he. Yeah. I get it. I speak too much therefore I’m stupid. Yeah, I was told that little gem when I was little. Then I started watching local TV. Such a snobbish concept. Filipinos, generally speaking, think people who say a lot know a lot. I don’t agree with that but do we ignore this fact and only deal with the well-bred? I tell you, sirs, I’d rather be like the masa than be like these these smug, well-bred bastards.

    And Jaxius, for a moment there, you were as smug as a corrupt politician. D

  3. Before you say look who’s talking Brian B, I am still learning unitil now.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    OK, people, let me make this short.

    I wasn’t criticizing unsophisticated writers. I was criticizing writers who try too hard to be sophisticated and lose their authenticity. Get it? Come on, how did I suddenly turn into the same people I was criticizing.

    • jaxius on August 22, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    BrianB,

    Aw, shucks. I thought you’d ignore it.

    Smug as a politician? Believe me, I wasn’t.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Well, why not read my entire post and stop being so patronizing. Does it make you feel good to be patronizing? Honestly, does it? It wasn’t just the Palanca. The Palanca is subject to a lot of hypocrisies and double speak. On one hand, the winners keep promoting it as the premier Philippine literary award; then when you push the issue further, they’d turn it around and admit all their winnings are just “luck” and a lot of writers who are also good don’t win.

    They remind me of Samuel Butler’s “Erewhon.” If you read the section about the University of Reason where the profs never put forward an opinion fearing they might make a mistake.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Sorry again, that’s University of Unreason.

    • manuelbuencamino on August 22, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    William S. Burroughs, Brian B.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    manuelbuencamino. Believe me, I haven’t even tried the stuff.

    • BrianB on August 22, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    You mean The asshole that speaks?

    • cvj on August 22, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Since I am not a sophisticated writer; you can see in my posts that is so,just a reader,I will just stick to reading. – Karl Garcia

    Ha ha ha, i was thinking the same thing to myself. Reading fiction (except as part of schoolwork) is something i haven’t gotten into so i find the discussion fascinating. All i know about the authors being mentioned is that Sharon Cuneta’s favorite writer is Arundhati Roy.

    As far as [American] english is concerned, i think 18th century-style beats 19th century anytime especially when it comes to the material Thomas Jefferson wrote. Strictly nonfiction though.

  4. “And That Filipino writers are pre-occupied with themes of poverty, homosexuality, and cults?”

    Perhaps the ones you know, or perhaps the only ones you know coz they’re the only ones allowed to have their works see the light of day by the powers that control the industry. Even Jim Libiran’s Tribu may have been an idea he ripped off from City of God. And people were so oohed and ahhed by his “genius.”

    As I’ve said before, the dearth of good writers being published is not their fault. Go underground and you’d find many that’ll blow you away. Even vanity publishing offers little opportunities. CRAP, that door only opens for the moneyed vain enough to think their works are worth publishing.

    As for awardees, where do they get noticed? They all come from schools well connected in the award-giving body in the first place. Their works get submitted bec they know people, or they’ve been shown the way how. Ever heard of a winner from a backwater school? No, it’s always UP, Ateneo, UST. Schools that have a solid paper or organ to get them noticed.

    Don’t complain abt the lack of good writers. Complain abt the lack of avenues wherein they can be discovered. But hey, technology is moving us forward. In here (online), writers will rise and fall on their own merits. The well connected may still corner the audience for now, but sooner or later, theirs will be buried beneath the mass of talent that lies there undiscovered.

  5. cvj, good writing cuts across styles and languages. Whether it be 18th or 20th century, good writers will make any words seem as if they’re dancing, and not merely trudging by. perhaps, you’re of that opinion bec as you’ve said, you’re not that well read (when it comes to fiction).

    Here are a few 20th century writers you might wanna look up:

    Chuck Pahlaniuk (Fight Club)
    Charlie Kaufman (the greatest screenwriter today IMO)
    Anthony Burgess (Clockwork Orange)

    and then compare them with Walt Whitman (one writer of the 18th century whom I like)

    • mlq3 on August 22, 2007 at 10:48 pm
      Author

    i’ve always preferred political to literary circles, but i remember the one and only conversation i ever had with nvm gonzalez. i asked him why most filipino novels, to me, at least, seemed unreadable. he laughed and said it was because filipino novelists tended to write for each other. what did he mean, i asked. he said well, the writers wrote with their friends in mind, and that they deliberately set out to write novels that only made sense if the writers were around to explain how clever they were being, to their friends.

    i think brian is pointing to the problem of aestheticism -art, not even for art’s sake, but for the sake of proving how artful the writer is- which connects to a larger point brian always makes, which is the clannish, cliquish, extremely self-satisfied yet paranoid and therefore, vengeful but ultimately sterile, world he sees not just in the literary world but in what passes for high society in this country.

    personally i’ve only enjoyed two filipino novels in english, nick joaquin’s “caves and shadows” and f. sionil jose’s “ermita”, and i don’t know if i enjoyed them primarily because of their style or because they were historical novels; i can say that of the two, joaquin’s was more beautifully written while jose’s exposed basic truths not only about our society, but human nature in general, and we’re all told the best writing is the kind that is succesful on both levels: describing the writer’s culture and circumstances, and able to strike chords in the common humanity of anyone who might pick up the book, regardless of their origins.

    brian has explained his attitudes when it comes to our society and history so of course joaquin, with his fondness for the spanish aspects of our past won’t appeal to him, in fact, it makes him ill. jose’s views are really closer to brian’s. what i admire the most in terms of joaquin’s writings are his political reportage (though he himself seemed to have thought the most highly of his crime reportage, though i haven’t had a chance to read his crime stories); his heir, in that department, was pete lacaba, and i myself have always aspired to produce political reportage matching their political reportage from the 50s to the 70s (the opportunities are few and far between).

    and anyone commenting on public life would be criminally ignorant if they haven’t read jose’s commentary on people and politics, including his collection, “why we are poor.”

    as far as literary contests are concerned, i don’t think it’s the luck of the draw but really, whether one runs into a jury even willing to consider your work. a jury obsessed with aestheticism will only consider like-minded work; a more open-minded or politically-aware one, will do likewise, as might a jury heavily stacked with socialists or feminists, etc. what the literary ruling class, so to speak, has over all writers in general, is that they’re better-equipped when it comes to competing for the things that constitute literary achievement. the circles that hold reunions and call them literary workshops are composed of people who are called upon to be jurors in literary contests; who nag their students that the deadlines for these contents are coming up; who train young writers not only to write in their image, but according to the standards decreed for their friends.

    like political families who may not even have to use fraud and terrorism to win elections, but who simply have elections down to a science, literary cliques are then in the best position to submit to the juries of their peers who handle the awards. the awards have the advantage of longevity (which reinforces their prestige) and of funding (which makes competition not just something emotionally, but financially, worth while).

    i’ve pointed out that i am excited about the philippines that’s emerging, because the old obediences are disappearing and that’s a good thing. one example i gave was how the old middle class was made in the image of the old upper class: this applied to church, club, and school, the bedrock of old culture and how it was transmitted and upheld. the ofw phenomenon has provided a way out of the trap that kept people where they were: it makes life unpredictable and even frightening for those yearning for the days when everyone knew their place, but change is inevitable and the inabilty of the upper class and middle class to remain relevant is becoming apparent.

    anyway, in terms of writing, the question becomes, how will the writer fit into the emerging scheme of things? as it is, the old ways endure but are getting more and more inconsequential even for the portion of the publication that enjoys reading for pleasure (and has the means to do so). brian asks a question that’s really remarkable: why, indeed, has no one sought to translate lualhati bautista’s “dekada 70” into english? and it has to mean something that jose can claim to be the most widely-translated filipino author with the exception of rizal -and why rizal’s noli was translated by augenbaum for penguin while no filipino translation made the grade (i enjoyed guerrero’s translation but it was less a translation than a rewriting in english; locsin’s treated it too much like sacred text); i have have also been perplexed over the lack of interest in translating, say, orwell, into filipino, and why rolando tinio seemed the only one ambitious enough to attempt to translate shakespeare.

    the themes of poverty, homosexuality, and cults are as universal as one can get. if a novelist is writing primarily with other novelists in mind, as nvm gonzalez charged, then of course these vital themes won’t get anywhere, they won’t fly. perhaps the filipino novelist begins with the defeatist notion a larger audience is impossible? possibly. or do filipino novelists fatally handicap themselves, not only by means of writing primarily for each other, but by putting the cart before the horse, worshipping style ahead of substance? is it all a case of the worst possible kind of insularity? or a genuine lack of imagination?

    or dedication to a larger cause, without that cause imposing ideological straightjackets on writing (an entire generation got dated because of an english professor’s slavish devotion to mao zedong thought). the propagandists make for stimulating reading up to today not only because many of the things they pointed out and criticized are still with us, but because they explored so many ways to express what they thought and felt: satire, poetry, historical essays, etc. to an extent that even surpasses jose ma. sison, it took a journalist, renato constantino, to articulate a (during his time, anyway) iconoclastic view of our history. the sad thing is that today constantino has become sacred text and sacred texts may remain suitable for religious instruction but lose their potence in terms of secular political development when viewed in that manner.

    there will always be a point where opinions can never be reconciled because of personal tastes. a person who is an antiquarian by instinct will always prefer anything expressed in a manner that resembles british 19th century usage: for that reason i like british writing (in particular, historical writing from macaulay to churchill) and have never, say, enjoyed reading hemingway. but that’s a personal preference with ideological undertones (i prefer the traditional british approach to history as literature to the germanic idea, so avidly adopted in the united states, that history is best approached as a science). but since writing is communication, brian, i suppose, fiercely contests those who, to his mind, view writing as a means to gratify the writer’s ego instead of serving the public -whether to entertain, instruct, enlighten, challenge, etc..

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    brianb:but should writing be as ‘nationalized’ as you seem to suggest? if, for instance, i write like i’m not filipino, using an idiom different from FSJose, does that make me less Filipino or less authentic? I think every writer, regardless of nationality, has the right to have her own voice, whether or not that voice corresponds with her ethnicity.

    Authenticity means being true to yourself, and we all have a right to express that truth in the way that feels most apt to us.

    Of course, if your only quibble is with style, I guess we all fall back on how there’s really no arguing about taste.

    • cvj on August 22, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Devils, perhaps you’re right. I usually wait for the movie to come out. I’ll keep those authors in mind.

    • nash on August 22, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Yes BrianB, the irony is not lost on me.

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    mlq3:writing for each other. sounds about right.

  6. BrianB, nice link. essentially, all those quotes are saying is: brevity trumps pretentiousness anytime. its the first rule in creative writing. do not use a 7 letter word when a four lettered one will do. only break this rule when the word you wanna use instinctively fits the exact direction where your narrative is going.

    our professor made an excellent example when he picked a random article in a newspaper and asked us to replace all the words used in it with high-falluting ones. the effect, as you might imagine, was quite comical.

    • Rom on August 22, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    brianb:i’m an anglophone.

  7. cvj, here. an excerpt from Chuck Pahlaniuk’s GUTS

    http://forums.mukamo.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=1192&view=findpost&p=38859

    do not read while eating something..

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