The bureaucrat capitalist Rodrigo Duterte is establishing his dictatorship in the Philippines. In an alarming throwback to the Marcos dictatorship, he has put the south under martial law, and the number of human rights violations is mounting; the rest of the country is aggressively being militarized. Arriving in the wake of former President Benigno Aquino III’s antipeasant and antiworker regime, the Duterte regime wasted no time establishing itself as the opposition to Aquino’s haciendero elitism.
In the precolonial Philippines, the most comprehensive works of literature that capture the ways of living of respective indigenous communities were ethno-epics, from which novels and poetry draw themes that arbiters of taste shall essentially label “Filipino.” Whoever controls the mode of production most probably controls cultural institutions that — to some extent — possess relative autonomy.
Thousands of people in white started arriving in groups outside the building where Magpies, my self-publishing collective, was reading eulogies amid somber music, wreaths, candles, and donation envelopes in front of a small crowd in the University of the Philippines Los Baños. But we were not mourning the same loss. We were performing the reading of a zine called “In Loving Memory of __________: Eulogies to the Library Door” in a community art expo, and the crowd of thousands were looking for their share of Marcos’s gold.
I was thinking of the appearances of the toilet bowl in Philippine art or literature and risked easy desperation in concluding that there was nothing much to think of. The closest I could think of involve soft-porn movies where it is the bathroom at large, not the toilet bowl, which figures prominently. Pandering to the voyeuristic and buoying the audience’s anticipation of the superficially naked, bathroom scenes usually feature the female feigning innocence — she is aware of the performance; she knows she is being watched — as she bares herself.
I am writing this two days past Independence Day, a national holiday that witnessed anti-imperialist rallies organized by a broad multisectoral alliance that critically involves the Philippine Left to combat bureaucrat capitalism of which expansionalist efforts by China and the US are symptoms and operations.
A way to begin is finding a way to begin without. Writing with brown outs and without internet on this island is to begin without access to the etymology of the word begin. On this island you learn to live off scraps washed up from where. The word begin is made of scraps washed up on fishermen’s shore. The words are plastic post apocalyptic bits: a pink child’s wallet, soda bottle wrappers, Shoe Mart shopping bags.
A way to begin is finding a way to begin without. Writing with brown outs and without internet on this island is to begin without access to the etymology of the word begin. On this island you learn to live off scraps washed up from where. The word begin is made of scraps washed up on fishermen’s shore. The words are plastic post apocalyptic bits: a pink child’s wallet, soda bottle wrappers, Shoe Mart shopping bags. The scrap collector fisherman was bent over picking through whatever could support his life and house. Things