Articles - June 2019

Zine qua non


“Lakbayanis, or the caravan participants, construct kampuhans (campouts) in schools that serve not just as headquarters but also as sanctuaries from the offensives of state forces employed under the payroll of mining companies.” Above: Lakbayan 2017. Photo by Ryomaandres, via Wikimedia Commons.

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[1] and poetry[2] 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.

'Intimate' texts against the state as emergency

“The ridiculous theatricality of deploying the occasion of death, and the personification of the door, a peripheral detail in the student protests, demands the audience to rethink the limits of its accidental shattering […] in the space transformed into a solemn funeral, no person is exempt from the gravity and intimacy of a death’s trauma.” Above: Magpies performing “In Loving Memory of ___________: Eulogies to the Library Door.” Image courtesy of Mannie Cagatulla.

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.

Letting the toilets come clean

“The seriousness of the thinking man with an image of toilet in mind can eclipse whatever seriousness can be attributed to the instructions.” Image via Wikihow.

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.

Art serves the masses by abolishing itself

Philippine poetry and institutional critique in a time of protracted people's war

The author performs ‘Chairs and Table Event’ with choreographer Donna Miranda, commissioned by Za-Koenji Public Theater, in Tokyo in 2018. Onstage, they assemble chairs and a table from which they talk about the conditions of their production, the wood they use, the Philippines’ import-dependent and export-oriented economy, and the mass movement for national democracy that informs the very work they present. Photo courtesy of Za-Koenji Public Theater.

[I]nstitutional dismantling now also involves dismantling myself; I am part of the problem — Mel Ramsden