Philippines

Philippine literary production under fascism

Introduction to the Philippines dossier

Activists of the legal mass movement for national democracy with a socialist perspective, often redtagged by the state as members of the revolutionary New People’s Army, raise portraits of Karl Marx, V. I. Lenin, and Mao Zedong on Labor Day, underscoring their ideological adherence to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Photo courtesy of Yo Salazar and SAKA.

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.

Zine qua non

Malversations

“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. 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.

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

Appropriative resistance

Derailed MRT train. Photo by Rey Laguda, from an article by T. J. Dimacali, courtesy of GMA News.

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.

Selections from 'The Beginning'

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

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