It’s graduation season, the month we march. For a writer and somebody who stayed for the longest time in the university, I can only ponder on the future of literature in the academe. For one, I observe that most of our schools have taken it upon themselves to prioritize ‘in’ courses. That is to say, the programs that attract the most number of enrollees.

If you think about it, our universities seem to cater to the demands abroad. The courses that produce professionals needed abroad get the upper hand. This can be observed even in some commencement exercises in the region. B.S. Nursing graduates get ‘special treatment’ in these events. They are the first ones to be called, and prior to the march, even their invitations and graduation programs get printed first. The others just have to wait.

Nevertheless, I still think that the academe can help this country become a republic of readers and writers. Here’s how I think it should be done:

 

  • Hire more prize-winning writers in the faculty. M.A. units can sure help, but I think literary arts is contagious. If the teacher is himself/herself a writer, more students will develop love for literature.
  • Reward student writers. Budding pen pushers who qualify for national writing workshop fellowships, get printed in prestigious publications, win prizes in contests ought to be lauded. Posters or tarpaulins should be displayed in campus in their honor. Their published works should also be posted in the bulletin board.
  • Invite prominent authors for speaking engagements. This will make students realize that not all famous writers are dead. This will also expose them to their wit and eccentricities.
  • Hold poetry performances. But then, nobody must read from song magazines thinking that it’s poetry.
  • Post announcements about call for submissions for national workshops, publications and contests.
  • Support campus-based writer’s groups by offering financial grants.
  • Sponsor literary workshops and contests, and publish a literary journal regularly.

The academe has to spearhead the development of literary arts in the country. It has to continue being the haven of writers.

Right after the Marquez-Pacquiao rematch, I have been hearing and reading various post-bout analyses. Basically, there are disagreements. It is really very hard to determine the fanatic from the critic and find out the more objective diagnosis. Boxing is a sport, and just as it is guided by rules, laws and technicalities; it is also adjudged according to entertainment value. And in the case of postcolonial Philippines and Mexico, it also comes as a measure of national pride.

Since the boxing experts, foreign or local are at a disagreement, I think the decision of the three judges must prevail. No matter how scientific they are, they will always be humans and subject to a certain margin of personal bias and error. Let us not forget that the first time Marquez and Pacquiao met, the latter was robbed of victory because of a miscalculation in one of the judge’s sheet. But still, as mandated by the rules of the game, the ringside judges are the ones who have the sole power to determine the outcome of the bout in case there is no KO or TKO. That is why even if it was seen as controversial draw, the 2004 verdict prevailed.

As a writer, here’s my take on the matter. I think, similar to literary contest judges, the ringside judges also have the sole power to decide the result of the bout. They are the ‘designated experts’ for the occasion. Otherwise it would become a mere numbers game with people, experts or otherwise, casting their ballots as to who should win right after a bout. But then again, just like when readers express their opinion with regard a poem, story or novel; boxing viewers can also share their verdict and sentiments with regard the fight.

That is why I say, if it were a poetry contest, and both Pacquiao and Marques were entrants, here’s my take: Pacquiao was the poet while Marquez was a mere versifier. For one, Manny’s punches had more substance and style. Just look at his 3rd round short left-hook that sent Marquez’ back down the canvass with both his hands and feet in the air. Just look at his 10th round out-of-the-book ‘fade-away’ left hook that completely caught the schooled boxer in Marquez off-guard. Compare that with the counter-punching skills of Marquez that did as much as to keep Pacquiao at bay and at the same time score. Manny was more art than science, while Manuel was more science than art.

Now it all boils down to the ultimate purpose of boxing. You box not just to hit and score, you box to eliminate and knock the opponent down. Same with writing, it is not all about craft, you have to have something to say and send your message across. True, Marquez’ boxing skills made him score. All those scientific moves of his should have been directed to its ultimate purpose of knocking the challenger down at least once. But this did not happen. He simply used them to keep Pacquiao at bay and as the defending champion he should have done more than that.

Pacquiao is the champion because he reinvented boxing and at the same time retained the primordial purpose of a punch—to knock the opponent down.

True enough, just as there are many things about poetry that graduate school can’t teach you; there are also many things about punching that even the childhood-to-adult boxing training camps of Mexico can’t just produce. And this includes the patented and genetically specific Manny Pacquiao punch.

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During the Kantaramon at Lolo’s Bar last Saturday, March 15. The Kabulig-Bikol also invited the ABS-CBN to cover the event. This writer was one of those interviewed by reporter Jonathan Magistrado. He asked me about what can the younger Bikol writers contribute in the flourishing of Bikol literature. Almost instinctively, I responded it is information technology that we have. We can use our blogs and podcasts in pushing for regional literature.

In line with this, master fictionist Jose Dalisay, in writing about the Juliana Arejola-Fajardo Workshop and Premio Tomas Arejola in his Penman column in the Arts and Culture Section of The Philippine Star (March 17, p. G-6) likewise expressed the role of the internet in promoting regional literature. He wrote: “Our regional literatures have always had a hard time competing for space, attention, and funding with writing in English and Filipino (not to mention Harry Potter and Tom Clancy), but thankfully the Internet has evened things up a bit, and today there are a number of literary blogs devoted to the resurgence of writing in Bikol, bannered by such young writers as Rizaldy Manrique, Jason Chancoco and Kristian Cordero—previous winners all of the Arejola Prize.

And that is why we blog and can’t stop from blogging.

BIKOL THESIS

March 12, 2008

I just sent my thesis to a nearby photocopy shop for book binding. It will be ready for distribution soon. I think to myself, there goes the paper that made me decide to pursue studies here in the Bicol region. Why study in Manila when here you can save on boarding expenses, and at the same time work for Bikol literature. I think most of the materials for a decent work on Bikol literary criticism lurk somewhere in the region, and one only needs to look.

And so there I was, quite surprised that I defended it well (and was even given a grade of A or Excellent). Another surprise was that writing in Bikol was never an issue. You see, I hear that the institution I am in is pro-globalization (whatever that means) and will not dare accept a thesis written in the regional language. Good thing that they did accept my 248-page paper, making for history and glory (ala-Gerard Butler, haha).

I called it ‘Pagsasatubuanan: Modernistang Poetikang Bikolnon.’ It is more of a book really, than a thesis. Honestly, the thesis format bores me. A writer ought to avoid writing too much in it. But then somebody has to do it. And I did reconcile the writerly and the academic.

I think I can attribute the success of my defense to the fact that what I have written there is right in my head. I even practice it or do lectures out of it. It is a praxis on the rawitdawit as Bikol aesthetics. As I always say, creative writing is my day job while literary criticism is my hobby. I guess that is why I enjoy writing workshops. I have attended most of them except, of course the UP and Dumaguete workshops. Aside form the food and the booze, I love to observe the eccentricities of our elder writers during critiquing. We writing fellows always get a good laugh out of it. Like Doc Bien and Doc Deriada who would seem to be asleep but would suddenly ‘wake up’ and blurt out something cool or nasty.

As I said, I already made lectures out of ‘Pagsasatubuanan’ like the one I did at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary attended by, well of course, seminarians. As part of my paper’s recommendations, I intend to have more critiquing sessions on creative writing and apply the theory. Others ought to write theses and studies in their respective local languages also.