12 February 2009

Fiipino-ness in the global age

As moderator, I started the discussion on "Filipino-ness in the Global Age" in Taboan: The Philippine International Writers Festival 2009 by reading the following passages:

From Remapping Africanness, by Anouar Majid, 2008:

“To be sure, Africanness is a fiction, or at least a word with a long and changing history. Africa is a place defined less by the skin color of its inhabitants than by the diversity of its cultures and religions. One might say that all Africans – except for the handful of elite who benefit from the schemes of corporate exploitation – are united by the suffering and painful marginalization in the age of globalization. The common theme of African novels written by Muslims in the second half of the 20th century – whether such novels were authored by Moroccan, Senegalese, or Sudanese writers – was their protagonists’ attempts to survive the debilitating effects of European colonialism.”

From On Americanness, London Times Literary Supplement, 1954:

“With Hawthorne the exploration of Americanness, as something mysteriously different from any other national quality, is well under way. Its existence conditions the whole of American literature. The Englishman takes his Englishness for granted; the Frenchman does not constantly have to be looking over his shoulder to see if his Frenchness is still there. The difference is simple – being an American is not something to be inherited so much as something to be achieved.”

From a call for papers for 2009 on How To Be Chinese? Rethinking Chineseness in the Age of Globalization, by Enhua Zhang:

“How to define Chineseness? Is there one homogeneous Chineseness? Is Chineseness naturally ingrained into Chinese culture or culturally formed or even invented (by whom)? How does Chineseness travel and transform from its native land to its diasporic community?”

From "Filipino-ness in Fiction," Penman, by Butch Dalisay, Philippine Star, 2007:

“Anything written by a Filipino should qualify as Filipino literature. It doesn’t matter to me where it’s published, what it contains, or what language it’s written in. This may be a bold statement to make, but I think that writers who know what they’re doing – whether they’re realists or fantasists – don’t worry about Filipino-ness and such, leaving that to readers and critics to discern and to sort out, if it’s all that important to them. It will always be there, in any work that acknowledges or emanates from the writer’s rootedness in a certain place and time.”

From a posted comment on the topic What Makes Fiction Truly Filipino?, 2007:

“Sa totoo lang, umikot ang ulo ko sa usapang ito. Apat na websites na ang binasa ko tungkol dito, pero parang wala pa rin akong sariling opinyon na ipaglalaban ko talaga.” [Truth to tell, my head spins because of this topic. I've visited four websites about this, but I still have no definite idea of what to believe.]

The discussion featured novelist and playwright Leoncio Deriada, novelist and creative nonfiction writer Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, short story writer and historian-critic Resil Mojares, and speculative fiction writer Timothy Montes. After a wide-ranging discussion with a lot of audience participation, I realized that, whatever Filipino-ness is, it does not depend on the language chosen by the writer. Filipino writers writing in various languages are Filipino, not because they hold Filipino citizenship, but because of something that their writings offer. What that something is, we were not really able to pin down.


  1. "Filipino-ness is difficult to pin down because it is an accidental property of fiction. I'm of course using an ancient distinction between "essence" and "accident,"
    which makes the former necessary and the latter as unnecessary as the size and color of leaves in defining the essence of a tree."

  2. Is the Filipino-ness of literature in any of the Philippine languages an important question? (Butch Dalisay and Paul Lim are au courant in their comments -- when one talks about "rootedness" in time and place as a facet of Filipino-ness, necessarily, the synecdochal significance of a particular fictive or poetic material may be appreciated as an expression of a universal verity (e.g., a particular "Filipino" condition that aspires to become a "human condition"). When Lim speaks of Filipino-ness as an "accident" (of culture, existence, angst, world view, milieu, etc.), he is saying the distinction is a red herring. The more important question must always be: Is it literature worth the trouble of spending precious life time on? Worrying about the Filipino-ness of Philippine literature is unnecessarily delimiting. The important question is and will always be: Is the fiction or poetic material ultimately an aesthetic stimulus to broaden "manners of knowing" (epistemological function), and to define precise realities created by the writer to shape his grasp of reality (phenomenological function) -- both essential to literariness apart from the energies of language as a medium of creation and transmission. Ultimately, "Filipino-ness" would ask other questions like: Is there a Filipino soul in the art piece? What is it? What is Filipino as a nuance (of culture, habits of thought, manners of cognition, etc.) in poetry or fiction? If the writer is condemned to merely limning Filipino-ness in his art, would that not be too parochial? This will only perpetuate the "inchoateness" of Philippine literature which must outlive a colonial imprimatur as if the confluence of a myriad of colonial influences is not part of Filipino-ness. Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" does not require "Filipino-ness" to reflect the Philippine condition in his time. Poet Alejandrino Hufana's "Poro Point" is everyman's "dive into origin" as well as his catapult to perch from "so that when he taps his fingers, he also disturbs the universe." Looking for that "something" which sgnifies "Filipino-ness"? It is belated navel gazing. The Filipino-ness is, indeed, what the Filipino artist achieves in his lonely and painful journey (paraphrasing Joyce)to "forge into the smithy of his soul, the conscience of his race." -- ALBERT B. CASUGA

  3. Please explain to me the meaning of Poro Point. I want to know why Alejandrino Hufana named his anthology of lives as such. thank you

  4. Please ask Professor Casuga, who is Ilocano like Hufana and can see what speakers of other languages cannot see.