18 June 2009

Visayan Students

Students are getting into mixed-language writing. At the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, based in the central islands of the Philippines, student-poets are producing mixed language poems (involving Cebuano, English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and/or Tagalog). Here is "Silent Mode" in the website Verseculo Senti:

Ginubrahan kita ng trahe
Dahil sa susunod na linggo
Ay ikakasal ka na
Sa tsinoy na nakilala
Mo sa Boracay.

Ngunit bago pa man
Maubos ang sinulid
At mabali ang karayom
Na aking ginausar,
Bakas sa iyong mukha
Ang pagkabagabag
Na iyong dinadala.

Ginpamangkot kita kung bakit?
Anong nangyari?

Ngunit walang tingog at salita
Ang lumabas sa
Namamaga mong bibig.

There are some (particularly in the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino based in that university) that would argue that this is Filipino, the legal national language of the Philippines. Some would argue otherwise. I do not want to get into the linguistic debate here (although I have said quite a mouthful about it elsewhere). What is important is that, in this literary work, the mixing together of distinct languages works, because what the poem is talking about (a confused bride getting a taste of the violence that awaits her as a wife) is mirrored by the "confusion" generated by the mixing of languages, a confusion that is of no consequence to someone that understands all three languages. The speaker in the poem and the multilingual reader of the poem are, therefore, one in understanding what is going on in the mind of the bride. (Of course, from a political viewpoint, I cannot agree with the racism against the Chinese in the poem, but using purely formalist standards, the poem works.)

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