Saturday, June 28, 2014

Learning to breathe

I said I have to run more often and delight at the stares of women at the pharmacy after I enter their air-conditioned premises, rivulets of sweat streaming down my face and neck, wetting my shirt. Do I really love to shock people? I should run round and round the park only to test how stubborn and how hard-headed I could get. If I give up that easy, I'd be a wimp; running would save me from being one. Just think of them men, who takes to speed and running to measure a person's worth. I should run. I should make it a point to run--or walk? If only to study character, in reality and fiction. Should I listen to people as they talk while they walk? Can eavesdropping be a kind of brainstorming? I should talk to myself. I should study my breath as I run, discover my own pace, listen to my body to avoid injuring a foot or a leg. Talk to my body, calmly and quietly, just like the way you talk to your soul. If you have one. Breathe.

Reading Maryanne Moll

In her blog, writer Maryanne Moll talks about the passing of her grandmother she fondly calls Bita, and then, I discover a lot more about Bita in her Palanca-winning story, "At Merienda" that I did not notice before, since I've only been a distance reader; though, for quite a time, I've been faithfully reading her blog, which I discovered years ago when she wrote something that really made me cry. I've been searching for what it was that she wrote--it must have been something about writing and the self, which used to be my biggest angst--but I could no longer find that early post that really introduced me to her. She had a way of deleting her posts sometimes, immediately after posting them (which, I understand, because I also do it a lot of times), but my all-time favorites are her posts on Lost Ground about her attempts to write in the Bikol language (again, folks, Bikol is not a dialect!); My Street, Myself, where she described a particular street in Manila where she lived for a while; and other really sensual kind of writing such as this. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Where we stayed in Iligan

It did not feel like a mobile newsroom at all; with its spacious living room, complete with a cozy sofa, its kitchen we used as the function room, separated by a glass wall from the living room and the small corridor that led to our rooms. The whole thing almost felt like one huge summer vacation house; and even with the opening of classes in June, it was not really too difficult to believe  that and we would have enjoyed the idea, except that our favorite editor was there with us, always reminding us of our schedules and the (impossible) deadlines to meet; and so, my intestines started to knot; and I bumped my head and body on the glass walls many times on my way to my room as I struggled, body and soul, to let the stories out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Suddenly missing Marawi

I spent the whole week last week tagging along our group of photojournalists involved in Panglantaw Mindanao's mobile multimedia newsroom in the cities of Iligan and Marawi.  After our trip to  Lake Lanao on the third day, I remember the downcast skies, the ramshackle buildings hovering over us, the sudden darkness blanketing the streets as the car  inched through the thickness of the Marawi traffic. At our back, PM editor Luz Rimban telling Toto, seated in front, what kind of photos she would need; and as our vehicle stalled in the traffic, I heard the urgent clicking of camera shutters, rhythmic and fast; the din of excited voices from the road mingling with the sounds of the market. I looked up to see Toto and Mick sticking their heads out of the car windows to capture whatever pictures they can take of the busy public market, the children cheering at the sight, the people streaming out to the streets, rushing home under the threat of impending rain. The experience contrasted with the total calm, the peace and quiet of the King Faisal Mosque as soon as we reached the Mindanao State University campus.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mother Tongue

Somebody commented how hard and how awkward I've been talking in Tagalog with Pam, which jolted me a bit because I did not realize I was already talking in Tagalog, and that was very bad. I've switched again into a strange language instead of sticking it out with my own mother tongue, which is pure Bisaya, oftentimes referred to by the miseducated and the unlettered as a "dialect," instead of a language. But why is it that every time I hear someone talk in that other language imposed upon us by the central government in Manila, a language that is totally alien to me, my mind automatically switch into default mode and I end up talking in a language which I have no control?  I only got to meet Pam inside our office, where she hangs around,  and also as part of the photojournalists' group in Mindanao, where I happened to be the odd one out; and although Pam had somehow gotten used to the language spoken in Bukidnon and Davao after staying here for maybe a couple of years, she still continue to use the tongue she used to grew up with in Binondo.  Colette and I used to talk about this before.  Colette, who left the university life in Manila for an adventure life in Davao (or was it really an adventure, Colette?) used to tell me, albeit secretly, how to intimidate an overbearing Bisaya. She used to revert to her Manila Tagalog in a subtle, almost natural way, and almost unconsciously, the overbearing one would revert into Tagalog, expressing it so badly, she'd end up humiliated and out of control.  How we used to tease C for failing to master Cebuano despite her years of staying here; and how convenient it is for her to suddenly revert to her Mother Tongue to conquer an enemy! As we used say inside Dr. Ceres Pioquinto's class in Silliman U, "language is a power game."  Where in that power game is Cebuano, and what does Tagalog do to keep its dominance?
This was what the awardwinning writer Lakambini Sitoy once said about the English language, the invisibility of Cebuano and the dominance of the so-called national language imposed upon us by the central government in Manila. (By the way, Sitoy, who made this speech in 2001 before a Dane audience, writes her stories in English):"I write in English not for political reasons, not to make a statement, but because this is the only language that I am really good at. Because I grew up in the Visayas, my other language was Cebuano. However, because the central government in Luzon dictated that "Filipino", the national language, be based on Luzon's Tagalog, "Filipino" was always an alien language to me. I learned it through my grammar books in grade school but it was never a valid way to express the way I felt. I only learned Tagalog -- conversational Tagalog -- at age 22, when I moved to Manila. Up to now I cannot speak nor write in formal Tagalog: our educational system puts a premium on English, which was always a ready fall-back. And as for Cebuano, it is invisible, virtually expunged, from the educational system. Quite unfair, since more Filipinos speak it than any other indigenous language. I can speak it, but was never taught the formal rules of spelling, syntax, grammar -- nor were we exposed to exemplary writing in Cebuano while in school."