Ang danas sa pag-aakda ng DANAS

Panimula sa Danas: mga pag-aakda ng babae ngayon; unang kalipunan ng akda ng kababaihan na inilabas ng Gantala Press. Sinulat ko kasama ang aking co-editor na si Janine Dimaranan. Ilulunsad ang aklat sa Marso 18, kaarawan ni Lorena Barros, sa Uno Morato Bookstore, Quezon City.

Maikling kasaysayan ng mga antolohiyang maka-babae sa bansa

Sa panahon ng Batas Militar noong simula ng 1970s hanggang huling mga taon ng 1980s, pinatunayan ng lawak ng People Power at lalim ng kilusang lihim ang lakas ng mamamayang magpasya para sa sarili at bayan. Kasama ng mga manggagawa, magsasaka, mga propesyunal, taong simbahan, at iba pa, umigting din ang pagkilos ng kababaihan sa Pilipinas. Lalong lumakas ang kaisipang makababae at/o feminista sa panahon ng pasismo ni dating pangulong Ferdinand Marcos. Noong 1984, binuo ang General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action (GABRIELA) na nagsilbing payong ng iba’t ibang grupo ng kababaihan sa bansa.

Sa ganitong pampulitikang klima, inilabas noong 1984 at 1985 ng Women in Media Now (WOMEN) ang dalawang edisyon ng Filipina: poetry, drama, fiction na unang mga kalipunan ng akdang babae sa Pilipinas. Noong 1987, inilathala naman ng Pilipina ang Kamalayan: feminist writings in the Philippines habang tumuon din sa mga akdang feminista ang ikalimang isyu ng Ani ng Cultural Center of the Philippines noong 1988. Nasundan agad ito ng Sarilaya: feminism, art, and media ng Institute of Women’s Studies ng St. Scholastica’s College noong 1989. Sa dagsa ng mga feministang akda, nabuo ang Women Involved in Creating Cultural Alternatives (WICCA) sa mga taon matapos ang EDSA 1. Tumuon ang WICCA sa kultural na gawaing maka-babae hinggil sa pagpapaunlad ng wika at panitikan.

Nanguna ang higanteng Anvil Publishing, Inc. sa paglalathala ng mga akda ng kababaihan noong ika-siyam na dekada ng nakaraang dantaon. Nagsimula ito sa Forbidden fruit: women write the erotic noong 1992, na sinundan ng Kung ibig mo: love poetry by women noong 1993. Pawang liberasyon ng sekswalidad ang tinatalakay ng dalawang librong ito, na hindi madalas mababasa sa mga akda ng babae noong nakaraang mga siglo. Inilabas naman ang Ang silid na mahiwaga: kalipunan ng kuwento’t tula ng mga babaeng manunulat at Songs of ourselves: writings by Filipino women in English noong 1994; at noong 1998 inilathala ng Circle Books sa tulong ulit ng Anvil ang “unang librong lesbiyana sa Pilipinas,” ang Tibok. Sa parehong taon din inilimbag ng National Committee on Culture and the Arts ang Fern garden: anthology of women writing in the South upang pagtuunan ng pansin ang mga manunulat na babae sa Mindanao.

Sa pagpasok ng bagong siglo, nagtipon ang malalaking palimbagan sa unibersidad gaya ng University of the Philippines Press ng feministang mga antolohiya tulad ng Women’s bodies, women’s lives: an anthology of Philippine fiction and poetry on women’s health issues (2001) at In the name of the mother: 100 years of Philippine feminist poetry, 1889-1989 (2002), isa sa mahahalagang kalipunan hindi lamang ng feministang tula kundi ng panitikang Filipino sa pangkalahatan. Samantala, naging aktibo rin sa pagpasok ng bagong siglo ang indipendyenteng paglilimbag. Noong 2000, inilunsad sa San Francisco, California ang Babaylan: an anthology of Filipina and Filipina-American writers mula sa Aunt Lute Press habang inilabas noong 2013 ng Balangay Productions ang Lita: anthology of poems on women. Sinundan ito ng Work is work, isang zine ng mga migranteng Filipina at Indones sa Hong Kong na inilathala ng Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) at HERFund (Her Empowering Resources) noong 2015. Pinakabagong antolohiyang lumabas noong 2016 ang Daloy: a collection of writings by migrant women mula sa Youth and Beauty Brigade sa tulong ng organisasyong migrante na Batis AWARE (Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment).

Bukod sa mga paksang relihiyoso at pastoral; sa liberasyong sekswal; sa pagiging ina, asawa, at anak, at pagkalas sa mga tradisyunal na gampanin; sa pagiging biktima ng opresyon at paglansag sa patriyarkal na kaayusan; hanggang sa pagpapanday ng gampanin ng kababaihan sa bayan at rebolusyon, uminit dinsa pagsisimula ng 2000 ang usaping migrante at pagiging babaeng manggagawa sa labas ng bansa. Dahil sa tulak ng globalisasyon, nagkaroon ng mga pagkakataon ang kababaihang mag-organisa at maglathala ng mga internasyunalistang akdang sumasalamin sa isyu ng mga babae sa buong mundo.

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Hindi lamang sa mga antolohiya matatagpuan ang sulatin ng mga babae sa Pilipinas. Babae – si Luisa Gonzaga de Leon ng Bacolor – ang unang Kapampangan na nakapaglimbag ng sariling libro (isang aklat ng mga dasal noong 1844). Sumikat sa mga Exposición sa Europa ang mga tula ni Leona Florentino; nasa Pambansang Aklatan ang ilan sa maraming nobela ni Magdalena Jalandoni; laging nasa antolohiya ng “Philippine Literature in English” ang “Dead Stars” ni Paz Marquez-Benitez. Nagsulat o nagsusulat din ang mga babae para sa Liwayway, Bannawag, Hiligaynon, at iba pang popular na babasahin, at ang nobelang romansa at chic lit ay produkto ng mga industriyang ginagatungan at kinokonsumo ng mga babae. Pagkatapos ng Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig, napakaraming babae ang nagsulat sa iba’t ibang larangan – sa panitikan, media, at akademya.

Ngunit tila kakaunti ang bagong lipon ng panitikan mula sa kababaihan. Tila natigil na ito sa Sarilaysay: tinig ng 20 babae sa sariling danas bilang manunulat, na Anvil din ang naglimbag noong 2000, at ilan pang indipendiyenteng zines at e-books na nabanggit na sa itaas. Kunsabagay, mas marami nang babae ang awtor at editor ng mga libro at ulo pa nga ng mga palimbagan, o sila mismong naglalathala at nagtitinda ng sariling komiks o nobela o lipon ng kuwento o tula, sa milenyong ito (kalakarang hindi naman bago sa kasaysayan: sa Pampanga, naging gawain ng poeta laureada na si Rosario Tuazon-Baluyut ang maglimbag ng sariling mga romansang inilalako niya sa mga fiesta sa karatig-bayan noong gitnang bahagi ng 1900s).

Pulitika ng kalipunang pampanitikan: ang Danas bilang antolohiya

Nakapaglimbag nga ang ating mga ina, tiya, at lola ng mga aklat, at ng mga aklat na maka-babae. Pagkatapos, ay ano? Sabi nga ni Mary Eagleton, ang pagdami ng mga palimbagang feminista sa kanluraning bansa ay mahalaga ngunit ito ay

only partially adequate as a political strategy since representation cannot in itself solve the structural problems of racism, ethnocentricism and heterosexism; a widening of representation does not have any necessary political effects.

Dito na pumapasok ang aspektong pulitikal na dala ng panulat ng kababaihan na natugunan sa ikalawang hati ng 1900s simula nang mabuo ang mga kilusang sumusuporta sa pagpapalaya ng kababaihan, kaalinsabay ng pagpapalaya ng bayan. Mula sa pampulitikang radikalismo noong 1960s na nagbunga rin ng Sigwa sa Unang Kuwarto noong 1970s, itinatag ang Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) bilang organisasyong sumusuporta sa armadong pakikibaka laban sa kolonyal at patriyarkal na lipunan at pyudal na relasyon ng babae, lalaki, at iba pang kasarian. Dito sumikhay ang ugnayan ng gawaing pampanitikan at gawaing pampulitika sa mga akda nina Lorena Barros, Joi Barrios, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, at iba pa. Hindi maiwasang pasanin din ng antolohiyang katulad ng Danas ang ganitong tunguhin ng feministang pag-aakda, kung kaya ang ilang mga akdang nakapaloob sa antolohiyang ito ay sinulat ng mga babaeng gerilya, bilanggong pulitikal, at aktibista.

Sa pagtalakay sa all-women art shows sa UK at US, natumbok ni Hannah Rubin ang madalas na isyu sa pagtitipon ng mga likhang-sining na pawang gawa ng kababaihan:

Is it progressive and liberating to create these spaces of opportunity for a historically oppressed group … or does it ghettoize them, and end up doing exactly the opposite of its intention: confining an artistic work to the particulars of the body that created it?

Itong pag-iwas na ma-“ghettoize” ang madalas na dahilan ng mga manunulat at artistang babae sa pagtangging mapabilang ang kanilang gawa sa mga antolohiya o eksibit ng mga likhang babae lamang, o kaya ay tawaging “babaeng makata” sa halip na simpleng “makata.” Kitang-kita ang malapit na ugnayan ng salitang ghettoize sa usaping pangkababaihan sa pagpapakahulugang ito ng Cambridge Dictionary:

ghettoize. To treat a particular group in society as if they are different from the other parts of society and as if their activities and interests are not important to other people: Feminist writers, she claimed, had been ghettoized, their books placed on separate shelves in the shops.

Kung tutuusin, ganito pa rin naman kung ituring ang kababaihan gaya ng ipinakikita ng nararanasan ng mga babae na seksismo sa araw-araw. Ang paniniwalang “iba” ang babae, o hindi kawangki ng lalaki, ay nakaangkla sa mga pamantayang batay sa mga katangian ng lalaki, pamantayang nanaig matapos ang mahabang kasaysayan ng kolonyalismong Espanyol at imperyalismong US. Itinuturing na iba ang babae sapagkat inaakalang mas mahina ang katawan niya kaysa lalaki sa mga industriyal na paggawa na siyang bumuhay o bumubuhay sa bansa sa neoliberalistang ekonomiya. Gayundin, ang pagiging iba ng babae ay sinasalungguhitan ng paglalagay sa kanya ng institusyong Katoliko sa pedestal bilang inang mapagkalinga at asawang kimi. Inaakalang iba ang babae sa lalaki sapagkat nariyan siya upang punan ang mga pangangailangan ng lalaki: kaya tinatawanan na lamang ang rape joke ng Pangulo; o inuungkat sa senate hearing ang sekswal na aktibidad ng senadorang inakusahang drug lord; o walang kakurap-kurap na nililinaw ng isang dating “bold star” na nagdadala siya ng “karne,” hindi ng droga, sa Bilibid.

Wala o mabibilang sa isang kamay ang akda ng babae na kasama sa mga antolohiyang pampanitikan na tinipon ng mga manunulat na lalaki mula pa noong 1949. Ibig sabihin, ang pagwawalambahala sa mga akda ng kababaihan sa kasaysayan ng panitikang Filipino ay isa lamang anyo ng ghettoismo, othering, na matagal naman nang umiiral sa ating kultura. Kaya nga minamabuti ng mga manunulat na babae na “ituring siya at ang kanyang akda na pansamantalang nasa labas ng kasaysayan ng kalakaran,” sa mga salita ni Benilda S. Santos. May lakas ang mga taga-labas, ang laylayang kubkubin ang namamayaning kamalian. Dito nabibigyang-puwang ang balintuna ng awtonomiya ng sining sa lipunan, habang mabigat pa rin ang pag-angkla sa karanasan ng babae sa latag ng kasaysayan.

Ang pagtipon ng mga antolohiyang katulad ng Danas ay maaaring ghettoismo rin, ngunit sapagkat binuo ng mismong mga taga-ghetto, ng mismong mga babae, ay maituturing na ring paglikha sa sariling espasyo, at pag-igpaw. Kung mabibigyang-katuturan at maaari ng kababaihan ang pagka-ibang ito, marahil masisimulan na rin naming hilingin na huwag timbangin ang aming akda sang-ayon sa mga pamantayang panlalaki o itinalaga ng lalaki. O kung kailangang timbangin, dapat munang pagkasunduan ng babae at lalaki ang susunding pamantayan.

Samantalang wala pang gayong kalinaw na pamantayan sa ngayon, nais mag-ambag ng Danas sa pagbubuo ng pamantayang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagpili sa mga akdang nakapaloob sa antolohiya.

Una, kailangang likha ng cis o trans na babae ang akda. Isinara ang tawag sa mga manunulat na lalaki sa paniniwalang mas marami silang pagkakataon o espasyong makapaglabas ng akdang maka-babae o feminista, kung gugustuhin lamang nila. Kaugnay nito ang sumasailalim na pamagat ng Danas: “mga pag-aakda ng babae ngayon.” Hindi kami naniniwalang ipinapasya ng kasarian o kabahagi ang pagkakakilanlan ng isang babae. Inaakda ng tao, ng sarili at lipunan, ang pagiging babae. Gayunpaman, nilimitahan sa cis o trans na babae ang mga may-akda sa Danas dahil nga tila mas kaunti ang pagkakataon ng babaeng makapaglimbag lalo na ng mga akdang pumapaksa sa “pagkababae” – tingnan na lamang ang kawalan ng mga palimbagang feministang katulad ng Virago o The Feminist Press o Zubaan Books sa bansa.

Pangalawa, kailangang tungkol sa karanasan ng babae o pagiging babae ang akda. Hindi tinanggap ang mga akdang gayong sinulat ng babae ay pinagbibidahan ng lalaki o nakatuon sa pakikipagsapalaran ng lalaki.

Pangatlo, kailangang feminista o may bahid ng feminismo ang akda. Hindi tinanggap ang mga tulang naghahayag ng ganap na pagpapasailalim sa lalaki, o kuwentong gayong makatotohanan ay tila walang pagkasalba (redemption) para sa tauhang babae, o kaya ay inaakalang sumasang-ayon sa mga nilalabanan ng feminismo, katulad ng sexual objectification.

At huli, bukod sa mga tunggaliang babae at lalaki at pagbasag sa patriyarka, binigyang-pansin din ang tunggalian sa uri. Hindi tinanggap ang mga akdang labis ang burgis o gitnang-uring sensibilidad at sumusuporta sa pang-aalipin ng kapitalismo at komersiyalismo. Habang malay ang mga editor na kulang ang antolohiyang ito sa mga akdang sinulat hindi ng mga guro at estudyante ng panitikan, o mga petiburgis na propesyunal, sinubok namang iturol ang mga pag-aakda sa kaisipang mahalagang palayain ang kababaihang kabilang sa mga uring inaapi ng kapital. Kasama sa Danas ang mga akdang tumatalakay sa rebolusyon at mithiing palayain ang buong bayan (kasama na ang kababaihan) sa iba’t ibang uri ng pagsasamantala.

Nakatanggap kami ng isa o dalawang piyesa mula sa mga lalaki, gayong walang lalaki o babaeng trans ang nagpasa ng akda at walang akda ang tungkol sa karanasang trans. Kung gayon, hindi na namin napaglimiang mabuti ang mga itinakdang pamantayan para sa mga tagapag-ambag: maaari bang tanggapin sa Danas ang akda ng isang lalaking trans? (Ang mabilis na tugon ay: depende sa akda). Gayundin, masasabing tradisyunal at realistiko ang namamayaning istilo sa mga panulat; wala masyadong “eksperimental” o “fantastiko” na teksto na napasama sa mga pinagpilian.

Iba-iba ngunit pinagbabahaginan (shared) ang danas na inihahayag ng mga akda sa antolohiyang ito. May mga tula, kuwento, komiks, at sanaysay na naglilimi sa katawan at sex; sa pagiging ina at anak; sa mga pakikibaka sa lipunan. Tinatalakay ang lahat ng ito sa panayam sa pangunahing makatang Filipino na si Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo. May tula at kuwentong lesbiyana at tungkol sa pagkakaibigan ng mga babae, bagay na wala sa mga antolohiya ng ating mga ninuno.

Sa tanong na “Kailangan pa ba ng antolohiya ng mga akda ng babae ngayon?” sapat na sigurong sagot ang daan-daang piyesang natanggap namin mula nang ipakalat ang tawag para sa mga akda. Bukod sa Maynila, Cavite, at Laguna, iba-iba ang pook na pinagmulan ng mga awtor: Cordillera, Bisaya, Mindanao, at Amerika. Kung gayon, may mga akdang nakasulat sa Iloko, Hiligaynon, at Cebuano, bukod sa Filipino at Ingles.

Malay kami na hindi nga matutugunan ng simpleng representasyon ang istruktural na pagsisiil, at na hindi maiiwasang maisantabi ng mas maraming tinig ang mas kakaunti: halimbawa, sa antolohiyang ito, iilan lamang ang mga hindi pa nakapaglalathala noon, gayong namamayagpag ang kabataan at estudyante. Kailangan din namin, nating, tayong mga manunulat at mambabasa, makipagbuno ngayon at kailanman sa binanggit ni Eagleton na kinalaman ng uring panlipunan sa paglaganap ng kamalayang feminista:

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, working class people are, by and large, neither the authors nor the readers of feminist literature and feminist literary criticism or, one could add, feminist thought generally. That truth must have serious implications for the political project of feminism.

Kailangan nating bunuin ito sa konteksto ng Pilipinas sa pamamagitan ng pag-aaral sa mga akdang sinusulat at binabasa ng babae mula noon hanggang sa kasalukuyan, at kailangan natin ng materyal para sa pag-aaral na ito. Ayon kay Lilia Quindoza-Santiago,

For in truth, there has been no qualitative change and Philippine society remains patriarchal. This is the beginning and the end, the reason, the ultimate cause why there are feminists and why there is feminism in the Philippines.

Ang Gantala Press ay binuo ng ilang magkakaibigang babae noong Hunyo 2015 upang tugunan ang kawalan ng tagapaglathalang nakatutok sa pagpapayaman ng mga akda ng babae sa bansa. Pinapangarap naming makapaglabas ng marami pang antolohiya, gayundin ng indibidwal na kalipunan ng akda ng mga Filipina, sa darating na mga taon. Ang Danas ay unang supling ng pulitikal na proyektong ito.

MGA SINANGGUNING AKDA

Azcuna, Ma. Asuncion at Fe Mangahas. “Introduction.” Sarilaya: women in arts & media. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, et al (eds.). Manila: Institute of Women’s Studies, St. Scholastica’s College, 1989.

Eagleton, Mary. “Literature.” A concise companion to feminist theory. Mary Eagleton (ed.). United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

Freisen, Dorothy. “The Women’s Movement in the Philippines.” NWSA Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4. (p.676-688). John Hopkins University Press, 1989.

Quindoza-Santiago, Lilia. “Roots of feminist thought in the Philippines.” More Pinay than we admit: the social construction of the Filipina. Maria Luisa T. Camagay (ed.). Quezon City: Vibal Foundation, 2010.

Reyes, Soledad S. “Introduksiyon.” Ang silid na mahiwaga: kalipunan ng kuwento’t tula ng mga babaeng manunulat. Soledad S. Reyes (ed.). Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 1994.

Rubin, Hannah. “The problem with all-women art shows.” Ni-retrieve October 4, 2016.

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My Year in Reading

Almost everyone agrees that 2016 was a horrible year, what with the death of great artists; BrExit and the victory of Donald Trump which both seem to have immediately set off an atmosphere of racism, bigotry, and prejudice in the West; the raging of the bloody war in Syria (Russian-backed too, apparently!); and in the Philippines, the sneaky re-ascension of the Marcos Family and the escalating number of extrajudicial killings brought about by the President’s fight against drugs.

On a personal note, I had a work-related accident in August, resulting in 1) the twisting of titanium screws into the bones of my left foot, 2) an ugly scar, and 3) a painful limp that continues to this day. The accident has permanently marked my body as a corporate — slave? And has left a kind of resentment towards the idea of employment, a resentment I hope to dispel or at least channel towards more productive things in 2017. On the other hand, I think it was a good year at work, in terms of the quality of exhibits we’ve put up for the library.

And 2016 was the year I discovered the brilliant, woman-helmed Norwegian TV series, SKAM, whose young actors I love more and more because they’re using their influence to spread, at least on social media, feminist ideas and the idea of love in general.

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It was also the year I vowed to read only books written by women (list below). The pledge started on a whim, like my sudden decision about one week ago to try again to quit smoking. Anyway, the reading discipline coincided with the time I was editing the first issue of Gantala Press’s women’s literary anthology, and I had to re/read similar anthologies such as Ang Silid na Mahiwaga. So in 2016 I was, in a sense, immersed in “women’s voices.” I very much enjoyed reading only women’s works that I have decided to continue doing so this year, beginning with Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure yet how this reading fare has changed me, although I’m sure, and feel, that it has. At the least, it has made me care less of what other people think or say, especially if those other people are men. Haha. I “relapsed,” however, into reading male-authored books — or in quit-smoking parlance, had a “slip,” when I devoured David Balzer’s Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else. It’s a good introduction to the pompous, pretentious, penile profession that is curating.

Most of what I read last year was crime fiction, starting from those by early writers like Anna Katherine Green and Belloc Lowndes, whose The Lodger was the basis of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same title. I found the writing of Green, Ngaio Marsh, and Patricia Moyes to be convoluted and boring; but Dorothy Hughes and Agatha Christie are truly great writers. Hughes’ writing is so taut one can feel a kind of tension throbbing underneath the text. I tried reading The So Blue Marble but found it too unsettling, and had to drop it at the moment. Christie’s plot twists, on the other hand, are unexpected and entertaining (although I had successfully guessed the perpetrator in Crooked House). My favorite work of hers is the action-packed The Secret Adversary, featuring a pair of young, energetic, opposite-sex friends.

The writers’s lives themselves are interesting; A Dog’s Ransom is so misanthropic I’ve decided I’d rather read Patricia Highsmith’s thick biography (by Joan Schenkar) than her novels. I also discovered that Anne Perry was a convict; her and her best friend’s murder of the best friend’s mother was the basis of the movie Heavenly Creatures. Josh Lanyon, who writes bestselling gay novels, is actually a straight, married woman. I learned this at around the same time I first read about a white man who used a Chinese woman’s name when he submitted his piece to the Best American Poetry anthology, and the poem was accepted. He claims that his works are ignored when bylined with his real name.

The General Fiction books below include Carol Shields’ Swann, which is about a poor and obscure woman poet whose small body of work has continued to affect an equally small group of people after her death. Also in the list are lesbian romance novels, from the not-so-well-written Bella Books to Sarah Waters’ Affinity, which while well-written has disappointed me. What a tragic love story! The list also contains wonderful novels by Japanese and Korean writers. This year, I intend to read more female Asian writers, beginning perhaps with Murasaki Shikibu, then Han Kang’s new novel. I love Natsuo Kirino, whose Out inspired my first stab at writing my own crime novel. Because of her, I ordered Bodies of Evidence: Women, Society, and Detective Fiction in 1990s Japan from Amazon.

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It’s one of the nonfiction books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. My 2016 Nonfiction stack looks pretty solid, though slim. The Rape of Nanking is harrowing, as is the fact that Iris Chang committed suicide at around my age. Unlike the Japanese with the Chinese (and Koreans, and maybe even Filipinos), the Germans have publicly apologized for their wartime atrocities towards the Jews. So the sin is acknowledged and the remorse is institutionalized, even written in history books, thus making way for real healing. This anger at the Japanese is felt in works such as Sa Ilalim ng Araw na Pula, which I read in one sitting at work. I should read more works by Filipina writers.

One book I enjoyed immensely was Victoria Finlay’s Color: A Natural History of the Palette, which talks about her travels all over the world in search of various colors: saffron, ochre, indigo. I learned that the blood-red color in kings’ robes used to come from squashed bugs — cochineal. That the color of Mother Mary’s clothes is based on what is currently the most costly and rare one:

“In fifteenth-century Holland, Mary often wore scarlet because that was the most expensive cloth; the earlier Byzantine choice of purple was similarly because this was a valuable dye, and only a few people were important enough to carry it off. So when, in around the thirteenth century, ultramarine arrived in Italy as the most expensive color on the market, it was logical to use it to dress the most precious symbol of the faith.”

Also fascinating are the racial undertones of the color yellow. When Jean-Pierre Alibert found a mine of blacklead, which was used to make pencils, in Siberia near China,

“Suddenly everyone wanted ‘Chinese’ pencils. It was therefore a brilliant marketing move a few decades later when mass-produced pencils in America began to be painted bright yellow. They copied the color of Manchu imperial robes, and symbolized the romance of the Orient, while suggesting that the pencils came from that valuable Alibert mine, even though they probably did not. Most pencils made in the United States are still painted yellow today, even though Siberian graphite has not been used for years.”

I wonder if this has anything to do with our beloved Mongol pencils?

Color was lent to me by my best friend after I told her that I was set to curate an exhibit on color, for work. This was the same exhibit with which I had the accident. Anyway, it’s now one of my most loved books of all time. I also cherish the thought that it’s still possible to share books with friends, literally or through recommendations. I posted something about reading only women’s works on Facebook, and a friend asked if I’ve read Tiny Beautiful Things; I hadn’t, but decided immediately to so, and was instantly in awe of Cheryl Strayed. What a wise woman! Then, I sent my e-book copy of TBT to female friends, one of whom in turn recommended Wild. So I read Wild, and felt nostalgic for my mountain-climbing days. Once my foot has fully healed, I plan to go back to hiking and camping, maybe alone, again, like when I was younger and in some ways, more foolish and yet more brave.

My 2016 Reading List

Crime Fiction

  • That Affair Next Door by Anna Katherine Green
  • A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katherine Green
  • The Lodger by Belloc Lowndes
  • The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective by Catherine Louisa Pirkis
  • A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
  • The Bamboo Blonde by Dorothy Hughes
  • In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes
  • Johnny Under Ground by Patricia Moyes
  • Black Widower by Patricia Moyes
  • Dial M for Meat Loaf by Ellen Hart
  • Murder on Air by Ellen Hart
  • No Reservations Required by Ellen Hart
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen
  • Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon
  • A Breach of Promise by Anne Perry
  • A Dog’s Ransom by Patricia Highsmith
  • The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

Agatha Christie:

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • The Secret Adversary
  • And Then There Were None
  • A Murder is Announced
  • Crooked House
  • A Pocketful of Rye
  • Parker Pyne Investigates

General Fiction:

  • Out by Natsuo Kirino
  • Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
  • The River Ki by Sawako Ariyoshi
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-soon Shin
  • Swann by Carol Shields
  • Unless by Carol Shields
  • Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi
  • Thunder Heights by Phyllis Whitney
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Affinity by Sarah Waters
  • Hey, Dollface by Deborah Hautzig
  • Travelling Light by Tove Jansson
  • Chicken by Paula Martinac
  • Hearts Aflame by Ronica Black
  • Chance by Grace Lennox
  • Uncross My Heart by Austin & Andrews
  • Confined Spaces by Renee MacKenzie
  • The Target by Gerri Hill
  • Homecoming by Nell Stark
  • Solstice by Kate Christie

Spanish Language Learning Novellas (not sure if Jordi Suris is a woman):

  • La chica de los zapatos verdes by Jordi Suris
  • Donde esta Sonia? by Jordi Suris
  • La chica del tren by Jordi Suris

Nonfiction:

  • The True and the Plain by Kerima Polotan
  • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
  • Sa Ilalim ng Araw na Pula by Genoveva Edroza Matute
  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay
  • Misogynies by Joan Smith

The Sunday Currently No. 10

From Sidda Thornton’s The Sunday Currently, a set of list posts with action verb prompts.

C U R R E N T L Y . . .

R E A D I N G Just finished reading Patricia Highsmith’s A Dog’s Ransom, which shows Ms Highsmith at her most misanthropic. Great technique, having a well behaved poodle as the animal being referred to in the title, whose kidnapping brings together a bunch of malicious, hateful characters. It’s almost like the small bourgeoise ugly dog deserves its tragic fate.

W R I T I N G nothing in particular.

L I S T E N I N G to the soundtrack of the third season of the TV series, Skam. Glad to have discovered Nas. Then had a new appreciation for Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels.”

T H I N K I N G about the US elections, how America really still hates women and is unprepared for having a woman as president. I’ve also been Googling if there’s any way to reverse the results of the election. Apparently, there’s no promising option.

S M E L L I N G the tang of a green leafy veggie salad.

W I S H I N G that I were a cooler person, more sure of myself as a woman.

H O P I N G that 2016 ends on a high note? What a year. The world is really changing, what with Brexit and the extra-judicial killings and the Marcos burial and the US elections. Leonard Cohen just died. :'(

W E A R I N G a longish blouse/shortish dress that I’d bought from Evangelista Street at around the same time I bought my Singer-narra dining table, which I need to have fixed.

L O V I N G Skam, a Norwegian TV series about a group of high school kids in Oslo. The main protagonists are five young women including a hijab-wearing Muslim. Season 3 tells the story of a young boy’s sexual awakening. The series is well directed (by a woman), well written, well acted by GORGEOUS actors. I love how the gay couple in the series look at each other across the room, school courtyard, or when they’re close together. I hope that the story ends well, not with any of the two boys having a mental illness or dying or being forced into a relationship with a girl.

W A N T I N G nothing in particular.

N E E D I N G to have my laptop keyboard fixed, and maybe buy a new pair of glasses or at least have the screws in the handles tightened.

F E E L I N G a bit hungover still, after meeting a friend for a drink last night. Panadol is an effective medicine for hangover headache.

The Sunday Currently No. 9

From Sidda Thornton’s The Sunday Currently, a set of list posts with action verb prompts.

C U R R E N T L Y . . .

R E A D I N G Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. If I remember correctly, I’ve read this & Sense & Sensibility in high school.

W R I T I N G stuff for work, mostly, though I’ve recently acquired some free time so I should go back to writing my Baguio novel & editing Gantala Press’ first anthology of women’s works.

L I S T E N I N G to The Carpenters, most recently, following the special request of my mother who’s come to visit.

T H I N K I N G about Nancy Wheeler’s character in Stranger Things. Am on the third episode yet but shucks she’s turning me off from the series. She pretends to be prudent about having sex and yet she manipulates people including her bestfriend so she can finally have it. Though online reviews espouse her as a feminist character. So I’m thinking about that. If what I’m thinking is internalized misogyny.

S M E L L I N G a damp bed.

W I S H I N G that I could go to the mountains? But not really.

H O P I N G to fully recover from a recent accident in less than a month.

W E A R I N G a longish blouse/shortish dress from Tita Tess. Also a half-cast around my left foot, fresh from a surgery that aims to correct badly fractured bones. Been wearing a cast and using crutches for about three weeks now, since my foot got crushed by an unstable panel board that fell while I was installing my COLOR IN HISTORY exhibit.

L O V I N G Netflix where I get to watch all these international movies and TV series such as Midsomer Murders.

W A N T I N G to smoke and drink beer! But not really.

N E E D I N G to take advantage of the extra time I won’t need to spend commuting to and from work, and work on personal projects.

F E E L I N G fine, but whenever I stand on my strong leg, blood rushes to my injured foot which causes a throbbing pain, exploding and constricting at the same time. Therefore I have to keep my foot elevated always.

Two Months in Korea – Learnings

My two-month stay in South Korea as a Cultural Partnership Initiative (CPI) fellow proved to be a major turning point in my professional life. I can say that all the following goals have been attained, along with these learnings:

1. Survey available materials in Korea on World War II, since the strength of Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) at Ayala Museum where I work is its World War II collection. Although Korea was a source of human and material resources for the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II, and even if Korea was liberated from Japan when the war ended in 1945, this war does not seem to be featured prominently in the history exhibitions I saw in South Korea. The war that dominates the South Korean consciousness is the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. This made me see how important historical framing and contextualization are; or how crucial timeframe is in presenting a history. In hindsight, I realize that using World War II as a primary context in Korean exhibits would seem to validate Japan’s position as an international power and colonizer at the time and, by extension, acknowledge Korea’s station as its protectorate.

2. Find materials on Korean and Philippine relations during World War II or the Korean War. Not many materials on Philippine-Korean relations during World War II can be found in the history museums I visited in South Korea, although the shared experience of the “comfort women” is mentioned in the Busan Modern History Museum and the Independence Hall of Korea. On the other hand, materials on the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) figure quite prominently in almost all the Korean War exhibitions I saw. These materials range from photographs to books to memorabilia and battle equipment. For my research work, I got help mostly from online journal articles, notably Lydia Yu-Jose’s study of the Filipino impression of Korean soldiers in World War II as cruel and atrocious, and Lily Ann Polo’s research on the historical and political context of the Philippine involvement in the Korean War. I was also helped a lot by materials from the Philippines, i.e., Cesar Pobre’s Filipinos in the Korean War (2014); Juan Villasanta’s Dateline Korea (1954); and United Nations documents from FHL’s Elpidio Quirino Presidential Papers.

3. In support of past projects, and to inform future exhibitions, find historical roots to the current cultural connections between Korea and the Philippines. An eleven-minute video produced by the Philippine Embassy in South Korea in 2009 on the history of Filipinos in Korea posits that the PEFTOK soldiers can be considered the first Filipinos in Korea. If this is true, then it can be claimed that contemporary Philippine-Korean relations can be traced back to a shared war against communism and a shared alliance with the United States. This is crucial in understanding present issues in Philippine-Korean relations such as those concerning mail-order brides and military sex slaves, or the growing dependence of the Philippines on South Korean economic aid.

4. Begin a partnership between FHL-Ayala Museum and NMKCH and produce an exhibition featuring the collections of both institutions. The NMKCH has taken the first step in building a partnership with Ayala Museum and FHL in sending a draft Memorandum of Understanding that covers a five-year set of activities. The activities may include an exchange of researchers for lectures and symposiums or a collaborative online or on-site exhibition.

5. Visit as many museums and cultural institutions in Korea as possible to experience and understand the latest designs and directions in installing history-oriented exhibitions. From NMKCH I picked up several museum practices which we at Ayala Museum can try:

  • The publication of a monthly e-newsletter that features comprehensive articles on the different objects of FHL and Ayala Museum, and advertises current and upcoming exhibitions. The NMKCH also publishes the Journal of Contemporary Korean Studies, “a new international journal created for the purpose of encouraging academic debate on issues related to Korean politics, economy, society, and culture.” E-book versions of the journal can be viewed online for free.
  • The use of independent exhibition designers via a bidding system. In NMKCH, ten percent of the exhibition budget goes to exhibition design, which is bid out. This can benefit our library and museum because, first, there is a greater chance of choosing a design that is appropriate to the curatorial concept. Second, we get to produce exhibitions that are fresh, changing, and truly innovative: working with different designers, we engage our community more. Third, we are able to help in the development of exhibition design as a valid profession in the country and a vital contributor to the progress of Filipino curatorship as a whole.
  • A clear identification of exhibition audiences. While a desire to be global or cosmopolitan is palpable in Seoul, as can be seen in the exhibitions of international artists or the importation of foreign cinema to the city, the sense of a local community or audience is still very strong. All exhibitions I have seen in South Korea were presented in Korean, with only a few translated to English. Thus, Korean children, young adults, and old people all flock to the museums. Writing Filipino versions of exhibition texts alongside English ones here at Ayala Museum may seem radical, but is a worthy exercise to consider when thinking about expanding audience reach.
  • An aggressive promotion of the educational function of a museum. From a CPI classmate, I learned that South Korean law mandates schools and museums to work together in educating the public. Thus, museums serve as storekeepers of the artifacts that children learn at school; or presenters of events in history in a socially engaging way. I think that the involvement of Bridge School students in FHL’s Defining Quirino exhibit, in which pupils were asked to write to President Quirino or produce artworks and essays portraying him, is a step in the right direction.

6. Keep up with current research and discussions on representing Asian culture in public spaces, both physical and virtual. There are not very many opportunities for formal discussions on museum work in Asia, but I was lucky to have been able to talk about issues concerning museum work and Asian history with my coordinators, Ms Sunhee Rho and Ms Jaewon Eom. It would have been great if the CPI program organized forums or colloquiums for me and the curators from the other countries to share professional experiences with one another.

7. In the long term, help strengthen Ayala Museum’s reputation as a leading resource of excellent exhibitions and of sound research and scholarship by acquiring the skillsets, perspectives, and attitudes required for this task. Aside from the theoretical learnings it gave me, I would like to think that participating in the CPI program has helped improve my communication and social skills. I got to interact with different people whose first language is not English. I became more culturally sensitive, from thinking of where to get Halal food for my Muslim friends to refraining from discussing Chinese communist atrocities in the presence of a classmate who is a member of Chairman Mao’s party. Personally and professionally, I have earned new friends from various parts of the world.

Two Months in Korea Part 2.7

This is a travelogue on the curatorial fellowship I took in Seoul from September to October 2015 under the Cultural Partnership Initiative Program. I was lucky to have had this opportunity — there aren’t very many fellowships or training programs, it seems, for curators of library collections or history exhibits. There are many such programs though for those working with art or in art museums.

LAST DAYS IN SEOUL

Wir sind ein volk

Like Ayala Museum, the National Museum for Korean Contemporary History (NMKCH) regularly holds free concerts that feature different music genres. One such concert I attended on October 17 was by the young indie band Jannabi, known for singing a couple of theme songs for Korean soap operas. The NMKCH requested them to include “Wind of Change” by Scorpions in their repertoire of mostly original compositions to help promote Wir sind ein volk (“We are a people”), a concurrent special exhibition on the reunification of East and West Germany. Most of the audience members in the Jannabi concerts were young women and high school children.

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Jannabi lead vocalist, Jung Hoon

The exhibition aimed to comment on the possibility of South and North Korean reunification. However, there seemed to be very little said about the current separation between North and South Korea, except the South Korean government’s efforts to reach out to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I would have liked to see the following issues addressed: How were Korean families torn apart? How were lives ruined and rebuilt? How were borders crossed or are being crossed? What are the realistic chances of reunification in Korea?

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An interesting exhibition component was a framed diorama of various methods that people from East Germany employed to cross the Berlin Wall into West Germany. These included hot air balloons, wires or cables from roofs to windows on the opposite side of the fence, and tunnels.

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When I mentioned this to a Korean friend, he said that North Koreans go to South Korea not by crossing the demilitarized zone or DMZ (which for all intents and purposes can be compared to the Berlin Wall), but by escaping to China first through the cold Yellow Sea. It’s incredible how the historical situations of Germany and Korea seem to be similar, but are totally different!

For its leading role in the Cold War which helped bring about these divisions in the two countries, the United States is thanked profusely in this exhibition.

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The Wednesday Protests

Every Wednesday since 1992, following Kim Hak-sun’s coming out in 1991 as a sex slave during the war, “comfort women,” their family and friends, supporters, teachers and students protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The Wednesday Protests demand that Japan apologize to the former sex slaves and provide them compensation. Students sing, read poetry, and wave butterfly placards while shouting to the embassy.

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The Japanese Embassy in Seoul

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Student protesters

The protesters surround a bronze sculpture of a seated girl, which signifies the grandmothers in their youth. The stone shadow of the bronze girl forms an old woman’s silhouette. During winter, she is clothed with coats, bonnets, mufflers. She is also offered flowers and gifts.

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A Farewell

For my final presentation at NMKCH, I delivered a research paper on how the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) narrative is usually told in websites, whether in text or in video form. I chose websites because these are the most accessible and available resource on the PEFTOK. I pointed out that the prevailing PEFTOK narrative merely follows the dominant Korean War narrative, which begins on June 25, 1950 when “the North attacked the South.” I argued that the narrative should be contextualized within Philippine history, and if so, should begin with the Japanese occupation of the Philippines on to World War II and even to the end of the Cold War.

(Next: My Learnings from the CPI Fellowship)

Two Months in Korea Part 2.6

This is a travelogue on the curatorial fellowship I took in Seoul from September to October 2015 under the Cultural Partnership Initiative Program. I was lucky to have had this opportunity — there aren’t very many fellowships or training programs, it seems, for curators of library collections or history exhibits. There are many such programs though for those working with art or in art museums.

ACTIVITIES

Sixth Stop: Torture Chambers in Cheonan

The Independence Hall of Korea is a massive museum on the Korean people’s struggle for freedom from thirty-five years of Japanese colonization. The first of seven large exhibition halls tackles “The Origin of the Korean People,” perhaps to emphasize how colonization has stunted what could have been a more powerful, phenomenal growth for the nation.

The Hall is fronted by 815 Korean flags (taegukgi) which symbolize August 15, 1945, the date of Korea’s independence from Japan. Most of the exhibition elements are life-size and three-dimensional; I found the area depicting the various torture methods on Korean activists most interesting. The dioramas of Japanese soldiers and their prisoners are placed behind bars, rendering the viewer helpless albeit voyeuristic. Prison cells and writings on the wall by the Independence activists are reproduced. Most of the visitors seem be specific groups like students, senior citizens, and Japanese tourists.

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One of the featured life-sized Japanese torture chambers for Korean independence activists

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Another life-sized diorama of the Provisional Government in Shanghai

What I appreciated from the Independence Hall is the minor, almost imperceptible presence of the Philippines in some of the displays. There is a short animated clip on the 1896 Revolution included in a film about the struggle for independence across Asia. Sexual slavery in the Philippines in World War II is also mentioned. By showing the other countries’ pursuit of freedom, the exhibitions are able to emphasize how sovereignty is a natural state and right for any nation.

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A scene on the 1896 Philippine Revolution included in an animated clip on revolutions in Asia

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Yellow dots signify the known locations of “comfort stations” in the Philippines

I was also lucky to have caught a special exhibition on the Nanking Massacre of 1937-1938. A large paper tole of Japanese soldiers playing a game served as a powerful exhibition component, even if it was placed in a corner. The game involved killing the most number of Chinese people (the winning score was 127). There were photographs as well, and testimonies of survivors on video.

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Japanese murder game; the Japanese soldier with the most number of Chinese killed wins

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Caption reads (according to my friend Jaewon): “To forget the Nanking Massacre is a massacre in itself.”

(Next stop: Last Days in Seoul)