30 April 2009 at 5:13 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment


Kinokondena naming mga dating mataas ang posisyon sa gobyerno ang pag-aresto kay Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada sa malisyosong paratang ni Michael T. Defensor, General Manager ng PNR, na nagsinungaling daw siya. Bakit si Lozada ang hinuli at hindi ang mga kakampi ng gobyerno na grabe ang mga kasalanan sa sambayanan, tulad nina Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, Benjamin Abalos, Romulo Neri, Hernando B. Perez, Virigilio Garcillano, Jesus Martinez, Eliseo dela Paz, at marami pang iba?

Napakadali para sa mga tuta ng kasalukuyang rehimen na apihin ang mga nagbubulgar sa pang-aabuso, korupsyon, at masamang palakad ng gobyerno. Ang mga nagsasabi ng katotohanan ang pinaparusahan at hindi ang mga tunay na nagkakasala. Ang mga masasamang-loob pa nga ang protektado at nireregaluhan ng posisyon at pera. Ano ba ang gusto nating ipakita sa sambayanan – na walang kuwenta ang kabutihan at mabuti pang gumawa na lamang ng masama?

Paano ba natin narating ang ganitong karumaldumal na katayuan?

Tinatawagan namin si Mike Defensor na tumigil na sa pagkukunwaring siya ang naaapi, gayung siya mismo ang nagtangkang huwag malaman ng taumbayan ang balak na dukutin si Jun Lozada. Anong klaseng magulang siya na ang tinuturo niya sa mga anak niya ay ang pagiging sangkot sa pagtatago ng katotohanan na sobra na ang pag-abuso ng gobyerno sa taumbayan at sa ating mga batas?

Malinaw na katibayan ang pagkulong kay Jun Lozada na hindi na mapigilan ang pagkabuwaya ng kasalukuyang gobyerno. Pati katotohanan ay kinakain na nila dahil masyado silang gutom sa pera at kapangyarihan.

Tinatawagan namin ang lahat ng nagmamahal sa ating bayan na iprotesta ang pagkulong kay Lozada. Ipakita natin sa mundo na hindi tayo tatahimik at magsasawalang-kibo na lamang habang binabastos ng mga masasamang tao ang ating mga karapatan at kalayaan bilang mga Filipino.

Mula sa Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO)


Ilocano writers

30 April 2009 at 4:22 AM | Posted in News | 4 Comments

The most internationally visible of Filipino writers writing in a vernacular language are those writing in Ilokano (variously called Iluko or Ilocano). Representative websites are Bilingual Pen, which hosts a number of major Ilocano writers in English and Ilokano, and Dadapilan, which has news items of interest to Ilocano writers. Unless I am mistaken, the very first website (now no longer existing?) focusing on Philippine literature was that of GUMIL, an international organization of Ilocano writers.

One of the followers of my blog is Ilocano and has his own blog. I once translated an Ilokano poem (by 19th century writer Leona Florentino), using a dictionary and an Ilocano informant, but otherwise, my knowledge of Ilokano is zilch. If I were given another lifetime, I would certainly learn it, since it is the language of many Filipinos living abroad, particularly in Hawaii.

Every time I am asked to be a nominator for the Philippine National Artist award, I nominate Juan S. P. Hidalgo Jr., who writes in Ilokano. Unfortunately, he never makes it, for the simple reason that the judges (who usually are English or Tagalog-dominant) cannot read Ilokano and, therefore, cannot say if his writing is of high quality or not. I know his writing is excellent, because I have asked quite a number of people who read Ilokano and they all say he’s one of the best, if not the best, of living Ilocano writers.

Too specialized?

29 April 2009 at 4:54 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Is multilingual literary criticism too specialized? We have to think about this as the idea of over-specialization gets hammered, as a side result of the worldwide economic crisis. (Read the New York Times article by Columbia professor Mark Taylor.)

My initial answer is yes and no.

Yes, because there are very few of us looking at the polyglot aspect of literature. Even in our own specialized field, we cannot even claim that we are in so-called mainstream literature courses. (In the Philippines, even if Philippine Literature in English is usually taught in undergraduate courses, it is taught as though English were not a second or a foreign language to Filipino writers.)

No, because bilinguality or multilinguality is most likely the rule rather than the exception for creative writers. Since they are very curious and very literate, even monolingual writers usually take the trouble to be able to read another language. If we are able to convince more critics to think about the relationship of mother tongues to languages of literary creation, we might be able to establish what could be the kind of truly multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary area that Taylor is looking for.

Kindred spirits in anthropology

28 April 2009 at 3:06 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Little by little, the academic world is waking up to the reality that monolingualism severely limits the way we think. Take anthropology, for instance. Here is a 20 January 2009 blog entry about the journal Anthropological Quarterly:

“In Polyglot Perspectives, scholars will present essays on books written in languages other than English. Such languages may include those in which there is a long tradition of anthropological scholarship, but we hope to give particular emphasis to less widely used languages in which a nascent anthropology is already making important contributions that may be invisible to the larger international community.

“In launching this new section, we acknowledge that, in many ways, the English language has been allowed to define the anthropological mainstream. We also acknowledge that, in many disciplines, English has become the language of scholarship in countries where English is not the locally dominant language. Anthropology, however, is both a cosmopolitan discipline and one that seeks to recognize and study politically less powerful cultures and languages.”

English has become the language of scholarship in the Philippines, where I live, even if English is spoken by less than 50% of the adult population and read by less than 20%. Creative writing, however, is mostly in various vernacular languages, though criticism (like this blog) remains mostly in English. The linguistic schizophrenia takes its creative and critical toll.

Oh, for a gadget like the Universal Translator in Star Trek, through which beings from anywhere in the universe communicate with each other! (Of course, I strongly disagree with the tempocentric view that, in the future, the Federation Standard will be Standard American English!)

A course on multilingual literature?

27 April 2009 at 4:19 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Doris Sommer writes in her Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education (2004) why she started blazing the trail of multilingual criticism:

“At the School for Criticism and Theory during the summer of 2002, I graduated to a veritable United Nations of interlocutors interpellated by a call unfamiliar to aesthetics but commonplace in each of their fascinating lives. Josiane Peltier, for example, writes about detective fiction in her native French and elegant English when she is not reading in Spanish and Chinese literatures; historian Olga Dror’s original Russian and acquired Hebrew added Vietnamese, Latin, and Chinese to study popular religion in Vietnam; Laura Ceia-Minjares reveals Tristan Tzara’s private Romanian reveries between his public antics in French.” (pp. vii-viii)

Is it time to offer a course on Multilingual Literature? I would be interested in team teaching the course, if it is offered simultaneously across universities (using Skype or its equivalent). It would be paradoxical if the course were offered only in one language, so it would be ideal if the course could be offered in various languages to students speaking and reading in different languages. If not a course, then perhaps a lecture or two, by the leading critics in the field (Sommer would be one of them, and others I have named in this blog before). Or at the very least, a podcasted lecture. Anyone interested?

Maghrebi writers

26 April 2009 at 6:25 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

The book Bilingual Games: Some Literary Investigations (2003), edited by Doris Sommer, is described in Amazon.com this way:

“These essays bring home the most challenging observations of postmodernism — multiple identities, the fragility of meaning, the risks of communication. Sommer asserts that many people normally live — that is, think, feel, create, reason, persuade, laugh — in more than one language. She claims that traditional scholarship (aesthetics; language and philosophy; psychoanalysis, and politics) cannot see or hear more than one language at a time. The goal of these essays is to create a new field: bilingual arts & aesthetics which examine the aesthetic product produced by bilingual diasporic communities. The focus of this volume is the Americas, but examples and theoretical proposals come from Europe as well. In both areas, the issue offers another level of complexity to the migrant and cosmopolitan character of local societies in a global economy.”

In his contribution to the book, Réda Bensmaïa, in “Introduction to Tetraglossia: The Situation of Maghrebi Writers,” writes (pages 88-89):

“What language should one write in? In what language should one make films? In what language should people be allowed to speak and write? In what places? At what time? Or still, in French? Arabic? In Berber? In Kabyle? In literary Arabic? Problems as concrete and vital as these explain the acuity of tensions, contradictions and difficulties facing every artist in Algeria. For the writers to write, for filmmakers to make films, is a question of life and death, as each one of their gestures, each of their choices is a foundation. In every case it is a matter of delineating a ‘terrain’ and to find, at any cost, one way out of the labyrinth of tongues and languages.”

In some countries, multilingual literature is not just a harmless and pleasurable intellectual exercise that writers engage in. It could be as crucial to life as one’s choice of religion, ideology, spouse, or physician.

Rosario Ferré

25 April 2009 at 3:46 PM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Poet and fictionist Rosario Ferré Ramírez, in a 2001 event entitled “Writing In Between,” is quoted as saying, “I write in Spanish like I speak it — fast. It is impossible for me to write in English like I write in Spanish. I can’t be trigger-happy in English. Writing in English is like looking at the world through a different set of binoculars.”

Here is one type of bilingual writer — the type that has an unequal command of two languages (despite writing well in both). There are other types that we have already discussed in this blog. It might be time to do a typology or classification of bilingual/multilingual writers.

Esmeralda Santiago 2

24 April 2009 at 3:38 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Esmeralda Santiago’s self-description of speaking in Spanish while typing in English is another way of putting N.V.M. Gonzalez’s statement that he writes in Tagalog using English words (which is practically identical to the statement of Bienvenido N. Santos that he writes in Capampangan using English words). We might be able to make a generalization about multilingual writing: Multilingual writers write in their mother tongues using words of other languages. Since this formulation, however, makes it appear that the writers do not think in but are merely translating into the non-mother tongues, we have to qualify it a bit: Multilingual writers think and write in their mother tongues while thinking in and using the words of other languages. That’s still a rather clumsy formulation in terms of style, but as we go along, we should be able to put it in a more literary way.

Esmeralda Santiago 1

23 April 2009 at 5:31 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

“Many times, when writing, I was surprised to hear myself speaking in Spanish while my fingers were typing the same sentence in English,” writes Esmeralda Santiago in the introduction to her Cuando era puertorriquena (1994, p. xv, translated by Catherine E. Wall).

This is one of the greatest joys of a bilingual writer – to be able to use two languages at the same time. Most monolingual persons think that bilinguals (or polyglots or multilinguals) think in one language and translate, whether consciously or unconsciously, into other languages. Here is a bilingual author testifying that this is not true. Translation is not the key to bilingual writing. The key is adding to, not replacing, the mother tongue in the creative act.

Vladimir Nabokov

22 April 2009 at 10:50 PM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

“Very few bilingual writers attempt perfect equality in their two languages,” remarks Elizabeth Klosty Beaujour in her Alien Tongues: Bilingual Russian Writers of the “First” Emigration (1989, p. 51). Vladimir Nabokov, justly famous for his English novels, has received some multilingual criticism, but certainly not enough. The sentence “Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their nature, which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets'” sounds vaguely like the English of an earlier century, but it is, in fact, as critics that can read Russian have said in so many words, an attempt by Nabokov (in Lolita) to write in Russian using English words.

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