OVER the long weekend, I took several books to Santander but read only one, from cover to cover, one sultry afternoon, as a bird’s egg blue chased orange then red and finally purple across the skyscape over Siquijor and Negros.
My copy of “kulokabildo” was given by Hope S. Yu, who edited the interviews her class made with 24 Cebuano writers.
During the launching of this book and Erlinda Alburo’s Dictionary of Bisayan Arts last April 3 at the Buttenbruch Hall of the University of San Carlos, I was struck by the passion this assignment awoke in the students.
Perhaps this first attempt at publication may account for some of that beginner’s effervescence.
Yet as I listened to the interviewers’ tribulations and triumphs in locating and conversing with the writers, the videotaped interviews, and the sharing and readings made by some of the featured writers on that rainy afternoon, I became curious about “kulokabildo”: what did the 24 say about the state of Cebuano literature?
After reading the book’s 354 pages, I reconfirmed two long-held realizations.
First, publishers should pay attention to those who write, in Cebuano or English, the stories that define us.
Second, while waiting for this publishing miracle to happen, readers must seek assiduously these writers, no matter how obscure and dwindling their niches become.
Yet, should you be one who thinks publication should respond only to market forces—specially the one that aggressively asserts the primacy of the homogenized pap that passes as popular culture nowadays—“kulokabildo” still exerts a magnetic storytelling pull as 24 different personalities explain how writing seduces them again and again.
While other writers wait fruitlessly for their Muse, Temistokles Adlawan narrated to Kiddie Marie A. Cabunilas how he discovered writing in the worst of times, in the midst of World War II. While feeding the family pig, the 12- or 13-year-old sharpened a twig and dreamily carved on young coconut palms words dedicated to an imaginary sweetheart.
When Tem confides, “Little by little I honed my tool of love for words with love-letter writing,” I reflected on how his wisdom echoes a golden rule in teaching writing to reading-resistant youths: what one does for love can never match what one submits for grades or out of fear of repeating the course with the same reading and writing requirements.
Love in all its splendors saturates the pages of “kulokabildo”: the game Isolde Amante’s mother devises to make a disastrous English grade jumpstart her daughter’s lifelong commitment to words; Ulysses Aparece’s empathy for his students’ hunger for learning and his desire that they “make use of imagination;” Melito Baclay’s balancing of seaweed farming and writing on the scales of desire (“The human heart must prevail”); Butch Bandillo’s creed for writing poetry (“a poor man’s way of acknowledging this gift (of life)”); and Richel Dorotan’s servitude to the imperatives of the Cebuano voice (“mahinungdanon kay kita mga tawo man sad nga may kaugalingong panilaw unsa ang katam-is ug kapait sa kinabuhi”).
But even if you happen to be uncomfortable in the presence of the overwrought, “kulokabildo” still harbors enough of the secret tempest that’s alluded to in that most restrained and subtle of forms, as can be witnessed from Adonis Durado’s poem, “Ang asawa sa madyikero”: “Gitarget siyag kutsilyo/ Sa gatuyok nga roleta./ Sa kahon gipriso;/ Gigabas kaduha./
“Gipalatay sa alambri—/ Panyo gitaptap sa mata./ Gipahadla sa tigre,/ Gipalabang og baga./
“Ug limod sa kasayuran/ Sa nanan-aw nga publiko/ Nga siya usa ka inahan/ Labihan ka ngilngig moluto./
“Maayo nga motangtang/ Og mantsa sa nilabhan./ Ug dali rang malisang/ Kung ang anak hilantan.”
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* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Apr. 12, 2009 “Matamata” column