On the Importance of Reading Filipiniana
So I am graduating after more or less three months! But before I bring out the trumpets and the–heaven forbid–vuvuzuelas, I have come to the sobering realization: I would have to “publish or perish” soon. And glossing over my terrible publishing track record (or, you know, the lack thereof) this means that, if I do get to release my books, the latter would join the ranks of unsold and unread books in the Filipiniana section on National and Powerbooks and who knows what else. Emphasis, of course, on “unsold and unread.”
For some reason, I have always thought of myself as a Filipino author: I’ve only remotely considered marketing myself internationally; accordingly, my tone has been blatantly “Filipino.” (Quotation marks because, really, no one has yet defined what a true Filipino tone is.) But then I remember that among us writers there are who, through no fault of their own, envision a more universal target reader, and thus their stories take on a more universal setting. Of course, I think many of us (even I, at times) aspire to be “universal,” and there is nothing wrong with that. But we must warn ourselves that, due to the mere fact that we are born to Filipino parents, our works would always be labeled “Filipiniana”–and so we take on, whether we like it or not, the connotations attached to the said label: too intellectual or too romantic, and practically unreadable and unmarketable.
In short: we all have a next to nil chance of becoming the next J.K. Rowling.
But perhaps all this can change, I told myself. And perhaps we ourselves must begin with buying and reading Filipiniana. I know it is hard, but certainly there are rewards for reading our own countrymen’s novels and stories. True, authors like Joaquin up to Apostol have been too cerebral, Rosca and Bautista radical, and Zafra and Bob Ong too… zany… but as long as literature is the mirror of society, Filipiniana cannot but present us with lenses (though perhaps not the definitive lenses) for viewing and understanding Philippine society. Moreover, if we don’t read Filipiniana, what measuring stick would we have to gauge our works? How can we learn from the failures of our literary forefathers (if there were any that so led them to obscurity) and so improve our writing?
Also, perhaps it would also be good if we (and now I am addressing my peers especially in the Ateneo) would cooperate, patronizing and promoting each other. Perhaps this is too pragmatic, verging somewhat toward the pedestrian, but this is one way of keeping ourselves afloat. If every one of us were to spread the word to another person, and this other person refers our titles to others, then would it not only be a matter of time before our books get around?
So, all in all, maybe it is high time for us to begin reading Filipiniana. True, the classics and the Hemingways need not go away. But insofar as we are Filipinos, we must put our Gonzalez, our Matute, and–yes–our Villa at the forefront.