The Filipiniana Manifesto
(Any similarities to Marx and Engel’s “Communist Manifesto” are purely intentional.)
A spectre is haunting the literary circles—the spectre of Filipiniana. Many authors, books, and genres in the literary circles have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Marquez and Mishima, British literature and American, horror and sci-fi.
Where is the Filipino author that has not been decried as Filipiniana by the bookstores in power? Where is the Filipino author that has not hurled back the branding reproach of (overdramatic, over-romantic, and over-religious) Filipiniana, against the more financially successful telenovela parties, as well as its pocketbook adversaries?
Two things result from this fact:
1. All Filipino artists in the different media are already acknowledged by everyone as Filipiniana
2. It is high time that Filipino authors should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their dreams, and their tendencies within the scope of Filipiniana, and meet this spectre with a manifesto of acceptance and patronage.
To this end, Filipiniana authors of various backgrounds, genres, and styles have assembled and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino languages as well as the different regional languages.
The history of all hitherto existing Filipiniana is the history of struggles.
Throughout its history, Philippine literature stood in opposition to other national literatures as well as to itself, as medium contended against medium, genre against genre, campus against campus, and author against author. This opposition carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time never ended, for the issues were either outshone by newer issues, or merely neglected to surface another day.
Moreover, plagued by a whole history of introspection, the inner struggle to define and justify its existence, Filipiniana has withdrawn into an ivory tower as authors alienated themselves from the general public as well as from each other, erecting walls of literary craft and experimentation as they struggled with writing the Great Filipino Novel that would recapture the spark of Dr. Rizal’s Noli and Fili. At the same time, Filipino authors, having been kept in isolation, had no limited access and contact with each other’s works and so nourished themselves more and more with imported literature, whether in the form of the classics or geniuses or bestselling authors.
As a result, Filipiniana has made only at best modest gains even in Philippine society, and is fragmented between the various media and the various genres. There is little trust, much less love, between the fine literary arts with its established high academe and the more common and commercialized literature, between the writers in English and Filipino, Filipino and the regional languages. And in the end, given all this, the reading public much rather prefers imported literature than Filipiniana, and the authors that spring from this public are alienated from the Filipiniana tradition from which they themselves, by their nationality, belong.
Given this, what then is to be done?
The first is to abandon the Great Filipino Novel project. No project could be more unproductive, for such an objective only sets limitations, narrowing the author’s craft and imagination, and so alienating those who would read only for pleasure. It is true that social relevance and responsibility must not be foregone; however, to what point is social concern when the projected readership turns away from a dull, dry, and unimaginative writing? Abandoning the Great Filipino Novel, the authors will find that there are numerous avenues to explore, numerous themes to tackle: love, childhood, comedy, family relationships, and so on can now take the forefront. The common reader, after all, is not so much interested with philosophical insight (which is an academic pursuit) as with plot, adventure, and pleasure.
To the author’s hearts must dwell the habit of reading Filipiniana, the preferential option for works by Filipinos. This is not to say that there is something inherently wrong with reading foreign literature, and having favorites among the writers from the different countries; what is wrong is that within the collective library of the Philippine literary circle the ratio of imported to Filipiniana is disproportional. Even in its current state the Filipiniana can boast of numerous good and promising authors such as Nick Joaquin, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Gina Apostol, Merlinda Bobis, and even Mars Ravelo and Arnold Arre. By patronizing Filipiniana as much as foreign literature, budding Filipino authors get to know the current literary scene, the current context, while also learning from the brilliance and errors of the literary forefathers.
And what remains is the democratization of Filipiniana. The academe must descend from its ivory tower—not in the sense as Lopez said regarding Villa, but by considering the potency and the talents employed in other media such as pocketbooks, self-help books, gossip columns, telenovelas, and so on. While craft and technical precision, which are perhaps neglected outside the fine literary arts, are important, the down-to-earth approach of the various media is capable of drawing larger audiences. And as long as one of the primary purposes of literature is communication, drawing large audiences should be considered a priority. Perhaps the academe may well learn from the common media as it accepts alternative means of writing.
In short, Filipino authors everywhere should and in fact do support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of Filipiniana.
The Filipino authors disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible change of literary conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Filipiniana revolution. The Filipino authors have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Authors of Filipiniana unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! (And lack of sales!)