1. marocharim:


    I like bagoong - salted fish sauce to you out there who are unaware of…

    One thing I didn’t get though: “salted fish sauce” is patis, not bagoong O_O

    Well. Shit. Now that IS funny.


  2. F Sionil Jose likes Bagoong

    For the full column click here. I selected some of the choicest lines for your reading pleasure. And by pleasure, I recommend you grab a stout drink before diving in. I’m pretty sure he did as well before writing this.

    I like bagoong - salted fish sauce to you out there who are unaware of the food of the poor.

    I like bagoong too!

    I like caviar, too…

    So do I! Hey we have so much in common! I feel like I’m one of the chosen people all of sudden. This is great.

    …on those very rare occasions that I am privileged to eat it.

    You know what’s really bourgeois? Caviar topped with bagoong, liberally seasoned with the tears of street children. Because we all know the privileged are evil like that.

    How I wish caviar were available to more Filipinos - not just to the very rich.

    I don’t. Do you know what they do to those poor fish? Now bagoong on the other hand, that should be made available to everyone. Wait, what do you mean it already is?

    How many people have know this depth? I have!

    And you’re privileged for it, I am sure.

    Sure, there is stupidity everywhere, even in the rarefied realm of academe.

    That’s deep. 

    But on the whole, the Americans can afford their shallowness, their garbage, even their big-scale corruption.

    Damn fatties. I bet their McDonald’s carries a McCaviar too. Us poor downtrodden Filipino can only afford McBagoong.

    Am I a Filipino basher? Of course, I am, because there are so many cockroaches in our midst.

    Couldn’t agree more…where’s my slipper?

    So you out there who were outraged by the truths I flung before you - I said nothing new…

    I agree. You really didn’t say anything new. At. All.

    Why rage against this tired, old hack who merely confirmed what all of you know?

    Because you are tired, old, and a hack (sadly you have become one). And your ideas are the same. Let me say this here and now. Setting aside all the jokes, all the sarcasm, and in the hope that someone out there thinks of themselves in a new way, and a  new light.

    There is nothing new in what F. Sionil Jose is saying, nothing at all. It is old and hackneyed. It’s a limited worldview that offers little in the way new avenues for seeing ourselves. It’s self-flagellation by any other name, and he admits it even.

    The ultimate example of modes of thinking that not only limit who we are as a people, but prevent us from becoming a cohesive people, is on display in this column.

    The idea that bagoong is only of the poor. That the wealthy have no idea what bagoong is.

    The complete homogenization of the ‘wealthy’ and the assumption that all of them are uncaring members of society.

    The idea that the poor of sanctified beings because of their suffering. And as a result the only “real” Filipinos.

    This isn’t constructive criticism; it’s a barrage of overly generalized broadsides with little focus or cohesion; even less in the way of finding commonalities that be used to build a foundation for a new and accepting society. He eschews that role of the intellectual, the role of the builder and the light who guides his people towards something new great, in favor of base agitations and childish rhetoric.

    There is an inherent flaw in Jose’s thinking, as with all of that ilk. Their philosophies and ideas are reductive and simplistic; they see society delineated along purely rigid class lines. They can only conceive of what it means to be Filipino in such limited and almost infantile ways. This is nothing new with Frankie; it’s always been the fatal flaw in his literary works. The poor person is always good, undone by social constraints; incapable of doing anything but suffer and die wretchedly. And the rich is always bad, using their position of power to exploit and destroy; heedless of their social responsibilities. How…sad.

    The saddest part is he cites Rizal, Mabini, and Jose Abad Santos. In other words, a wealth mestizo, a poor indio, and a rich social and educated member of the elite. Those three represent the true complexities inherent in Filipino society; the greatness he purports to support and dream of.

    The truth is out there for all of us to see but can’t, because we are blissfully wallowing in the shallows.

    Speak for yourself, I’m joyfully rolling in the deep. 

    Personal Note: I like Frankie. He’s a good man, who has contributed a lot to his country. But, in many ways he’s is stuck in the past; he is still governed intellectually by very old and very restrictive frameworks. Frameworks that are all to prevalent, and in dire need of reconceptualizing.


  3. "But what does art mean to all of us. If that art, if that life, has been only of use to you, but not to others."

    F Sionil Jose. June 3, 2011

    A line from his amazing speech during the Cultural Center of the Philippines tribute for Alejandro R Roces.

    In other words, artists have to figure their works within a larger calling. They must create, not only worthy works, but art that speaks, that crafts, that brings together and unearths or repairs. Else that ‘art’ just becomes another form of masturbation. Art, to be truly great and meaningful, has to have a higher purpose.

    And art can be found, not only in physical representations, but in a life lead. A life dedicated to something greater is a form of art in and of itself. Put on a performance to inspire.


  4. A National (Artist) Pastiche

    Was finally able to sit down and start reading Ilustrado while stuck in traffic today (good lord it is not easy to get to and from Cavite these days). What caught my attention though, right from the very beginning was the character of Crispin Salvador; that he is a pastiche of a number of National Artists and literary figures.

    Whether intentional or not (and based on the care with which he constructed the book I’m going with intentional) he obviously modeled Salvador after some of our greatest writers. The most obvious initial influence is Nick Joaquin. From the “Manila Gothic” novel, which clearly references Cave and Shadows and Tropical Gothic, to his boozing, womanizing and hints of homosexuality. As with Joaquin, Salvador was prolific in the first two regards, and ‘silently’ accused of in the other one. One of Nick’s closest friends once described him to me as that “drunken fairy”. Also, as with the character of Salvador, Nick Joaquin figured prominently nationally with his reportage. For Joaquin, his pseudonym was Quijana de Manila (an anagram of his name and a not so subtle reference to Don Quixote de la Mancha).

    F Sionil Jose also has some influence in the character of Salvador; I would guess that the part about being on the short list of the Nobel Prize in Literature is a nod in his direction. In other respects to the character I may be adding in my own interpretations (such as Anding Roces, Lacaba, Carlos Quirino and so forth). There are also subtle hints of Jose Rizal and other famed literary figures. Along with the local authors there are also distinct JD Salinger overtones (with the long gestating never published masterpiece). You could also argue that this is a reference to Jose Rizal and his unfinished work “Makamisa”.

    I may be seeing more than is there, but like I said, based on the care with which he constructed the book and his stated objectives, I am sure that the Joaquin/Sionil Jose/Rizal parallels are intentional. Likely as well the Salinger influence.



  5. On the passing of our greatest writer…

    Is it blasphemous to consider Nick Joaquin our greatest writer?

    He was a literary genius; a man that, through his pen, preserved traditions and a romantic image of a by-gone era. And from his pen sprang some of the most insightful analysis of the Philippine condition. His body of work is unparalleled in Philippine literary history; running from fiction to plays to poems to reportage to pop history. He preserved so much of what was a part of our history, and would have been forgotten if not for him. 

    He was our finest wordsmith. To read his works is to be transported to a romanticized Spanish-era Philippines; an era and a time that existed solely in his memory. Yet, through his skill, are tangible and real. He is haunting: with imagery of faded rooms, corrupted and tarnished Manila, and pagan rituals wrapped in a superficial sheen of Catholicism.

    How many people though (among them those who confidently call themselves educated Filipinos) are familiar with his works? Very few. How many have read the haunting tale of “The Mass of St. Sylvestre” or the story of corrupted love, “May Day Eve”?

    Now, nothing! - nothing, save a name on a stone; save a stone in a graveyard - nothing! nothing at all! was left of the young girl who had flamed so vividly in a mirror one wild May Day midnight, long long ago.

    And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling love: such a grief tore up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and fumbled his way to the window; threw open the casements and looked out - looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street…

    Maytime memories of an old, old love to the old man shaking with sobs by the window…”

    - May Day Eve

    He wove imagery and culture and history together seamlessly; creating stories that resonate with Filipinos. And while there are some rightful criticisms that can be leveled at his literary works, he truly was a giant in the field.  But, in our mind, his most important contributions to Philippine culture, came not only in his fiction, but his musings on Philippine culture, history and society.

    In his essays on culture and history and heroes he exhumed much of what it means to be a Filipino. As a popular historian, his essays are accessible and, in many ways, subversive and challenging.  His analysis, critiques and essays on the works and man that was Jose Rizal have been some of the most influential ever written on our National Hero. Today, when we think of Rizalista pop historians, we think of Ambeth Ocampo. In truth, no one has written as eloquently and insightfully about Rizal as Nick Joaquin.

    Rizal also knew that Spain was overthrown in American by the various uprisings of the Creoles there (Bolivar, San Martin, Ituribide) - that is, by the class that had the education, money, talent and prestige to conduct a revolt with success. (The revolutions of the Indios would come later, as with Juarez in Mexico.) During Rizal’s youth, it looked as if what had happened in America would happen in the Philippines: the Creoles were restive, were rising, were apparently headed for an open clash…So, when Rizal wrote his novels, he was writing about an actual movement, and writing to animate it.  He was not looking forward to 1896; he was looking back to 1872…He was chronicling the Creole revolution in the Philippines.

    Why was the Rizal Hero a Creole? from A Question of Heroes

    Ultimately, in his works of any type, he challenges preconceptions and commonly held beliefs. He made you reevaluate what you knew, and in doing so, come to know yourself as a Filipino and pieces of Philippine history better:

    For if our history from 1565 on was not the process of the making of a nation, then what was proclaimed as a “nation” in 1896? It certainly did not exist before 1565; did it suddenly, spontaneously come into being in the late 1890s? Our nationalist militants seem to advance that theory by rejecting what went before as a foreign irrelevancy…

    That we refuse this argument, that we decry it as treason, proves that, however scornful we may be of the colonial womb, the womb where we were fused into one, we do not really think that fusion to be merely the “history of Spain in the Philippines.” Either it was our own testament of history as culture…or we will have to submit to the rival thesis of the disintegrators: that what was, after all, not our history should not further enchain us.

    -History as Culture

    On his passing on April 29, 2004, we lost the greatest Filipino writer of the 20th and (so far) the 21st century; a man whose output could stand on its own with any of the great international literary giants. Of our great writers who came up during the cultural resurgence of the 1950s, only F. Sionil Jose stood shoulder to shoulder with him. It is not improper to say, that there is no writer today (other than F. Sionil Jose) who is, or likely will be, Joaquin’s equal.

    To any who would wish to known the Philippines better, we cannot recommend anywhere else to start, but with the works of Nick Joaquin.

    Select Works:

    A Question of Heroes

    Culture and History

    Tropical Gothic