Posted by: Pensive Muse | January 6, 2013

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Posted by: Pensive Muse | December 2, 2012

The ‘Others’ of World Literature

Asian, African, and Latin American are three distinct regions having distinct literatures. However, they share a common denominator: they are Others in world literature in the sense that they are not of the West, which are the imperial United States and the empire of Europe. The reality of their other-ness became real to me when initially, their literature appeared alien to me even though I am majoring in Language and Literature, so how much more to students outside my course?

My interest in post-colonialism studies has led me to connect the three regional literatures in their manner of representing subaltern voices and other-ness due to the fact that they are in different levels and ways subject to the colonial invasion and more recently, imperial domination of the West. The main objective of this paper is to show the different ways by which their literature resist, subvert, and deconstruct the Center [West] through the crucial issues and themes relevant to post-colonial criticism. The project of post-colonialism is affirmation of the fragments and margins erased in history. The focus of this paper is to dwell on the different strategies and techniques present in these post-colonial literatures rather than highlighting their victimization and subjugation.

Writing is capable of deconstructing authority which makes the literature of these regions an actual praxis of the intellectuals. More than that, literature serves to show not just indifferent facts but it depicts the daily struggle and issues of the common people. Phillip Darby affirms this inherent value of literature:

Especially with regards to modes of reading, fiction holds out possibilities of empowerment. As a rule, literary narratives are attentive to the particularities of time and place. Frequently they provide materials about daily life which directs attention to ways of seeing and forms of action…which persuades many established knowledge formations…The novel has emerged as an effective instrument for puncturing Western universalism.   (Darby 1998: 216)

The primary tool used by these regional literatures as a means of empowerment is language. As stated in The Empire Writes Back (Roultledge2002) post-colonial writers seize the language of the Center [English] as their own and they use it as a means of writing back to it. Ashcroft et. al. holds the view that imperial power and oppression is maintained through language.

Language becomes the medium through which a hierarchical power of structure is perpetuated, and the medium through which conceptions of ‘truth’, ‘order’, and ‘reality’ become established. Such power is rejected in the emergence of an effective post-colonial voice.   (Ashcroft et al 2002: 7)

The use of language as a means of subversion is most evident in African literature. Gabriel Okara’s The Voice uses African idioms and syntax in the narrative and even Achebe’s No Longer at Ease uses untranslated African lexicons . This incorporation of the African words such as ‘insides’ and ‘obi’ means that they are dismantling the very language of the Center and its imposition of ‘standard’ English. The ‘english’ [variant] they produce is an appropriation of the imperial language in order to affirm their identity as Africans. By tarnishing the colonial language, which solidified the colonizer’s domination, they are inverting the language and the power that goes with it. Other than that, their ‘english’ serves to show that they are different at the same time making themselves heard and be understood through it.

The strategies present in African literature is also true to Asian literature, specifically, the literature of India given its position as a former British colony. The language in Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things also carries the syntax of India in writing back to the Center. Most of the writings of this region are translated to English which goes to show that they refuse to mimic the imperial language and they prefer their own as way a of sticking to traditions. This is manifested in the literature of the Yellow race namely Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and the like, which are ferocious for their loyalty to tradition and patriotic virtues. Other than that, colonialism never had the chance to fully perpetuate them except through modernity and technology.

Latin American literature’s use of language is again distinct but it also serves the same purpose as the other two aforementioned regions. Magical realism and surrealism is the primary style of this region. Their language contains fantastic elements in order to distort reality. The amorphous form of the novels like Three-Trapped Tigers and Autumn of the Patriarch manifest postmodernism. Time and space are depicted to be fluid through the interweaving of past, present and future. Absolute truth and reality is non-existent in order to debunk established norms in the society. Time is the very concept that the two novels tried to debunk but it’s also being used to propel the plot. These postmodern features of the narratives serve as a protest towards the oppression in their society and they cloak it in the guise of phantasm for it to be published. Infante showed the evils and oppression of their society and Garcia portrays the evils of a political leader who is subject to the commands of an imperial boss, which explains their brilliant way of using postmodern features wherein the form is also the message. The exploration of language of these regional literatures embodies the assertion of Trinh T- Minh-ha:

The most realistic ‘work’ will not be the one which ‘paints’ reality, but one which, using the world as content, will explore as profoundly as possible the unreality of language.     (Minh-ha 1989: 62)

Another prominent post-colonial feature of the regional literatures is their depiction of the personal struggle of ordinary individuals in their daily lives and its effects in their wider socio-political context. The survey texts of the different regions proves that even the “the personal is political”.  In this aspect, it is important to note that women writers play an important role. Ketu H. Katrak, a third world feminist, recognizes this significant aspect of history and the distinct quality of third world feminism.

Post-colonial women writers explore the personal dimensions of history rather than overt concerns with political leadership and nation-states as in the work of their male counterparts. This does not make women writers’ concerns any less political; rather, from a feminist standpoint of recognizing the personal, even the intimate and bodily as part of a broader socio-political context, post-colonial women writers enable reconceptualization of politics.      (Katrak in King 2002: 234)

This affirmation of Katrak about the role women writers’ play in reconceptualizing politics is significant. It serves to debunk the trivialization of personal matters. It champions the essential man over the superficial constructs present in the society. It also serves to show the distinctness of everyone when departed from social categories because personal concerns depict the real conditions of man drowned beneath man’s daily actions. It also connects the individual to the society and recognizes that the two co-exist. The two should not be dichotomized because society is “among and in-between us” and so we are the stuff society is made of. The personal level is to be given attention because when things go wrong in the personal level, everything else follows. It also depicts the humanity of people caught in the big things. However, man’s recognition of his role in the society allows him to sacrifice some personal wants and desires for the common good. The characters in the regional literatures represent the struggle at the personal level, specifically, women writers.

In Asian literature,   Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things is a narrative that upholds the small things in life which are actually the things that matter most. The narrative showed that personal concerns are being defeated by social forces and this is to remind that personal problems should be asserted in the face of big societal problems. Rope of Ash’ focus is in championing the greater good and asserting that being too individualistic is not good. But this does not mean ignoring the personal; it simply affirms the value of harmony in any community. The Fugitive is about war and its effect in the personal lives of people. It discourages and it shows that war is not commensurate to the lives that are affected and lost. In the war against terrorism today, this could be applied to show that the war of US against the so-called terrorists is not justification for their aim for peace because they have vested interest in their waging of war.

Latin American literature clearly showed the co-existence of the personal and the political by portraying the struggle of the individual as the struggle of the nation. These are better depicted in the two novels Eva Luna and when I Was a Puerto Rican. These two novels by women writers are indicative of strong feminist convictions.  In Eva Luna, the protagonist’s journey is highlighted; the journey of her self-discovery and self-formation is described in a detailed manner. It incorporates the intimate and even the sexual details of her life. In this novel, no restraints and considerations of taboos are being taken into account: passionate encounters, homosexual relationships, and all too-human desires and choices are included. The other novel shows the self-determination of a woman who grew up in poverty and amidst the sirvenguenzas and pocaveguenzas of males. Through her own efforts, she’s able to alleviate herself from the wrongs of her condition. The two novels serve to show that strength of women in a society dominated by men. They also show that women in the domestic space and public space are self-willed and independent-minded. They discourage the notion of patriarch idea of women which are submissive, weak, conservative, and fragile. The intimate and personal details in their lives have political implications since it serves to protest against the pervasiveness of oppressive and repressive patriarchal ideology.

African literature also has representations of the personal as political even though most of their writers are males. Their primary concern is their discriminated status due to their color. Their literature serves to show the harrowing events in their lives are a result of colonialism. The protagonists of their narratives are balancing on knife’s edge with regards choosing tradition or change. This struggle is shown in the personal level as it affects the decision they make in the pursuance of love, committing of suicide and acceptance of own death or the death of love ones. The experience of Africa sharply depicts the lives of people shaped by colonialism. Uncertainty, bleak reality and oppression appear to be prevalent but all these experience heightened their morality. They forgive their oppressors to show that they are more civilized than them. Other than this is a constant affirmation of their negritude to affirm their difference and to show that they were not colonized as human beings. Only their possessions were plundered but their core is still intact. Their humanity is further affirmed due to their experience with the colonizers.

The three regional literatures’ attempt of affirmation and deconstruction of authority have provided the impetus for their creative undertakings. The focus on language, personal, and political aspects are the broad areas that are to be explored in studying these literatures because they encompass the crucial and intersecting issues at work in  the global arena: race, class, gender, poverty, culture, color, and nation. The possibilities offered by the ‘Others’ are endless because it explores the complex and diverse nature and conditions of man that are in the margins and fringes. The ‘others’ re-construct re-define themselves as a way of resisting the colonial gaze and colonial representation. The Center sustains status quo and its power through language and politics but subversive voices emerge to contest their manipulative and ideological tools.   The resistant voice that they echo serves to temper the prevalence of Western domination due to unequal distribution of wealth in the world.

It is significant to uphold these literatures in order to attain the elusive desire for equality in the world. Unless the sentiments of the common populace are attained, then the world remains a hostile place to live in. The weapons of resistance of the weak and subjugated are to be highlighted if we are to undermine tool of power coming from the center.

Posted by: Pensive Muse | October 1, 2011

Dear-diary persona

I have been evasive about documenting certain experiences I went through over the years. And recently, my un-documented memories are increasing in number, waiting to be inked.  Writing had a way of concretizing experiences, of giving them a life of their own even when its essence, if not absurdity, may have started to dissipate the moment “the moment” was over.

Writing had a way of compounding the meaning of my experiences — of extracting all the life and essence they can possibly hold. But the vibrancy of their meaning stubbornly clung at the core of my being even when it was no longer parallel with reality. It became utterly difficult to approximate reality with all the meanings I tend to infuse into my experiences and circumstances.

The dear-diary persona in me has never died but in the course of the years that my spirit had been assaulted with realities of growing up and adulthood, I struggled to temper (and sometimes annihilate) the perpetual documenter within me.

During elementary and high school days, whenever I document my experiences, I would deepen it with truths and beliefs I hold dearly in my heart – it made my reality magnificent and colorful. But as I moved on to college and then to adulthood, many of the truths and beliefs I held on to have been challenged. Some have crumbled. Some have remained but no longer practiced. And there have been several blows of life that made believing and holding on more painful. It was easier to fall into the abyss of disenchantment than to continue holding on to meanings, truths and beliefs.

But these very things are what make writing about our experiences essential no matter how fleeting they are and even when we suspect they would become tragically absurd in the future. Keeping a diary encapsulates the meaning of the mosaic moments of our lives, records the evolution of our character, and renders a virtual form of permanence to all these fleeting-ness we grapple with everyday.

It was never a futile endeavor trying to give some permanence to those memories I knew would somehow dissipate or evolve. And perhaps, it’s time I renew my bond with my dear-diary persona.




Posted by: Pensive Muse | July 3, 2011


ⓔⓐⓣⓘⓝⓖ ⓗⓔⓐⓛⓣⓗⓨ Ѽ

Posted by: Pensive Muse | July 3, 2011

Postmen figurines

10 June 20 11

Independence Day Exhibit

Mall of Asia

Cute figurines of postmen being sold at the Philippine Postal booth at Php100 each. The postal office will soon become obsolete so they are selling these memorabilia. We, the “social network” generation, needs to be reminded of the once glorious days of telegrams and enveloped letters.

Posted by: Pensive Muse | April 4, 2011

Negros Oriental

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‎(31 March – 2 April 2011)

Going to Negros made me realize once more how blessed I am to have the kind of job that I have. My work in DSWD provides me the privilege and opportunity to take active part in social change, be involved in community activities, interact with locals, learn about diverse cultures, set foot in different places, commune with nature and take a break from the chaos of the metropolis. Before I ramble about how I truly appreciate my job, allow me the privilege of describing the key features of Negros.

Dumaguete City – a city with bakeries in every corner. The cakes and pastries are incredibly cheap. During my solitary walk, I had Iced Café Latte and Mocha Crunch at Sans Rival Cakes & Pastries (yes, that is the name of the café) and my bill was only P71.00. Awesome! Silliman University, a protestant school, occupies a large expanse of the town proper. It was founded in 1901. Two years later, St. Paul University, a catholic university, was established. According to my colleague, Sir Adidas, the Catholic Church fear that the Protestants would dominate the city so they built St. Paul University.

Suman – this kakanin is made unique by chocolate that is either swirled around it or filling its center. It’s sweet and indulgent but the chocolate swirl/filling means that it has twice the calorie content of ordinary suman. A dozen bundle (1 bundle = 4pieces) costs P140.00 at the Tayasan public square.

La Limar Resort (La Libertad, Negros Or.) – the resort boasts of an infinity pool that seemingly extends to the beach. It has several huts and cottages that are widely separated to allow for greater solace. La Limar was the venue of our campaign for 100% compliance wherein LGU officials and parent leaders from Tayasan actively participated. While everyone was busy taking a bath in their respective bathrooms, I dipped in the pool. It was around seven in the morning and the water was icy cold. Thanks to ate Ai who willingly photographed my frolic moments.

Brgy. Fatima, Sta. Catalina –we dropped by this quiet town to visit Sir Adidas’ 87 year-old mother. We were welcomed with lechon, dinuguan, adobong manok, pansit, biko, star apple and saba. Alluding from a biblical parable, I teased Sir Adidas that he’s being welcomed like the prodigal son. He said his mother never fails to welcome him with fiesta-worthy dishes whenever he comes home. Thank you mother, ate Ludy, and the rest of the interesting characters of the Canete household for the warm welcome and the totally-Filipino gastronomic experience.

Orient Gifts and Handumanan – the shops where you could buy the region’s products for pasalubong to love ones and friends. Orient Gifts is more artsy since the shop includes an art gallery. Their products are made by local artists and they come in limited designs which mean they are more expensive. I purchased a dainty hat made from abaca which costs P250.00. Handumanan sells a wider variety of products at a more affordable price. The price range of earrings made from seashells and wood are P15.00-P20.00 only. I hoarded earrings in preparation for the numerous summer vacations I am planning.

Bisoy – n. bisayang tisoy. I was thinking of Gerald Anderson when I first heard this term but the bisoys I saw were mostly middle age to retirees. The mestizos own most of the bakeshops, restos and bars in Dumaguete City. And I supposed they also own many of the resorts outside Dumaguete. It’s not an unusual scenario. As we all know, many foreigners who flock in the Philippines are the ones who are able to put up thriving businesses and become the employers/bosses because they have capital. Ms. Pam said that Dumaguete is one of the cities with high number of victims of pedophiles. It cannot be denied that the ubiquitous presence of foreigners is a major contributor/factor to this problem.

Posted by: Pensive Muse | March 28, 2011

Earth Hour at Banapple

It was my first time to really set foot in Katipunan. I only pass by it whenever I go to Antipolo to spend weekend with cousins. Much thanks to Alexandra for taking me there.

I was swooned by the homey, countryside feel of Banapple’s ambiance. The pastel frames mounted on its walls tugged at my childhood/teenage adoration for candy colors. The figurines and kitchen displays arranged neatly in the shelves reminded me of my intermittent longing for county setting and domestic bliss. The meal was heavy and the banoffee pie was heavenly. I have found another solitary sanctuary in the metropolis.

Our conversation from Banapple to Cubao Ex revolved primarily on adulthood, recurring melancholy, solitude and independence, growing old alone vs marriage, and the many intricate adult issues we’re dealing with. Alex shared this link [ ] to me over twitter with the accompanying message “our conversation tonight in bullet points”. Indeed, it pretty much encapsulates, in a matter-of-fact way, many of the things we discussed that earth hour night.

26 March 2011; Saturday

Posted by: Pensive Muse | March 18, 2011

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Posted by: Pensive Muse | February 5, 2011

FGD in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro

I travelled to Calapan City and Naujan, Oriental Mindoro last week to conduct focus group discussion with the beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya. A pretty and posh mother of three, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer Ma. Liselle O. Tabelisma, was my partner from the IV-B Regional Office.

As you can see, I was wearing a nifty skirt and red velvet shoes. Forgive me for being in style in a very simple setting but it was a delight when my peasant skirt modestly swayed in the breezy and idyllic scenery in the community.

It was my first time to ride in a Roro. The sea was turbulent on our way to Calapan and was placid and calm when we were leaving the place.  It was rainy and gloomy the entire time we were there – like Baguio on a summer. The weather was perfect for rumination and sentimental moorings except that there were data I had to analyze & summarize and reports I had to prepare.

The locals were genuinely hospitable – they gave us fruits and kakanin as “pabaon”. They served us typical Filipino food and some of their local specialties such as beef bulalo and my favorite milky and creamy kalamay. Thanks to Social Welfare Officer Nova dela Roca and her husband for welcoming us in their lovely home, which is located in the middle of a pristine farm. We also stayed for one night at Bahay Tuklasan located in the plaza of Naujan municipality. Naujan was evidently a first class municipality with its park landscape, modern facilities, and beautifully-restored old buildings in the plaza.

With me in the photo are the wonderful beneficiaries of Brgy. Andres Ylagan, hardworking municipal links, the dedicated social welfare officer, and the regional M & E officer.


FGD with Beneficiaries on Beneficiary Guide Booklet

Naujan, Oriental Mindoro

February 2-4, 2011

Posted by: Pensive Muse | December 4, 2010

On the cartoon campaign

Because some people miss the point in the cartoon campaign to stop violence against children, here’s what I have to say. I feel strongly about this campaign so I’d like to give a short piece to critics, especially those who criticize without actually doing a bit in helping out prevent child abuse:

We all have our own methods but I believe that the goal of the campaign is to flood fb with childhood memories in order to reconnect with the inner child in each of us. That way, we can empathize and truly feel the essence of the campaign.

When it comes to advocacy methods one has to come up with something that has the potential to become viral, something that everyone can truly relate with minus the technicalities and pedantic jargons. And that is what this campaign has achieved.

‎"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden." -- Mary Lennox in the Secret Garden

To educate people, you must win their interest first. The campaign became more interesting because of this method. Most of the time, it is the method that will truly spark awareness. Like the method of Carlos Celdran in using Damaso in his population management campaign. Once you got the interest of majority, then they will take the initiative to be truly educated about the campaign and eventually support it in a tangible way.

Also, offenders will be more hesitant in committing such offense because everyone is aware and as a result, everyone becomes watchful of the existence of child abuse.

To those who repetitively say that donating money is better than changing profile pictures are those kind of people who think that money can do everything. Even if we channel all the lotto jackpot to this endeavor, money or funds alone cannot and will not not stop an offender from abusing a child.

Awareness goes a long way. Resolution of a problem starts at being aware about it. The growing fad in the internet required no funds but it will create an awareness that may lead to tangible results. The “invasion of memories” that the campaign ignited also makes people become emotionally attached to this endeavor, thereby making them have a personal stake at it. It’s not just plain fad. This is the kind of fad that deserves to be a fad. And a campaign is successful if it reaches the fad status. At the end of the day, it is the children that will be given greater attention and protection because of this fad. Us, adults and young adults, are happy too, for the chance to relive our childhood through this campaign.

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