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Creative Writing and Freedom of the Press
1/16/2008 1:21:56 PM

In Tawid News Magasin, Vol. VII No. 43, December 24-30, 2007, Dr. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, wrote a piece entitled "When Poets Become Fascists, or Why Ilokano Creative Writing Needs Redeeming" followed by "When the Craft of Creative Writing Is No Longer Creative Because It Is Corrupt and Corrupting" in the corrected version that came out on January 9, 2008.

Basically, the two pieces are a rant against creative writers, more specifically those masquerading as Ilocano poets whom he claims have become fascists/monsters WITHOUT citing any specific examples.

"As I write this piece," says Agcaoili in the first article, "there is this pang of rage in my heart." For me, that's a cue to not take Dr. Agcaoili seriously for as he seethes with anger, he could not even point a single finger to what he is raving at. As in the heat of passion, things could be said and done that, under more sober circumstances, could have been avoided. If one doesn't have the conviction to call a spade a spade, how can you take him seriously?

"Ilokano writing as an incestuous, anomalous, compadrazgo relationship continues," complains Agcaoili. And he rues: "Where has that decent and dignified--decent because dignified--Ilokano writing gone?" Reminds one of that oft-repeated refrain in Diff'rent Strokes: "Whatchoo talking about, Willis?"

In the second article, Agcaoili puts a new spin on the goals of creative writing: "...we resist the lies and ruses of this present world... we write... to insist that we have the right to live in dignity and self-respect... we write... to become agents of change--to change following the fundamental principles of justice and fairness." What happened to the fundamental definition of "creative"?

Even as Ralph Gregory Elliot, former president of the Connecticut Bar Association, identifies certain limits to freedom of the press in "Limits of Freedom of the Press" [], this freedom is well enshrined in the Bill of Rights--Article III, Section 4--of the 1987 Philippine Constitution: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press..."

Just as we recognize Dr. Agcaoili's right to rant against Ilocano creative writers and the Iloco creative writing craft itself as part of his freedom of the press, we would like to remind him of his responsibility to exercise restraint by avoiding irresponsible accusations sans specifics, concrete proofs, and that pang of rage in his heart.


nakabasa met
1/16/2008 5:25:04 PM

"the venom injected by the ghosts of the past still running in the veins...i assume the potency reaches heaven above..." kad' ngata?

saan pay la siguro naglunit ti kagat ti saong dagiti napalabas? ta no dadduma ti maysa a napasakitan, nabalakdayan, nasugatan ken nailusak-lusak kas kadawyan nga aramid ti maysa a nabiag, gumagat met tapno agbiag!

atiddog nga estoria, ngem ti nalawag kaniak, adda saanda a pagkikinnaawatan ken gay-ang ti nagbabaetanda a mannurat, su a pinnadamgis, binnato latta!

il-iliwek nga agsubli ti timpuyog dagiti ilokano a mannurat nga awan mulitna, kinnabsatan, innadalan ken gun-oden ti nadarisay a panggep: pagtalinaeden ti bukod ken nakayanakan a pagsasao ken kultura...

Zeny Padre
1/16/2008 8:01:13 PM

Agyamanac unay cadagiti pammaliiwmo, nakabasa met.

Malagipco idi ubingac pay laeng, masansan nga ipaay daydi Dios-ti-aluad na a Nanangco ti calicaguman toy buridec. Ket no dina maipaay diay pagreggetan, 'nia ngarud, pambaran nga aglibbi, agmisuot datao.

Casta met a naricnac ti rag-o ken tangsit ti maysa a nacagun-od iti pammadayaw cas honor student. Casla itay panangipagarup a sica ti cadaclan nga ican iti pagdanuman. Ngem anian a pannacadesmaya iti canito a mapanecnecan nga adda dacdackel nga ican iti sabali a pagdanuman.

Ah, biag! Segun ti canta a "Lulubog, Lilitaw":

"Ang buhay sa mundo
Paikut-ikut lang
Kung minsa'y lulubog
Kung minsa'y lilitaw...

...Parang gulong lamang
Itong ating palad
Biglang bumababa
Biglang tumataas
Kapag minalas ka'y
Huwag iiyak..."

1/17/2008 3:32:44 AM

The saying about a pot calling the kettle black implies that the pot is criticizing the kettle for being smudged and dirty. The pot itself is black and soot-covered. After reading the above-mentioned articles in Tawid News Magasin by Dr. Agcaoili, I am reminded of the pot-kettle visual, this "intellectual" graffiti.

Using those big words to hound the objects of his criticism, Dr. Agcaoili easily makes a fascist of himself. After all, the key attribute of a fascist is his intolerance of others: other religions, languages, political views, economic systems, cultural practices, etc.

Zeny Padre
3/1/2008 4:23:08 PM

I've been following up with Dr. Agcaoili's articles in Tawid News Magasin and I find his quixotic raves against the use of qu before |a|, |e|, |i| (as in qua, quet, maquina) or c before |a|, |o|, |u| (as in cano, coma, cuspag) simply boring. His insistence on the use of the letter k, instead of qu or c in the above examples betrays his ambivalence between orthographic standardization on the one hand and an all-encompassing orthography on the other.

We know that language is an evolutionary creation and standardizing orthography using a subset of letters fewer than is possible simply restrains the evolutionary process. If stepping back to the old orthography is an attempt to keep distance from the Spanish or English colonizer's more encompassing orthography, I think we got the logic largely misplaced. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using the English and Spanish alphabets since Ilocano and Filipino have a large infusion of adopted words from these languages.

If you think Dr. Agcaoili's effort is but another way to shed the stigma of colonial mentality, be my guest. Because I could always make the argument that every Filipino, even the one who proclaims himself as a nationalist, is in one way or another a creature of colonial mentality. Absolutely no exception!

Joe Padre
4/1/2008 10:55:17 AM

No ripiripen ti kinapudno ti panagrang-ay ti literatura ti maysa a puli, saan a ti ortografia wenno pagsasao a maus-usar ti mangikeddeng iti pannacapasayaat iti literatura. Adda iti abilidad, sursuro ken padas ti mannurat a mangsangal iti adda "gata" na a sarita, wenno novela, wenno daniw--saan a ti forma ti panangisurat cadagitoy. Cas pagarigan, ammo tayo nga adu ti sinurat iti Ingles, Espanol, Japon, ken dadduma pay a pagsasao ken babaen ti nadumaduma nga ortografia ti nangab-abaken iti Nobel Prize for Literature. Isu nga isingasingco man a diyo cad pagpupudotan ti mangisingasing iti ortografia ken "standardization" ta saan a dagitoy ti umno a pacasecnantayo tapno rumang-ay ti literatura tayo.

4/8/2008 9:19:09 AM

You're absolutely right there about the zero effect of "orthography and standardization" on our ability to improve our literary output. For our literature in any language--regional or national--to rise to a level of quality comparable with the best in the world, we may have to first of all address the rampant code-switching phenomenon, especially in more formal courses of expression, perhaps bring it down to a more manageable level, read a lot more--especially now with the more easily available literary output from the whole wide world--to develop even basic writing skills, and then work hard on developing writing skills at least at par with the best in the world.

As it is, we're hopelessly barking at the wrong tree.


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