Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Waray Music Video - pride is still present among Waray youth. Hurray!

Despite the national policy of suppression of non-Tagalog Philippine languages (Verbal and expressed note of purported support is not enough but real monetary help plus serious effort of intellectualizing other non-Tagalog languages. We can always say I support this or that), it is good to note there are proud people willing to stand up and help their tongue survive and thrive.

A book of Waray poems, Inintokan, by Victor N. Sugbo was launched last Friday under the auspices of the University of the Philippines Tacloban College. It was published by the UP Press as one of its centennial books. Professor Sugbo is a PhD (Communication) from UP Diliman and teaches with the UPTC.

According to the author the root word of the title, intok, means "to knock against or into something," and this is the process through which he wrote the poems: be "hit by something — a thought, a memory, a wave of feeling — that takes a small chip out of our humanity, and changes us." His honesty is arresting: "The poems... were never easy to write because I had always been uncomfortable writing in my mother tongue. My knowledge of Waray was limited to what I used in everyday conversation... My university education taught me to think, speak, and write in English, a matter that later became a way of viewing things.

"Today when I write in Waray, I still grope for the appropriate, if not precise, words. Each poem’s unfolding becomes always an invocation of the many rivers of words I shared with Inday Damiana, my father, my mother, Mano Busio, Mana Maria, Mano Mundo, Mano Poren, neighbors, and people I had met... In the end, one is left with his own well of memory and lexicon."

This is the struggle of any poet writing in neo-colonial times, especially of one highly schooled in English — of course, because he is the product of a long, oppressive and repressive history of colonization. But there is the well of memory and lexicon, the seldom tapped mine that each of us carries deep in us like a chalice. The author’s tone is conversational. And he speaks of the immensely local, the world of the everyday in which he is rooted, like the title of the volume.


Just how important is this very act of coming up with a "minor language" poetry?

every verse line written neither in English nor in Tagalog is an assertion of our pre-colonial state; a valiant act of claiming our right to our own past that was interrupted by the intrusion of the western colonials; an assertion that yes, indeed, our poetic souls prevailed as all our languages triumphed over the horrendous abuses of the Spaniards and the Americans and Manila.

Long live the language resistance movement!

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