eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

papa osmubal
oscar balajadia RECEIVING A note from a fellow poet is not like any common correspondence. One can ignore a note from anyone else, but not any from a fellow writer.

A writer's notes are subtle and full of meaning. Which is why they are hard to ignore, or they will not let you sleep, until the mind gets tortured black and blue that it dies to talk. But then one has to go deeper to avail of such fullness and subtlety, and only a writer can do so. Writers (call them sensitive, sensible, and educated people) are equipped with a rare tool, its nature not yet known, to dig and extract such richness.

Alibi is common for not answering a letter from a former teacher or childhood playmate. But one can't tell a fellow writer that they burned all their works for some sane reason and that they had put that pen to rest for good because they have nothing more to impart. That is not selling anymore, because everybody knows that writers burn their works. It is the nature of writers to burn their works, and stay silent as though their muse has totally abandoned them.

No one laments nor feels regret when certain writers burn their works. So what if one gives up writing? In fact, a writer has to burn his work or else he is not a writer at all, because fire, as the cliché goes (if there is such a cliché), is where the mighty Phoenix resides. How many classic writings have achieved literary greatness because the authors burned them, and then let sleeplessness relentlessly play its well-known role?

Some weeks ago I received a note from Sendong Makabali, a poet I respect, saying hello, telling me that eK!, the new portal for Kapampangan thoughts, is well in great health and that some sensible Kapampangans are giving their shares. But my frank question is how many Kapampangans actually read what those brave souls share? What sets Kapampangans apart from other peoples in the Philippines?

You just don't trust a fellow writer's hello. It means something else.

Sendong actually wanted to see what I have written so far. And his intention clandestinely extends to making me have others read my writings, through eK!. Or so the tone of his note seemed to sound.

A family man like me should focus on working for his family's daily bread. I did not choose writing for a career because it has nothing to offer. Writing is a death sentence by starvation and penury. Some writers earn money but they don't earn that much. A very successful few, the favored ones who can afford to wear neckties and who oftentimes get conferred with honoris causa PhDs, are mostly syndicated writers but whose workplaces (that is, business firms) can never accommodate many writers, so much so for those who are relatively unknown or those who are "not in". So writing big time either for income or prestige, for Times Magazine or Sunday Inquirer, is a long shot. In the olden days, especially in Europe, writers and artists needed to have wealthy patrons to support them to pursue their career. But this is the modern world. The old days are gone for good, and the fate of writers and artists has been sealed.

In fact I don't feel like writing anymore because I can't be like any other writers around. I would say I can't dance to their music. What I exactly mean is writing has become a clique, like politics, and, I iterate, a syndicate (pick your meaning of the word). Writers know each other and if they don't know even one or two others, one is not a writer at all. It is their world, a very small world, but they sometimes assume that the entire planet Earth knows them just because they know each other. The gap between ordinary people (who are supposedly readers, but who have relinquished such a very important role) and writers is fast widening. Each is now alien to the other. So the purpose of writing turns out to be questionable.

For and to whom will I write? I don't write for fellow writers whose standards I can't meet. So there is no reason to write at all. I am just a simple man with simple things to tell other writers.

It can be argued that writers got too academic that readers tended to shun their works. One just can't blame writers for advancing their knowledge and deepening their way of looking at things, because knowledge knows no boundaries and limits. And that is actually what a responsible citizen should do. Clearly, this is the reason why only writers appreciate other writers. Yes, this is also the reason why they reject each other. Familiarity breeds conflicts, so the saying goes. But such conflicts are vital to society's cultural and intellectual enrichment. Such conflicts gave birth to civilizations and empires. Such conflicts are the necessary evil–the cross to shoulder, so to speak.

If that is the case, then blame the readers, since they did not keep pace with the writers. The readers tended to become less and less academic and intellectual–that is the reason. As a result they got scientifically and culturally blunt. This is clearly reflected in our development as a people. Our culture did not flourish and the mentality of our people got frozen somewhere in a dark nook of the past like a fossil, so that they didn't feel and know what had befallen their society.

Conrado de Quiros, indeed a fine writer, risking public condemnation (as if he had not been condemned many times before), once bravely wrote that we are a benighted people. Simply put, we are a bunch of morons. He cites many examples to prove his point, of which are our lack of observation, of sensitivity, of sense of identity, and of depth. All of that springs from our lack of education. I believe and understand him because, modesty aside, I possess a fair amount of education. I consider myself a man of education because I am not offended when someone calls me dumb; but I do not ignore them either, because I do all things possible for them not to call me that. That is the outward manifestation of education, and that is what clearly we don't have as a society.

It is education that made me a writer. It is education that makes writers understand each other. Looking at how things happen, we see we are a nation that lacks education. F. Sionil Jose also pointed this out in one of his essays, saying that only through learning that we can ever solve our country's problems.

I might as well write again, because there are still some individuals who want to read what I can instill. This is the reason why Sendong Makabali's note deprived me of some good sleep.

This tribe will surely multiply and grow into something they call a nation, a civilization even.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang, now Macao resident and married to a Chinese local. He is a teacher and a Masters student of Dr. Chrisopher Kelen at the University of Macao. He has published two books of poetry, Parnaso, in Filipino (1991, Angeles City, Philippines) and Lighthouse, in English (1999, Quezon City,Philippines). His poems have been published in Poems Niederngasse, Adagio Verse Quarterly (USA), Mitochondria (USA), Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS), LauraHird, Muse Apprentice Magazine, Retort Magazine (Australia), Jacobyte Poetry (Australia), Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, National Midweek, A Critical Survey of Philippine Literature, The Surface (USA), Aesthetica: a Review of Contemporary Artists (UK), Stylus Poetry Journal (Australia, New Zealand), Our Own Voice: Filipino Literature in the Diaspora, Dalityapi Makata, birdandegg, Spillway Magazine, Rattle Magazine, Wild East (Hong Kong Literary Circle), and others. Several poems of his are forthcoming in the future issues of literary magazines including Snow Monkey, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS), spreadhead.net, and others. His work has been anthologized in Synaptic Graffiti: Slam the Body Politik (poetry on CD, Australia) and in Mitochondria: an Anthology of Rarities and Loose Ends. He has just finished writing the manuscript of his next book entitled Voice in the. An amateur artist, he has held in early 2004 a solo art exhibition entitled "White and Black" at UNESCO Center in Macao, through the sponsorship of Macao Foundation.]

-Posted: 10:48 AM 7/19/07 | More of this author on eK!