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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia LET ME me use the analogy of a bottle and its content to describe Kapampangan poetry, because this analogy always comes to my mind every time I read Kapampangan poems.

Take a bottle, look at it closely, and that is the form of Kapampangan poetry. Get sand and fill the bottle with it. Obviously, the sand is the content. The bottle with sand in it is what I call Kapampangan poetry. Empty the bottle. Get water and fill the bottle with it. The bottle with water in it is, again, what I call Kapampangan poetry. Empty the bottle again. Then get some juice. Pour it into our bottle. The same result--- the bottle with the juice in it, as you have surely guessed right by now, again, is what I call Kapampangan poetry. Things must be clear and predictable at this very point, so let us not cite any more examples of content to be put in our bottle because there seems to be too many of them that it will just make the process somewhat tedious.

On the surface, the analogy doe not seem to flaunt something wrong. Well, there lies the main problem of Kapampangan poetry. We have been thinking that Kapampangan poetry had been handled well, at least at a particular epoch that Kapampangan experts, academes, literary pundits, and old fools would love to dub as the "Golden Age of Kapampangan Literature"—not for the new writing styles, pioneering genres, literary technologies, and movements that one may think might have come up during the period (because such period produced virtually none of those), but rather for the sheer volume of archaic materials yielded, such as zarzuelas, Spanish-patterned poems and prayer books. Translations also sprang, like mushrooms in paddies after a stormy day, which showcased the translator's linguistic genius and the Kapampangan reader's inability to read in other languages, like English or Tagalog.

Kapampangan poetry has a shape, a form, a mold that can hold thousands of differing content. That sounds great. But there is something our analogy wants to flaunt here. It wants to say that poetry cannoy have just one face. Art should not be boxed. No one has the right to say where art should begin and where it should end. Art should have freedom to express its own will, if you may, like a liquid on a flat surface: spreading, slithering, and assuming its own shape or form, without any constraint, strain, and hindrance. Sadly, Kapampangan poetry is not like that liquid on a flat surface. The Kapampangan poet (or the poet writing in Kapampangan) has to fit his craft into a preformed (that is, Spanish-fashioned, sentimental, emotional) mold or sandbox.

Kapampangan poetry has a familiar pattern of succession that follows what I may call a linear tradition. That is to say, a new poet stands right beside or right behind the older one whom he or she follows, and the forthcoming ones do the same exact thing, all of whom brandishing the same bottle wherein they put the stuff of their crafts. It is just the task of continuing the usual process that has been done repeatedly before. But why in the name of the Shining Jesus would one do that? Because there is practicality in it. It is quite comforting and reassuring to think and say you are "in," that you belong to an established tradition. Because it is easier to do—there's already a stenciled pattern and rubric to go by. Because it is convenient, one is immune from possible snobbery and criticism. But art does not support all those because it does not compromise. Art does not resort to practicality, ease and easiness, and convenience, especially if the results are contrary to or less than what art desires to have. Art is not a bed of roses, rather it is a chaotic battlefield; it is the Jerusalem of dissenters and people with chronic disillusion. That is why art keeps on changing, moving, and evolving. Now if one does not keep pace with the art's changes, movements, and evolutions, then that is the time when one should be decorated as Poeta Laureado, Ari Ning Parnaso, Prinsipe Del Olimpo, Gran Poeta del Sapang-Bato, Emperador Del Pitung-Gatang, Conquistador Del Pinatubo, or whatever that will attest to the fact that one is already happily on one's way to Bedlam. Or, simply, call it buffoonery.

Contents-wise, again, Kapampangan poetry looks to be logical and generous. Imagine one can pour into the mold or container thousands of different contents. That is something. That is a fiesta! That is a bonanza! But then there is a vicious problem lingering around in broad daylight, staring us right in the face. What is the problem with this bottle that is so magnificent you can put in it thousands of different contents, one may wonder. You cannot put a log or a block of granite in it, while you can just lay those down on a flat, open surface without any problem whatsoever. That is the ironic logic in this argument. To impose limitation to art is not just a mistake, it is a dire sin. I would rather have an open space wherein I can work on my materials (contents) to achieve an unpredictable and challenging form, rather than with a preformed mold or stencil that pathetically reveals to me what the shape or form my work ought to take even before I start doing it. Form itself is a very important aspect in art—equally important as content. There should not be any reason why form should be used to sabotage art. And yet this happens in Kapampangan poetry. When form is suppressed, art can never bear the fruits it wants and intends to bear.

Kapampangan poetry fails to modernize. Whereas, its neighbor, its Tagalog counterpart, has achieved a great degree of modernization. Tagalog poets (or poets writing in Tagalog) do not reject their ancestors (like Balagtas and bards of his ilk)—they do something totally different from what the precursors did. One cannot argue against the fact that the past is essential, but it does not mean one needs to stay on in the past to celebrate and acknowledge it. The past is an indispensable reference, but one needs to act, think, and do things the way on which things are supposed to be acted on, thought out, and done in the current environment and time. Or else, one will find oneself feeling confined in a museum or sanitarium. Poets writing in Tagalog (like Alejandro Abadilla, Rolando Tinio, Jose Lacaba, Jim Pascual Agustin, Rio Alma, et al.) managed to usher Tagalog poetry into modernity by finding innovative, inventive, freer, and more creative ways to write. (Abadilla, in fact, had been writing philosophic, postmodern, and minimalist poems as early as before 1940. His famed "Ako ang Daigdig" was written in 1940.) These fine men of letters introduced a fresh, revolutionary, mindset that is suitable to the literary palate of the younger reader—thus making the future of Tagalog poetry foreseeable and feasible, promising and possible.

I have been craving to indulge myself with Kapampangan poetry conceived and written in the style of e.e. cummings, or of T.S. Eliot, Luis Borges, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Dylan Thomas. I deserve to be crucified in public, in front of a Spanish church in Pampanga, for divulging this—I just can't bring myself to have Spanish-styled Kapampangan poetry in my regular literary diet. Being hefty with Iberian sentimentalism and romanticism, Kapampangan poetry is nothing but Spanish poetry written in Kapampangan. Many of the Kapampangan poems I have read since childhood are meant to be delivered with the bandurria and/or the guitar before a crowd on a fiesta day threatened by foreboding storm. Having said that, I would like to again iterate that Kapampangan poetry is too emotional and sentimental. Kapampangan poetry is evidently not cerebral, which is why Kapampangans are not able to create a particular school of thought or literary movement out of it, at least in local or regional scope like what has been happening to Tagalog poetry (or something like the New York School).

Speaking of literary movements, Kapampangan poetry is an isolated literary phenomenon. Literary movements have come and gone and yet no Kapampangan poet could be clearly identified with a particular literary movement. Literary movements passed us by. Was there ever a minimalist Kapampangan poet? Or a Dadaist Kapampangan poet? Or an existentialist Kapampangan poet? Or perhaps a surrealist Kapampangan poet? As far I as know, none so far, and with the way things go, there will never be any soon. Kapampangan poets have never followed literary movements, which is why we do not know the stages of Kapampangan poetry's history and development. Tell me what stage Kapampangan poetry is at now. Don't tell me post-modernism, or I'll grab a machete and do hara-kiri right here and now, squalling in Cantonese expletives while doing so.

Kapampangan poets, having been so concerned with how they could keep their works within what I may call accepted format, were never able to utilize the flexibility of their language. They were never able to identify and create Kapampangan figures of speech. They failed to stretch and challenge their language; hence, there are important aspects of the language that got neglected and not utilized. The full potential of the language was not tapped. I will not go too far as to say that Kapampangan poetry, as we know it, is shallow and narrow, and that it does not show the exact depth and vastness that the language really intends to give and show.

There are still so many things to be done till we get Kapampangan poetry appropriate for our time and generation. Worst case scenario is we might not even get it in our lifetime. Anyway, I can read in other languages the kinds of poetry I am fond of reading which my own native language deprives me of.


[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 9:39 AM 9/21/09 | More of this author on eK!
WHAT THEY SAY...

Tec Sanchez-Tolosa (of Manila, Philippines) writes...

Hello, Papa Osmubal. Incisive, accurate points in a well-written cohesive piece. All your points are well-taken. But do read up on more recent writings of young, emergent poets or poet-wannabe's (depending on the frame of mind or degree of cynicism of the readers/audiences). There are those who try—with great amounts of difficulty—to get out of the mold and create a new paradigm of contemporary Kapampangan poetry. People who may have read from Shakespeare to Frost to Sylvia Plath and Sharon Olds. These are the few who take the risk of straddling—nay, bridging—the gap of the then and now, the old and the new. Oh and please, out of respect for those who came before us and to whom these titles mean their life's works—those who live off peddling stuff and driving tricycles when they're not writing their brand of poetry—let's take it easy on the mockery. Thanks and regards.

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-09-20 20:50:53 PDT



Art Dax (of United States) writes...

I think you used a lot of words (more than 1500) to just say you do not like poetry with set rhyme and meter. That you prefer free style, free verse poems such as the ones that were written by TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and others dealing more with intellectual content rather than romance. These free style, free verse, intellectual poems are the ones you prefer to read in your native language. If I am completely off with my interpretation of your article, forgive me and answer the following to clarify your position:

-Why do feel Kapampangan poetry must fit a mold?
-Who is imposing limitations on Kapampangan poetry?
-Why do you feel Kapampangan poetry failed to modernize and Tagalog did not? Give examples of modern Tagalog poems vs. traditional.
- What is your proof that Kapampangan poetry is Spanish poetry written in Kapampangan?
-Which literary movements have passed Kapampangan by?
-Why do you think Kapampangan poets have been so concerned to keep their poetry in accepted formats?


Again, Papa you cannot just disseminate an article such as this if it contains statements with no basis in fact. You have to support your allegations. Regards,

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-09-24 12:14:57 PDT



Abel D. Soto (of Bacolor, Pampanga, Philippines) writes...

Masican ca tuligsa caniting sinulat mung articulo qng eKsite tungcul qng Capampangan poetry. Abasa cu nia naman pu ini nang articulu, dapot e que tepucanang mabayat a pansin pauli na ning macasiguradu cung ing sinulat e ya tutung babad at mulat qng pacsang sinulat na. Dapot iniang iquit queng pasibayu iti nang articulo queni qng ANASI, e cu ne apalabasan a e dinan maustang pansin pauli na ning utus na ning pamangailangan, lalu na iniang sinulat mu ing puntung ini:

Kapampangan poets, having been so concerned with how they could keep their works within what I may call accepted format, were never able to utilize the flexibility of their language. They were never able to identify and create Kapampangan figures of speech. They failed to stretch and challenge their language; hence, there are important aspects of the language that got neglected and not utilized. (Like what aspects?) The full potential of the language was not tapped. I will not go too far as to say that Kapampangan poetry, as we know it, is shallow and narrow, and that it does not show the exact depth and vastness that the language really intends to give and show.

Malaus cung acutang qng sarili cu: Ninu caya ing talasulat a ini a balamu tutu neng mabeluan qng Literaturang Capampangan? Icua na na cayang mecabasa caring contemporariung poesiang Capampangan? O caring "classical Capampangan literary works"? Balu na cayang ing poesiang Capampangan ya mu cabud ing ating "magic poem" anti ing "Malikwatas" ng J. Gallardo? Biasa ya cayang sumulat qng cayang amanung sisuan?

Little knowledge is dangerous. And evidently, your analysis and criticism on Capampangan poetry lacks basis and factuality, more so, historical sensibility!

To say that Capampangan poetry is shallow and narrow is not only an insult to us Capampangan writers/poets who are striving so hard to keep our literature alive but also a clear mockery of our efforts. You failed to give your personal recommendations on how we could possibly reinvent Capampangan poetry probably because you do not know how to write in Capampangan and lack the necessary exposure to the latest Capampangan literary works, specifically in poetry.

You focused on the element of form as one of his bases in criticizing Capampangan poetry as if form is the most important basis in having a good poem. I don't even know if you truly and completely understand what form really means in poetry. (Probably it was "style" that you should have referred to in your article and not form.) Form is just one of the many elements that a poet should take into consideration when writing, but it does not diminish a poet's literary acumen if s/he is not able to satisfy the need to a unique form, because poetry, more than anything else, is about language first, the other elements, second.

Your analogy was even incompetent and too lax, merely using a bottle to depict the form of Capampangan poetry. If the style of Capampangan poets and poetry was the analogy for the bottle, I may have agreed with you a little (but that would-have-been analogy is also disputable).

To use the strong descriptive phrase, "old fools" is a blatant display of your ignorance and disrespect to our Capampangan writers, historians, and culture-bearers. I am tempted to wit that at last these "old fools" became fools for something they truly know and believe in, compared to you who is still quite young to be fool and ignorant about the historical background and significance, authenticity and development of your own literature, particularly about your subject, Capampangan poetry. The historicity of something is always something significant to greatly consider when you do a criticism and analysis of anything. Without this solid background on the subject you are criticizing and analyzing, you can just keep your opinions to yourself and shut up!

Tagalog is Tagalog and Capampangan is Capampangan. The two are different in many aspects (historicity being the most important) and therefore should not be compared in terms of their development as a language. Any student of Creative Writing can write a poem in Tagalog, but not just any Creative Writing Student can write a Capampangan poem. I think you forgot to take this fact into great consideration!

And then you criticized further:

Kapampangan poetry has a familiar pattern of succession that follows what I may call a linear tradition. That is to say, a new poet stands right beside or right behind the older one whom he or she follows, and the forthcoming ones do the same exact thing, all of whom brandishing the same bottle wherein they put the stuff of their crafts. It is just the task of continuing the usual process that has been done repeatedly before. But why in the name of the Shining Jesus would one do that? Because there is practicality in it. It is quite comforting and reassuring to think and say you are "in," that you belong to an established tradition. Because it is easier to do-there's already a stenciled pattern and rubric to go by. Because it is convenient, one is immune from possible snobbery and criticism.

If our contemporary Capampangan poets and writers write in almost the same pattern like those of our forefathers, it is not because of convenience, but because of the elegance in style and pattern that is truly admirable and artistic. If you can write an elegant Capampangan poetry whether patterned to the traditional style of Capampangan poetry or not, then that is the only time you can start claiming that it is easier to write "a stenciled pattern and rubric-ed" Capampangan poetry! But if not, you can swallow your claim and die with it!

Para quecang sinulat caniting tampalasan a articulo:

Poesiang Capampangan: Zona Libre

Ing poesiang Capampangan
wa, e ya boti,
iti bunduc ya.

E ca miucquiat mu cabud
nung ing balu mu caniti angga mu qng tud.
Dapot e ca magpacalumud!

Subucan mu pa mu...
mucquiat ca...
Quening bunduc
magumansid ca...
Mapaliaring acquit mu
ing tutu nang lupa
ning poesiang Capampangan
a quecang tatampalingan.

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-09-24 18:44:53 PDT



Jason Paul Laxamana (of Angeles City, Philippines) writes...

While Oscar appeared to be too generalizing, allow me to say that maybe he is criticizing those who INSIST on Kapampangan writing boxes, because in my experience in trying to come up with modern poetry, I have experienced Calvary. It is highly possible Oscar is criticizing those, and the system that not only perpetuates it, but PUSHES AWAY those wanting to set themselves apart from tradition.

Paps, try reading poetry NOT FOUND on the mainstream Kapampangan literary scene. They are quite hard to find but they exist. Try visiting my Kapampangan poetry blog too: sisigman.blogspot.com

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-09-24 19:53:59 PDT



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