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READING AND PILIPINO LITERATURE
(part 2)



By Rene Calalang
March 26, 2017

 
 


Among the four, I had read and re read “Maynila – Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag.” This Palanca Award winning novel is perhaps my all-time favourite, as this was so well written in prose form with a theme so simple, yet so realistic – that of a beautiful, simple, innocent lady from rural Marinduque, lured into Manila by the city’s bright lights by a heartless woman. In mid 1980’s, it was also made into a hit movie starring Bembol Rocco and Hilda Koronel. Lately, it was digitized and shown again into many cinemas in the Philippines.

Lately, because it has been reprinted so many times, it is now the best-selling book of all time in the Philippines.

I am halfway through reading “Luha ng Buwaya” a novel (written by Amado V. Hernandez, a national artist) dramatizing the agrarian issues in Ka Amado’s time, which, I am approximating as the 1950’S.

The other two, “Ang Tundo man may Langit din” and “Maganda pa ang Daigdig” are, I think, novels tackling social issues caused by poverty in the Philippines.

If the novels I just mentioned did not excite you, try reading other novels (available in many bookstores) about social issues written by other Filipino novelist like Efren Reyes Abueg for his “Dugo sa Kayumangging Lupa”;  Rogelio Sikat for his “Dugo sa Bukang Liwayway”; Lualhati Bautista for her “Dekada 70”; Liwayway Arceo for her “Canal de la Reina”…etc.

IF YOU think that these novels will not interest you even before reading them, perhaps because of your colonial mentality, then try reading the short stories or collection of short stories written by a new class of writers in my generation.

Yes Virginia, the novelists I mentioned earlier like Edgardo M. Reyes, Efren Reyes Abueg, Rogelio Sikat, Lualhati Bautista…started as short story writers in the then, very popular, very informative magazine “Liwayway” – the only magazine available for us to read if you were living in the rural area during our time. Oh, how I eagerly waited for that bicycle (with its horn screaming) riding vendor, which, for fifty centavos, I could have my own personal copy of that magazine and read the short stories of these nationalistic writers.

To me, they were not just ordinary writers, but some of them were writers trained by the management of Liwayway in the early 1960’s, because they saw in them a common theme in their writings – that of social issues like corruption, exploitation, poverty…etc.

They were so different from others that the management of Liwayway called them “The Bolsheviks.” For example: Levy Balgos de la Cruz wrote about life and problems in living in the squatter area; Edgardo M. Reyes about corruption and exploitation of workers in construction industry (note that many settings in his famous novel, “Maynila - Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag were in a construction site); Dominador Mirasol about exploitation of workers; Rogelio Sicat about agrarian issues….etc.

Now, there are books available, which are compilations of their work during their era – the 60’s - individually, one of which is a book titled “Sa Aking Panahon - 13 Piling Katha” a collection of beautiful short stories, which the author, Edgardo M. Reyes, himself selected; or as a group, one of which is a book titled “Mga Agos sa Disyerto,” a compilation of the works of five great short story writers, namely: Efren Reyes Abueg, Dominador B. Mirasol, Rogelio L. Ordonez, Edgardo M. Reyes and Rogelio R. Sikat, with each writer contributing five beautiful short stories.

ALSO in the 60’s; if you enjoy listening on the radio the oratorical debate in poetry (popularly known as Balagtasan) between Ofelia Angeles and Antonio Raymundo, books of that form are also available, one of which is a book titled “Balagtasan – Kasaysayan at Antolohiya” (Balagtasan – History and Anthology) authored by Galileo S. Zafra.

Reading through this book, one will learn the history of Balagtasan, as well as who were the major players on this once very popular part of our culture.

It was so popular in the 1920’s that Balagtasan used to be held at the famous places like The Opera House, Olympic Stadium, Teatro Zorilla (where the hell are these buildings now? Perhaps they were wrecked and replaced with bigger buildings in the name of progress and commerce).

It was so big then, that in some “Balagtasan” between Jose Corazon de Jesus AKA Huseng Batute and Florentino Collantes, the audience included many dignitaries like Manuel L. Quezon, Emilio Aguinaldo, Speaker Manuel Roxas and Senator Osmena.

Famous protagonists in Balagtasan during the Commonweath era were:
- Jose Corazon de Jesus vs. Florentino Collantes – on topics like “Dalaga Noon at Dalaga Ngayon,” “Panulat at Sandata,” “Paruparo at Bubuyog”…etc.

- Nemesio Caravana vs. Julian Cruz Balmaseda – on topics like “Dalatan at Karagatan,” “Ang Makata at ang Paraluman”

Patricio Amando Cruz vs. Julian Cruz Balmaseda – on topics like “Ang Mataba at ang Payat,” “Ang Baso at ang Tabo,” “Ang Anak na Lalake at Anak na Babae”…etc.

There were many others who wrote the script like Benigno Ramos, Lope K. Santos, Pedro Gatmaitan…etc.

Not too long ago, when our group, “The Mololos Group of Ontario, Canada” was doing fundraising dinner dance, our feature number was a “Balagtasan”. Yes Virginia, since we are from Bulacan, there are still a few of  us who could do the Balagtasan. And Oh, how happy the audience were, as most of them belong to our generation, and longing to hear and enjoy this part of our culture one more time.

Today, this part of our heritage is seldom heard, drowned to oblivion by other cultures.

WE are Canadians now. We are also very fortunate to be living in a multi-cultural, multi-racial society, which encourages us to learn and accept other cultures.

We are also encourage to teach our children and grandchildren their heritage by encouraging them to attend the government funded heritage classes. But somehow, we are lagging behind some other ethnic groups because we, parents and grandparents, know little about our own literature.

Let’s give Pilipino Literature a try, as it is rich - as rich as the American, English, Russian, French or any other literature in the world. It is romantic - as romantic as the poems of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. Some are radical  - like Noli and Fili - as radical as Uncle Tom Cabin/ Life Among the Lowly by Harrie Beecher Stowe, considered the book that triggered the American civil war.

The time has come to rediscover it.




See also Part 1 READING AND PILIPINO LITERATURE

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