On Criticism

Tomorrow begins another year. For today, I began reading J. Neil Garcia’s Postcolonialism and Filipino Poetics (University of the Philippines Press, 2004), and made some marginal notes. I wonder how Rio Alma reacted to this book (which was actually Garcia’s introduction to his dissertation in UP). Did Almario respond to this in writing? Please let me know!

Meanwhile, here are some of the most intriguing and controversial excerpts on Almario from Garcia’s book (because they are taken from particular contexts, you may want to read the whole book and so we can discuss this):

  1. Indeed, by not providing a convincing or even just a slightly more substantial argument for just why and how such nationalist “availings” can and should take place, all that Almario would seem to be doing is advocating a kind of cultural opportunism, about which the Filipino opportunist ought to feel the utmost temerity and absolutely no sense of responsibility. (p. 27)

  2. Of course, being the consistent and incisive critic that he is, [Gelacio] Guillermo [in his essay on Almario published in Philippine Collegian] doesn’t mince words when he attempts to account for just how and why Almario has come to believe in what he believes, in the process carefully reminding the reader of the striking congruence between Almario’s literary thoughts and the trajectory of his own poetic careerism that bore exceptional fruit while most of the country was being hit by a rifle-butt and going under the boot of the unstoppably marching, Marcosian times. (p. 46)

  3. Reading his many books on Tagalog poetry, we somehow sense that the contradictions in Almario aspire to a species of subtlety, dissimulated by and buried as they would seem to be in the florid prose of his nationalist rhetoric. But to be perfectly honest about it, such contradictions appear to be most unselfconsciously committed—and egregiously so—as when he, right after condeming all forms of “colonial mentality” (kaisipang sungyaw), acknowledges the insuperability of Western colonialist theories. (p. 46)

  4. As we have seen, unless Almario begins from the premise of cultural hybridity—that the colonial power is always “uncertain” and therefore vulnerable from the very moment of its arrival in the colonies—then his theory remains unconvincing (because naively triumphalistic, linguistically deterministic and mechanical), and incomplete. (p. 47)

  5. If nowhere else, these convenient and completely uncorroborated claims concerning [Alejandro G.] Abadilla’s so-called “Filipino ego” reveals Almario to be a polemicist rather than a serious scholar or thinker. (p. 49)

  6. Perhaps all this means is it would do Almario good to reconsider his brusque dismissal of postcolonial—and yes, even postmodernist—discourse, and to read up on the admirable critical projects of his many counterparts in the different places of the post- and/or neocolonial world. This is merely another way of saying that Almario might conceivably benefit from a healthy dose of self-awareness—and indeed, self-effacement—within his own theoretical endeavors. (p. 53)
Among other things, such a critique proves to me that the Philippine critical arena is being ventured upon by new voices (with new critical tools) brave enough to offer re-readings/revaluations of past critical endeavors, which is a good thing, despite their own limitations.

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Saw Panaghoy sa Suba and Aishite Imasu: Mahal Kita, 1941 the other day. Both locate their narratives during the Japanese occupation, the former in the Visayas, and the latter in (a fictional?) San Nicolas. I was the first to enter the moviehouse for Panaghoy, and when the houselights opened after the first screening, I counted ten other people with me (and one of them was asleep). I give Cesar Montano’s a B- (2.75) for its beautiful cinematography, but I’m giving Joel Lamangan’s a B (3.00) for its script (Ricky Lee’s) which was awarded by Quezon City as the most gender sensitive film among the festival entries (gutong-guto ko ito, not just because Domeng Landicho has a cameo role in the film). The surprise is still Dennis Trillo’s portrayal of a transvestite who had a romantic relationship with a Japanese captain (played by Jay Manalo). His character, Ignacio Basa/Inya, uttered for me the best filmfest movie line, beating Vilma’s “Walang batas na nagsasabing bawal magmahal ng dalawa”: “Pasensiya ka na, hindi makabayan ang ari ko.” Yahoo! Trillo eventually won the best supporting actor trophy, which was a good thing (his role is bigger than Raymart’s, I think). Nobody seemed surprised when Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos got the best actor and best actress trophies, respectively, but I wouldn’t have felt bad if Jay Manalo got de Leon’s instead. I was convinced: he can act.

Two more films to watch: Mano Po III: My Love (which won the Best Picture) and Sigaw (by Yam Laranas, whose earlier films I enjoyed).