|4 December 2010, Cebu City. Photo taken by G. L. Asenjo.|
During the Philippine PEN International Literary Conference held in Cebu City last December 4-5, 2010, I went to Fort San Pedro with novelist Genevieve L. Asenjo. In between poses for her DSLR, we talked about our literary projects and shared our views on the future of Philippine literature. During that time, she just launched her online site, Balay Sugidanun, while the old Atisan Novels had been in hiatus for almost two months, with not much update for almost half a year.
I told her of how conflicted I was with what I wanted to do with this site, which was reflected in its cycle of active-inactive days, and perennial language and tone shifts. I knew I wanted it to host my readings and thoughts on the novel--but the idea was not solid enough for it to sustain my interest. Most of the novels I read are foreign titles, but there was always this bugging thought: why do I have to write about them online when thousands of other bloggers from all over the world already do--and I surely don't want to duplicate what one of my favorite sites, the Complete Review, is doing to an impressive number of international novels on a regular basis.
So should I focus on the Filipino novels, then? Being also a novelist, it seemed natural and controversial at the same time to talk about what other Filipino novelists are doing. Besides, there's this other project I initiated, Tapat--a journal of the Filipino novel that should have come out in 2010 but didn't, for many reasons, but is still pushing through this coming year despite all the setbacks. The journal was conceived in order to add to publishing opportunities for writers of the novel in Filipino; what do I intend to contribute with this blog?
My conversation with Bevs opened the possibility of making this a resource site--a site that will include biographies of Filipino novelists, interviews on the craft of novel-writing, summaries and resources on novels, translations of selected novel chapters in Filipino to English, comprehensive bibliographies of secondary materials, and once in a while, my essays on the novel. Quite ambitious, I admit. To make it more manageable, I intend to begin with novelists with only a novel published to date. From there, I'll work my way to the ones with two novels published, and so on, until I reach the likes of Edgardo M. Reyes and Lualhati Bautista who began writing decades ago and continue to publish up to the present.
Being a writer in Filipino, there was naturally the desire to contribute to the online use of Filipino language via this blog, but the opportunity to introduce Filipino novels and novelists to readers from all over over the world weighed far heavier. That explains the choice of language. I will still occasionally post in Filipino, however--mostly essays I wrote for other publications or lectures I delivered somewhere else, so that they also become available to many other readers.
I will try to update as regularly as possible; I'm targeting a new material on the site at least every three days, fingers crossed. Happy new year!