The latest iteration of the Panayam Lecture Series, in time with the 50th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm (FQS), focused on literature produced about or during the FQS. The discussion explored the militant and activist themes that permeated them, as well as the issues of literary production in relation with the social and political conditions at the time. It was held on February 18, 2020, 10:00am-12:00nn at the CAL AVR in Palma Hall Pavilion 1, University of the Philippines Diliman.

The panelists of the discussion included Writer and ICW fellow Jose Dalisay, Jr., Writer and former UPNWW fellow Glenn Diaz, Writer Arlo Mendoza III, and Visual Artist Kiri Dalena. The discussion was moderated by Writer and ICW fellow Ramon Guillermo.

Mr. Dalisay began the discussion by citing three novels that captured the class struggles, betrayal, and heroism that pervaded the First Quarter Storm. He added that martial law was not an easy experience to process, and how novels until now still deal with its resulting trauma. He was followed by Mr. Diaz who shared his own experience growing up after Marcos was ousted. He talked about the legacy of historical awareness that allow writers to demonstrate the emancipatory quality of literature, and encouraged them to participate in politics beyond writing.

Mr. Mendoza then shifted focus to revolutionary efforts in Asia. He remarked that even during that era, the Philippines was not the only country using literature to spark revolutions. He also cautioned that while literature is important in awakening the social consciousness of a nation, writers and intellectuals may also be used as instruments of oppressive regimes.

Some of the slogans used in rallies during the FQS

Ms. Dalena, true to her craft, opened her part of the discussion with a visual presentation of old poetry, songs, comics, and placards that she dug up during her research on the FQS. She expressed her own shock at why she was only seeing such materials then when she had encountered martial law in her school days. She added that these songs and slogans were powerful rallying calls that signified the spirit of their times, and how they have only changed or added a few names as the problems they brought forward continued to be left unresolved.

Mr. Guillermo wrapped up the initial discussion with a statement on how the FQS is not truly in the distant past, that history is still happening as we speak. He referred to student movements, both in the past and present, and their lasting effects on society. He added that similar political conversations were already happening even before the 1960s, a testament to continuous struggle. Mr. Guillermo then opened the floor for questions.

One of the attendees suggested that the current generation is forced to rely on the literature and legacy of those who lived in the martial law era. Mr. Dalisay responded that it every generation has their own version of martial law, of the EDSA revolution, and that it is up to them to decide what to do. Ms. Dalena insisted that one must go beyond what their parents tell them, to look at history and connect it with the present so that they can fill in gaps in their own understanding and act accordingly.

Other questions revolved around the evolution of “masa” and the effect of revolutions on literature.

Mr. Guillermo ended the discussion by reminding the audience that despite being minority, it is important to be organized, to be part of a greater movement.

For those who missed out on the discussion, you may follow us at @LIKHAAN (https://twitter.com/LIKHAAN) and read our event tweets and photo features with the hashtag #PanayamFQS.