WHAT I WRITE
AN ITCH TO SCRATCH: WHAT I WRITE, HOW AND WHY
The concept of the manuscript began in 2010 where one of my writer-friends in a little workshop, held in Capitol University, commented that my works were very ―Basâ… basâ-basaǁ (wet-read)—hence, the title of the collection. There was really nothing special about the title other than the fact that I have never heard or read of any other librobalak (poetry books) that has the same title and wordplay. From my friend’s remark, I started writing poems about eroticism, ranging from subliminal to oratorical. However, the challenge that I imposed to myself was how can I make my works stand out from a literary canon that contains countless works that has the same subject?
I know there are plenty of things to write about that are more relevant. However, for this manuscript, it has become more than an itch. For years of furrowing my brows over the thought, I came to realize that in order to make my works distinct I should write as a ―Kagay-anon.ǁ Hence, the milieu of the works is a re-imagined suburbia drawn from places found in Cagayan de Oro City and other places of Northern Mindanao. For instance, in the poem, ―Paglabang ni Sheree Salud,ǁ (Filipino translation: ―Pagtatawid ni Sheree Saludǁ), the addressee in the text is based on Cherry Bautista and Salud. The former, popularly known as Sheree, one of the members of Viva Hot Babes, was from Cagayan de Oro; while the latter is based on a lumad woman who lived during the Spanish colonization period, where she led a pocket rebellion against the Spaniards who settled in what was then called Cagayan de Misamis. After she was captured, Salud was said to be executed in an open area which is now Gaston Park, located at the front of San Agustin Cathedral. While the male gaze is strong in the piece, and perhaps the rest of the pieces in the collection, I wanted to add something mythical, mystical, and even libidinal amidst the banality of a re-imagined urban landscape.
My imagination will always have a semblance of Cagayan de Oro including the shady corners of the city that have become notorious. For me, poetry has always been a lens of a moment that is observed by the writer, who seizes that moment through a harmony of language. From that conjecture, I believe that I cannot separate my imagination from the place where I was born and raised. Currently, I have started planning for a collection that addresses the history of my hometown, its people, and where it’s heading.
For now, the pieces included for this workshop are works that have never been read under the lens of a writing workshop. I wanted to include more of the works that I experimented with, but I must comply with the 6,000-word requirement. The final output is supposed to be divided into two parts. Most of the works that I have included here are recently written. They were intended to be written for the sake of complying to my target number of poems in the collection, which is sixty-nine.
How I write
Writing for me has always been a refuge from reality. I believe there are experiences that are only pleasurable when it’s read on the page or heard verbally. Although I don’t have a systematic process on how I write, I do know to veer away from the contentment of the first draft. Hence, I have nurtured the delight in revisions than the actual writing itself. Germs would sprout out any time from any form of stimulus. What’s important is what I do with it afterwards.
Eroticism is nothing new in the canon of Cebuano literature. That is why I always attempt to de-familiarize my subjects through images that is close to home. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated with visual arts especially paintings that portray a mixture of realism and abstract. From lines to colors, from movement to mood, from shadows and shapes, these aspects on canvas draw my attention, and I try to employ this fascination into the collection.
As I was collating the poems, I always make it a point that the reading experience would vary for each work. So I played around with different ―–ismsǁ, various aesthetics that I have learned inside and outside the academe, even approaches which Binisaya purists referred to as ―pedestrianǁ because it is not ―Binisayaǁ enough—whatever that is.
Honestly, underpinning poetics is something very new to me. Since I am unable to get into a formal education on creative writing because of geographical and financial reasons, I believe this workshop will definitely help me polish this project. Writing a poem is one thing but collating them into a book is a different animal.
Why I write
As a child, I was always told to dream big, but as I grew up, I have discovered that there were more things that I could not do. I write because there are a lot of things that I’m bad at. As much as I would like to be a ninja or a samurai, I can’t handle a sword much less a knife to save my life. In grade school, while most of my peers play basketball and know their way in the court, I was pretty much lost in the pace of the game.
When it comes to speaking in public, I stammer a lot. Yet, I always find myself talking to a lot of people. For instance, I’ve been class PRO for nine straight years from elementary to high school. In those years, I spent more time in the library than activities related to that position.
Now I teach language and literature in front of thirty-to-forty students. Eventually, I immersed myself in arts, but when it comes to sketching, I can’t draw a proper line nor I can imitate an apple realistically. Yet, my classmates would often push me to draw or make their projects during activities.
Back when I was a teenager, I decided to immerse myself in music because it was the 90s, and most adolescents at that time were into rock bands. I was lazy with my arpeggios in piano, and my fingers weren’t firm enough to play a power chord in both acoustic and electric guitar. I played drums, but I wasn’t Steve Gadd, Tony Royster Jr., Akira Jimbo, and Joey Muha.
By the time I enrolled in a Literature and Language course during my third year college, I’ve began to engross myself with literature, which eventually led me to writing binisaya- sugboanon. While Cebuano literature is rich in its history, I was more drawn to the works of contemporary writers such as Michael Obenieta, Cora Almerino, Butch Bandillo, Adonis Durado, Arlene Yandug, and Raul Moldez. As I read more poems in Cebuano, I eventually decided to write.
Why poetry in Cebuano? I write poetry because, just like basketball, I get easily lost in the events of the plots when I attempted to write fiction. I write in Cebuano because it’s my native language. I believe I can write scenes and images better in my mother tongue. Why is there a need for me to complete this manuscript? Again, this project has become more than an itch, and this needs to be scratched. Why do I write? Because I am bad at everything else and I feel restless when I cannot fill the blank spaces of the paper. I write because I want. I must. And why not?