Workshop Session 10: Maine Lasar
The nature of the online writing community has garnered a negative impression in the field of Philippine literature. Wattpad, for one, is a platform that has gained commercial success despite it being composed mostly of amateur writers with little to no formal training. Maine Lasar, who won a Palanca with her novel Toto O, used to write on the platform.
Lasar started writing on Wattpad because it was the only avenue for her to write freely and without judgment. According to her, winning a Palanca had been a turning point in her writing career.
Lasar currently working on a project that aims to challenge the norms of the Wattpad writing community. Her short story, “Tatlo,” zooms in on the perspective of a child from an urban-poor family. Her second story, “Tulak, Higit, Hay Pag-ibig!” is an attempt to write romance beyond what is usually written on Wattpad, which tend to feature characters with atypical backgrounds.
Sarah Lumba commends Lasar’s handling of the work “Tatlo.” “It didn’t read like poverty porn.” She also praised Lasar for “Tulak, Higit, Hay Pag-ibig!” for its ability to effectively entertain the reader.
Baticulon forwards the idea for him to explore the set-up of her work “Tatlo” and explore specific images so that the work can offer something new. The same sentiments on layering the story with more, albeit little, details were shared by her fellow writers.
Another point discussed was her characterization. Marfil warned Lasar against letting the female protagonist fall into the Mary Sue category. Francis Quina also raised concerns about the characters falling into stereotypes and failing to go beyond, saying they tended to read like flat characters.
But Gerry Los Banos commended Lasar for the quality of rawness found in her works. Though he agreed with other fellows and panelists on the matter of elevating the narrative, he said she still succeeded in telling the story well. X Vallez also noted how Lasar’s work had a certain lightness to it, which he felt was one of her strong points. “Parang may secret way of writing Wattpad [literature]. Maluwag. Magaan.”
Hidalgo also highlights how different it is to write for the platform effectively, but notes that its success only means that that kind of writing is effective in inviting people to read, as well as to write.
Workshop Session 11: Jerome Hipolito
Guest panelist Kristian Cordero moderated Jerome Hipolito’s workshop session for his rawitdawit collection “Maliit na Bagay.” It consists of short poems written in Bikolnon, making use of the ordinary and the simple as images to tell a story bigger than the perceived obvious subject.
Concerns about the poem’s length were brought up by both panelists and fellows. Baticulon likens his pieces to Instagram poetry for its brevity and relatability, saying perhaps his work could elevate that kind of digital content. Quina warns Hipolito against using the minimalist form, saying, “Para na siyang been there, done that.”
Cordero responds by giving context to the rawitdawit, which is a highly oral form. According to him, the rawitdawit is usually longer in length, which is why it’s interesting to see Hipolito’s work in a form that’s much shorter.
“Bagama’t ang titulo ng koleksiyon ay ‘Maliit na Bagay,’ ang nais mong gawin ay isang malaking bagay,” Cordero observed.
The subject of his poems was also a concern raised during the discussion. Denver Torres noted that he could still sense some hesitation from Hipolito in the works. Tolentino questions the “hugot” theme of his works and forwards the idea of coming from a different angle to elevate the discourse.
The lyrical quality of the language was acknowledged by Los Banos, but the Abad asked Hipolito, “What is Bicol about this other than the language?” The thought was reiterated by R. B. Abiva, who says it’s not enough to simply write in the regional language; the works need to capture specifics of that region as well.
“Meron tayong mga katutubong imahe na maaari mong gamiting sa pagsulat,” Cordero said.
Workshop Session 12: Christopher Gozum
The fellows and panelists had the honor of watching one of indie filmmaker Christopher Gozum’s films on July 11, the night before his workshop session. Moderated by Rolando Tolentino, the session began with an introduction to the script he’s currently working.
The story centers around a migrant worker named Leonora Perez, who has worked as a sherpherdess in a remote mountain village a Middle Eastern country for 21 years. Seven people visit her throughout the film, and each of them are meant to reveal more and more about the character and her plight as a female migrant worker.
Gozum explained that his style tends to be non-linear. He focuses more on creating texture.
Quina asked Gozum how he will effectively portray the passage of time, to which the filmmaker responds by saying he hasn’t fine-tuned the script yet but that he thinks it would be evident from her state of being as she lapses into insanity.
Lumba raised the question: What new insight is his work supposed to give away, considering a lot of films about migrant workers have already been made before?
The limited set of characters in the film was observed by Torres. Gozum explains that it was a deliberate choice to keep the character pool small; saying each of Leonora’s seven visitors signify something. Marfil then questioned why he’d chosen to include the poet-journalist character. “Why should he be a poet? Ano siya, parang male poet savior character?”
Marfil also asked Gozum why the male poet was, despite being a migrant worker himself, not suffering as badly as the female migrant character. Tolentino observed how the narrative seemed to require seven characters to tell Leonora’s story, asking, “Wala na bang agency is Leonora na irepresent ang sarili niya?”
Vallez added to the discussion and proposed for Gozum to make use of the villanelle as a structure for the film.
Sicat-Cleto brought up interesting points about the imagery of the female migrant worker as that of Flor Contemplacion’s. Gozum’s character brings a new imagery. She also mentioned the biblical quality added by the fact that Leonora is a shepherdess. Charlson Ong and Sanchez said that perhaps the spiritual aspect of the film can be explored further.
When asked about the film’s title, “A Kingdom of Shadows,” Gozum responds, “Ang pagtingin ko sa mga migrant workers sa Saudi Arabia, para kaming mga shadows. Nagtatago kami, pero kapag wala kami, babagsak ang bansa.”