Power and Imagination

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We challenge literary standards by engaging in feminist work. Gantala Press began as a feminist, literary press that sought to respond to the lack of spaces for and about women. Eventually, feminist work lead us to the streets, to volunteer work and collaborations with mass organizations for peasant women. Feminist work is first and foremost political. We became political activists who recognize the role of women in the economy and in agricultural production,  as mothers, farmers, laborers, and mass leaders.

By zooming out of our initial focus, which was to challenge the patriarchal, padrino system in the literary community, we wish to broaden the standards set by these literary figures and authorities. By stepping away from literary squabbles, we realize how small the literary world is (pardon, I too am a creative writing teacher in an Imeldific arts school and very much aware of my complicity). It revolves around awards, around national workshops, around international research grants, around the academe and debates about what “actual poets” mean. Sure, there are conferences and advocacies on language and literature. But an artist could reach the “peak” of her career or be focused on doing more, producing more, without immersing in the world that is not imagined. An advocate of the Filipino language and the Filipino identity can keep imagining, defining, and redefining what “katutubo” means.

But Gantala Press believes that art must not be merely a product of the imagination. We believe that by engaging in feminist work, which involves rallying in the streets, getting involved, learning from mass leaders, learning from women laborers, producing solidarity work, publishing books for and by women, we go beyond discourse-making, we go beyond art-making.

Feminist work lead us to believe that art-making must be embedded in a struggle. That problematizing the “Filipino identity” is necessary but is simply not enough because to be a Filipino means to be a citizen of an agricultural country, where 75% are agricultural workers but also 75% are hungry, underpaid, abused, exploited. War is being waged, an armed struggle still exists because our country is sill a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country. This means that the hacienda system still exists because imperialist countries benefit from cheap labor and cheap raw materials while the government floods us with imported goods (that are actually made of raw materials like rubber from Mindanao exported to imperialist countries to produce Yokohama, Dunlop tires that are imported back to our country. Or Class A bananas exported to Singapore and Japan produced by plantation workers in Mindanao like Sumifru who are exposed to chemicals every day, work 14 hours a day and are underpaid).

Our farmers are still being killed both by hacienderos and the government. Many would say that this is outdated yet every day a peasant or IP leader is killed. There are still projects like the Kaliwa Dam, threatening the lives of 4,000 families including the Dumagats. Eighty percent of the funding for Kaliwa Dam will be loaned from China. Part of Sierra Madre and its flora and fauna will be submerged in water to give way to a dam. Thousands of families will be displaced.

Now, during Duterte’s regime, lumad schools are being forcibly closed. Two hundred peasants have been killed. We mourn the victims of Sagay Massacre, where minors were killed by paramilitaries/goons, and of the recent Negros Massacre, where senior citizens have been shot inside their homes without an arrest warrant, treated as mere casualties of Oplan Sauron, or Oplan Tokhang in the countryside, killed and tagged as “nanlaban” by AFP and PNP when they were mercilessly killed with their hands up. Sabi pa ng pitong taong anak ng isa sa mga biktima, “Nagtaas na ng kamay si Papa kahit hindi niya alam bakit siya hinuhuli pero pinagbabaril pa rin siya.”

Gantala Press wants to know why we are not angry. How are we able to produce collections after collections of books, how is it possible to not see the world outside the literary community? And so we continue to ask and continue to produce books that go beyond what the literary community deems “good” or “publishable”. Hindi na lang tula ng mga babaeng tulad naming arál sa pagsusulat, mula sa mga unibersidad at programa ng creative writing. Kakampi sila pero mas maraming dapat malathala. We wish to broaden the standards by demanding what artists have realized before us, kolektibong pagkilos at hindi indibidwal na tagumpay, collective action over a successful career in the arts. Sa kolektibong pagkilos, natututuhan namin paano ba dapat lumilikha ng sining. Sa kolektibong pagkilos, ang sining ay hindi limitado sa mahusay na tula, award-winning na kuwento, o librong isasalang sa mga hurado ng Manila Critics Circle. Ito ay pag-aalay din ng oras, lakas, panahon, isip sa gawaing labas sa sining. Volunteer work, collaborative work at pagkilala sa kontribusyon ng masa lalo na ng babaeng pesante at manggagawa. Collaborative work na hindi ikaw ang magdidikta ng tunguhin, pantay kayo kung hindi man, mas bibigyan ng direksyon ng pagkilos ang tunguhin. Ikaw ang mag-aaral, at hahayaan mong ang mga nanay ang humubog sa iyo.

Sa patuloy na paggiit namin ng isang peministang palimbagan, patuloy ang pagkuwestiyon miski ng aming mga sarili. Miski ng aming vision bilang isang small press. At hindi pa rin namin alam ang sagot. Ang kaya lang namin ay mag-alay ng oras na intindihin ang sitwasyon ng mayorya ng Filipino. Ang alam lang namin ay kailangang malathala ang mga akda ng manggagawa ng mga plantasyon upang masiwalat at ma-document ang hindi makataong trato sa ating mga kababayan:

“Ang karanasan ko bilang manggagawa ay maaga po kaming gumigising para magluto ng agahan, pananghalian, kung minsan may panghapunan din. Sa kabila po ng maagang paggising at pagpunta sa pinagtatrabahuhan ay pinapauwi po kami dahil nga may tinatawag na rotation o walang kasiguraduhang pagtatrabaho. Hindi po talaga sapat ang sahod ng isang manggagawa. At mayroon ding chemicals na hinahalo sa saging na nakasisira po sa lahat ng bahagi ng katawan.”

– Estrellita, nasa Mamumuo

Kailangang patuloy na isiwalat ang karahasan sa kanayunan. Kung paanong walang lupa ang mismong nagtatanim ng kinakain natin. Kung paanong pinapatay ang mga magsasakang naggigiit ng kanilang karapatan. Iaakda ng mga magsasaka ang kanilang kasaysayan. Kaya may mga proyekto kaming tulad ng Lupang Ramos: Isang Kasaysayan, kasaysayan ng pakikibaka na inakda ng mga nanay ng Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka at Lehitimong Mamamayan sa Lupang Ramos, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

Kailangang kumilos. May gawin tayong mga artistang naririto, lalo tayong may kakayahan bilang mga “alagad ng sining” na magagap ang salimuot, mas lalong naiintindihan natin ang naratibo, mas lalong nalalasahan natin ang pait, naipipinta natin ang kanilang pakikibaka. Mas lalo ang bigat sa ating mga kayang lumikha ng sining mula sa nakikita, nararamdaman, naaamoy, nahahawakan, nalalasahan. Sa mga lumilikha mula sa dalamhati, pagsasakit, at pighati.

Kaya nga nating gumawa ng persona, lumikha ng tauhan mula sa mga totoong protagonist. Naiintindihan natin na pwedeng-pwedeng tayo sana iyon. Nandito lang tayo sa isang bahagi ng tatsulok, ang 8%. Pwedeng-pwedeng asawa natin ang pinatay ng mga sundalo sa Canlaon, Negros. Anak natin ang nagsabing, Tinaas ni papa ang kamay niya kahit di niya alam ang kasalanan niya. Naririto lang tayo at naroon sila, sa kanayunan, kung saan mas ramdam ang El Niño sa sakahan, mas maraming sundalo, may Martial Law. Siguro ay mas higit tayong may kayang gawin kaysa sa masang kailangang makibaka habang lubog sa utang sa pestisidyo, habang binabarat ang palay matapos nila itong paghirapan nang 3-6 na buwan, habang nagugutom dahil sa Tiempo Muerto.

Alam ng Gantala Press na hindi kami bago o iba, tulad din kami ng karamihan sa mga small press at naunang kolektibo. Peminista kami, kung paanong dapat tayong lahat ay peminista dahil ang peminismo ay pagkilala at pagbaka ng opresyon, eksploytasyon, harassment sa kababaihan, at sexismo. Ang peminismo ay pagkilala sa kontribusyon ng kababaihan sa agrikultura, produksyon, at ekonomya. Kayang-kayang bumuo ng mga manunulat rito na higit na magaling sa amin, higit na mahusay at higit na influential ng isang press o isang kolektibong mag-uugnay sa ginagawa natin sa ginagawa ng kapwa natin.

Lumabas tayo mula sa ating mga imahinasyon.

Unang binasa ni Rae Rival sa Beyond Craft: Creative Writing in the Philippines, A Colloquium na inorganisa ng UP Department of English and Comparative Literature, UP Diliman, Abril 30, 2019

 

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