memory's sacred domain

moments mundane and magical

Writing and Reading Culture: Gina Apostol takes Benedict Anderson

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I don’t recall whose translation it was that I’ve read of Rizal’s works; I’ve certainly read Leon Ma. Guerrero’s bio of Rizal, “The First Filipino” (an author just unmasked for me by Ms. Apostol as a gringoista!). I’ve once heard Anderson lecture on Rizal and his connections to the French revolution, and was I mesmerized. But his “Imagined Communities” to me now appears to be a reduction of a complex process as nation-building, albeit done in a very compelling narrative. Yet, I can identify with Ms. Apostol when she writes, in this insightful review of Anderson’s slim tome: ‘ “To say I write in English and think in Waray is a mirage: I am always working in both of those languages, in ghost-times, with my various speech-selves. Most Filipinos, like many citizens of colonized states, are at least trilingual — thus we operate on nine phantom levels of speech all the time (English/Waray; English/Tagalog; Waray/Tagalog; and so on). We are always all of our languages, not just “perfect English” and “perfect Tagalog,” but also all our other speeches, and not just Waray or Cebuano or Pangalatoc, but also our mash-ups and the pidgin and our constantly evolving, hapless, and inventive urban and provincial slangs. As Anderson says: “One has to learn to enjoy, ‘Paki-doorbell na lang kayo!’” Literally, “Can you please doorbell!” Instead of the equally terse and easy to say, “Please use the doorbell.” ‘

The opening of Ms. Apostol’s review:

READING Benedict Anderson’s book Why Counting Counts (Ateneo de Manila Press) is like coming home to what you think is a quick merienda, a brief snack of pan de sal and mantikilya, only to find yourself replete, satisfied, and renewed, like a guest at some unexpectedly generous feast. The book, at 94 pages, is a morsel in comparison to his other texts, but Anderson is incapable of insignificance. The book’s resonant brevity is a testament to the scholar’s agile imagining of Southeast Asian history — in this case Philippine history — but also to his quite inexhaustible potent subject in that history: the 19th-century Filipino novelist José Rizal, whose death in 1896 precipitated his country’s revolution against Spain.

Read the entire essay here

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Written by Romel

July 5, 2014 at 8:49 am

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