THE last time I was at the Xavier University Little Theatre was in 1992, 25 years ago. I was part of the Corpus Christi High School debating team and we were up against the Xavier High School team. It was the first year of the Ramos administration and he immediately engaged the Left in peace negotiations. The proposition was: should the communist rebels be given general amnesty by the government and we were in the affirmative side.
I remember pleading at the opposing team to take the matter seriously and lamented that if the real negotiations mirrored their flair for comedy and histrionics, instead of debating on substantive matters on the root causes of why Filipinos rebel against government, then there would be no chance for peace in this land. 25 years later I am still making the same appeal for a just and lasting peace in these two books that were launched at the same venue last Saturday, August 12.
The sad but nevertheless poignant serendipitous events of 25 years ago coming full circle at present made me realize something about the interesting relationship between author, book, and audience, and the milieu or context of their production. I realize that all of them are enmeshed in a web of interrelationships. Just as the writer strings together words to produce concepts, he is also being written by his social encounters and circumstance. Thus, writing and the labor involved in the production of concepts and ideas do not occur in a social vacuum.
Which means to say that the writing of the books that were recently launched started as early as 25 years ago on that stage as I faced a rowdy Xavier high school audience bullying a visiting debating team in their home court. And it goes even way back in time to as far away as Ajuy, Iloilo, and Manapla, Negros where my parents trace their lineage.
The writing of these books started as far back as the 1980s when as a student of Little Schoolhouse, I was the sole Marcos loyalist among my grade three classmates during the elections of ’85. It continued during my Philippine history and Noli and El Fili classes in Corpus Christi High School and my years in UP taking up Sociology classes.
The writing of the Lumad book for instance started when as an high school student in Cagayan de Oro City, a chance encounter with a lost Lumad elderly in Cogon Market awakened the curiosity about their plight and condition. Many years later as an undergraduate student in UP, I would find myself in Davao del Norte among the Ata and Mandaya doing ethnolinguistic research under the Inisyatibo sa Pag-aaral ng mga Ethnolinggwistikong Group sa Pilipinas or IPEGP. Members of the local paramilitary group in the area visited me but they were just happy to have their songs documented on my portable cassette recorder over shots of Tanduay.
The writing continued relentlessly and as recent as when I spent a week among the Manobo Pulangion last year and met Tatay Renato Anglao, Lumad leader who was gunned down by assassins last February 2017 because he stood up to defend their ancestral land. The book “Wars of Extinction” is dedicated to him and his kind.
What I am trying to say is that the person who wrote the two books, did not write all these things by himself. He could not have had the material not to mention the language and the vocabulary were it not for his encounter with different people and the corresponding social contexts they find themselves enmeshed in.
The book launch last Saturday was a happy event since it marked the culmination of a long and arduous intellectual process. But the magical thing about the occasion was that, in a rare moment, assembled in one room that afternoon was some of the people who, in many direct and indirect ways, helped write the books.
I looked at the audience at the Xavier University Little Theatre and I recognized how each and every one of them contributed to the writing of the books in various types of social encounters- family members, grade school and high school teachers and classmates, students, mentors, young and old activists, and Facebook friends. Then it dawned on me.
It is usually the case that during book launchings, authors are feted somewhat as superhuman beings who hide themselves in caves to produce these tomes with their intellectual labor. This is only partly true, at least, that part about hiding in caves. A writer’s material is really his or her encounter with other people and their shared milieu.
I may have written the words inside the pages of these books but these are also the stories, fears, and hopes of others I have encountered as we continue to trudge our shared path as Filipinos working towards achieving the nation that we wish in our hearts. This makes book launchings an interesting event because assembled in these occasions are actually the co-authors of what is being celebrated.