Tabada: Paper trail


PAPER'S time is nearly over. When I hold today’s thinner, narrower newspapers, whenever I encounter the academic jargon for newspapers and magazines printed on paper (“legacy media”), when my search for notebooks on Ebay and Marketplace cascades photos of gadgets, I accept the inevitable: paper will be jettisoned for other things bright and new.

Yet, paper is a kindred creature. When I recently came home to clean and clear after two years of being away, I realized that about a third of our household is made up of paper. Paper occupies space, attracts the most unrelenting pests, and traps dust, dog hair and cat fur. Paper is the bane of virtuous housekeepers.

Such a surfeit of flaws hardly explains why paper is addictive. I find it nearly impossible to throw away paper. Can you take a photo of the sheet a son scribbled on in kindergarten, store the image as data in the Cloud and deposit in a trash can that yellowing slip with ragged edges, misspelling and the glimmerings of a young person emerging into his voice? One might as well consign love to oblivion.

Paper releases, along with dust motes and a mini-colony of silverfish, expression. Recently at the University of San Carlos Cebuano Studies Center, I spent a day going through the card catalogue, not the online public access catalogue that inventories the linked libraries in an institution but the old-fashioned cabinet with wooden trays holding index cards containing bibliographic information. Plus all shades and slants of librarians’ scribbling.

I first searched using key words but then shifted to alphabetical trawling. And that was how, in between Abac-Azne and Ga-Kyzyl, I stumbled on Epifania Labrada Magallon’s 1977 list of Cebuano anonyms and pseudonyms and John Wolff’s 1967 paper on the history of the dialect of Camotes Island.

In Greek, Latin, French and English, the anonym is a person “without a name.” A pseudonym is a “false name” used by a writer. What was it about publication in prewar newspapers that drove Cebuanas to hide behind anonyms and pseudonyms but released their souls?

And remembering how Camotes village women once code-switched to Cebuano Visayan from Porohanon or Camotes Visayan, described as a combination of Cebuano, Waray, Boholano, and Ilonggo, when addressing visitors from Cebu City, I reflected how Wolff “put on paper” and articulated beyond ignoring and forgetting the cultural imperialism with which mother tongues drown and silence “minor” dialects with their discrete and irreplaceable history and stories.

Digital is king, but every time, I choose to follow paper trails.


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