I chatted a few days ago with Cebuano writing OG (a person who is incredibly exceptional) Lamberto Ceballos. The elder statesman of Cebuano literature have followed my columns in SunStar Cebu for sometime now. I reserve for them a certain degree of respect like I always do for creative writers, especially in Cebuano.
Lam is one of the vanguards of the Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang or Bathalad together with the late Ernesto Lariosa who made sure that Superbalita, SunStar’s sister publication, followed certain rules in grammar and language. Lam succeeded Ernie as Superbalita language consultant.
I remember Ernie prodding me in the ‘90s to join a Bathalad convention. That was the time when I sought to hone my craft in creative writing even if I was already working as a journalist. Creative writing and journalism are miles apart: one is fiction, the other deals with the real and true. In the ‘90s many Bathalad members became OGs themselves and were in search of young creative writers to pass the baton to. Ernie prodded me to join the group.
I did not do so, telling him that I needed to raise my output first. I did submit some Cebuano short stories to the old SunStar magazine that was edited then by the late Cookie Newman and published one or two Cebuano short stories but that was it. I felt I needed to hone my craft first.
So I attended writing workshops, one in Tacloban and another handled by the University of San Carlos. But my output waned as I focused on journalism in English. That made me hesitant to join Bathalad. But I did manage to submit a Cebuano short story to the annual Palanca Awards during the turn of the century. It placed third.
But it made me hesitant to join Bathalad even more. I did not want to be known as somebody who writes only for awards-giving bodies but not for Cebuano readers. I wanted to be like Lam, Ernie, Pat and the others who publish works in Cebuano language publications like Bisaya magazine.
That’s why I am concerned now with the current advances in technology and how Cebuano creative writers, especially the OGs are coping. While Cebuano creative writers can no longer rely on Bisaya magazine to publish their works (Lam said Bisaya mag has gone online), the new technology offers a wealth of opportunities, one of which is to publish their works online on their own and for free. In the case of the OGs, they just have to consult with their technology-savvy children or grandchildren.
They still can earn online if their channel becomes a hit because platforms pay creators. This is a difficult task, of course, but I hope the government can also help in the learning to cope process, or what is the National Commission for Culture and the Arts or NCCA for?
Cebuano writers, especially the budding ones like Kevin Lagunda, need an avenue through which they could publish their works. The old way no longer works. Even on Facebook, the preferred language is “Bislish,” a mix of Bisaya and English. It is time for Bisayistas to find ways to cope with the changed setup.
November 28, 2022
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