Archive for the ‘Bicol literature’ Category

Who was Ana T. Calixto?

December 23, 2008

Behind the question “Who was Ana T. Calixto” is a story about stories and the story itself of story as such.

The Story

There is first this story about the Filipino nation grounded on the Tagalog identity.

This seemingly simple move of equating Filipino to Tagalog, needless to say, efficiently erased all the other groups inhabiting the many islands of our archipelagic nation-state.

While we acknowledge the efficacy of this strategic move toward decolonization, we are also witnesses to the materiality of the need to question the simple equation.

The Other Story/ies

Secondly,therefore, the question is also about some other stories – stories, which although repeatedly told at different times and at different places, were not heard precisely because the first story was already functioning. In other words, the Filipino nation equated with/grounded on the Tagalog as a practical and conceptual knowledge was already functioning.

Fortunately, we can still find some names and dates to satisfy our empirical minds. In August of 1950, a magazine was launched in Bikol calling itself Bikolana. We owe the existence of some copies of the magazine to the pioneering efforts of Bikolnon scholar Maria Lilia F. Realubit, and to Adolfo Camposano, also a published writer of orosipon, who kept issues of the magazine and donated his copies to the UP Main Library (based on an interview with Dr. Camposano in the late 1990’s – I do not have my research notebooks with me now, unfortunately).

This magazine published many of the orosipons of “Ana T. Calixto”. Eighteen orosipons bearing the name of Calixto published in the Bikolana are extant. Another Calixto orosipon available to us was published in Bicolandia in 1956. Realubit, however, mentions titles written by “Ana T. Calixto”. It is part of this unheard story that the three (perhaps more) stories are now no longer available to us.

Attempts to ascertain the identity of Ana T. Calixto have failed. The collection of Bikolnon writing Bikol Voices Anthology, a project undertaken by professors at the Bicol University headed by Merito B. Espinas, includes one of Calixto’s orosipons Maimon and writes at the back that Calixto “…a native of Bikol, resided for many years in Bacacay, Albay (293).” I looked for Calixto’s name in Bacacay’s logbooks of birth and death certificates covering several decades in the twentieth century but did not find Calixto’s name, with most of names starting with the letter Q following the distribution of surnames in the region. A 1990’s telephone directory in the Daraga-Legazpi area lists only one Calixto. This Calixto family, however, regretfully informed me that they were not originally from Bikol. I followed another clue left by Calixto’s orosipon published in Bicolandia: under the title of the orosipon and Calixto’s name I found this information – “of Naga City”. Unfortunately, based on the search done by the City’s Records Section, there is no Ana T. Calixto in their logbooks of death certificates. I was allowed to personally look for Calixto’s name in the pages of the baptismal certificates kept by the Archbishop’s Palace but still did not find her name.

Our question “Who was Ana T. Calixto” leads us then to another question:
Why are there no records of Ana T. Calixto?

Alas, the word literature, has for a long time, functioned according to the logic of the official story of our nation-state: Filipino is Tagalog. Thus, for example, short story is maikling kwento (which we can see is another act of making one the equivalent of the other). This has meant that writings which did not fall under the criteria set by the terms “literature”, “short story”, maikling kwento” have been, logically, categorized as non-literary (immature or impoverished are a couple of terms used). Thus national literature, for a long time, remaining trapped in the names “Tagalog” and “literature” continued to look for “literariness’ in writings written in languages other than Tagalog, and of course failed. It was, thus only recently that studies on the writings of peoples other than the Tagalogs have begun.

Our Orosipon: Taking our Proper Place

Finally then our question is an engagement with the functioning of stories as such.

And so how do stories function? Kellog and Scholes, scholars of narrative, tell us that a writing is narrative when there is a teller and a tale.

For our purposes here, we will only ask, but who is telling the tale? By asking who the teller is, we are also asking the teller’s position. Where is the teller located/positioned? What can she/he see from that specific position? The teller’s position implicates the story itself.

Our first practical and conceptual move then, is to seize the position of the teller. We, Bikolnons, will also tell the tale of the nation. We, Bikolnons, will also write about our writings and of our beings thereby taking our proper place in the nation.