by E. San Juan, Jr.  

Professorial Chairholder, Polytechnic University of the Philippines


Bulosan-Eliseo Art Silva

When America Is in the Heart (AIH) appeared in 1946, the Philippines was about to receive formal independence from the United States after four harrowing years of Japanese barbarism. Filipinos thanked the troops of General Douglas McArthur for their “Liberation.” Bulosan’s book was praised less for its avowed progressive sentiments than for its affirmation of the sacrifices made in Bataan and Corregidor, sacrifices memorialized for their promise of complete national redemption. Bulosan tried to capture the pathos of a long-expected moment of rendezvous among waylaid brothers and lost compatriots. Victory against Japan seemed to wipe out the trauma of the U.S. bloody pacification of the islands from 1899 to 1913, an experience alluded to in Bulosan’s farewell to his brother Leon, a veteran of the European carnage that occurred thousands of miles away from Binalonan, Pangasinan, where Bulosan was born on November 2,1911. 

Two years after his birth, the Filipino-American War ended on June 11, 1913 when General Pershing’s troops slaughtered ten thousand Moros in the Bud Bagsak massacre (Tan). Add this toll to about a million natives killed earlier, we arrive at the initial fruit of President McKinley’s “Benevolent Assimilation” policy justifying the new empire’s possession. Soon the newly established school system and William Howard Taft’s “Filipinization” program produced an entrenched bureaucratic caste with close ties to the feudal landlords and compradors that colluded with tne new rulers up to the Commonwealth period (1935-1946). When this oligarchy accepted the onerous conditions of independence in July 1946, Stanley Karnow wryly remarked that “they submitted voluntarily to their own exploitation,” wishing to become “a favored and exemplary party within a Pax Americana” (330).

Bulosan’s advent into the world was thus counterpointed with such paradoxes and intractable ironies. His initiation was self-contradictory, his psyche charged with bulosan-for-jacketcoveraberrant impulses and dispositions. It reflected the quandaries of the times. Jaime Veneracion remarks that “while the Americans supposedly introduced land reform, the effect was the intensification of the tenancy problem” (63). Throughout U.S. ascendancy, fierce antagonisms convulsed the pacified  countryside. One charismatic folk-hero, Felipe Salvador, was hanged for leading a massive peasant rebellion against landlords and their U.S. patrons. Between his birth and departure for the U.S. in 1930, Bulosan might have agonized over the desperate revolts of impoverished farmers in the Colorums of Luzon and elsewhere (Constantino; Sturtevant). In Part I, chapter 8, he describes the 1931 Tayug uprising which he didn’t personally witness. It was led by Pedro Calosa, a veteran of union activism in Hawaii who was jailed for instigating multiethnic strikes and summarily deported back to the colony in 1927. 

Transversal Border-Crossings

How did Filipinos suddenly appear in Hawaii? After three decades of imperial tutelage, the Philippines wastransformed into a classic dependency providing raw materials and cheap labor. From 1907 to 1926, more than 100,000 Filipinos were recruited by the Hawaiian sugar plantations. Driven by poverty,  feudal abuses, and bureaucratic repression, Filipinos plotted their journey to the metropole to pursue “the dream of success” broadcast so seductively in the mass-circulated textbooks and mass media that mesmerized Bulosan and his generation. Neither citizens nor aliens, they moved around as “wards” or “nationals.” Neither immigrants nor foreigners, they were denied citizenship, wandering from rural countryside to city ghettos and back. As Carey McWilliams observed, “they were neither fish nor fowl” (x). They explored an enigmatic terra incognita filled with perverse fantasies and tragicomic comeuppances. These derelict expatriates shared W.E. B. DuBois syndrome of “double consciousness”(11), a condition of permanent crisis born in the years of transition from feudal bondage to capitalist alienation. It was a hazardous passage that may explain the ironic turnabouts and precarious balancing acts encountered here, a plight analogous to the misfortunes of the peasantry in Europe when the enclosures of the commons engendered banditry, anarchic mayhem, reprisals, together with the fabled gallery of rogues, tricksters, vagabonds, and rambunctious fugitives.

In this zone of contingencies, Bulosan found himself struggling to survive with his cohort upon arrival in the midst of the Great Depression (1929-33). They became easy victims of labor contractors, agribusiness operatives, gamblers, racist vigilantes, and state security agents (prohibiting their marriage with whites) from Hawaii and California to Alaska. Naïve and vulnerable, they nurtured a sophisticated culture of resistance. Bulosan’s friendship with militant organizer Chris Mensalvas plunged him in the campaigns of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), such as the 1933 strike of 4,000 Filipinos in Stockton and Salinas, California (San Juan, “Filipinos”). As editor of The New Tide in 1934, Bulosan became acquainted with Richard Wright, William Saroyan, John Fante, Louis Adamic, and Sanora Babb. When he was confined at the Los Angeles General Hospital in 1936-38, it was Sanora Babb and her sister Dorothy who shrewdly apprenticed him to a writer’s vocation. They helped him discover through books “all my world of intellectual possibilities—and a grand dream of bettering society for the working man,” as he confessed (San Juan, Balikbayan 161). While convalescing, he composed fiction satirizing feudal savagery and patriarchal despotism, later gathered in The Laughter of My Father (1944, hereafter Laughter). He also wrote poems rehearsing the themes of AIH collected in Chorus for America (1942), Letter from America (1942), The Voice of Bataan (1943), and in his impassioned ode, “If You Want To Know What We Are (On Becoming 166-68). 

U.S. colonialism dissolved traditional affinities and salvaged pastoral folkways. Bulosan’s adolescent years drew energy from the survival craft of a poor peasant clan in which the fathers and uncles had to reckon with maternal wisdom and bureaucratic humbuggery. In his numerous letters, fiction and essays, Bulosan pays homage to the cunning spirit of his father trying to outwit landlords, merchant-usurers, and petty officials to eke out a bare subsistence. In reconstructing his past, Bulosan revitalized the rich insurgent culture of the dispossessed among whom he grew up. He learned the ethos of a rapidly changing society, its strategy of compromises and tactics of ambivalent temporizing. In response to the philistine putdown of his vignettes as a mode of commercializing exotic mores, Bulosan urged us to attend more to their subtle immanent critique: “My politico-economic ideas are embedded in all my writings….Laughter is not humor; it is satire; it is indictment against an economic system that stifled the growth of the primitive, making him decadent overnight without passing through the various stages of growth and decay” (Feria 273).  Other stories by Bulosan (in The Philippines Is in the Heart) exuded “hidden bitterness” couched in dark humor, his antidote to an imputed trademark optimism. They retold folktales attacking the predatory impostures of the oligarchy and the iniquitous property/power relations afflicting the majority.

One might conclude that Bulosan’s return to the homeland began with the ritual of his departure. His apprenticeship as an organic intellectual of the emergent diaspora began with the effort to understand the trials of his family to overcome feudal-colonial privations. Although Laughter and AIH demonstrated his creative potential, unlike his contemporary Jose Garcia Villa, Bulosan was never genuinely accepted by the Establishment literati. He remained suspect, a subversive pariah from the “boondocks.” His radicalization began with an act of “popular memory” triggered by the circumstances of uprooting and rabid ostracism. Even before the imperialist crisis subsided, Bulosan had already plotted his project of remapping the U.S. cultural-political landscape with his claim in an autobiographical manifesto: “I want to interpret the soul of the Filipinos in this country. What really compelled me to write was to try to understand this country, to find a place in it not only for myself but for my people” (“Autobiography” 267). 

Mapping the Terrain of Friends and Foes

Originally acclaimed as a poignant testimonial of ethnic success, AIH’s epilogue gestures toward a popular-front strategy against global fascism. Written during the war, Bulosan’s quasi-autobiography functions as a geopolitical annal of those years of struggle against white-supremacist violence. It serves as a critique of the paradigm of immigrant success still celebrated by self-serving opinion-makers. Obliquely parodying the Bildungsroman model, AIH presents a massive documentation of the various patterns of racism, exploitation, and spiritual injury suffered by Filipinos from the Depression to the end of World War II. Drifting in a limbo of indeterminacy, the untutored subaltern with libertarian affections and perceptions, Bulosan (refunctioning the author’s name to signify the novelistic persona) survived years of ignominy and unquiet desperation. On the eve of Pearl Harbor, he summed up his group’s ordeals: “Yes, I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And the crime is that I am a Filipino in America” (On Becoming 173).

Whle reading, we are confronted with scenes of abuse, insult, and ruthless murder of these “wards” rendered with naturalistic candor. Their successive dilemmas are spliced with snapshots of escape and recovery–a haunting montage mixing history, confessional diary, and quotidian reports from the frontlines. Except for Part I, the remaining three parts of this book—a polyphonic orchestration of fractals from lived experiences—chart the passage of the youthful sensibility through a landscape of cruel privations and melodramatic entanglements. Performing as both protagonist and witness of events, Bulosan’s itinerary of self-discovery begins with his victimization by corrupt contractors on his arrival in Seattle. This is followed by a series of ordeals after which he, Pollyana-like, concludes by vindicating his faith in “America”—“America” is no longer the arena of painful bloodletting but a magical space “sprung from all our hopes and aspirations.” 

Readers are stunned by the stark disjunction between the brutal reality and the compensatory frame of the interpretation. How do we reconcile this discrepancy between actuality and thought, between fact (the chaotic wasteland) and the honorific label “America” erotically identified with equality and freedom?  Is this simply a sly maneuver to syncopate deluded narrator with subversive author?  Is this Bulosan’s subterfuge of multiplying perspectives in order to demystify the neurosis of his life while investing hope and trust in a future chimerical utopia?    

One way of approaching this incommensurability, this impasse of discrepant readings, has become routine. We can reject the commonsensical thesis that this work belongs to that species of personal reminiscence designed to promote easy assimilation into the proverbial “melting pot.”  Alternatively, one can propose that AIH invents a new literary genre which operates as tne negation of the mythical quest for Americanization—the whitening of dark-skinned indigenes. One can also urge a probing of rhetorical nuances, such as the address to the “American earth” which is deliberately cast in the subjunctive mood, tied to an unfolding process whose horizon is overshadowed by the disasters of Pearl Harbor, Bataan and Corregidor; this procedure culminates in the last chapters which recapitulate the anger, moral panic, and dissidence saturating the lives of Filipinos in the “New World.”  

Hermeneutic Interlude

The mainstream approach to Bulosan’s work is charitable but disingenuous. Whatever the pressures of the Cold War and marketing imperatives, to judge Bulosan’s chronicle of the Filipino struggle to give dignity to their damaged lives as an advertisement for ethnocentric “nationalism” seems unwarranted, if not invidious. It is surely meant to erase all evidence of its profoundly radical, communalist motivation. Perhaps the formalist way to correct this mistake is to identify the trope of personification, the wish-fulfilling imaginary underlying the fictive structure. Who is “America’?  The anguished protagonist answers: Eileen Odell “was undeniably the America I had wanted to find in those frantic days of fear and flight, in those acute hours of hunger and loneliness. This America was human, good, and real.” If Eileen functions as a placeholder or synecdoche for all those who demonstrated compassion for strangers like Filipino migrant-workers, then the abstract referent “America” cannot be conflated with this specific locus signified here. Overall, the redeeming figure is a maternal character with manifold personifications (explored later), insinuated in the author’s solicitous, imploring stance. She represents the singular desire called “America” invoked by the novel’s title.

Viewed from another angle, the idiomatic tenor of the title designates an inward process of acquiring self-awareness. It may be construed as a mode of self-reflexibility, a mode of psychic parthenogenesis. Note the symbolic resonance of such descriptions as he felt “love growing inside him,” leading to ”a new heroism: a feeling of growing with a huge life.”  By metonymic semiosis, the trope of containment intimates pregnancy and deliverance, a symbiosis of outside and inside forces. Although victimized, Bulosan feels remolded into “a new man.” Of crucial importance is the equation of “heart” with “one island, the Philippines,” expanding the image. Bulosan deploys Robinson Crusoe’s individualistic predicament as antithetical comment.  Literally and figuratively, the “heart” becomes a polysemous vehicle that signifies inclusion and exclusion. It functions as a device to reconcile warring drives, tendencies, dispositions.  Its figural use serves to characterize the text as belonging to the allegorical type of fiction where time and space (“chronotope,” in Mikhail Bakhtin’s formulation) are configured in such a way as to realize the vision of an embattled community germinating within the confines of an anomic, disintegrated metropolis.

By deploying imaginative ruses, Bulosan grapples with the bifurcating trajectory of his passage through the American maelstrom. The utopian theme of imagining a community within the fold of an atomized society counterpoints the somewhat morbid realism punctuating the text. It lends plausiblity to the didactic sections where the assured authorial voice seems to compensate for the disoriented protagonist and the episodic plot. The climax of Bulosan’s scheme of educating his compatriots about the unifying thread of their fragmented lives transpires in his extolling the “simplicity of their hearts, nourished in the conviction that ‘America’ is still our unfinished dream.”  Purged of his narcissistic malaise, he confesses: “I was rediscovering myself in their lives.” He thus reject the social-Darwinist postulate of the wolf embedded in every person, replacing it with the Moses/mother motif of empathy and conviviality.  

Forking Arguments, Discordant Flows

We soon observe how the narrator’s ego merges with the spirit of an enlarged “family” whose members are bound by a transcendent purpose, a universal principle: the fight against fascist terrorism. This moment anticipates what Bulosan would later call “the revolution” where ordinary workers would “play our own role in the turbulent drama of history…the one and only common thread that bound us together, white and black and brown, in America.” In Chapter 25, we find the narrator harping on the metaphor of the old world dying while a new world is struggling to be born, intuited from the belief that “America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom….a prophecy of a new society.”  Framed by Bulosan’s cathartic discovery of his writing ability linked to his vision of “the war between labor and capital,” the  apostrophe to the multiracial army of workers as “America” is better cognized as part of Bulosan’s project of re-articulating the discourse of popular rights in a socialist direction. But the invocation of a divided “America”—a unity of opposites—presages a recursive aporia, a troubling paradox, an irksome undecidability.  Note that the theme of solidarity was broached first in Bulosan’s desire “to know [the hoboes in the freight trains] and to be a part of their life.” Eventually, the call for partisanship animates the dialectical structure of feeling, the ethico-political disposition concerning the Spanish Civil War, the key historical contradiction here that inflects the binarisms of city/countryside, metropole and colony, consciousness and the public sphere. 

So far the categorizing principle of popular-front-democracy-against-fascism occupies the foreground of Bulosan’s historiography. Here Japanese aggression evokes the earlier U.S. pacification of the islands, the primal event of conquest and deracination. The dissolution of the old order signaled by the war’s outbreak seems to resolve the tension between trivializing idealism and empirical mimesis.  It offers the opportunity for a fantasized resolution, one that will mediate between the notion of “America” as a classless society and its institutionalized racist exclusivism. A poetic mechanism of compensatory fulfillment is rendered here when the truth of colonial subjugation becomes the repressed traumatic object returning to the surface of quotidian existence. Bulosan himself points out that as exiles “socially strangled in America,” instrumentalized and commodified, Filipinos find it easier “to integrate ourselves in a universal ideal,” with organic intellectuals serving as the tribune of the “wretched of the earth” (Fanon), enslaved and disenfranchised peoples mobilizing around the planet.

We discern the crucial turn of Bulosan’s life at the exact middle of the book (Chapter 23).  Struggling to communicate to his fugitive brother, he reconstructs his past and gains release from the prison of silence to “tell the world what they’ve done to me.” The victim thus recovers poise and mutates into an agency fusing theory and practice. This discovery of the capacity for inspired speech-acts occurs after he rebels two chapters earlier: “I had struck at the white world, at last; and I felt free.” Finally, when he meets the lawyer Pascual, Bulosan assumes his role as witness/spokesperson for the grassroots movement. Now he conceives literary art as the symbolic theater of his death and rebirth, and his role within it as a transformative agent, a productive “transindividual” (Goldmann) empowering the rise of a community of equals.

Discourse of Detours and Disjunctures

What becomes symptomatic at this juncture is a shift in rhetoric and style. The memoir’s realistic stance and its affinities with picaresque naturalism (marked by the intrusions of petty crimes, rough diction, squalid surroundings) are disrupted by lyricized nostalgic recalls of an idyllic homeland. By this time, the generic norms of traditional autobiography, using the typical coding for verisimilitude and linear plotting, have already been qualified by a lively comic rhythm of reiteration and recovery. Characters appear and disappear with uncanny gusto. Incidents swerve and replicate themselves while the nuances of dialogue are reprogrammed in a carnivalesque circulation of energies. Polyphonic voices fill the void of Filipino lives until the crisis of hegemonic representation arrives, with emotion-laden scenarios displaced by reflexive meditation at the end.

In Part III, a decisive break occurs. This destroys the model of the successful immigrant and its iconic aura. On this edge of the narrative looms impending failure. Bulosan’s fantasized “conspiracy” of making “a better America” is suspended by the collapse of the body and its grim endurance.  History materializes in the return of the “child” as invalid, the agony of wandering now displaced by the stasis of physical breakdown. Epitomized here is the vitality of the comic genre—the cycle of death and rebirth in “monumental” time—which manifests itself in the body of the expatriate who “died many deaths” between exile and imagined return. Bulosan has dared to transcribe a hazardous reconnaissance of the American heartland. In the process, he celebrates several deaths, one of which is the suicide of Estevan whose story about his hometown precipitates a spiritual conversion: “I began to rediscover my native land, and the cultural  roots there that had nourished me, and I felt a great urge to identify myself with the social awakening of my people.” Recalling previous disappointments, those deaths impregnate the psyche and resurrects the repressed subliminal forces in the language of incongrous, disjunctive confrontations.

In-depth semiotic inquiry would pursue the trope of prophetic homecoming informing the structure of the dream (in Chapter 40) which functions as a synecdoche for what is repressed. Misrecognized as “the Filipino communist” strike leader, the narrator flees from the police. Falling asleep on a bus, the fugitive dreams of his return to his hometown and rejoices at seeing his mother and the whole family eating together. Jolted by “tears of remembrance” at this reunion, he asks himself how the “tragedy” of his childhood had returned in his sleep “because I had forgotten it.” What had been erased from consciousness is his youth in the occupied homeland, a section of profound ethico-political significance, foregrounding the resourcefulness, strength, courage, and intransigence of the peasantry and plebeian masses. By subtle stylistic modalities, Bulosan’s narrative heightens a recursive tempo that seeks to register the power of the peasantry’s (now migrant-workers’) collective agency

In retrospect, Bulosan’s illness—his confinement at the Los Angeles Hospital where the notion of a community larger than the male-bonding of Filipino bachelors proves regenerative—becomes not a gratuitous interruption but a pivotal event.  It halts the spatial discontinuity, the labyrinthine route of his adventure. It ushers the protagonist into a recognition of his new vocation, not so much as the fabulist of Laughter as the archivalist of popular memory. The myriad recognition scenes interspersed throughout function as the healing refrain that repudiates the vexatious fatality limiting his hopes. This potential for reconciliation informs his covenant with the “associated producers” of the ravished homeland, peasants and farmworkers as bearers of an emancipated future.

Tracking the Labor of the Negative

From a broader historical standpoint, AIH may be appraised as the first example of a new genre in the archive, a popular-front allegory attuned to the frightful lanscape of the Depression and total World War (Denning). This form articulates the problems of class, race, nation, and gender in an elaborate, overdetermined configuration painstakingly unravelled in a sequence of surprising but familiar incidents. But what I think constitutes AIH’s originality is its rendering of what Julia Kristeva calls “woman’s time.” This is the subtext or “political unconscious” (Jameson) constituting the unorthodox singularity of this memoir.  Comedy and the symbolic dynamics of the unconscious interact with the realist code of story-telling to generate this new artifice. 

Examining the ambiguous role of women in Bulosan’s “pilgrimage” in inhospitable territory, we discover representatives of its Otherness, its antithetical mirror-image. One recalls how Bulosan praised the exuberant resourcefulness of his mother, that “dynamic little peasant woman”: “[T]o know my mother’s name was to know the password into the secrets of the soul, into childhood and pleasant memories,…a guiding star, a talisman, a charm that lights us to manhood and decency” (America 123). Her genial figure is sublimated in the feisty samaritanic women interrogating patriarchal authority. She is reincarnated in his loyal female companions— emblems of the hidden “Other,” the oppositional mask of an indifferent if not hostile America.  Can we consider AIH a protofeminist text interweaving the nomadic and sedentary lines of action, of flight and confrontation?

By now we are inclined to consider AIH a complex ideological construct meant to resolve real-life contradictions by imaginary fiat, even by a counterfeit resolution, To challenge this, we can deploy an interpretive scheme revolving around women’s time, zeroing in on the image of the mother and other signifiers of need and desire. This move would structure the reader’s horizon of expectation since what, in truth, this  schizoid recollection wants to forget but somehow cannot, is a lacuna whose lingering traces serve as the stigmata of Filipino insurrectos: the genocidal U.S. conquest, with over a million natives killed and a whole civilization ruined. The aftermath preserved feudal-landlord power which suppressed the Colorum and Sakdal uprisings and drove Bulosan and his generation into permanent exile (Francisco; Guerrero; Taruc). In effect, what Bulosan attempts to salvage are the damaged lives of working men and women whose commodified identities have been calculated and dispersed into the predatory flux of “America” where Filipino bachelors found themselves symbolically, if not literally, castrated—a lifeworld libidinally subsumed in the cutthroat laissez-faire market and the mystique of commodity-fetishism now trenchantly sanctified in the dogmas of neoliberal globalization.

Architectonics of Belonging

World War II was almost over when Bulosan’s memoir was completed. McArthur’s shibboleth, “I Shall Return,” had fired up Filipino hopes, motivating Bulosan’s inventory and assessment of the total experience of his generation. In this context, the intent of AIH can be construed as the reinscription of the inaugural moment of loss (U.S. colonization refracted by the Japanese occupation) in the dominant culture by a text that violates conventional expectations. Counterhegemonic reminiscence foregrounds the earth, the tillers’ cooperative sharing, and maternal desire as the ground of meaning and identity. We witness in the end the festive, self-conscious urgent tone of the narrator as he attempts a final reconciliation of the warring forces in his life. His striving for coherence and intelligibility is simultaneously an endeavor to universalize the import and significance of his experience. The final episodes intimate “a return to the source” (Cabral), the time of expropriation and uprooting, inducing a need to retrieve a submerged tradition of indigenous resistance based on principles of solidarity, the concrete universal of this artistic performance. 

Whatever the inherited prejudices of readers, Bulosan seeks to provoke with an inquiry about one’s role in the ongoing drama of social transformation: “Our world was this one, but a new one was being born. We belonged to the old world of confusion; but in this other world—new, bright, promising—we would be unable to meet its demands” (America 324). He calls for the renewal of the social energies that lie dormant in the interstices of the text, partcularly the oppositional and the utopian impulses stifled by acquisitive individualism. For this purpose, we need  a pedagogical method to transcode the unity of opposites here into humankind’s agon of exposing duplicities, reaffirming the value of scientific inquiry, and discriminating what is reactionary and what is progressive, in the heterogeneous micropolitics of daily life.  

Mindful of the uncouth realism mediating existential reality, we can appreciate AIH’s modernist temper in privileging autonomy, imaginative transcendence, and secular humanism. Has the postmodernist taste for pastiche and cynical deconstructivism rendered this book inutile? Conceived as an agent-provocateur, AIH allegorizes the radical transformation of the old system of colonial bondage and culture of silence into one of egalitarian freedom by way of a critical appropriation of diverse embodied ideas entangled in historic contingencies. This process of decolonization enacted by the witness/testifier of AIH is ultimately geared to fashioning a responsible transindividual subject, not a hustling entrepreneur—a task accomplished via reciprocal transactions, ecumenical dialogue, and mutual exchanges among the participants (San Juan, Carlos Bulosan). 

At this point I would argue that the evolution of Bulosan’s sensibility transcended the imperatives of nativism, the nostalgic cult of a mythical past, or a yearning for a tolerant cosmopolis. No doubt Bulosan’s “conscientization” (Freire) transgressed nation-state boundaries and upheld proletarian internationalism, as evidenced in poems expressing his commitment to the radical ideals of the Spanish Republic. Bulosan’s engagement with the contentious popular-front strategy afforded him a philosophical worldview which gave direction to his group’s nomadic existence. When the Pacific War broke out,  Bulosan rediscovered the beleaguered islands as the fountainhead of his prophetic, truth-telling advocacy. This served as the germinal site for the paradigm of “national liberation” in AIH, as well as in The Cry and the Dedication (hereafter The Cry), a novel inspired by Bulosan’s friendship with the left-wing activist Amado V. Hernandez, with whom he collaborated in publicizing Luis Taruc’s autobiography, Born of the People.

Vectors of  Intervention

At the start of the Cold War, Bulosan was already a blacklisted writer. The recent discovery of his FBI files seems anticlimactic if not a fortuitous expose of “dirty linen” (Alquizola and Hirabayashi). Bulosan’s intimacy with the astute Babb sisters active in the Hollywood milieu of fellow-travelling intellectuals, was public knowledge. As a journalist with the International Longshoreman’s and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU), Local 37, Bulosan was regarded as a dangerous subversive, threatened with deportation. But how could the government deport a writer commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt to celebrate one of the “four freedoms” with an art-work exhibited at the Federal Building in San Francisco in 1943?

By the end of the McCarthy witch-hunt in 1954, Bulosan enjoyed a modest if surreptitious prestige. The best-selling Laughter had been translated into over a dozen languages, while AIH had been favorably reviewed and the author cited in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography, etc. Meanwhile, he was drafting The Cry, his saga of Huk guerrillas reconstructing their nation’s history as they sought to establish linkage with U.S.-based sympathizers (on the Huk uprising, see San Juan, “American Witness”; Taruc).  Allegorizing the improvised self-fashioning of the Filipino subject, The Cry may be read as a performative argument seeking to concretize the right of self-determination. What impelled him to write? “The answer is—my grand dream of equality among men and freedom for all…. Above all and ultimately, to translate the desires and aspirations of the whole Filipino people in the Philippines and abroad in terms relevant to contemporary history. Yes, I have taken unto myself this sole responsibility” (On Becoming 216). Bulosan died on September 11, 1956, three years after the Korean War ended, within earshot of the portentous rumblings from IndoChina.

In retrospect, the tensions of the Cold War offered an occasion for Bulosan to analyze and redefine the self-contradictory predicament that bedevilled the lives of his contemporaries. In grappling with life-and-death contingencies, he reinvented the intertextual conjuncture of class, gender, race, and ethnicity that articulated the epochal conflict between capitalism and the various socialist experiments since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. A decade after Bulosan’s death, Filipino farm-workers led by his younger comrades began the 1965 strike that led to the founding of the United Farmworkers of America, the fruit of pioneering efforts of the CIO, ILWU, and civic organizations whose leaders were hounded by the FBI and its ideological apparatus. It vindicated the aspiration of these disinherited Asians/Pacific Islanders for justice and respect. Filipinos joined coalitions with African Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans and others in the instructive Civil Rights rebellions, all drawing their energies from a centuries-old memory of resistance—an epic of heroic “soul-making.” Its genealogy was already prefigured in Bulosan’s reflexive aide-memoire, “How My Stories Were Written,” in which an old village story-teller in his hometown is finally revealed as his ancestral progenitor, the fountainhead of all the “wisdom of the heart” (San Juan, Imagination 138-43),

Amid the disruptive controversy over immigration today, over three million Filipinos in the U.S., not counting those “undocumented,” are preponderant stakeholders in the tortuous re-shaping of civil society.  Bulosan endeavored to substantiate their  presence in this chronicle of the subaltern’s quest for recognition and equality. Befor he died, Bulosan reaffirmed his conviction in the virtue of collective praxis as emblematic of humanity’s vast potential in making history: “Writing was not sufficient…I drew inspiration from my active participation in the workers’ movement. The most decisive move that the writer could make was to take his stand with the workers” (“Writer” 31). As long as the Philippines remains a neocolonial backwater, and the Filipino diaspora languishes in obsessive consumerism, Bulosan’s works will remain serviceable as speculative tools for diagnosing its “Unhappy Consciousness” (Hegel) and its ethos of ressentiment, compromise, and disobedience. What Mark Twain called “the Philippine temptation” (32) when the U.S. suppressed its armed inhabitants—the scandalous spectacle of the American republic subjugating millions who refused to be enslaved—yielded a joyful ambidextrous response, to which Bulosan’s life-work bears witness. This arena of struggle over the aesthetic worth and moral gravity of his achievement may prove decisive in extrapolating the vicissitudes and prospects of popular-democratic changes everywhere in this new millennium.—##


Alquizola, Marilyn and Lane Hirabayashi. “Carlos Bulosan’s Final Defiant Acts: Achievements During the McCarthy Era.”  Amerasia Journal 38.3 (2012): 29-50.

Babb, Sanora.  Sanora Babb Peprs in the Manuscript Collection, Harry Ransom Center. Carlos Bulosan File. University of Texas, Austin, Texas. Circa 1928-2005. 

Bakhtin, Mikhail.  The Dialogic Imagination.  Austin: University of Texas P, 1981.

Bulosan, Carlos.  America Is in the Heart. Seattle and London: Washington UP, 1973.

——.  “Autobiography.”  Poetry 47 (February 1936): 267.

——.  On Becoming Filipino, ed. E. San Juan, Jr.  Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1995.

Cabral, Amilcar.  Return to the Source.  New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.

Constantino, Renato.  The Philippines: A Past Revisited.  Quezon City: Tala Publishing Services, 1975.

Denning, Michael.  The Cultural Front.  London: Verso, 1997.

Du Bois, W.E.B.  The Souls of Black Folk.  New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.

Fanon, Frantz.  The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1968.

Feria, Dolores, ed.  “The Sound of Falling Light: Letters in Exile.” The Diliman Review, viii, 1-3 (Jan-Sept. 1960): 185-278.

Francisco, Luzviminda. “The Philippine-American War.” The Philippines Reader, ed. Daniel B. Schirmer and Stephen Shalom. Boston: South End Press, pp. 8-19.

Freire, Paulo. Education for Critical Consciousness.  New York: The Seabury Press, 1973.

Goldmann, Lucien.  Essays on Method in the Sociology of Literature. St Louis, MO: Telos Press, 1980.

Guerrero, Milagros.  “The Colorum Uprisings.” Asian Studies 5 (April 1967): 65-78.

Hegel, G. W. F.   Phenomenology of Spirit. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Jameson, Fredric.  The Political Unconscious.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1981.

Karnow, Stanley.  In Our Image.  New York: Random House, 1989.

Kristeva, Julia.  The Kristeva Reader.  New York: Columbia UP, 1986.  

McWilliams, Carey.  “Introduction” to America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan.  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973, pp. vii-xxiv.

San Juan, E.  Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle. Quezon City:  UP Press, 1972.

—-.  “Filipinos.” In Encyclopedia of the American Left, ed. Mari John Buhle, Paul Buhle and Dan Georgakas.  New York: Oxford UP, pp. 224-226.

—-.  Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader. Quezon City: Ateneo UP, 2008.

—.  “An American Witness to the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines.” Amerasia Journal 40:3 (2014): 55-80.

—.  Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the United States.  New York: Peter Lang, 2017.

Sturtevant, David.  Popular Uprisings in the Philippines, 1840-1940.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1976.

Tan, Samuel K.  The Filipino-American War, 1899-1913.  Quezon City: UP  Press, 2002.

Taruc, Luis.  Born of the People.  New York: International Publishers, 1953.

Twain, Mark. Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire, ed. Jim Zwick.  Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP,  1992.

Veneracion, Jaime.  Agos ng Dugong Kayumanggi.  Quezon City: Education Forum, 1987.



Anim na Tula sa Filipino ni E. San Juan, Jr.


Proseso sa Pagbabalangkas ng isang Likhang-Sining.

Ni E. San Juan, Jr.











      NGATAIN              NGINATA


LULUNIN                NILULON


                ISUKA.             ISINUKA

<buto’t tinik salitang natira>





Hindi laging nahihimbing

ang mga bituin sa langit

Hindi laging nakatigil sila

habang bumabangon sa dilim

Panagimpang gumigising

silahis ng pag-asa 

sa bawat dibdib




Sikaping ipakahulugan ang nasaksihang lihim

Saan?  kailan?

  Nangyaring di-sinasadya

Nasira’t nawasak sa katahimikan ng gabi

Dito: bato sa lansangan

Baka-sakaling idinala sa ibang lugar, ginamit

Sa ibang paraan, inilipat sa biro ng tadhana

Nasaksihan sa di-sinasadyang pagkakataon

Doon: kapalaran ng bantay-tumana

Binuhat sa ibabaw, ibinagsak sa daan

Nangyaring aksidente baka-sakaling sinadya

Mahulog man  walang palugit sa taning

Ngayon: kapalaran ng hampas-lupa

Nabalaho’t napariwara sa nabakling ruta

Biyak ng buwang bahag-buntot ang giya

Natuklasan ang lihim sa nilambungang hagdan

Alsa-balutan: kwalta na’y naging bato pa

Kapus-palad, bilasa, nagluksang likaw ng bituka

Puyo sa talampakan ng talu-sirang naligaw

Akalang may patutunguhan habang tumatawid

Itaga sa bato ang bulahaw ng madaling-araw




Kailan?  Saan?   Sa ‘sang kisap-mata, pinagtakluban

Gaano man sikaping di gumalaw

   bumabalik ang hanggahang abot-tanaw

sa pagitan ng langit at lupa

Saanmang lugar kailan man


sa pagitan ng ilalim at ibabaw

Pinira-piraso ang tapayan

pinagtabi-tabi ang mga bahagi upang mabuo
muli ang dating anyo

Umapaw sa labi ng balintataw

kumindat sa dilim  abot-tanaw

Kailan man at saan man tayo makikipagtagpo

tinakluban sa ‘sang kisap-mata

humantong man sa gilid

Bumabalik pa rin


hanggang sa puno’t dulo ng hanggahan



Nagalit si Malunkya Putta sa di-pagtugon ni Buda 

sa sandamak na mga tanong 

tungkol sa usaping metapisikal—

Halimbawa: Wala bang katapusan ang mundo? 

Pagkalagot ng hininga, may libog pa ba ang kaluluwa? 

Sinagot siya ni Siddhartha na tinaguriang Buda: 

“Walang saysay ang mga usisa mo. 

Hindi ba ibinuhos ko na ang panahon at lakas sa pagpapalliwanag 

kung bakit tayo nagdurusa?

Itinuro ko paano natin mababawasan ang kahirapan. 

Di ba itinuro ko kung paano malulunasan ang ugaling 

nagbubunga ng sakit at pighati?

Bakit ka nahuhumaling sa mga kaabalahang walang saysay—

kababalaghang walang anghang?

Sige, Malunkya Putta, hale ka na’t dalhan mo ako 

ng isang dakot ng buto ng mustasa….

Manlimos ka sa mga tahanang walang namatayan.

Hayo ka na’t baka abutin ka nang gabing magayuma ang dilim 

at tuloy maligaw ka sa daan.”





Nang ika-10 gulang, nagnais akong matuto’t maging marunong

Nang ika-15 gulang, nabatid kong tama ang gurong Mang Andoy

Nang ika-21 gulang, natiyak ko na ang daan

Nang ika-30 gulang, nasulyapan ko na ang guhit-tagpuang abot-tanaw

Nang ika-36 gulang, nabilibid ako sa kasong pakikiapid (natiklo, ay malas!)

Nang ika-40 gulang, nagpasiya akong pwede nang makipag-sapalarang mag-isa

Nang ika-50 gulang, bayad na ako sa mga utang at butaw

Handa na akong umakyat sa bundok—

Napaglirip sa panahon ng paglalakbay hanggang dito, palipat-lipat ang diwa
Sa pagitan ng ibong makulay ang bagwis 

nakatuon sa panaginip at pantasiya

At isdang nagtatampisaw sa putik, matimtimang dumaranas 

ng udyok at simbuyo ng damdamin….

Hinahangad ko mula ngayon, sa kabila ng gulo’t panganib ng kapaligiran,. 

Sundin ang dragon ng isip, matimyas na pagnanais makahulagpos

Upang sa gayon makaigpaw sa bangin at makatawid

               sa talampas at matarik na dalisdis ng bundok

Yapos ang ibong pumailanlang at isdang sumisid 

                sa pusod ng kaluluwa—

Makaabot pa kaya ang diwa sa kasukdulang biyaya ni Maria Makiling

                      nabighani sa salimbayan

                                             ng mga kalapating dumaragit?. Picasso-Les Demoiselles d'Avignon






Proyekto tungo sa Paglunsad ng Rebolusyong Pangkultura

ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr., Chairholder, Polytechnic University of the Philippines


Sa bisa ng likas na kalakaran ng mga bagay, nasa sambayanan mismo ang lahat ng kapangyarihang nakasasaklaw rito….Kung nasa pagtutugma ng katwiran at karanasan ang katotohanan, nasa pagtutugma ng teorya at praktika ang birtud.


It is no longer a matter of bringing death into play in the field of sovereignty, but of distributing the living in the domain of value and utility.  


The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.


Nasaan na tayo? Galing saan at patungo saan? Umabot na tayo sa malubhang krisis ng planeta: pagharap ni Trump sa globalisadong krisis ng finance capitalism na pinalala ng giyera laban sa terorismo, at sa ating bakuran ang pag-lunsad ng giyera laban sa droga ni Presidente Duterte na umani ng mahigit 6,000 biktima. Bakit pinayagan ito?

Matindi’t umiigting ang mga kontradiksiyon sa buong mundo.  At tumitining o umiigting ito sa neokolonyang bayan natin, na hanggang ngayon ay sakmal ng Estados Unidos at nakayukod sa kapangyarihan ng mga korporasyon at dayuhang kapital. Sa mga bansa sa Asya, kaipala’y tayo ay huli sa lahat, kumpara sa Indonesya’t Thailand o Vietnam.

  Mahigit 103 milyong Filipino na tayo, pero mahigit kalahati ay pulubi’t nagdaralita, “below the poverty threshold.” Hindi na kailangang lagumin ang datos na mababasa sa IBON Webpage. Bakit nakasadlak pa rin ang buong sambayanan sa kahirapan, sa pagsasamantala ng dayuhang kapital, sa korapsyon at kawalang-katarungan, pagkaraan ng Pebrero 1986?

Mahigit 12 angaw na ang OFWs sa iba’t ibang sulok ng daigdig, mga 3 libo ang nag-aabrod. Hindi pa naranasan ito hanggang ngayon. Di na ba nakasisindak? Haemorrhage ng body politic, anong triage ang makaliligtas?

Inihudyat ng bagong administrasyon ang islogan ng pagbabago. Manhid na ang marami sa ganitong pangako. Tuwing eleksiyon, ito ang mantra. Anong uri ng pagbabago? Pagpapalit ng personnel lamang? Paano ang mga patakaran, gawi ng pamamahala, layun ng mga palisi? Meron bang pangkalahatang bisyon o pangitain ng alternatibong kinabukasan?

Merong kaibahan. Kahanga-hanga ang pagtuligsa ni Presidente sa imperyalismong Amerikano. Siya lamang presidente, mula pa kina Roxas at Quirino, ang nakapagbitiw ng matinik na puna sa patuloy na dominasyon ng U.S. sa atin, laluna sa foreign policy at militar. Ngunit hanggang ngayon, puro salita. Nariyan pa rin ang JUSMAG, ang VFA at EDCA. Nariyan pa rin ang mga US Special Forces, at ang marahas na Oplan Bayanihan, ngayon binansagang Oplan Kapayapaan, tila parikalang biro. At kamakailan, nagbalita na malaking konstruksiyon ang ibubunsod ng Amerika sa mga base militar upang gamitin ng kanilang mga tropa. Para saan ito kundi counterinsurgency war, pasipikasyon ng masang tumututol at naghihimagsik laban sa korapsyon, dahas ng panginoong maylupa, komprador at burokrata-kapitalistang lumulustay ng kayamanan ng bansa?

Nagdiriwang ang iba sa diplomasya, hindi sa giyera. Katatapos lamang ng pangatlong sesyon ng “peace talks” sa Roma sa pagitan ng NDF at gobyerno. Mapupuri ang Presidente sa pagpapatuloy ng negosasyon na itinigil ng mga nakaraang rehimen. Maselan at masalimuot itong usapan, ngunit patuloy ang lumalalim na paghahati ng lipunan sa minoryang mayaman at nakararaming nagdaralita. Walang tigil ang karahasan ng sistemang ipinamana ng kolonyalismong Espanyol at Amerikano.

Bumabagsik ang class war, ang tunggalian ng mga uri at hidwaang sektor sa lipunan. Nahinto pansumandali ang sagupaan ng MILF at GRP, ngunit patuloy ang sindak sa Abu Sayyaf at iba pang elementong suportado ng ISIS o Al Qaeda. Nariyan pa rin ang mga sindikato ng droga sa loob mismo ng Estado. Nariyan pa rin ang JUSMAG, ahente ng CIA/FBI sa loob ng kampo ng AFP/PNP. Tahasang neokolonya pa rin tayo, kahit may nominal na independence, depende sa tulong na militar mula sa US.

Sa pangkalahatan, masidhi ang mga kontradiksiyong fundamental at istraktural, na nagbuhat pa sa karanasang hindi na magunita ng mga henerasyong millenials ngayon–hindi ko tinutukoy ang diktaduryang Marcos/martial law, kundi ang pagkawasak sa rebolusyonaryong republika natin sa Filipino-American War, 1899 hanggang 1913. Wala ito sa kolektibong memorya ng bayan. Nang ipaalala ni Pres. Duterte ang “howling wilderness” ni Gen. Jacob Smith bilang ganti sa Balangiga masaker, nagulat ang karamihan sa atin sapagkat wala tayong kamulatan tungkol sa ating kasaysayan, mahina o malabo ang ating memoryang publiko. Pagwariin natin ang pagkagumon ng madla sa konsumerismo sa mall, sa gayuma ng midya spectacle at comodifikasyon ng bawat salik ng pagkatao natin, hindi lang katawan kundi pati kaluluwa, panaginip, atbp. Tumagos sa ating loob ang modernismong kaakibat ng industriyalisadong sistema ng pamumuhay at teknolohiya kahit piyudal at kalakalan lamang ang ekonomiya natin. Bakit nagkaganito?

Maganda ang tema ng inyong 5th Anibersaryo, ng SIKLAB:”to showcase the power of culture and the arts as tools for social change.”  Klasikong paksa ito na angkop sa ating sitwasyon bilang isang bansang naghahangad pa ng kasarinlan, tunay na kalayaan, pagkakapantay-pantay, demokrasyang pambansa. Dapat ngang maging instrumento sa pagbabago ang sining at kultura. Ngunit kadalasan, hindi. Naudlot ang pag-ahon sa kolonisadong kabuhayan nang lusubin at sakupin tayo ng Estados Unidos, at hanggang ngayon, hindi pa makahulagpos sa neokolonyang kagipitan, naghahangad pa tayo ng dignidad bilang bansang nagsasarili, malayang nakapagpapasiya sa pagbuo ng makataong lipunan at masaganang kinabukasan. Nagsisikap ngunit laging bigo. Sintomas ba ng malubhang sakit ng psyche?

Sa palagay ko, hindi lamang sikolohikal ito sa isang aspeto kundi, kung tutuusin, talagang mabigat na problemang panlipunan at pangkasaysayan. Nararapat ang kongkretong (multi-dimensiyonal) analisis ng kongkretong kondisyon sa perspektibong historikal-diyalektikal.

Pagbabagong panlipunan: ito ang mithiin natin. Anong klaseng pagbaba­­­­­go, paano at tungo saan? Dapat natin linawin ito upang magkasundo kung paano matatamo ang pagbabagong ninanais ng buong sambayanan. Inaadhikang umunlad mula sa tradisyonal na antas ng ekonomiya tungo sa isang modernong kaayusan, ngunit ang balangkas na sinusunod natin ay hango, gagad o ipinataw ng IMF-World Bank at mga teknokratikong tagapayo mula sa Estados Unidos at Europa.

Itampok natin ang alternatibong pananaw. Nais kong ihapag sa inyong dalumat ang ilang mungkahi, ilang proposisyon na marahil kontrobersyal sa marami, kaya iniklian ko ang panayam na ito upang dulutan ng malaking espasyo/panahon ang pagpapalitang-kuro at tanungan sa nalalabing panahon. Hindi upang maging moderno, kundi upang lumikha ng ating sariling landas sa pakikitungo sa kapwa sa gitna ng malalang krisis.

Totoong masaklaw at malalim ang lakas ng sining at kultura sa anumang binabalak na transpormasyon ng lipunan. Balik-tanawin na lamang ang mga makabagong pintor at iskultor ng Renaissance, at mga pilosopo’t manunulat noong Enlightenment/Kaliwanagan ng siglo 18 sa Europa, na nagbunga ng Rebolusyong Pranses, sumunod ang tagumpay ng burgesiya at liberalismo sa buong Kanluran, at ang hantungan nito sa 1848 Communist Manifesto nina Marx & Engels. Hindi payapang ebolusyon ang masasaksihan, kundi mga pagluksong marahas, nakamamanghang pagpalit ng sitwasyon ng buong lipunan, pagsira na luma’t pagyari ng bago.

Sa balik-tanaw sa kasaysayan, dagling mapapansin na ang kultura, ang nalikha ng mga alagad ng sining, ay bunga ng mga puwersang nagtatagisan sa larangan ng ekonomya at pulitika. Ibig sabihin, ang mga pangyayaring kultural ay resulta ng mga banggaan at salpukan ng mga puwersang materyal sa araw-araw na buhay, repleksiyon ng mga pangyayari sa kabuhayan at reaksyong kasangkot sa pagtulak o pagsagka’t paghadlang sa daloy ng mga pangyayari. Nababago ang kaisipan dahil sa prosesong iyon, at sa bisa ng bagong kaisipan, napapabilis ang takbo ng mga pangyayari. Sina Dante,Shakespeare, Rousseau, Voltaire, Goethe, atbp. ay gumanap ng kanilang mga papel sa bisa ng mga institusyong kinasangkutan nila, institusyong politikal at pangkabuhayan. Sa kabilang banda, tumulong sila upang mapasigla ang tendensiyang progresibo at mapukaw ang madla sa pagbabagong tutugon sa kanilang pangangailangan na hindi na binibigyan-kasiyahan ng lumang orden. Mula sa ritwal ng lumang orden sumupling ang karnabal at pista ng taumbayang mapanlikha’t masuyo sa inilaang biyaya ng kalikasan. Diyalektikal ang proseso ng pagbabagong luwal ng daloy ng mga kontradiksiyon sa mundo.

Bago natin makaligtaan, sa taong ito ipinagdiriwang ang ika-100 anibersaryo ng Bolshevik Rebolusyon na pinamunuan nina Lenin at mga kapanalig sa Rusya. Ito’y tuwirang naging masiglang inspirasyon sa sumunod na rebolusyon sa mga kolonya–sa Tsina, Biyetnam,Cuba, Algeria, Korea, atbp. Nasagap at tumagos sa diwa ng sambayanan ang alingawngaw ng pagbabagong ito sa atin sa pagtatag ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas noong 1938. Bagamat naibalik ang kapitalismo sa Rusya at Tsina noong nakaraang siglo, hindi ganap na mabubura ang naikintal sa kamalayan ng anak-pawis ng buong mundo ang ulirang pakikipagsaparalan ng proletaryado sa Rusya at Tsina, na hanggang ngayon ay naisasapraktika sa rebelyon ng mga inalipin at dinuhagi sa iba’t-ibang lugar, halimbawa, sa NIcaragua,Venezuela, Palestina, Nepal, Korea, at sa ating bayan.

Sa gitna ng ganitong mga transisyon, hindi lahat pasulong kundi liku-liko’t masalimuot, maitanong natin: Ano ang tungkulin ng mga nag-aaral tulad ninyo, o ng mga intelektuwal (na kabilang sa uring petiburgesya) upang maging kapaki-pakinabang sa transpormasyon ng bansa mula sa neokolonyalismong kapitalismo tungo sa isang demokratiko’t nagsasariling lipunan? Anong klase ng partisipasyon sa pagbabagong pambansa ang mapipili o mararanasan ng intelihensiyang tulad natin? Sa malas, nariyan ang huwaran nina Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Crisanto Evangelista, Amado V. Hernandez, Angel Baking, Emmanuel Lacaba, Maria Lorena Barros, at marami pang bayani ng katubusan.

Ang katungkulan ng intelektuwal sa midya’t kultura, sa pakiwari ko, ay magsilbing organikong tagapamagitan sa mga uring bumubuo ng mayorya: manggagawa, pesante o magbubukid, kababaihan, propesyonal o negosyante, etnikong katutubo’t iba pang sektor na inaapi. Ang grupong ito ay magsisikap bumuo ng isang progresibong bloc o nagkakaisang-hanay upang itaguyod ang programang mapagpalaya. Maaring magkaroon ng maraming partido o organisasyong magtataguyod ng programang napagkasunduan. Ang proyektong babalikatin ng magkasanib na mga partido/kalipunan ay makapagpalaganap ng isang hegemonya o gahum ng masang produktibo, ang pangingibaw ng lideratong moral-intelektuwal ng produktibong lakas, ng sambayanang lumilikha, sa pambansang kilusan.

Ang unang salik sa programang ito ay paglikha ng ahensiya o agency/subjectivity ng rebolusyonaryong puwersa ng masa. Sa palagay ko, ang pasimunong aralin sa pedagohiyang pagsisikap ay pagmulat sa bawat indibiduwal ng isang kamalayang historikal, isang dalumat pangkasaysayan. Sapagkat lubog tayo sa kulturang neokolonyal, kinalupulan ng gawi’t saloobing piyudal at mapagsunurin, walang inisyatiba o awtonomiya ang normalisadong mamamayan (nakakulong sa kwadra ng ordeng namamayani) , kaya dapat pagsabayin ang isang pagbabagong kultural–isang rebolusyong kultural na paglalangkapin ang mga natamo sa burgesiyang kultura (siyensiya, sekularisasyon)–at ang radikalisadong pangitain na siyang tutugon sa malaking problema ng alyenasyon, reipikasyon, at komodipikasyong lohikang likas sa nabuwag na kapitalismong sistema. Ito ang tinaguriang permanente o walang-patid na rebolusyon.

Walang pasubali, unang imperatibo ang pawiin ang batayan ng komodipikasyon: ang pribadong pag-aari ng gamit sa produksiyon at pagbibili ng lakas-paggawa ng bawat tao. Mawawala na ang pagbebenta ng sarili upang mabuhay. Samakatwid, pagpawi sa eksplotasyon o pagsasamantala. Sa wakas, sa pagpanaw ng paghahari ng komoditi, halagang nakasalig sa palengke o pamilihan, na siyang nagdidikta kung ano ang pamantayan ng halaga. Pagpawi sa salapi, exchange-value, pagsukat ng halaga batay sa tubo/profit. Pagpawi sa tubo o surplus-value.  Ang ideolohiyang liberalismo, na nakaangkla sa inbiduwalistikong pananaw, ay mawawala kapag napalitan ang pagkilates sa halaga ng isang bagay batay sa kung ito’y mabibili sa pamilihan at makapagtutubo. Sa halip, iiral ang malayang pag-unlad ng bawat indibidwal na nakasalig sa malayang pagsulong ng lahat.

Marahil utopiko o pangarap lamang ito? Subukin natin. Bago matamo ang antas na ito, ang proseso ng himagsikan–ang malawakang mobilisasyong rumaragasa–ang siyang magbubunsod ng mga pagkakataong makagigising sa budhi’t kamalayan ng bawat tao sa neokolonyang lipunan.  Ano ang hinahanap nating kahihinatnan sa mga pagkikipagsapalaran ng bawat tao sa proseso ng pagbabago?

Nais kong ilatag ang isang ideya ni Antonio Gramsci, fundador ng Partido Komunsta ng Italya. Karaniwan, kung tatalakayin ang paksa ng kultura, o kung sino ang taong sibilisado, taglay ang dunong at kaalamang naisilid sa memorya, paniwala tayo na “highly cultured” na iyon. Paniwala na ang kultura ay katumbas ng pagsasaulo ng encyclopedia, at ang edukasyon ay walang iba kundi pagsilid ng sambakol na datos at impormasyon sa utak. Kantidad, hindi diskriminasyon sa kalidad, ang mahalaga’t magagamit sa paghahanap-buhay. Mabibilang ba ang kaalamang nakuha at mapapagtubuan–iyan ang mentalidad ng madla na kailangang baguhin na namana sa ekonomiya ng komodipikasyon.

Kasalungat nito ang pakahulugan ng kultura kay Gramsci, kung ano ang katuturan at kahihinatnan nito.  Pahayag ni Gramsci: “Culture…is an organization, discipline of one’s inner self, a coming to terms with one’s own personality. It is the attainment of a higher awareness, with the aid of which one succeeds in understanding one’s own historical value, one’s own function in life, one’s own rights and obligations.” 

Salin ko: “Ang kultura ay isang organisasyon/pagsasaayos, disiplina ng kalooban, isang pagtataya sa iyong pagkatao. Iyan ay pagkamit ng mas matingkad na kamalayan, at sa tulong nito matatarok natin ang halaga natin sa kasaysayan, ang ating papel na ginagampanan, ang ating karapatan at pananagutan.” 

Nais kong igiit dito na ang buod ng sarili ay walang iba kundi ang ugnayan nito sa kapwa. Walang pagkatao ang isang inbidwal kapag hiwalay sa lipunang kinabibilangan niya. Samakatwid, ang kultura ay galing at kakayahang pagpasiyahan ang paghubog ng ating kapalaran sa buhay, ang pagkaunawa sa halagang pangkasaysayan ng ating natatangi o namumukod na partikular na pag-iral sa mundo sa isang tiyak na lugar at panahon. 

Kung pagninilayin ang naisaad kong imperatibo, ang pagkamit ng dalumat o kamalayang pangkasaysayan–“historical awareness”–hugot sa ating karanasan, edukasyon, pakikisalamuha, ay mahigpit na kaagapay ng pakikilahok sa proseso ng pagbabago. Sa larangan ng sining at midya, ito’y rebolusyong kultural. Ito’y pakikisangkot sa pakikibakang etikal at politikal upang mapamahalaan ang pag-unlad ng kalagayan ng nakararami–mga pesante, manggagawa, kababaihan, Lumad, atbp.–ang produktibong pwersa ng bayan. Mungkahi ni Walter Benjamin: “Sunggaban, pangasiwaan ang mga kagamitan sa produksyon upang makasangkapan sa kapakanan at kapakinabangan ng lahat.”

Sa digmaang kontra-imperyalismo, ang mapagpalayang pananaw ng yumayari’t lumilikhang masa ang siyang sandatang kakasangkapanin upang maigupo ang indibidwalistikong punto-de-bista ng kapitalistang ideolohiya’t ugali. Ang pagbabago ng pagkatao ay hindi bukod, manapay matalik na katambal ng paglahok sa malalim at malawak na transpormasyon ng mga institusyong istraktural ng isang kaayusan sa isang tiyak na yugto ng kasaysayan. Ang teorya at praktika ay kasal sa napagkasunduang proyekto ng sambayanang umaalsa.

Ang tinutukoy rito ay ang neokolonyal na ayos o balangkas ng ating kasalukuyang lipunan, na lubog at lunod sa neoliberal na programa ng kapitalismong global. Paano tayo makauusad mula sa pagkalugmok sa barbarismong laganap ngayon sa krisis ng Estados Unidos at lahat ng ekonomyang nakapako sa tubo, komodipikasyon ng buhay, paghahari ng salapi at akumulasyon ng kapital? Paano tayo kakalas sa pagkabilanggo rito?

Ito nga ang hamon sa ating kolektibong lakas. Tungkulin at responsibilidad ng mga intelektwal tulad ninyo, tulad nating lahat, ang magpunla ng binhi ng kamalayang historikal, ang kaisipang malingap at mapanuri, at linangin ito sa paraang magiging mabisa ang mga ideya ng katarungan at kasarinlan sa bawat kilos at gawa. Kung paano ito maisasagawa, ay depende sa partikular na sirkonstansya ng bawat isa. Walang absoluto’t monolitikong gabay sa pag-ugit ng mobilisasyon ng kolektibong lakas. Bawat pagkakataon ay humihingi ng bagong analisis, paghimay ng kongkretong pagsalabat ng sapin-saping determinasyon, at patakaran, estratehiya at taktika sa pagresolba ng mga kontradiksiyon. Bawat okasyon ay may sariling kontradiksiyong dapat masinop na suriin, timbangin, kalkulahin, at kilatesin upang mahagilap kung saan mabisang maisisingit ang interbensiyon ng nagkakaisang lakas ng produktibong masa, ang ahensiya/subhetibidad ng bansang ipinapanganak.

Masahol daw ang suliranin ng ating lipunan, ayon sa ilang dalubhasa. Ang dahilan daw ay ito: nakabilanggo tayo sa pribadong spero ng buhay, nakasentro sa pamilya, kabarkada, sa makitid na espasyo ng ating tahanan, nayon, rehiyon. Hindi ito nakasudlong sa publikong lugar. Samakatwid, mahina o wala tayong publikong diwa, “civil society,” sanhi sa personalistikong daloy ng ating pakikipagkapuwa. Kaya atrasado ang bansa dahil sa “damaged culture,” umiiral ang pagkakanya-kanya, kompetisyon ng mga dinastiya, oligarkong pangkat, atbp. Tumpak ba itong palasak na diyagnosis ng ating pangkalahatang problema? Lumang tugtugin ba ito na dapat isaisantabi na upang makaakyat sa mataas na baytang ng pagsulong?

Upang maliwanagan ang sitwasyong ito, sa palagay ko, kailangan ang imbentaryo ng bawat buhay, isang kolektibong pagkukuwenta. Una’y balik-tanawin ang ating kasaysayan, mula kina Legaspi at Sikatuna, Dagohoy at Hermano Pule, Burgos at Propagandista, hanggang sa panahon nina Duterte at NDF/NPA. Ano ang mga kontradiksiyong hindi nalutas, na sumukdol sa kasalukuyang krisis? Saan nakadisposisyon ang pwersang reaksyonaryo’t pwersang progresibo? Anong bagong ahensiya o suhetibidad ang mabisang makakapag-iba ng obhetibong sitwasyon, ng itinakdang pag-aayos ng mga pwersang nangingibabaw at pwersang kontra-gahum? Ito ang mga katanungang dapat nating harapin–ang asignaturang kailangang bunuin upang maisakatuparan ang tungkulin ng sining at kultura sa transpormasyon ng buong lipunan. Handa na ba tayong suungin ang hamon ng kasaysayan? 

Narito ang mapanuksong repleksiyon ni Apolinario Mabini sa kanyang napakamakabuluhang akda, “Ang Rebolusyong Filipino”: “Sumuong tayo sa digmaan sa paniniwalang atas ng tungkulin at dangal natin ang magsakripisyo sa pagtatanggol ng ating kalayaan hangga’t makakaya natin sapagkat kung wala ito, sadyang hindi mangyayaring magkaroon ng panlipunang pagkakapantay-pantay sa pagitan ng naghaharing uri at ng katutubong mamamayan at hindi mapapasaatin ang tunay na katarungan….Sa bisa ng likas na kalakaran ng mga bagay, nasa sambayanan mismo ang lahat ng kapangyarihang nakasasaklaw rito….Kung nasa pagtutugma ng katwiran at karanasan ang katotohanan, nasa pagtutugma ng teorya at praktika ang birtud..”  

Pagmuniin natin ang proposisyon ng dakilang bayani bilang magkasudlong na interpretasyon at pagsubok baguhin ang ating kapaligiran–“not only interpret the world but change it.”–###


E. San Juan, Jr.

3900A Watson Place NW 4 D/E

Washington, DC 20016, USA



Tulang Sampay-Bakod ni E. San Juan, Jr.




Nang ika-10 gulang, nagnais akong matuto’t maging marunong

Nang ika-15 gulang, nabatid kong tama ang gurong Mang Andoy

Nang ika-21 gulang, natiyak ko na ang daan

Nang ika-30 gulang, nasulyapan ko na ang guhit-tagpuang abot-tanaw

Nang ika-36 gulang, nabilibid ako sa kasong pakikiapid (natiklo, ay malas!)

Nang ika-40 gulang, nagpasiya akong pwede nang makipag-sapalarang mag-isa

Nang ika-50 gulang, bayad na ako sa mga utang at butaw

Handa na akong umakyat sa bundok—

Napaglirip sa panahon ng paglalakbay hanggang dito, palipat-lipat ang diwa
Sa pagitan ng ibong makulay ang bagwis 

nakatuon sa panaginip at pantasiya

At isdang nagtatampisaw sa putik, matimtimang dumaranas 

ng udyok at simbuyo ng damdamin….

Hinahangad ko mula ngayon, sa kabila ng gulo’t panganib ng kapaligiran,

Sundin ang dragon ng isip, matimyas na pagnanais makahulagpos

Upang sa gayon makaigpaw sa bangin at makatawid

sa talampas at matarik na dalisdis ng bundok

Yapos ang ibong pumailanlang at isdang sumisid 

sa pusod ng kaluluwa—

Makaabot pa kaya ako sa kasukdulang biyaya ni Maria Makiling 

nabighani sa salimbayan

ng mga kalapating dumaragit?

                                              —E. SAN JUAN, Jr.


Language and Filipino Self-Determination in the U.S.

DSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]

Inventing Vernacular Speech-Acts: Articulating Filipino Self-Determination in the United States􏰀

E. San Juan, Jr., 

Polytechnic University of the Philippines


From the time Filipinos arrived in the United States as “colonial wards” or subaltern subjects in the first decade of the twentieth century, the practice of speaking their vernacular tongues (whether Ilocano, Cebuano, Tagalog, or any of the other dozen regional languages) has been haunted by an interdiction. This accompanied the defeat of the revolutionary government of the first Philippine Republic at the end of the Filipino–American War (1899–1903) and the institutionalization of English as the official medium of communication in government, business, education, and so on. American English became an instru- ment of political and ideological domination throughout colonial rule (1898–1946) and neocolonial hegemony (1946–). With competence in English as the legal and ideological passport for entry of Filipinos into the continental United States as pensionados and contract laborers, the native vernaculars suffered virtual extinction in the public sphere. In exchange, the Philippines acquired the distinction of belonging to the empire of English-speaking peoples, texting messages intelligible at least to the merchants of global capitalism if not to George W. Bush and the Homeland surveillance agents at the airport. That is also the reason why Filipina domestic workers are highly valued in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other countries in Europe and the Middle East.

U.S. linguistic terrorism has continued via subtle cooptation and juridical fiat. Up to the last quarter of the twentieth century, the custom of speaking the vernacular in the workplace was discouraged if not prohibited. Filipino nurses and government employees talking in Filipino/Pilipino were penalized, triggering legal suits by the aggrieved immigrants or naturalized citizens. “English Only” prevails.

􏰀A shorter version of this article appeared in DANYAG (June 2002).

Socialism and Democracy, Vol.19, No.1, March 2005, pp.136–154
ISSN 0885-4300 print/ISSN 1745-2635 online
DOI: 10.1080=0885430042000338462 # 2005 The Research Group on Socialism and Democracy


Filipinos need not be heard or listened to so long as they performed according to expectations. Why learn or study the Filipino vernaculars when “they” can speak and understand English? With the sudden increase of Filipino migrants after 1965 and the growth of the multi- cultural ethos of the ’80s and ’90s, Filipinos discovered anew that they have always been speaking their native languages even while they ventriloquized in English. Filipino (usually referred to as “Pilipino”) has indeed become a lingua franca for recent immigrants in the “land of the free,” making it possible for the newly arrived from the “boondocks” to read post-office guidelines and tax regulations in Filipino.

But Filipino is still an exotic language, despite its vulgarization and accessibility via Internet and satellite media. While today courses in Arabic have become necessary aids for preparing all students for global citizenship, a college course in Filipino is a rarity. In the ’50s and ’60s, when the Huk insurgency disturbed the peace of the Cold War Establishment, courses in Tagalog were introduced in the univer- sities as part of Area Studies; experts were trained at least to read cap- tured documents from the underground, if not to assist in the propaganda and psy-war effort of the local military (San Juan 2000). In the ‘70s, politicized Filipino Americans successfully initiated pro- jects to teach Tagalog inside and outside the academy. With the displacement of the Philippines as a contested zone in Southeast Asia (despite the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), administrators have shifted resources to the study of Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cultures. After all, isn’t the Philippines now a suburb of California? And hasn’t the current Arroyo administration reversed the trend of Filipinization by promulgating English as truly the privi- leged language for individual success, prestige, and acceptance?

Historical necessity has once more intervened in the “belly of the beast.” Filipinos have become the largest group in the Asian American ethnic category and are slowly beginning to realize the political impact of this demographic trend. With the upsurge of Filipino-Americans entering college and moving on to graduate schools, and given the heightened racial and ethnic antagonisms in this period of the border- less war against terrorism (recall the hundreds of Filipinos summarily deported in handcuffs and chains immediately following the 9/11 cat- astrophe), a new “politics of identity” seems to be emerging, this time manifesting itself in a demand for the offering of credited courses in Filipino as part of the multiculturalist program (San Juan 2002). In Spring 2002, I was requested by the community of Filipino and Filipino American students at the University of California, Irvine, to share my

E. San Juan, Jr. 137

138 Socialism and Democracy

ideas about the “language question.” The following provisional theses attempt to address this question in the context of the struggle of the Filipino nationality in the U.S. for democratic rights and the Filipino people in the Philippines and in the diaspora for national self- determination. It goes without saying that there are other still undiscerned factors overdetermining this complex conjuncture, particularly in this stage of the advanced corporatization of the U.S. university in late modernity; the following observations are meant to induce an exploration of the totality of social relations subtending this issue.


In dealing with the issue of linguistic freedom and bondage, I begin with the thesis that language cannot be separated from material-social activity, from human interaction. Marx and Engels write in The German Ideology: “Language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other humans.” Language is essentially a social phenomenon, embedded in collective human activity. Con- sciousness and language cannot be divorced; both are social products; they originate from work, from the labor process, whose historical changes determine the function of language as a means of communi- cation and as an integral component of everyday social practice, a signifier of national or ethnic identity.

Work or social labor then explains the structural properties of language. This does not mean, however, that given the unity of thought and language, linguistic structures imply different ways of thinking, world outlooks, etc. Contrary to Hitler’s idealizing slogan “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Sprache,” race, culture and language are not equivalent. We do not live in isolated language compartments with singular “takes” on reality. Forms of thought manifest a certain universality that are not affected by linguistic differences, even though speech acts derive their full import from the historical contexts and specific conditions of their performance. “Ideas do not exist sepa- rately from language” (Marx, Grundrisse, 1973, 163). And since the ideas of the ruling class prevail in every epoch as the ruling ideas, the uses of a particular language often reveal the imprint of this ruling class. Various classes may use the same language or operate in the same lin- guistic field, hence this domain of sign usage becomes, to quote Bakhtin/Voloshinov, “an arena of class struggle” (1986, 23). For exam- ple, Rizal used Spanish to counter the corrupt abuses of the friars and

reach his Spanish-speaking compatriots as well as reform-minded liberals in Spain. Likewise, Tagalog and other vernaculars were used by the Filipino elite in persuading peasants and workers to conform to American policies and ideas.

In sum, language as a practice of signification is not only reflective but also productive and reproductive of antagonistic social relations and political forces. It is a vehicle and an embodiment of power. Language usage manifests the pressure of contradictory class relations and concrete ideological structures that are registered on the level of special subcodes and idiolects.1 Language then is a socio-ideological phenomenon whose empirical manifestation can be investigated with scientific rigor.

Using this frame of inquiry, let us examine the status of Filipino/ Pilipino vis-a`-vis English within the Filipino community (totaling nearly 3 million) in the United States. A historical background is imperative in assessing the worth of languages relative to each other, specifically in the context of the fraught relations between the Philippines as a former colony, now a neocolony, of the United States, and the hegemonic nation-state, now the “only remaining super- power” in this period of “endless war” against terrorist multitudes.

With the violent conquest of the Philippines after the Filipino– American War of 1899 to 1914 (I include the wars that tried to pacify the Moros), which cost 1.4 million Filipino lives, the U.S. imposed colo- nial institutions on the subjugated natives. The process of what Renato Constantino famously called “the mis-education of Filipinos” began with the imposition of English as the chief medium of instruction. This was not, as one historian puts it (Arcilla 1971), because the teacher-volunteers who arrived on the St. Thomas in 1901 knew no Spanish, but rather because English was the language of the U.S. ruling class, the vehicle for inculcating the American “way of life,” its institutions and normative practices, in their colonial subjects (see Martin 2002). Contrary to the supposed intention of democratizing society, the use of English “perpetuated the existence of the ilustra- dos—American ilustrados” loyal to the United States, analogous to the Spanish-speaking Filipino elite who sought reforms within Spanish

1. While “idiolects” refer to those aspects of an individual’s speech pattern that deviate from group norms, the idiolect of, say, a Christian or Islamic fundamentalist believer represents a code of free variants mimicking certain sociocultural patterns of thought (Ducrot & Todorov 1979, 57). An idiolect then becomes intelligible as a departure from the normal usage of words (Riffatere 1983) and resembles what Mikhail Bakhtin calls “ideologeme” or “utterance” amenable to rational semantic analysis (1981).

E. San Juan, Jr. 139


140 Socialism and Democracy

hegemony. Constantino cites Simoun’s denunciation of the latter in Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo:

You ask for equal rights, the Hispanization of your customs, and you don’t see that what you are begging for is suicide, the destruction of your nationality, the annihilation of your fatherland, the consecration of tyranny! What will you be in the future? A people without character, a nation without liberty— everything you have will be borrowed, even your very defects! . . . What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed! Nine-tenths of those of you who pretend to be enlightened are renegades to your country! He among you who talks that language neglects his own in such a way that he neither writes it nor understands it, and how many have I not seen who pretended not to know a single word of it! (quoted in Constantino 1966, 55)

In 1924, the American scholar Najeeb Saleeby deplored the attempt to impose English, in the manner of Alexander the Great and Napoleon, on multitudinous groups speaking different tongues. It was already a failure twenty-five years after the U.S. established schools in the pacified regions. But in preserving imperial hegemony, the policy was not a failure at all. It has proved extremely effective: English as linguistic capital has functioned to sustain the iniquitous class hierarchy and maintain the subordination of the nation-state to the power that monopolizes such capital in the form of control over the mass media, information, and other symbolic instruments and resources in a globalized economy. I think the purpose was to make English-speakers not out of all Filipinos, but just out of those classes—the elite and intelligentsia—that have proved crucial in reinforcing and reproducing consent to U.S. imperial rule.

The historical record is summed up by Constantino: “Spanish colo- nialism Westernized the Filipino principally through religion. Ameri- can colonialism superimposed its own brand of Westernization initially through the imposition of English and the American school system which opened the way for other Westernizing agencies” (1978, 218). Superior economic and technological power, of course, enabled the American colonizers to proceed without serious resistance. Inscribed within the state educational apparatus, American English as a pedagogical, disciplinary instrument contributed significantly to the political, economic and cultural domination of the Filipino people. American English performed its function in enforcing, maintaining, and reproducing the values and interests of the imperial power and the dominant native class. Its usage was not neutral nor merely prag- matic; it was a deliberately chosen ideological weapon in subjugating

whole populations (including the Muslims and indigenous commu- nities), in producing and reproducing colonial—and later neocolo- nial—relations of production.

As I have said, no language (like English) as a system of signs is by itself exploitative or oppressive. It is the political usages and their his- torical effects that need evaluation. Consequently, the use of the coloni- zer’s language cannot be separated from its control of the educational system, the panoply of commercial relations and bureaucratic machin- ery which instill consumerist values, white supremacy, and acquisitive individualism within the procedural modus operandi of a so-called “free enterprise” system. Over half a century of tutelage de-Filipinized youth and “taught them to regard American culture as superior to any other, and American society as the model par excellence for Philippine society” (Constantino 1974, 39). Individual and public consciousness had been so Americanized that a Filipino national identity was aborted, suppressed, unable to emerge fully except in outbursts of revolt and insurrection—a durable tradition of revolutionary resistance that we should be proud of.

What of Filipino and the other vernaculars? When the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status in 1935, an attempt was made to develop a national language based on Tagalog. This exemplifies the kind of language planning where a colonial state engages in the forma- tive task of constructing a formalistic notion of nationality using one of the local languages as a means of authentiticating the legitimacy of the Americanized elite (Fishman 1972). Pilipino evolved despite the objec- tions of other regional ethnolinguistic groups, a hostility born from the “divide-and-rule” strategy imposed by U.S. colonial tutelage that undermined the hegemonic ambitions of the minority elite. Note that, of course, the ruling bloc of local landlords, compradors and bureaucrats was completely subservient to U.S. dictates even up to and beyond formal independence in 1946. Up to now, it is no secret that the Philippine military is completely dependent on U.S. largesse for its weaponry and logistics, including the training of its officers in counterinsurgency warfare (as witness the prolongation and systema- tization of joint training exercises against the Abu Sayyaf and other insurgents in violation of the 1986 Philippine Constitution which prohi- bits the active participation of foreign troops in local law enforcement). Over 80% of Filipinos can speak or understand Filipino in everyday transactions throughout the islands. While some progress has been made today in institutionalizing the use of Filipino as an intellectual medium in university courses, English remains the preferred language of business and government, the language of prestige and aspiration.

E. San Juan, Jr. 141

142 Socialism and Democracy

Decolonization of the Filipino mind has not been completed, hence Filipino remains subordinate, marginalized, or erased as a language of power and self-affirmation of the people’s sovereign identity.

Like other colonized parts of the world, the Philippines was a mul- tilingual society during the heyday of Spanish imperialism. While formal colonialism no longer obtains, a linguistic imperialism con- tinues, with English employed as the international language of science, technology, business and finance, world communications and international academic studies—despite some nativization of American English in the Philippines. This will continue unless the poli- tical economy and power relations in the whole society are changed.


The rise of the U.S. Empire in Asia beginning with the defeat of Spanish power translated into a reassertion of Anglo-Saxon “manifest destiny.” This is a continuation of a long saga of territorial expansion from the Eastern seaboard of the continent. When Filipinos entered U.S. metropolitan territory, first in Hawaii as recruited plantation workers in the first three decades of the last century, the U.S. was already a racial polity founded on the confinement of the indigenous Indians, the slavery and segregation of blacks, the conquest of Spanish-speaking natives, and the proscription of Asian labor. The U.S. was and is a multi- lingual polity, with English as the hegemonic language.

A language community is not by itself sufficient to produce an ethnic or national identity. English cannot by itself define the American national identity as such, even though it is within this linguistic com- munity that individuals are interpellated as subjects, subjects as bearers of discourse—persons defined as subject-positions sutured within discourses of law, genealogy, history, political choices, pro- fessional qualifications, psychology, and so on. This construction of identity by language is open to incalculable contingencies; what makes it able to demarcate the frontiers of a particular people is a prin- ciple of closure or exclusion. And this fictive ethnicity is accomplished in the historical constitution of the U.S. nation-state based on the dis- courses of the free market and white supremacy.

Etienne Balibar has shown how the French nation initially gave pri- vileged place to language or linguistic uniformity as coincident with political unity; the French state democratized its citizens by coercively suppressing cultural particularisms, the local patois. “For its part,” Balibar observes, “the American ‘revolutionary nation’ built its original

ideals on a double repression: that of the extermination of the Amerin- dian ‘natives’ and that of the difference between free ‘White’ men and ‘Black’ slaves. The linguistic community inherited from the Anglo-Saxon ‘country’ did not pose a problem—at least apparently— until Hispanic immigration conferred upon it the significance of class symbol and racial feature” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). In other words, the phantasm of the American race defined as English speakers materialized when the Spanish-speaking indigenes of the Southwest were defeated in the war of 1848. Thus, the national ideology of the ‘melting-pot’ of a new race emerged “as a hierarchical combination of the different ethnic contributions,” based on the inferiority of Asian labor immigrants and “the social inequalities inherited from slavery and reinforced by the economic exploitation of the Blacks” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). It is within this historical process of ethnicization of the American identity under an assimilative or plural- ist ideology that we can then locate the supremacy of American English over the other languages of various ethnic groups within the polity. It is also in this historical context of the formation of the American multicul- tural pluralist imaginary that problems of citizenship, equality of rights, multilingualism, neocolonialism, nationalism or international- ism, should be placed and analyzed.

In the United States today, we have various languages spoken and practised everywhere—Spanish being the most widespread, Black English vernacular (BEV), creole in Louisiana and New York City, Russian in Brooklyn, and so on—testifying to a multilingual society. But as studies have demonstrated, the failure of the school authorities in the U.S. to recognize BEV as a separate language has continuously retarded the educational progress of black children (Spears 1999). BEV, like the varieties of Spanish, functions as a symbolic marker sig- nifying membership in a particular ethnic group.

Why is one’s use of a particular language important? Language usage or behavior is closely connected with one’s perception of self and one’s identity. The British sociolinguist Robert Le Page has pro- posed a theory of language use in terms of acts of identity. According to Le Page, “the individual creates his or her own language behavior so that it resembles that of the group or groups with which he wishes to be identified, to the extent that: he can identify the groups; observe and analyze such groups; is motivated to adapt his behavior; and is still able to adapt his behavior. By so doing the individual is thus able to locate himself in the ‘multi-dimensional’ space defined by such groups in terms of factors such as sex, age, social class, occupation and other parameters for social group membership, including ethnicity”

E. San Juan, Jr. 143

144 Socialism and Democracy

(Cashmore 1984, 173). In Britain, the use of a modified Jamaican creole by second-generation Britishers of Caribbean descent is an example of acts of identity-formation, an assertion of an ethnic identity associated with such cultural interests as rastafarianism, reggae music, and so on. By consciously adopting this creole or patois, the youth are expressing their solidarity, ethnic pride, and symbolic resistance to what they perceive as a repressive and racist society.

One may ask: Has the Filipino community in the U.S. considered language as one of the most important social practices through which they come to experience themselves as subjects with some critical agency, that is, not merely as objects trained to consume and be con- sumed? Have Filipino scholars examined language as a site for cultural and ideological struggle, a mechanism which produces and reproduces antagonistic relations between ethnic immigrant communities and the dominant EuroAmerican society? In my forty years in the U.S., I have not encountered among our ranks—except for a few academics influ- enced by the late Virgilio Enriquez—any special awareness of the importance of Filipino and the other vernaculars.

In the dismal archive of ethnic studies of Filipino Americans, we encounter a species of identity politics that is unable to escape the hege- monic strategies of containment and sublimation. Ironically, this poli- tics is really designed for encouraging painless assimilation. For example, Antonio Pido’s The Pilipino in America (1986) is a repository of scholastic cliches and rehash of received opinions, at best an eclectic survey that tries to coalesce the contradictory tendencies in the research field as well as those in the community during the Marcos dictatorship. Recently, the collection Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity(1997) edited by Maria P.P. Root, tried to advance beyond the Establish- ment banalities, but to no avail, although gays and lesbians have suc- ceeded in occupying their niches amid cries for “healing the cultural amnesia and sense of shame.” I have no problem celebrating Filipino firsts, but I think historical memory of this ingratiating kind cannot decolonize our psyches since we use such memory to compete with other people of color in grabbing a piece of the American pie. Pido’s contribution to this anthology compounded the muddle of pseudo- egalitarianism afforded by “melting” into the multiracial “pot” that still informs Establishment versions of multiculturalism. This is particularly lamentable in the neoconservative climate of the ’90s when one encountered everywhere the wish-fulfilling belief that Filipinos have transcended their ethnicity in assuming some kind of mutant or freakish existence. The ideological basis of assimilation by keeping one’s ethnic identity may be gleaned from this version of

constructing a hybrid figure: “Such solidarity did not happen to the Pilipino Americans because they are Pilipinos who are in America, as their parents and grandparents were, but rather because they are Americans who are Pilipinos” (Pido 1997, 37). An ambivalent opportu- nist indeed if not an enigmatic trickster figure. None of the essays, if I recall, deal with the discrimination of Filipinos on account of their speaking Pilipino/Filipino at the workplace, or elsewhere.

In a study on Filipino Americans, Pauline Agbayani-Siewert and Linda Revilla comment on the Filipino group’s lack of a “strong ethnic identity.” They give a lot of space to the issue of whether Filipino should be spelled with an F or P. In spite of disagreements among post- 1965 and pre-1965 immigrants, they note that Filipinos are distin- guished by their adherence to “traditional Filipino values” relating to family togetherness and respect for elders. So what else is new? What is interesting about their survey is that they touch on the issue of language, remarking that “language is a questionable indicator of Filipino immigrants’ acculturation,” without adding that of course their country of origin has been thoroughly Americanized in language, if not in customs and habits. They cite a study which indicated that 71% of Filipinos speak a language other than English at home, although 91% of them claimed being able to speak English well or very well. Their conclusion: “This suggests that most Filipinos who have been natura- lized citizens [Filipinos have a 45% naturalization rate, the highest among Asian groups] and who can speak English well still prefer to speak their native language at home” (Siewert & Revilla 1995, 152). What does this signify? In general, third generation children no longer speak the languages of their grandparents.

One interpretation is that of Yen Le Espiritu, author of the ethno- graphic collection, Filipino American Lives. While conceding that Filipinos, despite some mobility and cultural adaptation, are still not fully accepted as “Americans,” Le Espiritu claims that this is not bad because Filipinos are really “transmigrants,” that is, they resist racial categorization and at the same time sustain “multistranded relations between the Philippines and the United States” (1995, 27). This hypoth- esis is flawed. Espiritu wants Filipinos to have their cake and eat it too. While some may succeed in manipulating their identities so that they both accommodate and resist their subordination within the global capitalist system—a tightrope performance not really warranted by the biographies she presents—they do not constitute the stereotype. Especially in the case of those who came in the last two decades, Filipinos have not really become the full-blown hybrids conjured by postmodernist-postcolonial academics. The majority of the testimonies

E. San Juan, Jr. 145

146 Socialism and Democracy

gathered by Espiritu provide incontrovertible proof that despite sly forms of resistance, institutional racism has continued to inflict damage on the lives and collective psyche of the Filipino community, whether some of them are perceived as transmigrants or not.

In fact the transmigrant paradigm cannot explain adequately the linguistic behavior of Filipinos. Siewert and Revilla report that Filipinos have begun to challenge the “English only” policies at the workplace. They cite one case in the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where seven Filipino workers filed a grievance after being penalized for failing to use only English for business purposes (on the assumption that “only English” use facilitates the efficient perfor- mance of mandated routine tasks). The policy was eventually rescinded, but we are not informed what the views of the experts are. Since they are obsessed with acculturation or cultural assimilation, they probably feel that the case was not really significant since Filipinos are bilingual anyway, and they can be flexible or versatile in adapting to the exigencies of their minority situation. Never mind that they have to suppress their need to speak in Filipino.

To recapitulate: The development of U.S. capitalism concomitant with the growth and consolidation of American English has proceeded from the onset of imperial expansion in the U.S. victory over Spain, to the conquest of world hegemony during the Cold War (1947–1989). The Civil Rights movement succeeded (through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Bilingual Education Act of 1968) to mandate the use of non-English voting ballots and the funding of bilingual edu- cation programs serving primarily Hispanics to expedite their tran- sition to competent English users. Due to various revisions, bilingual education programs (which started in 1963 in Miami, Florida, to help the children of Cuban exiles) only serve a small proportion of the total population. And yet some were alarmed by the increase of Hispa- nics in many states. One of them, Senator S.I. Hayakawa, a naturalized Canadian immigrant of Japanese descent, founded the organization U.S. English in 1983 after sponsoring a bill in 1981 to make English the official language of the U.S. (Fischer et al. 1997). In a penetrating critique of the ideological scaffolding of the “English-Only” movement, Andrew Hartman traces its genealogy to the “historical racism” and white supremacy that continue to legitimize the hierarchical class division in U.S. society. With perspicuous documentation, Hartman not only emphasizes the racist ideology of colonialism underlying the subjugation of Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and other nationalities, but also underscores how the English-Only campaign “reinforces the divisive effects of capitalist stratification,” undermining

labor solidarity and scapegoating immigrants; in effect, “the English- only movement embodies the colonial model of language as oppres- sion” (Hartman 2003, 199; see also Emerman 1991).

On the whole, I agree with Hartman that this phenomenon of lin- guistic nationalism may be construed as a symptom of the sharpening contradictions in U.S. hegemonic maintenance. In addition I would suggest that the program to subtly institutionalize English as the official language of “free-market” capitalism may be construed as one plank of the IMF/World Bank/WTO neoliberal agenda for continued transna- tional domination which has been effectively challenged by antigloba- lization forces (Mazrui 2003; San Juan 2003). In actuality, what has been happening in the last decades involves an implicit “reorganization of cultural hegemony” by the ruling elite faced with a sharpening politi- cal, social and economic crisis of the system since the end of the Vietnam War. We may interpret this English-Only movement as an index to the resurgent nativist hostility to the recent influx of immi- grants from Latin America and Asia—aliens that supposedly disunite America and threaten the supremacy of the “American Way of Life” (Nunberg 2000). The English First anti-immigrant phenomenon can easily be demystified and translated as the symptom of a moral panic, a fanatical zeal to preserve the status quo, “a fear of cultural change and a deep-seated worry that European Americans will be dis- placed from their dominant position in American life” (Douglas Massey quoted in Zelinsky 2001, 192). This symptomatic reading finds its rationale in Antonio Gramsci’s insight:

Each time that in one way or another, the question of language comes to the fore, that signifies that a series of other problems is about to emerge, the for- mation and enlarging of the ruling class, the necessity to establish more “inti- mate and sure relations between the ruling groups and the popular masses, that is, the reorganization of cultural hegemony (1971, 16).


In 1985 then Education Secretary William Bennett judged bilingual education a failure because it only promoted ethnic pride despite the fact that programs like the Transitional Bilingual Education program and the Family English literacy programs no longer seek to fund classes conducted in the original ethnic languages. Four million language-minority students are now herded to monolingual “immer- sion” English classrooms which, according to one expert, often fail to teach anything but English. And this avoidance of using English as

E. San Juan, Jr. 147

148 Socialism and Democracy

the only medium of instruction is supposed to explain why they don’t have equal educational opportunities and become complete failures.

One opponent of the bills to make English the official language, Rep. Stephen Solarz, expressed a sentiment shared by many liberals who endorse pluralism or multiculturalism under the shibboleth of a common civic culture. Language is a matter of indifference, these liberals argue, so long as the cement of the civic culture holds the market-system, individual rights, and private property together. Solarz argued that the proposals “represent a concession to nativist instincts and are incompatible with the cultural diversity and ethnic pluralism that constitute fundamental strengths of our nation . . . We are…a tapestry of many races, creeds, religions, and ethnic back- grounds—each independent, but all interwoven with one another . . .The glue that bonds these diverse communities together is not com- monality of language, but a commitment to the democratic ideals on which our country was founded” (1997, 251). Aside from these banal- ities, Solarz also opined that those proposals could pose significant threats to the civil and constitutional rights of citizens with little or no English proficiency.”

In this he was right because English triumphalism signifies a mode of racialization: the institutional subordination of other communities and other languages to white supremacy and its cultural hegemony. This was in part the thrust of the challenge made in the class-action suit of 1970, Lau v. Nichols, in which 1,790 Chinese children enrolled in the public schools in San Francisco argued against the SF Unified School District that they were not being provided with an equal edu- cation because all instruction and materials were in English, which the children did not understand. Futhermore, the plaintiffs contended that English-only education for non-English-speaking children was unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment, which guar- antees to all citizens the equal protection of the laws. Moreover, such education was illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which rules that “no person in the United States shall be . . . subjected to dis- crimination under any program receiving Federal financial assistance” (the District was receiving funds from the federal government). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Chinese students, but only on the basis of the Civil Rights Act; the Constitutional issue was avoided and the Court left the remedy to local school boards (Fischer et al. 1997, 242–5).

It is this 1974 Lau decision that can serve as the basis for litigation against public educational institutions that refuse to provide language services to students of limited English-speaking ability. It is a legal

precedent on which institutions receiving federal money can be held accountable. But it is not one which engages the question of injustice, discrimination, and inequality in a racial polity such as the United States. It is not one which addresses, more specifically, the subordina- tion of nationalities (like Filipinos) and their diverse languages as a consequence of the past colonial subjugation and present neocolonial status of their countries of origin. This is not a matter of personal opinion, feeling or subjective speculation, but a matter for historical inquiry and empirical verification.

Following the mandate of federal laws, Tagalog or Filipino is now being used in census forms, ballots, postal notices, and even in public announcements of flights to the Philippines in some airports. Is this a sign that the racial polity has changed and abolished institutional impediments to the recognition of the identity and dignity of the Filipino as a cultural-political subject? Are we now living in a classless and race-blind society? Scarcely. Such events as Filipino History Month or Independence parades in fact confirm the hierarchical placing of the various ethnic communities within the pluralist schema that repro- duces monolingualism and Anglocentrism in everday life. Even the concession to fund classes in Filipino, or, to cite a recent trend, Arabic—suddenly classes in Arabic multiplied after 9/11—may be a deceptive means of convincing a few that linguistic, racial and sex dis- crimination are amenable to such piecemeal reforms.

Apart from the neoconservative backlash of the ’80s and ’90s, the advent of post-9/11 hegemony of the “only remaining superpower” entrenched in a National Security State, the imperilled “Homeland,” almost guarantees a regime of unmitigated surveillance and policing of public spaces where ethnic differences are sometimes displayed. Filipinos speaking Tagalog make themselves vulnerable to arrest— recall the case of 62 overstaying Filipinos deported in June 2003, handcuffed and manacled like ordinary criminals throughout the long flight back to Clark Field, Philippines; and subsequently, the case of eight Filipino airport mechanics in Texas, victims of racial pro- filing and suspected of having links with Arab terrorists.

Filipino sounds completely unlike Arabic or Russian. What has made Filipino or Tagalog visible in our multicultural landscape is of course the huge flow of recent immigrants who are not as proficient in English as the earlier “waves” after 1965. Movies, music and other mass-media cultural products using Filipino are more widely dis- seminated today than before. In addition, the resurgent nationalist movement in the Philippines, despite the lingering horrors of the Marcos dictatorship (1972–86), has brought to center-stage the nightly

E. San Juan, Jr. 149

150 Socialism and Democracy

televised images of rallies where the messages of protest and rebellion against U.S. imperialism are often conveyed in Filipino. The nationalist resurgence in the Philippines, as well as in the diaspora of 7–9 million Filipinos around the world, has rebounded miraculously from the sixties and has continued to revitalize Filipino as the language of critical protest and nationalist self-determination. I don’t have to mention the anxiety and tensions provoked when children cannot understand their parents who, as Siewert and Revilla indicate, prefer to use Filipino or other vernaculars at home.


We are surrounded now by a preponderance of newly-arrived Filipinos who use Filipino to make sense of their new experiences, a necessary stage in their arduous life here, before they are able to gain mastery of standard English and feel more capable of directing their lives. But learning English language skills alone does not automatically translate to access to limited opportunities, not to mention genuine empowerment, as witness the plight of black Americans, or the 60 million functionally illiterate citizens in this affluent, technically superior society. Meanwhile, these Filipinos feel dispossessed and mar- ginalized, completely alienated, either resentful or more servile, depending on the complex circumstances of daily life. If and when they enter school (formal or informal), their language experience (in Filipino or other indigenous languages) is delegitimized by a pedago- gical system which operates on the assumption that knowledge acqui- sition is a matter of learning the standard English, thus abstracting English from its ideological charge and socioeconomic implications.

I don’t recall anytime when Filipinos have demanded access to bilin- gual education in the same way that Latinos and Chinese Americans have. And I know that the request for classes in Filipino/Tagalog is nothing compared to the substantial programs in bilingual education among Hispanics. Still, it might be useful to quote the educational scholar Donaldo Macedo’s comments on the current philosophy:

The view that teaching English constitutes education sustains a notion of ideol- ogy that systematically negates rather than makes meaningful the cultural experiences of the subordinate linguistic groups who are, by and large, the objects of its policies. For the education of linguistic minority students to become meaningful it has to be situated within a theory of cultural production and viewed as an integral part of the way in which people produce, transform and reproduce meaning. Bilingual education, in this sense, must be seen as a medium that constitutes and affirms the historical and existential moments of lived culture . . . [S]tudents learn to read faster and with better

comprehension when taught in their native tongue. The immediate recognition of familiar words and experiences enhances the development of a positive self- concept in children who are somewhat insecure about the status of their language and culture. For this reason, and to be consistent with the plan to con- struct a democratic society free from vestiges of oppression, a minority literacy program must be rooted in the cultural capital of subordinate groups and have as its point of departure their own language (2000, 309).

Macedo rightly emphasizes the daily lived experiences of linguistic minorities rooted in collective and individual self-determination. He considers their language as “a major force in the construction of human subjectivities,” since language “may either confirm or deny the life histories and experiences of the people who use it.” We need to underscore the role of language as cultural or symbolic capital, a theme on which Pierre Bourdieu (1991) has elaborated.

Literacy must be based on the reality of subaltern life if it is to be effective in any strategy of real empowerment, in the decolonization of schooling for a start. Only by taking into account the language of everyday lived experience—and connecting this with the community’s struggles to survive and maintain its integrity and autonomy—can we fully grasp what role the use of Filipino plays in the nationality’s pursuit of a truly dignified and creative life as full-fledged citizens. This is, to my mind, a pursuit that cannot be achieved except as part of the collective democratic struggles of other people of color and the vast majority of working citizens oppressed by a class-divided, racial- ized and gendered order.

And this system—globalized or neoimperialist capitalism—is the same one suppressing the possibilities for equality, justice and auton- omy in the Philippines. There is as yet no truly sovereign Filipino nation. I believe it is still in the process of slow, painful becoming. If so, how do we size up or assay persons who claim to be Filipinos, or whose geopolitical identities are somehow linked to the nation-state called the Philippines? Benedict Anderson theorized that modern nations are “imagined communities” made possible by print-capital- ism and the “fatal diversity of human language” (1994, 95). If that is true, then the Philippines was imagined through American English mediated in schools, mass media, sports, and other cultural practices. Both the institutions of print capitalism and the schools were controlled and administered by the United States for half a century; even after formal independence, most of us dream and fantasize in English mixed with Tagalog (Taglish), or one of the vernaculars.

We see then that language and the process of thinking form a dia- lectical unity. While Filipino has become the effective lingua franca, the

E. San Juan, Jr. 151

152 Socialism and Democracy

community in the Philippines is still imagined in a babel of languages, with Cebuanos, for example, refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance unless it is in Cebuano. Less a political gesture than a symptom, this situation reflects the inchoate or abortive project of constructing a Filipino national identity, the clearest proof of which is the failure to develop one language through which the intellectual, political and economic development of the masses can be articulated.

We have no alternative. We need to continue the task of reshaping our cultural identity as Filipinos whether in the U.S. or in the Philippines, in this perilous age of anti-terrorism. I want to quote Paolo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, whose work Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been a profound influence everywhere. Freire reminds us:

At a particular moment in the struggle for self-affirmation, when subordinated to and exploited by the ruling class, no social group or class or even an entire nation or people can undertake the struggle for liberation without the use of a language. At no time can there be a struggle for liberation and self-affirmation without the formation of an identity, and identity of the individual, the group, the social class, or whatever . . . Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle. I will only fight you if I am very sure of myself . . . This is why colo- nized peoples need to preserve their native language . . . They help defend one’s sense of identity and they are absolutely necessary in the process of strug- gling for liberation (1985, 186).

Whether here or in the Philippines, we are still, whether we like it or not, entangled, caught, implicated, in this ongoing process of struggling for liberation. A liberatory and radical approach to language, as part of cultural production and pedagogical praxis, is in order. How can we tell our stories in our own words? How do we retrieve the lost voices of our people, valorize their lived experiences, and in the process trans- form the way Filipinos as a group are treated in the metropolis?

To re-appropriate the submerged or erased revolutionary legacy of our people, we need a language that is an integral and authentic part of that culture—a language that is not just “an instrument of communi- cation, but also a structure of thinking for the national being” (Freire 1985, 184), that is, a tool for self-reflection and critical analysis, a crea- tive and transforming agent committed to solidarity, social responsibil- ity, and justice for the masses. That language needed to reconstruct our history and reappropriate our culture cannot be English but must be an evolving Filipino, which draws its resources from all the other vernacu- lars. If we allow English to continue in the Philippines as a hegemonic cultural force, this will simply perpetuate the colonial legacy of class- racialized inequalities—need I remind you that we are still a genuine neocolony—and allow imperial ideology to determine the parameters

of our historical and scientific development, not only for the Philip- pines but also for those who choose to leave and settle in other lands within the inescapable globalized market system. The challenge that faces us today, and for as long as we speak English, is to request or demand that the teaching and learning of Filipino be given space at every level of the educational system.

Allow me to conclude with quotes from Lenin on the question of the equality of languages:

Whoever does not recognize and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist; he is not even a democrat . . . For different nations to live together in peace and freedom or to separate and form different states (if that is more convenient for them), a full democracy, upheld by the working class, is essen- tial. No privileges for any nation or any one language! . . . such are the prin- ciples of working-class democracy (1983, 100, 116).


Anderson, Benedict. 1994. “Imagined Communities.” In Nationalism. Ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith. New York: Oxford University Press.

Arcilla, Jose S. 1971. An Introduction to Philippine History. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

& N. Voloshinov. 1986. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Tr. L. Matejka & I. R. Titunik. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Balibar, Etienne, & Immanuel Wallerstein. 1991. Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. London & New York: Verso.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cashmore, E. Ellis. 1984. Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations. London: Routledge.

Constantino, Renato. 1966. The Filipinos in the Philippines and other essays. Quezon City, Philippines: Malaya Books.
. 1974. Identity and Consciousness: The Philippine Experience. Quezon City, Philippines: Malaya Books.

. 1978. Neocolonial Identity and Counter-Consciousness: Essays on Cultural

Decolonization. White Plains, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Ducrot, Oswald, & Tzvetan Todorov. 1979. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Sciences

of Language. Tr. Catherine Porter. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univer-

sity Press.
Emerman, Jimmy. 1991. “War of Words: Language, Colonialism and English

Only.” Breakthrough 15.1: 22–27.
Fisher, William C. et al. 1997. Identity, Community, and Pluralism in American Life.

New York: Oxford University Press.

E. San Juan, Jr. 153


154 Socialism and Democracy

Fishman, J.A. 1972. “The Sociology of Language,” in Language and Social Context. Ed. Pier Paolo Giglioli. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Freire, Paulo. 1985. The Politics of Education. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey. Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from Prison Notebooks. New York: Inter-

national Publishers.
Hartman, Andrew. 2003. “Language as Oppression: The English-only Move-

ment in the United States.” Socialism and Democracy 17.1: 187–208.
Le Espiritu, Yen. 1995. Filipino American Lives. Philadelphia, PA: Temple

University Press.
Lenin, Vladimir. 1983. Lenin on Language. Moscow, Russia: Raduga Publishers. Macedo, Donaldo. 2000. “English Only: The Tongue-Tying of America.” In Race

and Ethnicity in the United States. Ed. Stephen Steinberg. Oxford, UK:

Martin, Isabel Pefianco. 2002. “Pedagogy: Teaching Practices of American

Colonial Educators in the Philippines.” In Kritika Kultura <http:www.>.
Marx, Karl. 1993. Grundrisse. New York: Anchor Books.
Mazrui, Alamin. 2003. “The World Bank, the Language Question and the

Future of African Education.” In The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader.

Ed. Roxy Harris and Ben Rampton. London and New York: Routledge. Nunberg, Geoffrey. 2000. “Lingo Jingo: English-Only and the New Nativism.” In Race and Ethnicity in the United States. Ed. Stephen Steinberg. New York:

Pido, Antonio. 1997. “Macro/Micro Dimensions of Pilipino Immigration to the

United States.” In Filipino Americans. Ed. Maria P.P. Root. Thousand Oaks,

CA: Sage.
Rifaterre, Michael. 1983. Text Production. New York: Columbia University Press. San Juan, E. 2000. After Postcolonialism: Remapping Philippines-United States

Confrontations. Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield.
. 2002. Racism and Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
. 2003. “The ‘Field’ of English in the Cartography of Globalization.” InSelected Papers from the Twelfth International Symposium on English Teaching.Ed. Chen Yi-ju and Leung Yiu-nam. Taipeh, Taiwan: English Teachers Association—Republic of China.

Siewert, Pauline Agbayani, & Linda Revilla. 1995. “Filipino Amerians.” InAsian Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues. Ed. Pyong Gap Min. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Solarz, Stephen. 1997. “Against Official English: A U.S. Representative Explains Why There Should not Be an English Language Constitutional Amend- ment, 1988.” In Identity, Community, and Pluralism in American Life. Ed. Fisher et al. New York: Oxford University Press.

Spears, Arthur K. 1999. Race and Ideology. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.

Zelinsky, Wilbur. 2001. The Enigma of Ethnicity. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.



Protest Trump’s Imperial War-mongering in the Philippines


by KAMALAYAN: Philippine Educational-Cultural Forum, Washington, DC


Washington, D.C.–November 6, 2017–With collusion scandals on his back, President Trump visits Manila and Clark Field, Pampanga, Philippines, historic outposts of the then rising U.S. Empire at the turn of the last century.

Today, virtually a neocolony, the Philippines serves once again as a springboard for U.S. imperial interventions in the Asia-Pacific region. Various government agreements have converted the former U.S. military bases in Clark, Subic, and elsewhere into counterinsurgency centers against Filipinos protesting corporate plunder of the country’s natural and human resources.

The Duterte regime of corrupt oligarchs has welcomed renewed U.S. military intervention in the destruction of Marawi City in the global campaign against ISIS. The war on drugs and terrorism has become a pretext to justify a Plan Colombia-type of U.S. intervention in their former colony.

Duterte welcomes Trump in the hope of increased military aid. The issue of Duterte’s bloody human rights record, the extra-judicial killing of over 9,000 suspects in the drug war, and the vicious bombing and massacre of peasants, Lumads, and Moro villages, will fill the silent corridors of Malacanang and the Asian Summit halls.

After boasting of U.S. devastation of Japan in World War II, Trump wants to involve the peoples of Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China and the Philippines in his campaign to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea with “fire and fury.” Nothing less than a genocidal campaign will fulfill Trump’s America-First policy.

As peoples concerned with social justice, respect for human rights, and peace among nations, we call on everyone to protest Trump’s endorsement of the corrupt, deceitful Duterte regime.

Trump’s attempt to project U.S. military power on the region, and his threat of nuclear war, only serve the profiteering interests of big business. We support the demilitarization of the South China Sea and respect for national sovereignty.

We call on all peoples in Asia and the United States to reject Trump’s war-profiteering and neoliberal programs that destroy people’s jobs, their civic and political rights, and the ecological health of the planet.

KAMALAYAN Philippine Educational and Cultural Forum
Washington DC


BAKAS–Burador ng Isang Talambuhay –E. San Juan, Jr.


BAKAS: Dalumat ng Gunita’t Hinagap, Memorya ng Kinabukasan

— ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.



Buhay ay pakikipagsapalaran, lihis sa iyong pagnanais o pagnanasa
Pook na dinatnan ay hindi nakaguhit sa dibdib, balintunang hinala
Pook na binagwis ng alaala’t pag-aasam
Tumatawid sa agwat/puwang ng panahong gumugulong sa buhangin
Nakalingon habang dumudukwang sa agos ng alon—
anong kahulugan ng pagsubok at pangakong itinalaga ng panahon?
Tayo ba ang umuugit sa daluyong ng kapalaran?


Lumilihis sa bawat liko, sa bawat sandali nag-iiwan ng bakas ang katawan
Sa bawat sulok, matatagpuan ang uling/alabok ng buong kasaysayan—
Bumabagtas sa bawa’t yugto ang tunggalian ng uri, saan kang panig makikisangkot, kaya kailangang magpasiya
Upang masunggaban ang sungay ng tadhana, ikawing ito
sa ating adhika’t pangangailangan ng komunidad—

Tanong mo’y saan? Sagot ko’y kailan? Bibingka ng hari, di mahati-hati….

Tuwing umaga’y nalalanghap ang anghot ng ihi’t dumi ng kabayo
sa kuwadra ng San Lazaro tabi ng Oroquieta Ospital ang kinagisnan—
Agwat/puwang ng panahon, kaluluwang humibik
sa pagitan ng Tayabas at Batangas, bininyagan sa Iglesiya Espiritu Santo

Kapagkwa’y tumawid at naipit sa riles ng Blumentritt at estero ng Dimasalang
malapit sa pugad ng pampang si Marina noong 1945….
—“dala-dala’y buslo…pagdating sa dulo”—
Sa mga eskinita lumalagos ang bango ng piniritong isda’t ginisang bawang sibuyas kamatis luya
Sa bingguhan asaran biruan ng mga kamag-anak

Amoy ng dura’t pawis masangsang na putik sa harap ng 2121 Avenida Rizal
kung saan napanood ang prusisyon ng libing ni Manuel Quezon

Kakatwang estranghero ang sumaksi sa tahanang
ginawang motel para sa ‘short-time” tipanan ng magtatalik—

Agwat ng umaga’t dapithapon sa naghihintay na musmos, binibilang ang patak ng ulan
Puwang ng paglalaro sa lansangan ng Tayuman at Bambang, inaabangan—

Sakaling wala ang ina’t ama, “buhok ni Adan hindi mabilang,”
himutok ng ulilang musmos
Sagisag na walang lakas hubugin ang daloy ng karanasan, biktima ng pangyayaring
matagal ang panahon ng pagkagulang, nabulabog sa bawat gulong ng trapik….

Gayunpaman, nabaluktot sa balisa’t di-pagkakapalagay, stigmata sa gunita:

Unti-unting nahuhulog kumpol-kumpol ang dilawang bulaklak ng punong-akasya
sa harap ng dungawang tila masamyong dibdib ni Nena, nag-alagang katulong, mangyaring pagpalain ng Inang Kalikasan
ang kaniyang mairuging kaluluwa.


2. MONTALBAN, RIZAL (1945-1950)


Bukal ang kinabukasan sa iyong gunita, sa tukso ng pag-asa
Sa guni-guni, tila huni ng ibon sa bulaos ng kalabaw tungo sa ilog Pasig
Bumubuhos sa Montalban, agos ng panahong sumusukat sa isip
Tinutugis ang kaganapang bulong at anasan ng mga nagdarasal
sa sementeryo ng La Loma…

Lalakarin daw ang haba ng dinulang, doon masusulyapan ang Irog
bago manampalok—Sinampal muna bago inalok?

Halinghing ng kabayo sa gubat ungol ng baboy aso’t manukan
Pangarap ng paglalayag habang nakadukwang sa estero ng Reina Regente
gumagapang gumagala sa Binondo San Nicolas Dibisorya

Takas, pumipiglas—
Pinaulanan ng bala ng gerilyang Huk ang PC istasyon sa munisipyo ng Montalban
—hindi lamang pito ang baril nila, di lamang siyam ang sundang—
Taginting ng salapi’y hungkag sa hinagap ng Boddhisatvang umakyat
sa lambak doon sa Wawa kung saan
nagkublli sina Andres Bonifacio’t at mga gerilyang Katipunan….

Umahon mula sa kabilang ibayo ang kamalayang sumasagap sa tinig ng panata
hindi mula sa Benares o Herusalem kundi sa Sierra Madre
upang humabi ng sutrang kayumanggi mula sa tadhanang gumugulong….

Sunggaban ang suwag ng kapalarang naligaw sa rumaragasang unos
Malayo na sa kilabot ng mga Hapong umurong sa Wawa
Pinaligiran ng tropang Amerikano, sindak ng imperyalismong sumasabog…

Gumising doon sa bukang-liwayway ng Liberasyon at tuloy sa dagundong
ng magulong Maynila, sunog sa Korea at Arayat
mabilis pa sa alaskuwatrong tumungo sa sinehang Lotus at Noli
Kung saan narinig ang “Fascination” nina Dinah Shore at Belle Gonzales—

Bigkasin mo ang pangalan ng mga kolaboreytor at bayaning nagbuwis ng buhay….

Ngayon ay alingawngaw ng panahong
Lumikha sa mga pangyayaring
Lihis sa iyong pangarap at panimdim
Kapwa ninais at pinilit
Kapwa tinaggap at tinanggihan: kailan? saan?
Sa pag-inog ng pakikipagsapalarang tila walang simula’t katapusan.





Pangangailangan ang umuusig sa pagkikipagsapalaran, gumaganap ang bulag na simbuyo
Sa daluhong ng kasaysayan, hindi maiiwasan o maitatakwil
Kaya ang sumunod sa nesesidad ay malaya’t magpapalaya
sa kahinugan ng panahon, pahiwatig ng mga pantas….

Sumisingit sa baklad ng gunitang balintuwad:
Minsan tinapos ko ang Crime and Punishment ni Dostoevsky
isang hapong maalinsangan
Di ko malilimutan ito, gabi na ng ibaling ang paningin sa bintana
Lihim na pagkahumaling ko kay Esther Deniega (lumisan na) ay iburol sa balong
malalim, punong-puno ng patalim, balong hindi malingon
Tulad ng pagsasama namin nina Ernie at Pete Daroy
Sa limbo ng mga pagliliwaliw, sa impiyerno ng mga pag-aalinlangan at agam-agam


Mabuhay kayong mga itinapon,
Nakarating na kayo sa ipinangakong himpilan, ipinaginip na himlayan.
“Dalawang pipit, nagtitimbangan sa isang siit, sumusungit ng bituin”
Di nagluwat, sumabak sa pakikibaka laban sa US-Marcos diktadurya—

Minagaling ang basag kaysa baong walang lamat

Sapagkat sa kaibuturan ng aksidente, pagbabakasakali, namumutawi
ang siglang pagbubuhatan ng tagumpay ng ating minimithi,
Hindi salita kundi hibo’t hikayat ng panaginip at guniguni, matris ng himagsikan,
ang lugar ng panahong nahinog sa yapos at aruga
ng mga magulang at mga gurong nagmalasakit…

Huwang mong basahin ito
Tatak ng titik titik ng tiktik
Huwag tingnan huwag sipatin
Huwag silipin huwag sulyapan
Tatak ng titik titik ng tiktik
Huwag mong titigan baka ka malikmata’t maalimpungatan….


Asul ang kulay ng langit sa parang at lambak ng Diliman—
Aso ko sa pantalan, lumukad ng pitong balon, humugos sa pitong gubat
bago natanaw ang dagat—

Walang katuturan ang panahon kung walang pangarap o pag-asa
Pagnanais ang matris ng pangyayari, pagnanasa ang ina ng katuparan
Kabiyak na niyog, magdamag na kinayod,
Naghasik ng mais, pagkaumaga ay palis—

Huli ng balintataw ang mailap na buntala ng iyong mithing talinghaga,
pangarap ng pithayang alumpihit pumaimbulog sa kawalan.




….Subalit ang kalayaang magpasiya’y nagkabisa
Sa isang tiyak na pook at itinakdang pagkakataon
Bagamat limitado ang kapangyarihang umalsa’t bumalikwas
Walang pangyayaring magaganap kung wala ka,
Sintang itinapon sa gitna ng maburak na Pasig.

Bumagsak ang eruplano ni Magsaysay ngunit nkalimutan
na ang CiA ahenteng Lansdale, sa gayon
Neokolonyang teritoryo pa rin tayo hanggang ngayon….

Agos de pataranta sa Palomares at Gardeniang dinalaw ng mga GI
pagkatapos sumuko si Aguinaldo’t nawala si David Fagen

Magkabalikat kami nina Ernie at David Bunao sa bilyaran sa Quiapo
Di inalintana kung may hirap, hanapin ang ginhawa
Aralin ng pakikipag-ugnayan sa Culi-Culi, Marikina, massage parlor sa Raon
Walang matimtimang birhen sa lagalag na kaluluwang naghuhunos
Di bumibilang ng bukas-makalawa upang paraanin ang nagparaan—

Walang matiyagang hayup sa magayumang kalapating sumasayad sa pampang….

Shantih Shantih Weiilala leia Wallala leialala

Bago umakyat sa Baguio, tumawid kami sa Tayug, Pangasinan, nina Mario Alcantara
at Pablo Ocampo, kumakampanya para kina Recto-Tanada
Hindi ko batid noon na malapit sa Binalonan, bayan ni Carlos Bulosan….
Noong 1972 ko na lang napag-alaman ito sa lilim ng Pulang Bandila

Lumangoy at lumutang sa usok sa Luneta’t daungan ng Manila Bay
Tudyo’t halakhak ng mga kaibigang nakausad mula sa Tundo hanggang Sta Cruz & Quiapo

Tatlong bundok ang tinibag bago dumating nang dagat

Walastik, para kina T.S. Eliot Joyce Nietzsche Sartre, tapos ang boksing sa Sarili
Walastik, naghalo ang balat at tinalupan sa turo ng pilosopong galing sa Popular Bookstore

Di naglaon, tumubo ang sungay at tumindi ang pagnanasang makahulagpos
—“karga nang karga, kahit walang upa” ang islogan ng anarkista
bago sa engkuwentro kina Marx Engels Lenin Lukacs noong dekada 1965-72…


Pumalaot na mula sa daungan ng Subic Bay
Lupa’t tubig ang nakalunsad
Apog at asin sa lagusan
Tinalunton ang landas pabulaos mula sa Ilog Montalban
Halos magkandarapa halos sumubsob
Hindi pa nakaraos
Hindi pa natutuklasan: kutob, ligamgam
Hangin at apoy ang bumuhos
Hindi pa yari ang proyektong idaraos
Pumalaot na sa hanggahang di-abot-tanaw
Humugos sa dalampasigan
Tubig lupa hangin apoy
Apoy hangin apoy







Ilang Pagninilay sa “Bakas” ni E. San Juan, Jr.



Sa puwang ng ilang pahina, hiniling ng patnugot na ipahayag ko ang ars poetikang nakatalik sa tulang “Bakas.” Balighong hinuha, ngunit sa tangkang paunlakan, sinubok ng makata ang interpretasyong sumusunod na bukas sa anumang pasubali, pagwawasto, at pagpapabulaan.
Pambungad na gabay muna: Huwag kalimutan na nakapaloob sa kolonyalismong orden ang lahat ng intelektwal sa ating bayan, mula 1899 hanggang 1946, at sa neokolonyalistang istrukturang saligan ng Estadong nakapailalim sa imperyalismong U.S. Dahil sa kapangyarihan ng pribadong pag-aari (kapitalista, piyudal) at di-makatarungang dibisyon ng trabaho, patuloy ang digmaan ng mga uri’t iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan. Mistipikasyon at obskurantismo ang namayani sa klima ng panahon ng pagkagulang ng makata (1938-1948), at utilitaryanismong neoliberal mula 1949 hanggang sa ngayon. Samantala, maigting din ang paglago ng mga puwersang sumasalungat sa hegemonya ng kapitalismong global.
Walang tabula rasa sa naratibo ng talambuhay. Masasaksihan doon ang suliranin ng “Unhappy Consciousness” (Hegel) na diyalektika ng ugnayan ng alipin at panginoon sa islang sinakop. Kolonyalisadong mentalidad ang minana ng makata hanggang magkaroon ng kabatiran sa panahon ng anti-imperyalismong pag-aalsa laban sa U.S. interbensiyon sa Vietnam at pagsuporta sa diktaduryang Marcos (1972-1986). Ang katotohanan ng kolonisasyon/neokolonisasyon ng isang subalterno at kung paano maitatakwil ito’t makahuhulagpos sa nakasusukang bangungot ng pang-aapi’t dominasyon—ito ang tema ng “Bakas.” Sa trabaho ng negasyon, sa pamamagitan ng gawaing subersyon ng umiiral, bumubukal ang kinabukasan na siyang katubusan ng nakalipas. Ililigtas din nito ang Rason/Ideyang ipinagtanggol ng mga bayaning nagbuwis ng buhay upang mapalaya ang sambayanang lumilikha ng pagkataong Filipino at kalinangang batayan ng sosyalismong hinaharap.

Mapa ng Salaysay
Di na dapat sabihin na matatarok lamang ang buod ng karanasan kung pagdurugtungin sa banghay ng naratibo ang proseso ng pagsulong at kinahinatnan. Mauunawaan sa gayon ang Konsepto (Begriff) ng kolektibong kamalayang nagbabanyuhay. Kaya susubaybayan natin ang detalye ng panahon at lugar na sumasagisag dito. Bawat nilalang ay nakaangkla sa isang espasyong partikular, lunan o pook kung saan nakaluklok ang Ideyang Unibersal (“Geist,” bansag ni Hegel; ang kooperatibang humanidad, sa isip ni Marx-Engels). Ngunit walang kabuluhan ito kung hindi nailalakip sa daloy ng kasaysayan.
Naimungkahi ni Henri Lefebvre na ang produksiyon ng espasyo ay isang usaping kaugnay ng buhay o kamatayan para sa bawat lahi. Naisusog niya na walang makaiilag sa “trial by space—an ordeal which is the modern world’s answer to the judgment of God or the classical conception of fate” (The Production of Space, 1991, p. 416). Adhikain ng tula ang himaymayin ang ideolohiyang minana sa kolonisadong kultura ng Commonwealth at neokolonyang Republika sa paraan ng paghahalo’t pag-uugnay ng iba’t ibang kontradiksiyon ng karanasan, paghahalintulad ng pira-pirasong yagit ng gunita, alanganin, pagsisisi, panimdim, pangarap, pagkabigo, mapangahas na pagsabak sa daluyong ng pakikipagsapalaran. Makikilatis ang tunguhin ng bawat tagpo sa tula: ang balak na lumikha ng identidad mula sa metapisikal na indibidwalistikong ego tungo sa isang konsepto ng budhi ng pagkatao. Sa kabilang dako, layon din na makalinang ng isang diwa o matris ng kolektibong ahensiya ng uring gumagawa o yumayari—sa ibang salita, ang ahensiyang istorikal ng mga manggagawa’t pesante, ang bayang pumipiglas sa kadena ng imperyalismo’t burokratang kapitalismong namamayani hanggang ngayon. Ito ang protagonistang uugit sa transpormasyong radikal ng bansa.
Sinikap dito na isatinig ang kolektibong memorya sa pagbabay sa mga kontradiksiyong masisinag sa karanasan ng makata. Kailangang ilugar ang nangungusap na aktor sa isang takdang yugto ng kasaysayan. Kung walang katawan, walang mararamdamang pangyayari, walang bisa’t katuturan ang pontensiyal ng kaluluwa—ang birtud ng inkarnasyon. Sino ang bumulong ng balitang isisilang na ang Mesiyas? Kinakasangkapan ng sining ang ilusyon ng anyo o hitsurang nadarama upang maibunyag ang katotohanan, ang sintesis ng sangkap at kaakibat na totalidad. Sa gayon, hindi matatakasan ang araw-araw na pakikihamok, tuwa’t daing ng mga katawang magkabalikat. Bawat pulso ng wika’y siya ring pulso ng body politic, ang komunidad na kinabibilangan ng makata. Artikulasyon ng katutubong wika (hindi Ingles) ang mabisa’t mabungang medyasyon ng bahagi at kabuuan.


Mobilisasyon ng Pagnanasa
Nasaan tayo ngayon? Patungo saan? Balitang nakatambad sa Internet: Martial law sa Mindanao, patayan sa Marawi City ngayon, mistulang katuparan ng binhing naipunla noong dekada 1972-1986 kung saan namulat ang makata sa realidad. Paano maipangangatwiran ang sining/panitikan sa gitna ng gulo’t ligalig, malagim at nakasisindak na paghahari ng terorismong gawad ng imperyalistang globalisasyon? Paano maikikintal sa konsiyensiya ng lahi ang balangkas ng buhay na nakagapos sa anomie at alyenasyong naibunsod ng komodipikasyon ng bawat bagay—panggagahis o pagbebenta sa karanasan, pag-ibig, seks, panaginip? Lahat ay nalusaw sa fantasmagorya ng salapi at bilihing lumamon sa dugo’t espiritu ng bawat tao. Saan ang lunas sa malubhang salot na nagbuhat pa sa pagsakop ng Estados Unidos nang mabuwag ang proyekto ng himagsikan ng 1896 at nalubog tayo sa barbarismong laganap ngayon? Nabalaho ang kasaysayan natin sa gayuma ng komoditi/bilihin, sa diskursong burgis ng pamilihan/salapi at indibidwalistikong pagpapayaman.
Ituring na alegorya ang imahen, tayutay o talinghagang ikinabit dito sa ilang pook ng MetroManila kung saan nagkaroon ng kamalayang sosyal ang makata. Isinilang bago pumutok ang WW2, nasagap pa ang huling bugso ng nasyonalismo ng Philippine Commonwealth (Avenida Rizal). Nagbinata noong panahon ng Cold War, panahon ng Korean War at pagsugpo sa Huk rebelyon—rehimen nina Quirino, Magsaysay at Carlos Garcia (Montalban, Rizal). Tinalunton ang landas tungo sa pagpasok sa Jose Abad Santos High School noong nakatira sa Balintawak; at sa paglipat sa Craig, Sampaloc, nasabit sa mga anarkistang pulutong sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.
Di sinasadya itong makitid na ruta ng uring petiburgis. Paniwala ito ng aktor/suheto ng pansaliring pagnanais. Natambad sa positibismong pilosopiya nina Dr. Ricardo Pascual at mga kapanalig—sina Cesar Majul at Armando Bonifacio—at nakisangkot ang awtor sa kampanya nina Recto-Tanada noong dekada 1954-58. Nakilahok din sa praxis ng diskursong sekular laban sa panghihimasok ng ilang reaksyonaryong kleriko sa akademya. Nakakawing sa mga pook na naitala ang ilang pangyayaring nagsilbing konteksto sa paghubog ng diwang mapagpalaya’t makabayan, diwang tumututol sa umiiral na ordeng puspos ng pagsasamantala’t korapsiyon, ng walang tigil na tunggalian ng uri, kaalinsabay sa pagsigla ng pambansang pagsisikap makalaya’t makamit ang tunay na kasarinlan at pambansang demokrasya.
Salungat sa pormalistikong estetikong iginigiit ng akademikong institusyon ang buhay ng makatang tinalunton dito. Litaw na nagbago ang kamalayan sa pamamagitan ng ugnayan ng praktika at teorya, hindi lang pragmatikong pakikilahok at pakikiramay. Maraming balakid, natural, ang ruta ng gitnang klase sa lipunan. Tubo sa petiburgesyang uri—guro sa haiskul at pamantasan ang mga magulang, na naging kamag-aral nina Loreto Paras-Sulit at henerasyon nina Jose Garcia Villa at Salvador P. Lppez—naging huwaran ang mga intelektuwal sa milyu ng Komonwelt. Unang pumukaw sa imahinasyon sng mga pelikulang Hollywood, mga huntahahan ng tiyo’t tiya sa Blumentritt, ang mga kuwento ng kaiskuwela sa Jose Abad Santos High School sa Meisic, Reina Regente, na ngayo’y higanteng mall sa Binondo. Nagpasigla rin si Manuel Viray, tanyag na kritiko, at naglaon sina Franz Arcellana, Rony Diaz, Ernie Manalo, Pete Daroy, Gerardo Acay, Carlos Platon, Ruben Garcia, atbp. Huwag nang banggitin ang palasintahing pagpaparaos ng panahon na pwedeng suriin sa isang nobelang education sentimental—tila kalabisan na ito, mangyari pa.

Naligaw na Mapa ng Paglalagalag
Bagamat kabilang sa mga petiburgesyang etsa-puwera, hindi biglang naging maka-kaliwa ang awtor—matinding impluwensiya sa simula ang Existentialismong naisadula nina Sartre, Camus, Marcel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard. Ginagad sina Villa, T.S. Eliot, Wynhdam Lewis (tingnan ang “Man is a Political Animal” at iba pang detalye sa Kritika Kultura #26 ) at mga awtor na tinangkilik ng mga kaibigang kalaro sa bilyaran at kainuman sa Soler, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo at Balara. Tanda ko na laging bitbit ko noong katulong ako sa Collegian ang libro ni Sartre, What is Literature? Hihintayin pa ang dekada 1965-1975 bago mapag-aralan sina Mao, Lenin, Lukacs, Marx, Engels, Gramsci, atbp. Nauna si Mao noong huling dako ng dekada 1960, at sumunod si Georg Lukacs sa antolohiya kong Marxism and Human Liberation (1972). Mapapansin ang indibiduwalistikong himig ng tula, na hango kina T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, at W.B. Yeats, mga manunulat na naging ulirang padron noong aktibo sa UP Writers Club at sa krusadang anti-obskurantismong pinamunuan nina Pascual, Alfredo Lagmay, Augstin Rodolfo, Leopoldo Yabes, Elmer Ordonez, at iba pang guro sa pamantasan. Nakaimpluwensiya ang mga sallita’t kilos ng mga iskolar-ng-bayan, at naging tulay ang tradisyong humanistikong iyon sa pakikipagtulungan ko kina Amado V. Hernandez at Alejandro Abadilla noong mga dekada 1960-1967. Hindi dapat kaligtaan ang pakikisama ng awtor kina Ben Medina Jr., Rogelio Mangahas, Ave Perez Jacob, Efren Abueg, at ibang kapanalig sa kilusang makabayan.
Bakit panitik o sining ang napiling instrumento upang maisatinig ang mailap na katuturan/kahulugan ng buhay? Anong saysay ng tula sa harap ng mabilis na transpormasyon ng lipunan—ang pag-unlad nito o pagbulusok sa lusak ng barbarismo ni Duterte at oligarkong kasabwat? Noon, masasambit bigla ang pormularyo ng Talks at the Yenan Forum ni Mao. Sapantaha kong nakausad na tayo mula sa dogmatikong gawi. Sukat nang sipiin ang bigkas ni Amado Hernandez sa panayam niya tungkol sa sitwasyon ng mga manunulat noong 1968: “Ang kanilang mga katha ay hindi na bungangtulog kundi mga katotohanang nadarama, kaugnay at kasangkot sa mga pakikibaka ng lipunan at taongbayan at ng pagbabalikwas ng uring dukha laban sa inhustisya sosyal ng mga manghuhuthot at mapanlagom” (Panata sa Kalayaan ni Ka Amado, ed. Andres Cristobal Cruz, 1970).

Salungguhitan ang Sangandaan
Nasa kalagitnaan na tayo ng pagtawid sa ibayong pampang, bagamat naudlot ang usapang pangkapayaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at National Democratic Front (NDFP). . Inaasahan kong naisaulo na natin ang prinsipyo ng materyalismong istorikal: ang konkretong analisis ng masalimuot na paglalangkap ng sari-saring dimensiyon ng anumang krisis sa kasaysayan. Umpisahan natin ang mapanuring pagtalakay ng kasaysayan sa metodong Marksista: malawak ang imbak na posibilidad ng sambayanan, ngunit ito’y binhi pa lamang ng kinabukasang nahihimbing sa pusod ng kasalukuyan (ayon kay Ernst Bloch). Gayunpaman, hindi natin mahuhulaaan ang tiyak na oras o sandali ng kagyat na pagsalimbay at pagdagit ng anghel ng Katubusan.
Ito ang dahilan sa pagdiin ng makata sa kontradiksiyon ng di-maiiwasang pangangailan at libertad, ang larangan ng contingency at ng nesesidad. Naitanghal na ito ng mga suryalistikong artista at nina Pablo Neruda, Bertolt Brecht, Lu Hsun, Aime Cesaire, atbp. At naipaliwanag din ito sa pilosopiya nii C.S. Peirce (ang polarisasyon ng tadhana at aksidente; tychism, synechism). Sa paglagom, ang kalayaan ay nagmumula sa pagkabatid sa batas ng kalikasan (tendensiya, hindi istriktong batas, batay sa galaw o kilos ng produktibong lakas ng komunidad).
Sa masinop na imbestigasyon, masisilip din ito sa Tao Te Ching, o sa akda nina Clausewitz at Sun Tzu hinggil sa arte ng digmaan. Kaugnay nito, pag-isipan din natin ang turo na ang sining ay hindi tuwirang salamin ng realidad kundi simbolikong praktika. Sa pamamagitan ng retorika, talinghaga, sagisag, binibigyan ng solusyong ideolohikal o pang-imahinasyon ang kongkretong kontradiksiyong pulitikal-sosyal sa lipunan. Tungkulun ng manapanuring aktibista ang pagsiyasat at pagsaliksik sa subtexto na mga kontradiksiyong pinoproblema sa karaniwang buhay ng madla sa lipunan.
Pahimakas sa Patnubay ng mga Bathala

Sa larangan ng malikhaing panulat, desideratum sa makata ang paghabi ng makabagong artikulasyon sa loob ng parametro ng sistemang lingguwistika, at sa musikero ang pagyari ng baryasyon sa tema sa loob ng kumbensyonal na kuwadrong sonata o fugue, halimbawa. Lumisan na ang Musang maipagbubunyi. Naiwan na lamang ang gumuhong labi ng malungkuting alingawngaw ni Maria Makiling sa Pinagbuhayan ng bundok Banahaw. Marahil, bukas, makikipag-ulayaw tayo sa mga Pulang Mandirigmang nagdiriwang sa liberated zone ng Sierra Madre.
Balik-aralin ang proposisyon ni Sartre: Kanino mananagot ang manunulat? O sa pagtatasa ni Brecht: dapat bang mang-aliw o magturo ang manunulat? Maari bang pag-isahin ang naihiwalay sa aksyomang klasikong dulce et decorum, ang responsibilidad na magpataas ng kamalayan habang nagliliwaliw at nagsasaya? Maibabalik ba ang gintong panahon nina Balagtas at Lope K. Santos?
Sa panahon ng kapitalismong neoliberal, at madugong militarisasyon ng bansa (sa ironikal na taguring Oplan Pangkapayapaan), paano maisasakatuparan ang pagbabalikwas sa lumang rehimen at pagtatag ng makatarungang orden? Paano mapupukaw ang manhid na sensibilidad ng gitnang-uri na nabulok na sa walang-habas na komodipikasyon? Hindi na matutularan ang huwarang kontra-modernismo ng makatang Charles Baudelaire, halimbawa, na nagsiwalat ng kabulukan ng burgesyang lipunan noong ika-1800 siglo (ayon kay Walter Benjamin,The Writer of Modern Life, 2006).
Ano ang dapat gawin? Malayo na tayo sa milyung inilarawan ni Ka Amado noong 1968. Sa ngayon, ang katungkulan ng mandirigmang makata (mithiin ng awtor ng “Bakas”) ay makisangkot sa pagbuo ng hegemonya ng proletaryo’t magbubukid bilang organikong intelektuwal ng nagkakaisang-hanay (tagubilin ni Gramsci) sa panahon ng imperyalismong sumasagka sa pagtatamasa ng kasarinlan at kaunlaran ng bansa. Huwag kalimutan ang Balanggiga? Oo, subalit huwag ding kalimutan ang Maliwalu, Escalante, Mendiola, Marawi! Itampok ang bumabangong kapangyarihan ng sambayanan! Sa halip na mag-fokus sa egotistikang talambuhay, ibaling ang isip sa mabalasik na bugso’t pilantik ng kolektibong gunita na mauulinigan sa musika ng “Bakas.” Sukat na itong magsilbing pahimakas sa kabanatang ito ng paglalakbay ng manlilikha sa mapanganib na pakikisalamuha (hindi pakikipagkapwa) sa digmaang-bayang rumaragasa’t patuloy na gumigimbal at bumabalantok sa buhay ng bawat nilalang sa milenyong ito. —##

Image | Posted on by