I've been rereading Janet Kaplan's "Unexpected Journeys", and I find myself reflecting on the affinity I feel towards Remedios Varo's work. I wonder if it has to do with the many migrations she experienced, and the migrations I have experienced.
I think of my migration from the province to the city suburbs, from the city suburbs to the city itself, and from the city to a country outside of my home country. While my own migrations were not as intense as Remedios Varo's own migrations, I do recognize how these upheavals influence the way I look at my own work.
Somehow, I keep having this feeling of wanting to press beyond and to look on the other side of the page where worlds and possibilities exist.
In a sense, my writing of speculative fiction is a product of my migrant experience. From childhood, the sense of not really belonging or not really being part of "a culture" has pursued me. I remember my own intense desire to fit in with the culture of the mountain provinces, only to be reminded that I did not belong to this minority because my parents weren't from Ifugao. Spending all of my childhood years in the mountains still didn't make me Ifugao, and no matter what I did or how much I wanted to belong, nothing would change that.
When we left Banaue and moved to the city suburbs, the sense of uprootment and non-belongingness intensified. Maybe it would have been different if my parents had opted to send us to a semi-public school instead of to the exclusive private school they sent us to. How to write about those painful first years in High School when I could not even speak Pilipino properly because in Ifugao, folks don't speak tagalog. We spoke either English, Ilocano or Ifugao.
Early on, I learned the importance of wearing a smiling mask when inside I felt like crying. It didn't help that the first friend I had turned out to be someone who wanted me to give her all my lunch money and to give her the answers to tests or assignments until at a certain point, I didn't have any lunch money left and so she left and found someone else to get lunch money off and to copy answers from. Which made me feel at that time that Ifugao folks were very justified for not trusting city dwellers. Of course, I did eventually hook up with some fabulous folks who were true friends and remain true friends to this day.
Following the links on Dean Alfar's blog which leads to interesting debates on what makes certain stories Filipino, I find myself wondering at this obsession we folks seem to have with labels. I remember this discussion on the Online Writing Workshop list about what makes specfic what it is and why is it that some literary works still are literary when they employ genre stuff.
I have no answers to what makes a piece of specfic Filipino. None at all. I do believe in creating the best possible work I can create and pushing myself to be better than myself. In the end, one must be faithful to the muse and to what one is called to write. I also believe that all arguments as to what belongs to where are fruitless. Perhaps all this desire to categorize and labellize stems from our own need to belong and to be part of a culture.
I'd rather adhere to what Eileen Tabios says in reply to my question about genres in this Interview on The Sword Review:
Eileen: I no longer distinguish between forms (e.g. poetry vs fiction). I think all of what I do is a poet's practice -- or my poetic practice. That not only includes what I write (and in what form) but how I relate to other people, how I vote, how I blog, how I try to respect the mountain on which I'm blessed to live, how I cook (or not cook), how I watch TV (or not watch TV).... Because I wish to live my poetry vs trap it on the page, this kind of focus on genre is, for me, amateur hour.
It feels very weird for me to be thinking aloud like this on the page, and I wonder what this all means in relationship to what I'm working on and how I'm working on it.