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Favoritism in the PEN

ES Fernandez

Whether we like it or not, regional writers cannot compete with Manila writers because of uneven cultural development in the country due to the present politico-economic structure. The reason why they can meet together, launch their books, talk about their works, as you say the privileges we "can only dream wildly about" is because of this unequal and unfair representation. But let us face it. These "tribal" attitude creates an attitude of superiority over writers from the regions. The latter gets only recognized as a kind of tokenism from the center. Since when did these literary organizations consider non-Tagalog languages equal to and deserving of state and non-state support? Until now, no vernacular writer had been conferred with the National Artist award, which tells us of the low opinion of these literary mandarins toward writers from the periphery.

We are working in a very difficult situation since our own people are educated and being educated to become good Tagalogs. Our people can sometimes be our greatest enemies. They had become illiterates in their own languages. They will favor Tagalog instead of their own language. I felt compelled to react to National Artist F. Sionil Jose when he blamed the Boholanos for not reading their own literature. I said to him and to the audience that he cannot blame them for that because their language and literature are not taught in schools. Then, Karina Bolasco arrogantly accused us that we are to blame since we cannot even make our people read our works. I said to her that it is a question of political economy. This brings me to what Ricardo de Ungria said that we, writers from the regions, should publish our own works using our own resources. What? So, Manila writers get all the funding and all the publicity but we should rely on our own. What happens to the taxes we are paying? Are they to benefit only the center? This is pure and simple thievery.

We are not even acting as "spoiled brats" because we in the first place are never spoiled. Those in the center and those who benefit from patron-clientele politics are the ones spoiled. We don't want recognition from them anyway. The literary organization that I envision is a group that will do away with the discriminatory, prejudiced and reactionary principles of these associations. We cannot wait from Manila the recognition of non-Tagalog languages. It is from the periphery, from the regions, from the marginalized, which are the majority, where we should seek recognition. If we, writers from the regions, are united together in one literary group, we will be able to promote equality among languages, support for each other in terms of publicity and publication, and awareness among our people.
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