State of the Nation by F. Sionil Jose and Ninotchka Rosca

Just as it’s hard to bear your parents discipline, it’s hard to listen to the social commentators point out the many reasons why we, as a nation, are not as progressive as we should be. But it’s the kind of hardship one must bear if one is interested in improving. For as long as there are people who think and write and talk about our many flaws, there is still hope for us. It tells me there are people who still care enough to be bothered. I’m not arguing the rights and wrongs of these articles. But I’m celebrating these conversation pieces that I hope will get people talking, thinking and forming their own opinions that hopefully, also transform their behavior and inform their decisions.

National Artist for Literature, F.Sionil Jose, on why we are shallow, an excerpt:

Recently, I was seated beside former Senator Letty Shahani, PhD in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne, watching a medley of Asian dances. The stately and classical Japanese number with stylized movements which perhaps took years to master elicited what seemed to me grudging applause. Then, the Filipino tinikling which any one can learn in 10 minutes; after all that energetic jumping, an almost standing ovation. Letty turned to me and asked, “Why are we so shallow?”
Yes, indeed, and for how long?
This is a question which I have asked myself, which I hope all of us should ask ourselves every so often. Once we have answered it, then we will move on to a more elevated sensibility. And with this sensibility, we will then be able to deny the highest positions in government to those nincompoops who have nothing going for them except popularity, what an irresponsible and equally shallow media had created. As my foreign friend said, there is nothing to read in our major papers.

Full text here on the Philippine Star.

Human rights activists, Ninotchka Rosca, on the Filipino Amnesia, an excerpt:

This willful substitution of a simulation for reality comes easy to a people who have forgotten even the name of their favorite and most common dish even at the instant of their chewing upon it, this repast of pork chunks and chicken pieces simmered slowly in a broth of soy sauce and vinegar, with a concoction of spices. What is it called, what is its name? No one remembers and all are reduced to referring to it by the Mexican term adobo which in truth is far from the dish as can be. If food itself loses its designation, then there’s nothing out-of-kilter in towns, villages, streets changing names, or languages altering in accordance with every change in rulers. This is not a frailty but a virtue; it is celebrated as an infinite capacity for adaptation. Hence, in Japan, the women acquire local names and wear kimonos; in Saudi Arabia, they don the hijab while in Europe, their children acquire hazel and blue eyes and light skins. The men serve under flags of every sea-faring country in the world, spending their adulthood in unbounded oceans, their moorings reduced to portable memories: photographs of wives, children, parents, a song or two… This malleability is said to be what enables them to survive, even in the most perilous of the 198 “host” countries to which globalization takes them, chattering in Italian at the piazza where once a week, they gather to cease soul-shifting just long enough to enable their strangeness to surface and morph into familiarity by virtue of numbers.

Full text on Ms. Rosca’s blog.

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