Friends, lovers of literature, dreamers in writing and in life, good morning.
When I left Davao years ago, I left in tears. My students gave me a truly memorable despedida – I felt that I was already dead, and their testimonies were eulogies for someone who had reached the end of his tether. Davao will always hold a special place in my heart, and I feel no different from Pres. Digong when he sighs in a special way and always yearns to come back here, to the consternation of a lot of people in Manila. “The city of my last breath,” the poet Ricardo de Ungria calls this place, and I always heave that same sigh when I utter the name of this beloved city.
I came here in 1999 thinking of myself as a literary missionary. After 15 years in Dumaguete City where the first writers workshop in the country was established in Silliman University by the Tiempos, I arrived here at the turn of the 21st century thinking that it would be a literary desert. But I was immediately embraced upon arrival by the founding members of the Davao Writers Guild – Aida Rivera-Ford, TIta Lacambra-Ayala, Ricardo de Ungria, Macario Tiu, and many others who like me, seemed to have idealized and romanticized their experience of the writers workshop in Dumaguete and wanted to establish one here, too.
Now it feels that that dreaming has borne fruit. My former students have taken the helm of the Writers Guild and I see a vibrant literary culture among the young people here in Mindanao. It takes time to cultivate a literary generation, in the same way that a single writer has to know how to make his writing, his life, and his environment merge into a confluence of what the French call “belle lettres” (beautiful writing). Continue reading The Double Bind in Writing