This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.
Cupful of Anger,
Bottle Full of Smoke:
The Stories of
Jose V. Montebon Jr.
Silliman Writers Series, 2017
First Sight of Snow
and Other Stories
Encounters Chapbook Series
Et Al Books, 2014
Celebration: An Anthology to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop
Sands and Coral, 2011-2013
Silliman University, 2013
Handulantaw: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture and the Arts in Silliman
Tao Foundation and Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, 2013
Inday Goes About Her Day
Locsin Books, 2012
Beautiful Accidents: Stories
University of the Philippines Press, 2011
Old Movies and Other Stories
National Commission for Culture
and the Arts, 2006
FutureShock Prose: An Anthology of Young Writers and New Literatures
Sands and Coral, 2003
Nominated for Best Anthology
2004 National Book Awards
I should now say something about the process of selection.
It struck me at the end of my research, how apt, how fateful it is that, without prior design, Upon Our Own Ground should begin and end with Gregorio C. Brillantes (1932 - ): from “The Distance to Andromeda,” 1956, to “The Apollo Centennial,” 1972. Over that 17-year period, it can justly be said that Brillantes is – without intent of invidious comparison – the major figure among the young writers of his generation. Others who were no less skilful, innovative, and moving as storytellers – among them, Gilda Cordero-Fernando (1930 – ) and Wilfrido D. Nolledo (1933 – 2004), Linda Ty Casper (1931 – ) and Jose V. Ayala (1932 – ) – cleared new paths for fiction in a field of imagination which had already been richly tilled by the old masters who continued to write over the same period: N.V.M. Gonzalez (1915 – 1999), Nick Joaquin (1917 – 2004), and Bienvenido N. Santos (1911 – 1996), Edith L. Tiempo (1919 – ), Kerima Polotan Tuvera (1925 – ) and Aida Rivera Ford (1929 – ), to mention only a few. There were, of course, other writers even younger than Brillantes, a number of them still collegiate students, who came up with fine stories and would, after 1972, forge ahead and enrich the same literary terrain, among them, Ninotchka Rosca (1946 – ) and Alfred A. Yuson (1945 – ), Joy T. Dayrit (1944 – ) and Renato E. Madrid (1940 – ), Norma O. Miraflor (1944 – ) and Erwin E. Castillo (1950 – ).
My chief aim in the present Anthology is to highlight what we might regard as the robust advancement of the art of fiction from English ten years after the second World War, and in the process, acknowledge our debt of gratitude to other writers who today, for lack of a vigorous critical tradition, are hardly known despite their accomplishment, among them, Socorro Federis Tate (1916 – ) and Nita Umali Berthelsen (1923 – ), Rony V. Diaz (1932 – ) and Benjamin Bautista (1937 – ). Whatever theory of literature or the human psyche or society holds water (though never quite the ocean), whatever reading or interpretation of the stories appears well-grounded and plausible, the stories will always be there now as the heart and crux of our own clearing. Indeed, many authors in the present Anthology might have published only a few stories, or were hardly recognized even during their time, and yet, their literary endeavors did enrich the short story’s field of imagination: among them, other than those I have already mentioned, are Eugenio Alexis R. Baban and Vic Groyon, Jr., Lilia Pablo Amansec and Dolores N. Martir. So many writers in the field! – Leopoldo N. Cacnio, Jesus Q. Cruz, Jose T. Flores, Resil B. Mojares; Albina Manalo-Dans, Noralyn Mustafa, Almatita Tayo – but the trouble is, for economic or whatever reason, most (at whatever period, in fact) do not persevere.
I have made a liberal selection of eighty-six stories so that the present Anthology had to divide into two volumes: I, 1956 to 1963, and II, 1964 to 1972. As a rule of selection, a story must have passed the author’s own judgment of its worth by inclusion in the same author’s collection of his/her stories; concomitantly, a story’s version in the latest collection must be regarded as definitive. Still, the anthologist may well be surprised by a story or two outside the author’s own collection; e.g., Nita Umali Berthelsen, “Help Is a Fear,” 1961. In fact, though, many authors (Socorro Federis Tate, Benjamin Bautista, etc.) have no individual collection, which is as telling a factor in our literary milieu as the dearth of critical reviews. One then cannot simply depend on other anthologies that may well have other aims, or lightly dismiss writers who are not regarded today as “canonical.”
While it is farthest from my intention to establish a literary canon (which, I believe, changes over time anyway), I had wanted the present Anthology to be a treasure-trove of our rich literary heritage. Thus, I did not hesitate to include even the most anthologized stories by Gonzalez, “Bread of Salt,” 1958; Brillantes, “Faith, Love, Time and Dr. Lazaro,” 1960; Santos, “The Day the Dancers Came,” 1960; and Kerima Polotan, “The Sounds of Sunday,” 1961. Neither did I consider the length of any story a bar, e.g., Cordero-Fernando, “A Wilderness of Sweets,” 1964; indeed, especially among the young writers of the period, story length as well as exuberance of language seem to have been a test of the writer’s mettle.
Of course, in a historical anthology, where you also have a gathering of masters of the art like N.V.M. Gonzalez or Kerima Polotan, not all the works are of the same high caliber, as it were. It is historical, after all: that is to say, the anthologist aims to show a kind of broad sweep of the field where young writers do not slay their fathers early in the day, and not all persevere in the art. Since, too, even two volumes are still narrow space indeed, the anthologist is constrained to select in light of certain criteria that ineluctably, in their specific application, turn out also to be in part subjective. One can only hope then that another anthologist would cover the same field in light of his or her own criteria in order that other expectations might be met. Only to illustrate my point: Gloria Garchitorena-Goloy (1927 – ), who is also a poet, may not today have, as a short-story writer, the same high and well-deserved critical stature as Gilda Cordero-Fernando, but her story, “Paper Doll,” 1957, is I think (so finally a critical opinion) a fine story. Besides, our Appendix B may also be construed as an addendum that in effect completes our Anthology for the period.
In the selection process, as I read through all of 760 stories and made summaries of each one as aide-mémoire, I also considered the story’s “social relevance,” no matter what the social or economic class of the author or fictional character, and chose those stories that in some compelling way speak to us and interpret us to ourselves as Filipinos. This is one important factor why the criteria I speak of, although formal or artistic, turn out in their specific application to be partly subjective. The interpretation of our experience as a people – or rather, as individual members of a national community – varies of course from story to story, from one fictional character to another, and from reader to reader as well; and while the reader may not always agree with an imaginary character’s attitude or the story’s (or presumably, the author’s) stance or outlook, still someone’s experience as there imagined in the story does enhance the sense of one’s own world or humanity in one’s own historical present. In a number of stories, for instance, the presence of foreign characters often serves as a foil to a central character’s consciousness: e.g., the American wife in Luis V. Teodoro, “The Undiscovered Country,” 1968; or Cresencio’s American companion on a bus trip to Cresencio’s hometown in Benjamin A. Dia, “Inday Lupeng,” 1969.
As you might already have noticed, whenever I cite a cluster of instances, it comes as a pair or series of Adams and Eves. There are, in fact, as the Anthology’s selection stands, 36 male and 27 female authors. This was not deliberate; it was only afterwards that I added them up. I suppose that we are initially human at birth rather than a larva, and that being Filipino, as a dynamic process, is a continuing delineation of our humanity. My main concern then, to stress it again, remains the short story as an artistic representation of the human being in our own scene and circumstances: the short story as work of imagination and object of art; otherwise, if our interest is other than literary, why go for it rather than other texts in sociology, economics, history, political science, etc. where social and political issues that some stories touch upon are critically examined in light of concrete and material evidence. You will notice in the summaries of stories in our Notes that the imagined action and characters there may well be the stuff also of objective reports and interviews and historical documents; but those oral and written pieces are simply a world apart from fiction: that is to say, the short story is, first and last, a work of art. The “facts” in fiction are imagined and are not offered as evidence; they are there only as a way of enhancing our sense of reality that pertains only to the story’s imagined world; that enhancement, in turn, sharpens our sense of the real and the human in our workaday world. We might add that our précis or comment on a story’s content is not a surrogate for political action or advocacy; it is meant only as a prod for the reader to discover for himself the story’s artistic merit and insight: all the writer’s energy of imagination was poured into its poiesis in order that an insight might be given some recoverable form, and we but pay our respect to him when we regard what he has accomplished as an artist rather than as a social scientist or advocate of some political agenda.