With the varied geographical locations influencing the imagination of Eastern Visayas writers, it is interesting to note that these new writings allow us to experience what takes place in the writers’ space—their location in the map, their homes, room or writing area, the vast space in the internet, or even the blank sheet where the dynamics of writing take place. And this space is not limiting. It can explore all possibilities.
In this collection, the writers move within these spaces which shaped their writings. They cannot separate themselves from the full sensory experience they have in their environment. This is exemplified in the the poems of Reynel M. Ignacio and the essay of Rhodora C. Abalajen which both hail from the northern part of Samar. Ignacio’s Parapangisda is replete with images of the life of a fisherman and his relationship with the sea that despite his familiarity with fishing, there still remains the inability to probe into the depths of the waters where hidden are things with stories of their own. All his other poems give us a glimpse of the simplicity of life in the province and he delivers his themes with profound maturity. Abalajen brings back memories of her childhood in an island that is often stricken by typhoons. Her recount of experiences during inclement weather vividly provides the local color of one’s childhood in a place that is far from the city. Her essay reflects how the different stages in her life changed her perspectives of typhoons, most especially when she became a mother whose first concern is no longer herself but the safety of her child.
Both Abalajen and Ignacio are adept in the use of their own dialects of the Waray language. They have impressively retained the nuances of the language and the tone of their voices speaking could be heard even in the text. In contrast, two writers from Leyte, Kenneth Alvin L. Cinco and Jenelyn V. Garcia break the stringent rules of writing in pure Waray language. Both of them infuse English terms in their story and poetry respectively, which did not really put the whole text at a disadvantage. This rather enriched the characterization of the child, the setting, and the tone of the persona in the case of poetry. Both these writers have lived most of their lives in Tacloban City, which may have affected their choice of language.
Cinco’s story tells the plight of a child who witnessed the harsh realities of the anti-drug campaign and got disillusioned with his dream of becoming a police officer, and so he resolved to pursue a different path. Garcia’s poems revolve around the context of survival amidst adversities caused by a super typhoon, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the stigma of having been infected by AIDS.
All these writings convey the struggles of people from different walks of life, and yet they express hope and determination in the midst of difficult situations. There’s the hope of the possibility of reconciliation of a couple, the stern resolve to change decisions, prioritize parental obligation, and the willpower to endure societal pressures. Garcia for instance in her poem about a santol tree that did not bear fruit in the summer, places a persona who believes that things will somehow change in the future: Bangin la sunod na tuig/magbunga ini hiya/bisan may pandemya pa/Sige la, basta tindog pa hiya/may pamumulaton pa. (Will it fruit next season, I wonder,/will it bear despite this pandemic? /As long as it’s upright, I suppose,/still rooted on earth, there’s hope.)
The works of these writers are worth engaging with if one wants to indulge in a different culture and perspective about life. And all these were birthed when the words liberated themselves from the writer’s own space and time.