In Maine addressing the tragic-comedy of having an International artist residency grant

DIYANDI - DIYANDI By Cora M. Almerino () - July 31, 2005 - 12:00am
I left the Philippines again for an international artist residency grant in the United States, the Robert M. MacNamara International Artists Fellowship. This time in Wesport Island, Maine. This time it was not so much on the romance of uninterrupted time and space for writing but on the urgency of addressing an annoying issue brewing between me and my barkadas, Bon Aure, Mark Israel, Anthony Kintanar and Vince Cinches. The issue is the tragic-comedy of being called a literary diplomat.

It was a tipsy Vince Cinches who conceptualized all this. It was his bright idea. The rest picked up this joke and started problematizing my role in Cebuano poetics in the agency of international gathering of artists until it became a political issue to me.

The residency was an assembly of artists from America, Thailand, Russia and the Philippines. We were seven artists staying in the same field for six weeks.

We were all enjoying ourselves as the privileged but at the end of the day I found myself sulking in my work studio thinking over and over again my political issue as though I heard Vince, Mark, Anthony and Bon in their passionate polemics. I hated it. I was psychedelic and thus pathetic.

The residency program has a final presentation of works with which the artists will assemble and talk about their works and how these works could be part of a symbolic system of their cultures. In that residency I had to complete my 3rd book of poetry, DAMAN, a book concept which was carefully examined by my intimidating barkadas. When the residency staff informed me of my schedule of the final presentation I left my work studio and lay down in my room and played Diana Krall's "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". I started applying the anxiety therapy on me: close your eyes, take a deep breath, sing a favorite nursery rhyme. But instead of a nursery rhyme I found myself humming the Cebuano love song, "Usahay".

I found a space within me differentiated from other spaces and structures by this loving song, a song in my Cebuano language, a song from a culture that has survived the devastating effects of a colonial past and has remained enduring to this day amidst micro and macro structures of imposing cultures. I began to sing louder than Diana Krall until I could only hear my own voice and song. When the final presentation came I read the following poems and their English translations that I wrote in my residency:

from PAMAHAW SA SUBA PANAS
Ingon gayud niini.
Nakat-on na mig tulon bisan og bukog.
Naanad na mi og lanlan sa kalisud.

from DAKUP-DAKUP
Wala pay nidaug niini nga duwa o gubat.
Kay dinhi sa atong nasud, Francisca, dinhi
sa atong hinigugmang nasud ang mga sama
nimo puspusan, banggian og bukog, lugitan
og mga mata, putlan og dila.
Ug niining pagpakiggubat, ikaw, Francisca
Mamatay.

from HAPPY-HAPPY SI SISYPHUS
One must imagine Sisyphus happy, maoy
Panapos ni Albert Camus sa iyang
The Myth of Sisyphus. Ang happy
ra ba namong mga bisdak naay pakapin.

There were ten poems I presented to the panel and these ten poems are relational to Pierre Bourdieu's Habitus, "if members of the lower middle and working classes take reality as being equivalent to their wishes, it is because, in this area as elsewhere, aspirations and demands are defined in both form and content by objective conditions which exclude the possibility of hoping for the unobtainable." This is what "Daman" is all about and I believe this is what should every residency mean to me.

Every poem I write belongs to a symbolic system of my Cebuano culture, like other cultures, declares its own political signification. My voice though may vary, though may weaken in every poem, yet, it is still integral to the entire construct of the Cebuano community.

When the final presentation was over I took the long walk back to my work studio. I started singing again "Usahay". Loudly again, yes evangelizing a strange habitus with my Cebuano song. It was the most beautiful song my heart could hold.

This time, when Bon, Vince, Mark and Anthony cracks the same joke on me, I know just what to do.

ALBERT CAMUS ANTHONY AND BON ANTHONY KINTANAR AND VINCE CINCHES BON AURE CEBUANO DIANA KRALL EAST OF THE SUN INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS FELLOWSHIP MARK AND ANTHONY MARK ISRAEL
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