"How do you know what people want to read?"
We don't. We go by feel. By roundabout feedback from you, our readers, and by way of submissions, we judge. Here in OUR OWN VOICE, we are ruled by one tenet: We want to reach you, dear reader. You may not think that being solo, you can move mountains. But you can. How better to reach you than by sharing our scavenger hunts, our mix and match discoveries, the telling of the times when we were distracted by an invitational "Psst! Psst!" of either a rumor of a new book or a new writer's efforts in Antarctica (maybe?).
In mahjong, it's called salat. A feel of the unseen from a sense of touch. There is no corporate formula. No deep dark trade secret. No ouija board to consult what will bring you here to scroll the pages, but with the combination in our staff of multiple personalities and creative nonsensical energy, we get there. I am a firm believer in creative nonsense to fuel the better things in life. So there you have it: We aim to reach you, the first-time reader. And to keep you, the repeat reader.
Noel Alumit, for instance, after Letters to Montgomery Clift, found himself in the delectable and enviable position of being offered a serialized version of his new novel This is How You Say "I Love You" in USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/front.htm. This is a weekly nationwide newspaper in the United States with a circulation of more than two million! Did he work for that pearl of great price? Probably. But more likely, he turned a corner and the opportunity bumped into him!
It is an inspiring experience for all writers, equivalent to winning that swipstek draw when you've only bought a ticket for the first time. A delicious Bingo sweep! How many readers did Noel Alumit reach? Of that two million, he reached me and I was delighted just by the fact that he made it. Made it so unconventionally. Made it and shouted Being Filipino from the rooftops!
We feature in this issue Alfred Yuson's set of 10 poems selected as the 2001 Palanca Awardee for Poetry. Here is a literary institution that belongs solely to Filipino literary artists. The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature have been touted as the Asian Pulitzer, and for half a century, it has consistently recognized the efforts of FILIPINO poets, fictionists, playwrights, essayists and writers in various media and in various regional languages. But as in anything "Filipino", it is an institution that is hidden, hardly known outside of the country's confines, and belittled by its own kind either overtly or for lack of psychic support. Why is that? Why is it that we favor and applaud and bandy about anything other than our own? Is this the nakakahiya post-colonial baggage we drag around and hand down to generations? That Filipino expression in Art and Literature is second-rate at best, or deserves only limited exposure?
In a similar variant, "poetry as a way of life" is an adage proclaimed by Eileen Tabios and pursued in her essay "Six Directions". She breaks through the barriers of poetry as defined by pundits, and proclaims the freedom of the poet to be as foolhardy and nonsensically creative as the spirit moves her! It is this sense of freedom to explore all facets of this one precious mode of living lifepoetrythat captivates and spreads the fire for all writers and readers alike. It is, in a sense, what all Filipinos should be doing: spreading the wonder and the pride of Being Filipino.
In short, dear reader, are we hearing our own voice as a people? Are you out there with us? Then register some artistic Filipino shock waves. Pocket colonial reticence. Go out there, proclaim and multiply.
October 4, 2002