A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: A Watershed of Stories

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. TINUBDAN: New Voices from Northern Mindanao – A Literary Anthology
    Editors: Arlene J. Yandug, Maria Elena L. Paulma and Lilia A. Coterjar
    Xavier University – Department of English Language and Literature, 2021
  2. THE UNTOLD STORIES OF CAMIGUIN ISLAND
    Author: Andres Narros Lluch
    Xavier University Press, 2020
Northern Mindanao Harvest: Tinubdan and the Untold Stories of Camiguin Island.

Given Mindanao’s location in this tropical part of the world with its mountain ranges, tubes or watersheds are a natural part of its landscape. Despite the massive onslaught of logging operations that have devastated its ecosystem due to unending deforestation, there are still pockets in this part of the southern Philippines with remaining watersheds.

The sad occurrence of forest loss has been accompanied by increasing migration from predominantly Cebuano-Bisayan-speaking areas of the archipelago, many of whom have come in search of livelihoods provided by commercial enterprises such than logging companies, unless their main concern is to acquire land to cultivate. In time, the dominant language of the island will introduce into the lexicon of Mindanawon a word such as tubod.

Where there is a watershed, it is no wonder that such a place is named Tubed. The capital of Lanao del Norte bears this name. And of the word tube, a derivative, namely tinubdan (the watershed source), is now appropriated by a group of authors to name an anthology of their writings.

TINUBDAN is a collection of poems, essays and short stories primarily in English and Cebuano-Bisaya, written by 21 writers from northern Mindanao, the region comprising Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental and is published by Department of English Languages ​​and Literature, Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City. It is edited by Arlene J. Yandug, Maria Elena L. Paulma (both with PhDs in Creative Writing) and Lilia A. Coterjar (PhDs in English Language and Literature).

From the authors’ Introduction to the book to the declarative title – “Going to the Sources: Initial Notes on Literary Anthologization vis-à-vis the Region’s Narrative” – one can immediately deduce that the authors of this book have a decolonial intent. challenging the domination of Western literature in our country followed for a time by that of the neocolonial center of the Republic. They make this emphatic claim to underscore a local trend:

“(T)he team carefully restrained the scope of the project because in light of the nation-region discourse (where ‘region’ implies being overshadowed by the nation-center which dictates the pace of literary production), we believe that the places where we were born or raised are the true sources or sources of our literary expressions.And this multiple small compilation is the way to go in Philippine literature because it is more likely to unearth the literary imagination, the gestures of hidden and underrepresented writing and consciousness.

Dr. Arlene Yandug from Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City speaks about Tinubdan: New Voices from Northern Mindanao, during the opening of the 2nd Mindanao Book Festival in Davao City on June 13. Yandug is one of three publishers of this collection of poems, essays and short stories in English and Cebuano-Bisaya, written by 21 writers from northern Mindanao. MindaNews Photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The local against the global, the center against the periphery, the native against the western, the dominant against the dominated. For years, these dualities have been challenged by those who construct and/or promote postcolonial and decolonial theories in both social science and literary circles. Authors, writers and journalists are naturally the most vehement in the appropriation of these theories as they are the most assertive in expressing themselves in writing!

This introduction is in itself an essay detailing how this claim has played out in Mindanao over the past few decades, particularly in two centers, namely the south (particularly Davao City) and the north (connecting the towns of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro). Publication after publication is then cited and documented in footnotes to indicate how this history of contemporary Mindanawon writing – particularly as compiled in anthologies – has unfolded over the years. The authors name the pioneers in this field and how they paved the way for Gen-Z Mindanawon writers who are now exploring this creative field.

Bothn/a The Mindanao Book Festival clearly showed how far this movement of producing and promoting Mindanawon writings has reached, despite the obstacles. Although there has been an increasing number of books published by Mindanawons on Mindanao, there could be more if only there were more local publishing houses with the capital to publish more books. Authors with unpublished works desperately wait for the chance that their manuscripts can be published.

There are other factors to consider: printing costs in this country are quite high (so even middle-class scholars find it hard to buy books), academic institutions (even universities) are not not too eager to get more titles published (again for financial reasons or because the makers are not bibliophiles), marketing systems still need to be put in place to ensure the book reaches its target audience. Government agencies (despite CHED grants) not only tax book publishing heavily, but have only a pittance for grants to publish books (unless peddled by relatives of those of the DepEd who take advantage of textbooks, as was the case under the Erap Estrada administration).

In this scenario, how can we introduce more millennials and Gen-Zs who have a knack for becoming writers in this field with the hope that one day they too might be published? It must be so daunting for them, especially if we add another contemporary reality that young people today are more drawn to images in their tech gadgets, so only a few enter libraries or read the texts required for their courses. One can only hope that – like their elders – they will not give in to the tendency to simply give up on their dream of becoming published authors!

But maybe all is not lost. The young crowd that flocked to MindaBookFest II shows that there is interest there. And by TINUBDAN the appearance in the collection of this BookFest is a clear testimony that the works of Mindanawon still have a bright future!

Adding to Northern Mindanao’s contribution to this exhibition (apart from works by Christine Godinez-Ortega, Tibo Fernandez and others) is that of Andres Narros Lluch The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island (Press XU). Stating that small islands such as Camiguin in the southern Philippines can also be a rich reservoir of stories, Lluch follows the tradition paved earlier by people like H. Arlo Nimmo whose Salanda’s Songs and Other Sulu Stories (ADMU Press, 1994) prove that anthropologists can also be popular storytellers.

Lluch moves away from Nimmo’s work by writing fictional stories but based on historical facts. That’s why he took pains not only to immerse himself in the grounds and communities of this small island, but also did extensive research in the archives. In his Bibliography, he lists the archives of the Archivo Recoletos de Filipinas in Manila and Navarre, Spain, those of XU (personal collection and Vicente Elio), the National Archives of the Philippines (Erreccion de Pueblos Camiguin), and the Portal de Archivos Españoles (Diario de Navegacion de Legazpi a Filipinas).

In his Dedication, he specifically mentions Father Calisto Gaspar, parish priest of Catarman on Camiguin Island in 1884 whose reports and writings for more than a decade were entitled RemArkable things in Camiguin served as a rich source of information. While these four fictionalized stories came out of the author’s imagination, historical reality and fiction mingle in the texts. The author provides a few pages of clarifications for the benefit of readers. Melissa Abuga-a’s designs also help give the pages its added appeal.

The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island by Andres Narros Lluch. Photo courtesy of Xavier University Press

In the first of four stories – Kimigin – the author offers readers a journey through time going back to the Spanish period until today while providing them with a profile of current ethno-historical knowledge about the first settlers of this island-volcano (the Kimigin tribe) and the first migrants to settle there (the Bisaya people). In Pasil Point, readers gain insight into the complex encounter between Europeans and native inhabitants (and how Christianity pushed back the animist gods). Datu Mehong is a story that explores the legend of Chief Apo Mehong Bacuňata, recounting his talents as a healer and warrior. And The new volcano recalls how an old man was marginalized by the maneuvers of the ecclesiastical powers that occurred at the time of the eruption of the Old Volcano in 1871.

For most of us, Camiguin Island is better known as a tourist destination, rarely perceived as having a rich historical and cultural heritage. But Lluch offers visitors its own take on what to expect when visiting the island: the past is still, albeit subtly, etched into its lands and buildings. And if one stands beneath these fabulous waterfalls, one can exhilaratingly experience the joy of the waters flowing from the island’s watersheds.

Tinubdan and the Untold Stories of Camiguin Island – no matter if TinubdanThe editors of refer to these as merely a ‘modest contribution’ – constitute a ‘tributary which will hopefully grow in substance in future works, as the writers persevere to give words to a call that haunts them for ever !”

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]

WATCH: ‘The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island’ Virtual Book Launch
April 15, 2021
Start at 9:22 p.m.

Edward K. Thompson