In honour of Buwan ng Wikang Filipino which is celebrated in August, we post this poem by UBC Professor Leonora Angeles which appeared in
Ethnographic Poetry and Social Research: Problematizing the Poetics/Poethics of Empathy in Transnational Cross-Cultural Collaborations
Author’s note: The poem Tagisan ng Talino above was originally dedicated to Professor Ma. Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista, now University of the Philippines Vice-President for Academic Research, who introduced me to the joys of fieldwork and qualitative research methods, which I have been teaching myself for 16 years and counting.
Tagisan ng Talino
ni Leonora Angeles
May mga madaling araw pa ring ako’y nagigising
sa pagdalaw ng mga pangitaing dulot ng ala-ala
ng malalalim na gatlâ, hapís sa mukha ng mga nakasalamuha:
manggagawa, maybahay, kargador, magsasaka at puta.
Kitang-kita ko sa aking panaginip ang kulu-kulubot na mga kamay
at brasong dinadaluyan ng galít na ugát na malapit nang sumukô
sa walang katapusang hírap mula sa maghapong paggawâ
sa kusína, kasa, búkid at pabrika.
Damang-dama ko ang dantay ng putol-putol na daliri’t kamay
na pinagtampuhan na ng pag-asa mula nang nakawin
ng mapagsamantalang amo at demonyo ang tagni-tagning pangarap
na hinabi sa sigla’t kalusugan ng nagdaang kamusmusan.
Silang nagbigay kulay at katotohanan at inspirasyon
sa maraming pananaliksik, pelikula at akdang pinalakpakan
sa mga bulwagan, tanghalan at pamantasan.
At pinuri mg mga kritiko sa pagiging: “makabuluhan,” “makatotohanan”,
“sadyang malikhain,” “napapanahon,” “tunay na inspirasyon,”
“isang obra-maestra ng ating henerasyon.”
Ay! Ano na lang ang aming pinagkaiba sa mga buwitreng nabubuhay
sa paglamon ng bituka’t atay ng bangkay sa lansangang
pinamumugaran ng mga taong lumalakad, humihinga
ngunit matagal nang tinakasan ng damdami’t kaluluwa?
Ang produksyon ba ng kaalama’y isa na ring larangan ng digmaang
mag-iiwan ng mga buwitre’t bangkay, walang kakampi,
walang kaaway, walang bayaning may mithiing tagumpay?
Matapos manilaw ang papel ng aklat, at magasgas ang negatibo ng pelikula,
ano nang nangyari sa buhay ni Nena, Estela, Mang Dolpo at Aling Marya?
Matapos tumanggap ng papremyo’t bulaklak mga papuri’t palakpak
ang pantas (siyang matagal nang nangibang-bayan
mula nang dapuan ng pagkabagot, pagod at pagkayamôt
sa patuloy na pag-inog ng kasaysayang tila walang pinagkaiba sa nakaraan), mayroon pa bang nakakaalala kina Nena, Estela, Mang Dolpo at Aling Marya?
Walang nagpalitan ng putok,
walang sigaw na narinig o balang tinudlâ
sa digmaan ng aklat, papel at panulât
na patuloy pa ring sumasabog, umuusôk, nagtatampôk
sa marami pang biktimang inulila ng kasaysayang
walang nais umakô, walang nais kumupkôp.
I still get roused from my early morning sleep
frequented by nightmares brought by memories
of deepest wrinkles, etched furrows on dark,
gloomy faces of workers, housewives, farmers
and prostitutes encountered in the field.
Vividly, I see those leathery old hands and arms
mapped with angry, dark green root veins
ready to surrender once again
to heavy hardships and pain,
from endless work in farms, kitchens,
brothels, factories and dens.
Intensely, I feel the eerie touch
of chopped fingers and hands where hope had
long vanished since the abusive master (that devil!)
stole the remaining fragments of their dreams
woven from scrap-fabric of long-forgotten
. years of youthful health and strength.
They were the cast that lent color and truth,
inspiration to voluminous studies,
critically acclaimed books and films
applauded in Halls and Universities,
praised by critics as “worthwhile to watch”
“true to life”, “a creative genius,”
“socially relevant”, “a real inspiration,”
“a fine masterpiece of our generation”.
Alas! Are we any different from vultures who prey
on rotting intestines and liver, carcasses on streets
littered with the living-dead, walking, breathing,
long emptied of their souls, bereft of feelings and dreams?
Has knowledge production become
another battlefield, leaving vultures with the dead —
no allies, no enemies, no heroes who dare tread?
After the Writer’s books’ pages have yellowed,
film negatives scratched, memories faded —
what do we really know of the lives
of Nena, Estela, Mang Dolpo and Aling Marya?
After the Creative Genius received awards,
flowers, rave reviews, and applause —
(He who had long gone abroad,
afflicted with boredom, burnout and disgust
at our future that looks no different from the past!)
who can still remember Nena,
Estela, Mang Dolpo and Aling Marya?
No shots were exchanged,
no battle cries heard, no bullets fired
in this war of words, books, paper and pen
that continues to linger, explode, simmer,
casting more victims and orphans
of history, who no one wants to care
for, or take responsibility.
Ethnographic poetry as a form of creative nonfiction has much to offer applied social research in general and geohumanities and sociocultural geography in particular as a refined, nuanced, and useful critical-creative communicative form of scholarship and research method. Two transnational cross-cultural collaborative research projects are used as cases to illustrate the potentials of the use of the creative arts, particularly (auto)ethnographic poetry, in disciplinal cross-fertilization, community engagement, and the researchers’ own identity integration as a reflexive practitioner. Although recognizing their importance, the article also problematizes the concept of empathy and the use of (auto)ethnographic poetry in articulating the doubts, dissonance, displacements, and disjuncture produced from inter- and intracultural differences generated from (dis)embodied and (dis)emplaced (dis)locations emerging out of the applied research experience of transnational émigré and migrant practitioners who identify with decolonization projects and (post)colonial subjects.