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Siquijor, the edge of tomorrow: Where is Siquijor on the literary map?

During the 28th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop, a ten-day workshop held in December 2021, a lone Siquijodnon became an official fellow for fiction in Cebuano.  During the opening program, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, professor of Literature and Anthropology at the University of San Carlos, commented, “Ngano kahang usa ra ang entry in Cebuano? (Why is it we only have one entry in Cebuano?)"

This is not a statement that calls for a celebration but rather a disconcerting observation on the imminence of the death of Cebuano literature. If the  Cebuano people continue to disregard this warning, Cebuano literary pieces will succumb to a slow, eventual death. Siquijor endures the comfort of living their busy lives while keeping a blind eye on the dying. If the world is in danger, our culture and tradition are marching toward its grave.

We are too focused on praising and flexing masterpieces of world literature yet foreign to our own language, historical events, and stories. Studying literature from across continents is vital to mirror significant events, but giving value to ours is a necessity. We become too dependent on textbooks and are lured into thinking of the high ideals they prescribe and often forget to contextualize these materials. Doing so not only buries our culture but also kills our sense of patriotism.

Christine Godinez-Ortega, director of the Iligan workshop, challenged the Siquijodnon fellow:

“Why don’t you initiate a writing workshop in Siquijor?” The fellow replied, “Who am I?”

“When I became director of the Iligan workshop, such question didn’t cross my mind. I was focused on continuing what had been started,” said Christine.

Siquijor has no known authors, poets, or fiction writers. If folk stories aren’t our thing, then we deprive our future generation of all these. It is disheartening that Siquijodnons to this day remain disinterested, inactive, and unconcerned with the development of local libraries and disregard the enhancement of our national library.

The island is known for its mysticism, which is a prominent aspect of Siquijodnon identity. For some time, it has also been named the “Land of Sorcery,” because of the verbal folklore, beliefs, ritual practices, personal experiences, and social realities experienced by the locals.

The practice of voodoo, paktol, barang, haplit, angyaw sa santissimo; the engagement of folk healing which includes bulo-bulo, tapdas, tawal, and siging-siging; and the vibrance of our festival depictions await to be heard.

Kayaman ng Siquijor sa mga kwento uy (Siquijor is rich in stories). We thirst for Siquijodnon stories and poems,” said Gerald Galindez, a teacher, poet, and songwriter from Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat.

If Christine continued what had been started, and if Gerald thirsts for our stories, how do we get comfortable just sitting around our unwritten stories?

Merle Alunan, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines, once said, “Siquijor is rich in culture. You are sitting on a mine of gold.” If we have such power to dominate in the field of literature, then what hinders us to write and tell a story?

This writer, Shane Jay Fabugais, a Siquijodnon and a fellow of the 28th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop, bravely stood by the criticisms of the panelists to deliver a folk literary story and took a courageous step to bring Siquijor on the literary map.

We may lag in technology and infrastructure, yet we lead with the abundance of our culture and tradition. Bring Siquijor to the literary map. The edge of tomorrow is in your hands. (SJF) 

About the Author

Rizalie Calibo


Region 7

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