EARLIER this year, I was in Davao to speak at the Davao Writers Workshop on whether there is such a thing as “Mindanaoan writing.” A few days ago, I was in Tacloban to attend an “All-Visayas Writers Conference” where I was asked to speak on the subject of “Visayan writing” and what it means. Today, in Manila, I feel like I have traveled from the margins to the center to bring news about what is going on “out there.”
This is not exactly what I am going to do however. Instead, I would like to begin by troubling the concept of margins. What, after all, are centers and margins? I don’t think there is anyone in this gathering of writers who is not positioned in the margins, if one construes this in economic, social, political, ethnic, or territorial terms, or any combination of these forms of marginality.
Writers can imagine themselves writing from the center if they write speeches for the president, policy papers for a government think tank, propaganda for a ruling party; or when they fancy themselves a national opinion-maker, setter of trends, creator of canons, or a “national artist” who, taking the title too seriously, imagines himself his nation’s oracle. This is ambition or delusion. In the end, a writer as writer can only speak for himself or herself, and write out of literature’s fragile, contested, and threatened claims of authority, an authority a literary writer can exercise only in diffuse, complexly mediated ways.