Filipiniana Books: Resil Mojares' Waiting for Mariang Makiling includes this important critical essay that also explores Philippine cultural history.
When critics talk about the soul of this nation, they refer to the heart of wholeness and identity -- sans displacement, estrangement and lack of rootedness in the national space. In "The Haunting of the Filipino Writer," Dr. Resil Mojares writes that the soul of the Filipino nation is lost. Their kaluluwa is seared and adrift. This sense of lostness and wandering haunts the Filipino writers and propels them to discover how to bridge the gaps between identity and nationhood.
The Haunting of the Filipino Writer begs the question of national standards aiming at hegemony, so it is good to watch out for this tendency. Another tendency is that of allowing deep identification with a particular tribe, region, or language which has proven divisive. The challenge for Filipino writers therefore is to realize how not to be in these modes without shying away from literary traditions that will give every Filipino creation the distinctive voice that it seeks.
In his 'haunting' metaphor Dr. Mojares says that writers should trace the footsteps and follow the shadows in the spaces covered by the Filipino soul's wandering. For example, writers should walk through the unknown territories of pre-colonial past, discover the riches therein, and record the thoughts and stories of Pre-Spanish Filipinos. Since this essay was written, there have been many studies and research, and also creations, filling out the once empty drawer for this category of works. Many writers have been mining the indigenous resources, discovering pathways of re-imagining the nation. But the trauma and 'seduction' of colonization is so deep in the Filipino soul, and healing has been taking a very long time.
Part of this healing is confronting 'memory' - that is, the Filipino soul's musings and meanderings in the colonial landscapes, merging them with the present challenges of short attention span, language differences, and global relevance. There is a resistance against the urge to nurture the emaciated culture via a tendency for nativism, but to suffuse Filipino literature with hybrid creations. In this light, writers perform deviations, re-inventions, and resistance against the results of, say, Spain's conversion of the whole nation into Catholic Christianity, or America's imposition of English as the language of education.
So language, for example, becomes a tool of subversion, as the vernacular Bicolano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Cebuano etc. publish more and more relevant and important texts, in spite of the general reader's supposed preference for English. Writers write in context, but also with an eye on the global stage, refusing the frame set only by a few group of people in a central setting, say in, 'imperial Manila'. They have been covering the 'national soul's' assay onto literatures propelled by issues which used to be repressed, tapered, erased or diminished within the colonial framework. The local context has continued to serve as the base imagination for these texts, but while insistence on tribal differences to fight national hegemony remains aggressive, it has ceased to divide - the Philippine literary landscape encourages the diversity of voices and imagination from all regions in the archipelago and courts narratives from the margins.
Dr. Resil Mojares affirms that while the Filipino writer is haunted by the 'shock, seduction, and sin' that caused this nation to drift away and fall, this haunting is accompanied by guilt, the guilt which causes the examination leading to insight and revelation of WHO FILIPINOS ARE.