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Pedagogy of poetry in the time of “tokhang”

Slavoj Zizek quoted in his book, “The Years of Dreaming Dangerously,” a Persian expression; War Nam Nihadan which means, “to murder somebody, bury his body, then grow flowers over the body to conceal it.” This makes me wonder if it is applicable to the Libingan ng mga Bayani, but I doubt if they grow flowers there.

Poets are not gardeners but they make things grow—words.

Literature reflects its time, though in some cases it also revivifies the past or drags you to the future, but it always has something to say. Poetry is a more special case, it constantly puts you in front of images–be it beautiful or morbid, serenades someone’s heart with rhyme–though it might not be constantly present. It emancipates the mind from reality or illusions.

In “Bloodlust: Philippine Protest Poetry (from Marcos to Duterte),” painters of words contemplate and elucidate on the present situation of our Motherland, the Philippines, while they are in the constant eye of the past—those tyrannical days that are apparently being planted with flowers at present, due to the exponential growth of the dictator’s apologists (we can also use ‘dictators,’ for it is more relevant than ever) and their “veneration without much understanding.” Don’t forget that the incumbent President proudly express his admiration for the signatory of Proclamation No. 1081.

Gémino Abad, one of the editors of the anthology and a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines, openly accepted the fact in his foreword that these are verbal artifacts, while he also highlighted that writers, like poets, give voice to the voiceless–may this be the poor and the oppressed. He furthermore claimed that literature, regardless of its genre or language, contains the memory of its people. This is what the book is showing us now: It is a living archive of the voice for the voiceless in these years of living dangerously.

Teachers and students will absolutely find this book useful in class.

Open the class with a morning motivation from a new politically correct nursery rhyme of Padmapani L. Perez entitled “An EJK Nursery Rhyme, or: Children at Play on the Street at Dusk”. Then proceed to their first period History class with Lourd Ernest De Veyra’s “Shabu is D’most Dangerous Drag in the History of the Solar System” while sharing with “The Precinct Janitor’s Breakfast”. Don’t forget to let them sit beside their crushes, but help them move on with their heartbreak after realizing that “hindi ka crush ng crush mo” with Ian Rosales Casocot’s “Mub On” and “Move On”. Before their recess, they will have their Filipino period with Professor Michael Coroza’s “Kumakatok ang Paghatol” and make their project “(KARA)TULA” under the helping hand of Dakila Kutab. Allow them to have a short break.

Students will surely be talking random things during recess, eat Arvin Abejo Mangohig’s “Nutribun”, and share their “Lamentations” about their bebe kosas Floy Quintos dine with them. Before going back to their classrooms, the class secretary must visit “Her New Church” while George Deoso preaches the salvation over Gene Alcantara’s Man from Davao. Finally, as she pleads for Alma Anonas-Carpio’s “Mercy”, she needs to recite Joel Pablo Salud’s “Orémus” before lighting her candle in memory of the great Cirilo F. Bautista and “His Brother’s Shoes”.

When the bell rings, it’s time for Literature class. The lesson for today is poetry, but he is bothered now. Aren’t you? The list of names goes on and on, them who are being left on the streets with only a piece of cardboard to accuse them of their uncertain deeds. Who shall weep for these dead corpses? Should the streets and the sky be the only mute witnesses to this creeping tyranny? No. No. No. Here are the poets, the present day cavaliers against this undeclared dictatorship.

Professor Gémino Abad boldly reenacts Danica Mae’s “Brief Story” with every nitty gritty detail in the opening poem of the anthology. He illustrates the grave disrespect of the ruling power toward \history by exhibiting a portrait of the “Grave Thief”, side by side with the disputed “Scarborough Shoal”. Then Alfred Yuson, the co-editor, a Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, whose name is in the roster of the Palanca Hall of Fame, posits and concludes the collection with his “Unwinnable Wars”.

The question is not about whether you need to read this book or not, because you must. This book is a lens through which to totally comprehend what happened, and what is happening, in our nation. The battle now is not only against the thriving signs of totalitarianism. It is, more importantly, a battle against historical revisionism.

Veneration without understanding is not contextualized just for Rizal, at the moment. There exists the necessity to revisit the mind, though Jean-Paul Sartre will argue that “to contemplate is a luxury,” and for society to know if democracy still has power. If you may, in a more radical way, after reading the book, take you pen and conjure the words against bloodlust.

The world needs poets, yes, it does, but our nation needs more. Poets who will not plant flowers to cover the corpse six-feet beneath them, but to make the people realize that beneath each of their flowers lie the bleeding sentiments of the forgotten ones.

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