J. Pilapil Jacobo
To practice critique as a queer subject in the Philippines is fraught with a palpable sense of precarity. If an intellectual predisposition is already suspect in the estimation of an opinionate prone to the haughtiest punditry, what instances of violence must the queer critic anticipate if their context is academic, with a theoretical approach to objects public and contemporary? Careful with them. They are pompous. They do not know of enjoyment. Terminate their kind. As if the polyamorous relation with things were not poison enough for the kind of desire tyrants of taste purport to protect.
And if the engagement with the crisis of forms and meanings is indeed dealt with in queerest terms, that is, through language, the universitarian milieu shall also strive so hard to banish their dissonance from the college. It turns out: the pundit is one’s fellow pedagogue. This reduction of queer critical space to a cusp of all manner of duress only testifies to the queer critic as anomaly. “It is utterly wrong to march these halls with them. Or: to learn from them is against my future of entitlement.” I sense the threat every day. Between noon and daybreak, one refuses to refuse, however. One is interpellated without warning. The emergent is, then, immediate.
Only a few can empathize. And so, I run wild with them and the reckoning: momentous is the crisis.
To be condemned as a queer mind thinking through the world gone topsy-turvy and yet not attempting at all to rectify the mess into orderliness, but receiving the disfigurement, as one would embrace any gift—a sprawl of contingencies only navigable through grafting oneself unto irresolute puzzlements—somehow underwrites an autobiography of disavowals which can only commence with the body. “You look so odd. Why don’t you change into something more decent? You are not beautiful. Too much make-up. You are not a woman. Too noisy. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
I have been turned into This. Such monstrosity? By turns, I accept and resist!
Queer Southeast Asia: A Literary Journal of Transgressive Art is that opportunity where one may proceed not with caution but with a relentlessness only vanguards of a certain precarious experience—along with the knowledges such risky engagements bear—have a right to calibrate. As a Filipinx critic based in academe, engaged in forms of the folk and the popular, and opposed to acutely overdetermined modes of evaluating productions of art and its circuitry of consumption within cultural arrangements, I have the privilege of soliciting for this inaugural issue works which propose translation as a technique of engenderment through which the procedures of economy and empire are somehow circumvented, albeit momentarily.
Alwynn C. Javier’s poems in Filipino deal with the earth, and the lifeways in which feudal conceit has persuaded us in the Anthropocene to regard land as sheer property. The patriarchal pride that is imbricated in such a social position entitles Javier’s imperious personas to pitch varieties of brash masculinities within queer practice, only to enthuse them to con-front a sense of limit through amorous conundrum, where the beloved is most recalcitrant, the ends of their impossible response embodying dimensions of the cataclysmic.
Love is never chattel, it never should be. The queerness of this insight is negotiated through the anglophonies of Lawrence Lacambra Ypil, Gino Dizon and Paul Dominic B. Olinares, all intoned from divergent paths of province and trans-nation: Cebu, Pampanga, Isabela, Metro Manila on the one hand; the United States, Singapore, and Europe on the other. As far as my conversations with the writer and his interlocutors have demonstrated, translation is that rhetorical predicament where critique must intervene with an urgency most queer; metaphoricity can only be reconstituted in the keenest intimation of a syncope that recedes when language is perceived as site of capture and the poetic is seen as that which capitulates. If the chance to circumvent the terms of articulation is missed, imperial English can only get away with its slaughter of mothertongues and their creole utterances.
The piece that I have selected from a cycle of travel narratives offered by the diasporic Wilfredo Pascual is deceptively brief, and yet the scale of historical reckoning delineated in the essay transposes the Conradian problem to Cambodia, where Pascual himself had found a contemporary cognate of the Congolese heart of darkness previously represented in Coppola’s cinema as Vietnam by way of the Philippines. The end of empire is never final, as attested by the allure of resemblances before Pascual, a Malayan Marlowe also privy to the Kurtzian fate awaiting him along Tonle Sap. Pascual confronts the vestiges of state violence when he allows his body to be tattooed by a former Khmer Rouge commander and his loving troupe of transvestites and inebriates, and welcomes the possibility of becoming an intimate with imperial poison now seeping into his veins toward a finale that ultimately affines the incident of his trauma with Achebe.
Translation, in Pascual’s sense, is a doubling of the experience within the account itself. “The Shadow Master” performs this iterative rhythm through images, juxtaposing the autobiographical with the autophotographic, the gramma penumbra with camera lucida. While another writer may diffuse the allure of resemblance along this path of mirrors, Pascual transforms the selfsameness between the legible and the visible into a trans-medial confluence that zeroes in on the hieroglyph drawn upon the tremulous body—the tattoo that signifies the palimpsest of capitulations and resistances which may fade through time but can never be erased. Imperial script brands the body with blood most black, most deathly.
Alongside the impassioned writings from all over Southeast Asia which comprise the inaugural issue of our journal, Javier’s and Pascual’s translational work instruct me on the figurality of trans a critic must assume if they have to proceed queerly in these parts—to translate gender inasmuch as one translates the desires of engenderment which must always already be situated historically in the political economy of the neo-empire, here, in our queer tropics, a theoretical premise that my co-editors and I forge on this opportune moment.
Daghan an mabalos: the heart shall repay.
J. Pilapil Jacobo. ‘Editorial Note’. Queer Southeast Asia: a literary journal of transgressive art Vol. 1. no. 1, October 2016.