Reggie and I attended a talk by Ninotchka Rosca at UST’s Tanghalang Teresita Quirino this afternoon. I really enjoyed listening to her. Writing for her, is about the “standing probability of time”. It begins with an image, a face, a scene. Characters are expressions of time. The standing possibilities for each person are endless in every instance in a day.
Most of her stories are sad, as sadness and futility are predominant in the Philippines. She has only written one happy story, A Woman of the Philippines. “At heart, we are a very sad people.” When asked about a recent foreign survey that ranked Filipinos as the “happiest people”, she remarked that foreigns “don’t understand us very well. We are scared to show the grief, because if we start crying, we might never stop.”
Should we pander to the reader? Write the words roast pig instead of lechon? No, she says. “I haven’t found the equivalent for kalabit.” Though it was suggested on the fly as “fingering” to raucous laughter. Instead, she advised “We create the audience. There is no reader until the story is done. Concentrate on the integrity of the story.”
She was asked if she had ever written in Filipino. She wrote an entire season’s worth of teleserye scripts for ABS-CBN with Charito Solis as the lead actress. Though she used a different name, as she wasn’t confident about the director. Reggie also whispered to me that she used to write manifestos during the Marcos era. “I am unapologetic. I write in English.” Her take on it, is that English is integral to our culture. “We should be able to write in English and have control of it, as well as any of our languages.”
To the aspiring writers, she said “Write. I can’t tell you how… just have discipline.”