Resisting the sounds of silence
NEW YORK CITY—Miguel Syjuco, author of the novel Ilustrado, has written a manifesto, reprinted here, which is self-explanatory, along with a list of more than a hundred signatories—I am one—which continues to grow. I have chosen to reprint only the original English text, to keep within space constraints.
I asked the novelist three questions. Here are excerpts from his replies.
Artist Abroad: Why did you write this?
Miguel Syjuco: It is a reminder to ourselves, a vow to others, and a threat to our shitty leaders. … Our voices have become as toothless as our votes and it’s no wonder we can’t move forward—given that 178 families govern our society of 12 million families, clans run 73 out of 80 provinces, and dynasties rule 21 out of 24 Senate seats and 80 percent of Congress. Even economically, the richest 40 families control 76 percent of our country’s GDP. That is unsurprising, and unacceptable. We must stand against that. And standing, to writers, begins with expression. That’s what this manifesto is about.
AA: What will this accomplish?
MS: this manifesto won’t accomplish anything … But it’s the people who are involved—the writers, readers, dissenters—who will. … Instead of squabbling we can together better understand the different roles we can play, and the differing paths we’re all taking towards the same goals for our country: safety; justice; equality. To that mind, I hope this manifesto underscores the importance of defending voices for all … a defense of difference, which is fundamentally a case for democracy and the egalitarianism it should guarantee but currently doesn’t—because we are constantly divided and convinced that our voices hold no power. Yet history shows that stories win in the end—that words can connect, and can endure. A the very least, this manifesto will hopefully remind everyone of that, and encourage them to speak and act. This isn’t just about writers; it’s about all of us.
AA: Will this be a one-off?
MS: I can’t speak for anyone else who signed this manifesto. But personally I know that it isn’t a one-off. … A manifesto is a single brick, not thrown through a window, but laid down in a foundation where other bricks, other manifestos, have been and will be offered—until we together have something solid to build on. … This is just one open stand in our long, static history … a reminder and it’s how we will never forget.
A MANIFESTO AGAINST SILENCE
This manifesto, in English and Tagalog, is from a growing list of more than 100 Filipino writers around the world. Our values, and candidates, differ, but we set aside what divides us to unite behind our country. We invite all to stand, with us few Filipinos here, during these troubled times everywhere, for unfettered expression and the necessity of free speech.
I am a Filipino writer.
I am one among journalists, fictionists, poets, essayists, bloggers, screenwriters, graphic storytellers, copywriters, playwrights, editors… Citizens, all—in a perilous place to wield a pen.
I stand for unfettered expression—to discuss, dispute, debate, dissent. For democracy is respectful disagreement—change persuaded, never imposed. And freedom cannot be dictated, for the right to speech empowers all others: to worship, and participate in society, to cry against injustice, and call for what is just. Speaking responsibly is my responsibility—but expression remains unconditional, essential to equality and universal liberty: To each citizen, a free vote; to every citizen, a free voice.
All of us, citizens, live in a world where the powerful thrive on secrecy and the privileged seek our poverty. Ours is a time when righteousness and faith are weaponized into fear and savagery, and life is dispensable to opinion and ideology. All of us, Filipinos, live in a country where facts are spun as black propaganda, and dynasties stage a masquerade of choice, and leaders prosper on our weakness and disunity. Ours is a society broken by those who benefit from its breaking.
I refuse to let that be the story of our people.
To our Filipino sisters and brothers—at home and around the world: I pledge my pen. My task is to listen, to give voices when you’ve none, and render us with all the humanity I can muster and the dignity you deserve. As a writer I work, and witness, inform, and incite. I shall concede my stance when proven wrong, aspire to constant civility, and safeguard our history from those who reap from its rewriting. This I vow. To this I will see.
To those who mislead for fake faith, profit, or political gain—the false prophets, corporations, and agents of disinformation: my enemy is your iniquity, rapacity, manipulation; my methods are clarity, creativity, careful investigation. I know, as you do, that your power sits solely in the pliancy of us people—and I refuse to sit idly as you crave our control. I shall match your inhumanity with plain and simple decency. This I vow. To this I will see.
To our leaders abusing power—elected or otherwise: I am watching, taking notes, recording for all time. I will mock you who’ve made a mockery of our democracy; yours will not be bronze statues in plazas, or elegies on brass plaques—for my words will outlive your influence, in a world that will know the ills you committed and the ugliness that you were. In life you’ve stolen from our country and our people, and in your death I will steal the respect you never earned and the dignity you never deserved. Try to censor me and I will find a way—to immortalize your infamy, defame your legacy, tell your children’s children with accuracy of what you did and precisely all you failed to do. Your punishment will stretch through the pages of perpetuity. This I vow. To this I will see.
For all histories have shown: Elections pass, systems crumble, but stories remain. Assassinate one of us—but another speaks louder. Pass laws to make us criminals—but our writing blooms beyond their reach. For history has proven: Jose Rizal is always remembered, Marlene Esperat never forgotten. Your weapons may be violence and money, but our tools are vigilance and memory.
For I am a Filipino. I am a writer.
This I vow, and this you will see: I shall not be silent. I cannot be silenced. I am not alone—our writing remembers, our laughter reminds. The truth of you the world will know. And it starts right here, with me.
Signed, chronologically (as of May 4, 2016):
MIGUEL SYJUCO CLINTON PALANCA
LISANDRO CLAUDIO JOEL PABLO SALUD
MARCK RONALD RIMORIN RANDY DAVID
ALMA ANONAS-CARPIO JIM PASCUAL AGUSTIN
SYLVIA E. CLAUDIO ROMANO CORTES JORGE
AMBETH R. OCAMPO CAROLINE S. HAU
DANTON REMOTO ROFEL BRION
MARNE KILATES NINOTCHKA ROSCA
IAN ROSALES CASOCOT PATRICIO ABINALES
SARGE LACUESTA J. NEIL GARCIA
KIMI TUVERA GEMINO ABAD
LOURD DE VEYRA MARITES VITUG
LUIS FRANCIA JESSICA HAGEDORN
D.M. REYES MOOKIE KATIGBAK LACUESTA
NICANOR TIONGSON ISABELITA REYES
ROLANDO B. TOLENTINO LINDA FAIGAO-HALL
MERLIE ALUNAN NENI STA. ROMANA CRUZ
KARINA BOLASCO NICOLA SEBASTIAN
RENE CIRIA-CRUZ KRISTINE FONACIER
CRISELDA YABES JOSE DALISAY
DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR RAMON GUILLERMO
PATRICIA LIM MONA LISA YUCHENGCO
GEMMA NEMENZO CRISTINA PANTOJA-HIDALGO
NICK CARBO GRACE TALUSAN
ALBERT B. CASUGA SYLVIA L. MAYUGA
CARLOMAR ARCANGEL DAOANA M. EVELINA GALANG
FH BATACAN CARLJOE JAVIER
FELIX FOJAS NADINE SARREAL
SUSAN S. LARA RHANDEE GARLITOS
EUGENE EVASCO DINO MANRIQUE
LINDA NIETES GRACE R. MONTE DE RAMOS
JOHN LABELLA KARL R. DE MESA
YVETTE PANTILLA-CARPIO JAN PHILIPPE V. CARPIO
ROGER B. RUEDA OSCAR V. CAMPOMANES
CHARLSON ONG NOELLE Q. DE JESUS
MAXINE SYJUCO SHIRLEY O. LUA
PAULO ALCAZAREN TWINK MACARAIG
DEE MANDIGMA MYRZA SISON
SHAKIRA SISON LUIS P. GATMAITAN
THELMA ENAGE RALPH SEMINO GALAN
- LUISA T. REYES REBECCA T. AÑONUEVO
MICHAEL M. COROZA GERALDINE C. MAAYO
RAMIL DIGAL GULLE MALOU JACOB
RONALD REYES DARYLL DELGADO
NONOY ESPINA ELIZABETH ONG
INDAY ESPINA-VARONO LOUIE JON A. SANCHEZ
LILA SHAHANI LAKAMBINI SITOY
MONETTE RIVERA JOSE ELVIN BUENO
TOTEL DE JESUS TED ALCUITAS
ELMER GATCHALIAN MARYANNE MOLL
ELIZABETH CASTILLO KENNETH YU
JASON A. BAGUIA GABRIELA LEE
ROBERT V. BOLISAY, JR. TED LAGUATAN
CAROL PAJARON TRISTAN DAINE ZINAMPAN
JOIN THE GROWING LIST OF SIGNATORIES BY CONTACTING MIGUEL SYJUCO AT [email protected].
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