One striking fact about Philippine Literature (English or Filipino) is that our creative writers have been, and still are, suffering a very unpopular verdict from the reading public. This kind of notoriety is quite appalling, considering the professed literacy of our society.
The situation strikes us sharply. For between a choice, say, of Emile Loring’s “What Then Is Love?” or some novels in comics form of Carlo Caparas on one hand and, on the other. of Nick Joaquin’s “The Woman With Two Navels” or Ninotchka Rosca’s “Twice Blessed” (1993 American Book Award) or her novel “State of War” that clearly depicts the lives of ordinary people under the Marcos dictatorship, the choice is decidedly ready-made: Joaquin and Rosca suffer the tyranny of unpopularity not because they are unacceptable writers but, simply, their elegant style does not excite the taste buds of ordinary readers. This is also true as regards literary pieces written in Filipino vis-a-vis romance and fantasy novels and short-stories proliferating in leading commercial magazines or publications.
This situation which exists between the creative writers and their reading public is indeed disheartening and, by and large, may be considered as the fundamental problem of creative writing today.
The problem of the Filipino creative writers is how to communicate their crops without sacrificing the literary quality. Their evaluation of human life,especially of the downtrodden and the oppressed, their indictment of the greediness and exploitative nature of the ruling class, their appreciation of rural scene and of country life or, simply, the down-to-earth manners and attitudes of Filipino society are still inept to touch the sensibilities of the readers. This finds its incipient in the seeming neglect of creative writing to focus its attention to the inviting scenes of country life and the continuous struggle of the Filipino masses for a just and prosperous society.
Creative writing’s attempt to discover the image of country life is still weak, if at all. The feeble attempt to rediscover the lost image has failed to provide the link between the creative writers and the reading masses. This circumstance has brought several literary setbacks, dragging the writer’s prose into the dungeon of commercialism.
Some short-story and novel writers have tainted the noble mission of creative writing into a commercialized plot. The atmosphere of creativity afouls with the smell of cold cash and, as such, an illusion of creativity is unavoidably created in commercial magazines of note.
But, unfortunately, an honest appraisal of short-stories and novels clashing in commercial streets reveals unmistakably that they are pieces of writing which creativity is not. There is not even a color of meritorious literary. Most often than not, these novels and short-stories appearing in commercial magazines do not even deserve a cent of passing comment.
Commercial fictions, we are told, are written basically on one formula, and they rest simply on that. They don’t even move in three dimensions and do not possess what we call the “living soul” of the story. They are plot stories but without any color of creativity nor craftmanship. The style is very much toned down as if afraid that the readers will not grasp what the writer wants to impart. The writer, in himself, of such pieces — I am sure — does not find satisfaction in his work. The author must first feel the inner satisfaction of his art before he can transform it into a readable prose.
It is the policy, however, of commercial magazines to satisfy first the lust for entertainment of the reading public by virtually denying the literary merits of the story. And as long as the readers are contented, for business sake, the story must go on!
But this scheme must stop.
The writer must not primarily write for money’s sake. He must write because he wants to write. The taste of the reader is only secondary, if at all. For unless he is ready to sacrifice the reader’s predisposition to value judge the writer’s work on the scale of popularity — not on literary merits — the creative writer loses his social purpose, his creative writing.