Saturday, May 27, 2017

Popular Literature

Bahay Kubo in acylic by AVRotor

“If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has something of value to replace them.”                                              
Robert Ruark, Something of Value (Old Basuto Proverb)

Popular literature is literally zarzuela off-stage, so natural and spontaneous, the audience and actors are one, and the topics are anything under the sun. They are full of laughter and tears,  and most often, nostalgia – laughing while crying, a sad-happy feeling, a kind of telenobela and  Scheherazade series. Stories end but there is always a second or third part, or ad infinitum. That is why Filipinos are among the happiest people on earth. 

Popular literature is shock absorber and springboard, too, hope sinks and rises like sunset and sunrise. Filipinos are great inventors. If they did not split the atom, they split hair to explode into laughter.  They do not bother formulas but know a good recipe. The best doctor is not one from John Hopkins; he is the kind elderly herbolario. Why complicate things in the first place? Anyone can be a story teller, playwright, and author and there goes the multiplier effect: literature of, for and by the people.

For example, here’s a story of a travelling old woman who stopped the bus in order to answer the call of nature. It was night time and the driver dutifully put on the brakes on a convenient roadside. It did not take long for the old woman to do her thing.  After returning and the bus had started off, the old woman suddenly stopped the bus again, and quickly ran back to the spot - because she forgot something. “May nakalimutan si Lola,” (Grandmother forgot something) quipped the driver.  The old woman just smiled back exuding a feeling of relief and contentment.  

What is the belief of old people regarding this practice of spitting on the spot after answering the call of nature?  If you believe in the  kib-baan, the spirit of trees and thickets, the fearful kapre;  the dwendes (dwarfs) that guard the anthills (punso), their home; and the spirits of the dead still roaming around, then you would not dare question the old folks. Spitting discourages the unseen that sometimes play pranks or may just chance upon some mortals.

Would you do what the old woman did if you were in her shoes, we mean slippers? Which, by the way, she removed before boarding the bus, a habit of leaving your footwear at the doorstep before entering the house.  ~

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