(This is the author’s Preface to “Rays of the Invisible Light – Collected Works by Young Moro Writers,” which will be launched at the ARMM Regional Library in Cotabato City on Tuesday, September 15, at 4 p.m. Gutierrez Mangsakan II is also the book’s editor)
Incubation is a word that I normally use in my story development workshops. An idea needs time to develop into a film or a literary piece, I would tell my students, and it involves looking at things from a particular analytical lens constructed from knowledge and experience.
It took eight years for this anthology to incubate. During these long years a lot of events have reshaped and changed the course of history: from the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which resulted to renewed armed conflict in 2008 to the massacre of journalists as well as supporters and family members of a politician in Maguindanao in 2009; the Zamboanga siege of 2013 to the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.
These long years also saw trends and developments that provided a creative boost for young Moro writers: from the rise of blogging to its eventual decline; from the strengthened creative writing program of the University of the Philippines Mindanao to the country’s different writers’ workshops welcoming Moro writers to their fold.
Despite the boost in confidence and energy, the Moro who aspires to become a writer is faced with the reality that in his culture as with the rest of the world, writing (or any pursuit of the arts) is not a serious profession compared to slaving in an office from eight to five. It affects those who have followed the writer’s path too. Barter is an outmoded practice; nobody will accept a poem as payment for a month’s rent. Abandoned dreams suffer atrophy, and with the generation’s penchant for the newest innovation in digital technology taking over, becoming slaves to the attendant culture that it creates, the blogging that made writers of a lot of us became irrelevant as we mastered the art of the 160-character posts on Twitter.
A lot of us have become negligent, distracted writers satisfied with an instant gratification of a liked post on Facebook and Twitter. In spite of the historical upheavals surrounding him, we have surrendered to short posts and shares and call it writing.
Not until we are faced with the backlash of the Mamasapano Incident that has jeopardized the future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will hopefully pave the way for greater liberty for our people, we are roused from our silence and passivity to defend our right and honor with the best weapon we can muster – our writing.
The timing of Rays of the Invisible Light is expedient and opportune. The recent historical events are like lightning that stimulated the ideas to germinate after a dry spell. We needed to be heard. We needed to speak our minds. Suddenly, it was time for this anthology to come out.
Unlike its 2007 predecessor that featured only essays, this anthology also contains poetry by Mohammad Nassefh Macla, Sahara Alia Silongan and Kristine Ong Muslim; short fiction by Arifah Macacua Jamil, Diandra-Ditma Macarambon, Reinna Bermudez and Loren Hallilah Lao; essays by Datu Shariff Pendatun III, Iyyah Sinarimbo, Pearlsha Abubakar, Janesa Mariam G. Ladjiman; and an excerpt from the screenplay of my film.
The voices of young Moro writers in this anthology are like rays of an invisible light passing through a prism forged from memory and struggle, longing and conviction, refracting a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors, sensations and experiences. Each word written is an expression of identity, home, culture, faith as well as skepticism, resonating from the depths of the Moro soul.
I am indebted to the support of Dr. Ricardo de Ungria who encouraged his students past and present to contribute to this anthology. Despite being a bane to the writing process, Facebook helped spread the word to Moro writers from Marawi to Tehran, Davao to the Silicon Valley. To ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, for his administration’s generous support to artistic creation. May we become instruments in the propagation of the profoundest dreams of the Bangsamoro.
I dedicate this book to my late mother Bai Citibodore Pendatun Matalam for showing me that ambiguity is not always a sign of weakness; and to my late uncle Salamat Hashim and other brave martyrs of my Bangsamoro homeland for instilling the spirit of the noble jihad in our hearts. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Gutierrez Mangansakan II is the director of prize-winning films Qiyamah (best feature film, 2013 Young Critics Circle of the Philippines Film Desk), Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children (best film and best director, 14th Cinemanila International Film Festival), and Cartas de la Soledad (NETPAC Prize for Best Asian film, 7th Jogjakarta-NETPAC Asian Film Festival. He edited the groundbreaking anthology of essays by young Moro writers Children of the Ever-changing Moon (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2007). He has received several local and international artist residencies and fellowships, among them the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa, U.S. in 2008, and the University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop in 2015. He is currently editor of New Durian Cinema, a film journal devoted to the discussion and celebration of the Regional Film New Wave in Southeast Asia]