Panayam lectures on Drama and Translation and the Writer’s Life

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by Isa Lorenzo

This year’s Panayam lecture focused on drama and translation and overcoming a writer’s struggles. Institute of Creative Writing (ICW) associate Filipino assistant professor Vladimeir Gonzales shared his experiences in translating plays. Entitled “Pagsasalin ng Dula bilang Gawaing Pampanitikan,” Gonzales’s lecture (see slides) was an in-depth account of his work as a translator. “May kapangyarihan ang malikhaing manunulat na ihatid ang direksiyon ng isang pagsasalin sa itinataya niyang papel ng panitikan, sa anyong nakikita niya bilang pinakaepektibo sa panahon ng pagsasalin,” Gonzales said. “May epekto din sa direksiyon ng pagsasalin ang mga layuning gumagabay sa mga institusyong kalahok sa proseso ng salin; kung hindi prayroridad ang makabayang sentimiyento o may higit na prayoridad sa nagsulat ng orihinal, lahat ito ay may epekto sa kalalabasang salin.”

Prof. Gonzales gave the following reasons why plays are translated:

Pagpapakilala sa dayuhang dula
Tugon sa paghina ng mga mag-aaral sa Ingles
Panawagang bumalik sa sariling wika at kultura
Paglalapit ng dula sa masa
Pagsubok sa limitasyong itinakda sa lipunan

He cited National Artist Binevenido Lumbera, who said that plays needed to be translated because there was a time that Filipinos didn’t speak English well. During Martial Law, plays were translated in order to push the limits of what could be performed. Of course, plays can be translated purely for fun.

The translator has a wide latitude in translating plays. For example, Prof. Gonzales had difficulty translating Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, because it had a lot of references to football, which Filipinos aren’t that familiar with. So he opted to replace the football references with his beloved video games, such as Contra and Megaman. Prof. Gonzales was also able to include references to  Karen Empeño and Sherilyn Cadapan, two UP students who were kidnapped, tortured, and remain missing to this day, and General Jovito Palparan, who was dubbed the butcher general because of the many activists killed under his watch.

The writing process is different for everyone. 56th UP National Writers Workshop fellow Karren Renz Seña, in her lecture, “Finding Enkantasya: My Life-long Foray into Writing Filipino Young Adult Literature,” recounted how she was plagued by FARTS when she was writing her first novel, Champions. FARTS is an acronym for the following:

  1. Fear of a blank page
  2. Anxiety: Seña says she was always asking, “What if?”
  3. Restlessness: “I was all over the place. I wanted to be everything and everyone. I lacked focus.”
  4. Time: “We have to make the time for the things we want to do. Willi Pascual, my co-fellow at the UP National Writers Workshop, said, ‘If the story really obsesses you, you really have to write it down. Don’t let it consume you.’”
  5. Sloth: Laziness and wasting time on Facebook.

Seña, however, was able to overcome FARTS and publish her first book. “I’m a writer, so I should write,” she said. “At some point in life, you have to ask yourselves these questions: Who will you write for? What will you write? How will you write?”

For Seña, the answer was clear. “Maybe if I write stories, I could help shape other’s hearts and minds too.”

As part of the Panayam, ICW fellow Dr. Jun Cruz Reyes  and ICW associate Dr. Eugene Evasco and reacted to Gonzales’s and Seña’s lectures.

“Sabi nila pag nagsasalin ka, meron lagi at laging namamatay. Wika at laman,” Reyes said. He added that in Brazil and Indonesia, there are national campaigns to translate their works into other languages. In contrast, many countries in the world think that NVM Gonzalez and F. Sionil Jose are the only Filipino writers because these are the only writers that they read.

Reyes also tackled the idea of multiple translation, such as translating an Ilokano work into Filipino.

“Ang pagsasalin sa dula sa panitikan ay pagpapalawak ng kamalayan. Ano ‘yung kamalayan na gusto mong palawakin?” he asked. “Ano ‘yung wika ng pagsasalin sa globalisasyon, sa multiculturalism?”

He ended his reaction on a positive note, saying “Hangga’t nagkakaintindihan ang tao, buhay ang [wikang] Filipino.”

Meanwhile, Evasco told the audience that he wasn’t comfortable with the term YA. “Term ito ng bookseller sa US.” He said that he saw Champions as a distant relative of the pasyon, and a relative of  Ang Bagong Robinson (The New Robinson).

Evasco added that there’s a huge problem facing YA literature today. “Genre fatigue. Nakakasuka na ang dystopia, love story, Wattpad. Karamihan ng mga YA lit, para kumita, may cliche.”

He had two challenges for Seña. The first was to be original, to delve deep into Filipino literature. Initially, Evasco was frustrated because he had to read so many primitive epics for a class taught by Dr. Rosario Cruz-Lucero. But now he is grateful for the knowledge. “Mainam mag-imbento kung meron kang pinag-uugatan, at ang pinag-uggatan ay panitikang bayan,” said Evasco.

The second challenge was to use the YA form to introduce children to the Philippines’s rich mythology.

The open forum that followed the reactions tackled translation issues and worldbuilding.

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