9 Farmers massacred and burned in Negros Occidental, the Philippines
On Saturday night, nine farmers were killed, including two teenagers, in Negros Occidental in the Philippines, my country of birth. News that isn’t news. This massacre isn’t unique as so many previous killings had taken place under previous presidents. But none of those presidents were as blatant and brutal about wiping out groups of people as the current one, Rodrigo Duterte.
It’s been nearly a year since my first book of short stories in Filipino, Sanga sa Basang Lupa at iba pang kuwento, was quietly released. A few months ago it joined other titles from the same publisher, UST Publishing House, in a group launch.
I finally found time to put up a Goodreads.com page for the book. Dreaming one day of seeing this little paper child translated to English for a wider audience. Help me dream some more.
p.s. I designed the cover! I found that branch that looks like a snake while I was taking my kids for a walk around Tygerberg Nature Reserve. The blue cloth was part of a massive roll of lovely fabric that my wife and I found during our travels in Indonesia (long before the kids were born!).
Some people have little care for words. Some learn a few that stick to them like bubblegum to orange hair, they end up using the same words over and over on television or Twitter. Surprisingly, one such person apparently managed to convince millions, mesmerised by his words, to vote him into power.
I don’t pretend to know more words than the average writer, but I try to care for the words that I let go, the words I allow to land on a page. In a world that seems to be increasingly overtaken by the loud and forceful, rather than those who seek truth and a common humanity, one has to be thankful for being read at all.
Wings of Smoke (The Onslaught Press, UK, 2017) is Agustin’s latest poetry collection, launched in the UK and worldwide in February 2017. The book may be ordered via the publisher’s website – www.onslaughtpress.com – and Amazon. It will be made available in South Africa from March 2017 mainly through the author who will be reading and launching the book at various venues: at the Writing for Liberty Conference at the Centre for the Book on 28 March, at Off the Wall (A Touch of Madness Restaurant) in Observatory on 30 March and at Kalk Bay Books on 4 April. More readings are to follow during the year.
I was interviewed by Bookwatch, the National Book Development Board’s publication. The print issue was meant for release at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The online version may be read HERE. At the end of the interview is a poem with a rather long title. For those who know little about what’s been happening in my country of birth, you could maybe do an online search on the following phrases: EJK, extrajudicial killing, war on drugs, Duterte.
Here’s a screen grab from the issue. Hope you read the whole interview and those of other Filipino writers currently writing and living in other parts of the world. I would love to hear what you think of the poem and the interview. Thank you in advance.
You take memory. Put it in a box. Shake it a bit. Open the box. Whisper into it. Close it up and shake it some more. Open the box. Take it apart. Look for the memory that seems to have disappeared. Now start writing what you remember, what should be remembered, what will always be remembered, and then make a new box out of air.