It’s June and Bahamut Journal’s first issue is now available for purchase. There are stories and there are stories, but Bagi (included in this issue of Bahamut) is a marker for me when it comes to delving deeper into the heart of story. I wrote this post to provide a little bit of insight into what went into the writing of this piece.
I remember when I lost fluency in the use of my childhood tongue. We had just moved to Manila from the mountains and our parents had chosen to enroll my sister and I in an exclusive school. You know how you have those schools where kids come from the same social circles, grew up in the same exclusive neighborhood and went to the same kindergarten? It was that kind of school. It was a school that projected the image of: all our students come from high class families.
My sister and I were admitted as partial scholars because we both scored high on entrance exams. We were picked up by a schoolbus, and while we didn’t have a house in one of the exclusive gated subdivisions, at least we lived in a subdivision. Not well-off but at least middle class. Unfortunately, we didn’t speak tagalog very well and no one spoke Ilocano or Ifugao with us. Not even the one student who had moved to Manila from Baguio City.
Our saving grace was the fact that we could both speak English that was clearly not provincial English. As time passed, I realized that speaking English was the one way to be acknowledged and accepted somehow. Slowly but surely, I forgot all about Ilocano. By the time we graduated from highschool, I spoke Tagalog and English…mostly English because that was the posh language to speak.
I find myself thinking these days of what gets lost when we lose a language. As I grow older, I find myself yearning for more fluency in the native tongues. To be able to speak without fear of stumbling over words, to be able to burst into conversation with childhood friends on Facebook or on twitter. To say things that can only be expressed fully in the language that feels closer to my skin. I feel language bubbling just beneath my tongue, but I am often afraid because I have not exercised it for such a long time.
While thinking of language recovery, I found myself thinking too about what lies buried in language. What narratives had I chosen to erase when I chose to leave behind that language? What narratives could be pulled out of a text or a few lines or a word? What memory–what emotion would rise up from the use of a language that has lain dormant for so long.
This is how I started writing Bagi: Ada ti Istorya. Bagi is the word for body. I was drawn to the fact that Bagi contains the same letters as biag which means life. I liked how these two words spoke to each other and thinking about these words, Bagi : Ada ti Istorya came into being.
Writing Bagi was also a physical experience. There are stories that you draw from the air, there are stories you draw from things that have happened or from other stories that inspire you, and there are stories that you draw from deep inside your body. Bagi, inevitably draws from the body. As I wrote about trauma, I was going through an escalation of chronic and psychological pain. At one point, I was writing with only one hand on the keyboard as I could barely move my other arm because of the pain coming from inflamed joints.
By Loncon, I had written more than 2000 words, I still did not have an ending and I worried that I would not finish the work because my head was filled with many other things. Then, came end of August and the Rainy Writers Retreat.
In the company of beloved women friends, I finally was able to write the ending passage to Bagi. It was like descending into the deep and then coming up utterly changed.
I think of the ways in which we sustain and support each other and I remember that story comes into being within the collective. I think of how being within the collective, being supported and surrounded by the warmth and the light of beloved ones, women and friends, precious faces, dear hearts, I think of how being within that collective enabled me to complete the circle of Bagi.
This to me is the joy of the work. It comes into being from some deep and hidden part and blossoms into the life as it is watered by the circle of true comrades.
I sent Bagi off to Bahamut Journal and kept my fingers crossed hoping and praying they would accept it so I could finally write about the experience of writing it. I don’t think I’ve been more joyful to receive an acceptance email. Bahamut Journal is my dream home for Bagi and I am so happy and proud that the editors chose to say “Yes, we want to publish this.”
Bagi: Ada ti Istorya shares a toc with other amazing authors for Bahamut Journal’s first issue (now available for purchase). My thanks to Darin Bradley and to Rima Abunasser for their support and encouragement, to Nisi Shawl who told me to submit work to Bahamut, to Nick Wood who provided me non-Ilocano speaker feedback, to my beloved friends, fellow Pinay writers and the circle of women. It is an honor to know that I’ll be able to share this work with you.
**I didn’t have time to blog about it, but Lightspeed Magazine reprinted my PSF 6 story. Breaking the Spell is now available on their website along with an author spotlight where I talk a bit about what went into that story. You can also purchase a copy of the entire issue.
**A bit late with this announcement as well. The movements column on Use of Anger can now be read on Strange Horizons.