PROJECT GRACE-UP

NATIONAL LGBTQ+

WRITERS WORKSHOP

Andrew Estacio

Andrew is a BA Communication Arts graduate from U.P. Los Baños. He is taking his MA Malikhaing Pagsulat degree in UP Diliman, and he likes writing fiction that entails comedy and subversion. He won the Palanca for his short story about a Catholic gay beauty pageant and he has a vivid imagination for LGBTQ emancipation.

The Story

Estacio’s story chronicles a bakla affirming herself as a woman while navigating her love for a man, the trauma of her father’s death, against the backdrop of her Tagalog town’s potentially queer revolutionary history. The consciousness that unifies her transition, romantic predilection, genealogical guilt, and historical awakening, is an arresting sense of reverie that translates into pictorial art. The character is an aspiring illustrator who falls in love with her art tutor, wins a painting contest depicting a historic church with the image of his father martyred, and is inspired by these men of her life to paint a mural of Gregorio del Pilar and his men dressed as women and killing Spaniards in the Battle of Paombong for the 400th year of the parish dedicated to Saint James. While the heroine refuses to finish the mural that doesn’t seem to reconcile queerness, the revolution, and Santiago Matamoros, she finds affirmation in her beloved’s gaze not as his love interest but as a woman seen and somehow gaily surveiled for her vision of herself and the history from below that such transfeminine consciousness is capable of imagining.

The Workshop

Estacio’s submissions to the workshop evince his adherence to traditional gender and erotic categories—to be specific, the bakla, whose object of desire is the lalake—as well as his interest in the folksy character of the manner in which Roman Catholicism is practiced by the majority of Filipinos. As such, they proffer a way of discerning queer spaces of resistance within the dominant culture that ritually professes one thing and yet unthinkingly does another. In particular, his stories gesture toward an understanding of colonial impositions and influences in the Philippines as translational, for in order to locally obtain they have needed to dialogue with and be syncretized by preexisting indigenous practices and beliefs. Specifically in regard to his other story—titled “Santa Santino”—the author was encouraged by the workshop to consider the possibility of recalibrating his approach, away from the hyperbolic and “artificial” toward the more realistic and “reportorial,” precisely to render in more ethnographic (and powerfully immediate) terms the empirically grounded point that, as things stand, Filipino society already professes—albeit hypocritically—its own form of cultural syncretism, which can be critically seen as a form of “perversion.” He was assured that this would not dilute the acuity of his critique—for it is all too clear that his stories seek to interrogate and challenge polite society’s official and doctrinal homo- and transphobias—but would perhaps render it all the sharper and more devastating, precisely by pointing out its inner inconsistency and contraditions, that would thereby effectively call its bluff.

Featured Work:

In His Own Words: Where I Come From

            Nanggaling ako sa Paombong, Bulacan kung saan ako ipinalaki at iminulat sa mga aral ng simbahang Katoliko. Noong bata ako, malalim ang aking pagkaantig sa spectacle, fantasmagorya, at karnibalismo na dala ng simbahan.  Nagagaraan ako sa pagdiriwang ng mga prusisyon, sa paglalagay ng mga rebulto sa karosa, sa pagsayaw at paghawak sa mga poon, sa sayaw ng mga matatanda, sa mga sopistikasyon ng altar at mga baroque na disenyo, sa kung paano mahilig ang mga taga-sa’min sa seremonya’t kung anu-anong teatrikal na kagarbuhan. Kapag umuuwi ako sa bahay, iginuguhit ko rin ang disenyo ng simbahan, ang mga altar, ang mga damit ng santo’t santa, at itinutugtog ko rin ang mga awitin sa misa. Hindi ko rin alam bakit ko ito kinahihiligan ngunit malakas ang kuryosidad at pagkamalikhain ko bunsod ng kasiningan na dala ng matandang Katolisismo. Malaki ang impluwensiya ng mga matriyarka ng aming tahanan, ang aking lola at tita na parehong relihiyosa. Ang una’y mahilig sa panghihilot at matandang pagsamba, at ikalawa’y may saradong paniniwala base sa turo ng El Shaddai.

            Kasabay ng pagtuklas ko sa simbahan ay ang pag-iral din ng aking pagkilala sa sarili bilang bakla. Naalala ko pa noon noong naglagak ako ng altar ng Birheng Maria sa aking kuwarto. Ako ang gumawa ng sarili niyang damit at mayroon pa akong nilikhang awit para sa kanya. Mataas ang debosyon ko noon sa Mahal na Birhen. Para sa aki’y babae ang simbahan. Bagama’t pinaghaharian ito ng patriyarka at phallocentrismo, umiiral ang debosyon at pagkamalikhain ko sa mga makababae nitong imahen—mas gusto kong iginuguhit ang mga babaeng santa kaysa nakapakong si Hesus. Sa Catholic school, lagi akong sumasama sa mga babae. Sa bahay, mas dikit ako sa aking lola, at araw-araw kaming nagrorosaryo. Lumaki akong may inang simbahan.

            Pagtanda’y nirepresa ko na ang ganitong mistisismo. Namulat na rin ako sa kritikal at intelektuwalisadong kultura. Siguro’y nakatagpo ako ng espasyo sa panitikan upang halungkatin ang dati kong kamalayan at iproseso ito sa paraang mauunawaan ko lalo ang sarili. Sa palagay ko, ang aking kasarian bilang bakla ay na hinulma ng mga istruktura ng kolonyalismo, espiritwalidad, at tunggalian ng Katoliko at post-Katolikong yugto ng aking buhay. At naghahangad din ako ng kabuuan, ng sintensis na nagaganap sa pagsusulat.

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