Carlo Paulo Pacolor
Hi. I am Carlo Paulo Pacolor. I have been writing fiction and drama for the better part of fifteen years. I also direct things and write essays full of feelings. Sometimes I also collage. I like looking for oddities in the Internet and the City. Lately I have just come out as gender non-confirming queer femme (a fancy technical way of saying bakla really but let us remember labels are important). I am also a person living with HIV. In the past three years I have been directing and producing and making contents for my own shows and whatchamacallits. I think what I want to do next is arts management.
The fictional world consists of vignettes concatenating the terms and practices of tenderness among a group of young gender nonconforming people living in petit-bourgeois and lumpen conditions in the metropolis, as they traverse subjectivity, personhood, desire, romance, love, and mortality, nonchalantly, that is, as mundane and nonmonumental aspects of queer life. This assemblage of affects and convictions constitutes what the author themselves terms as the “third,” instructing us a lesson or two on the philosophy of gender, as that which can only be recalcitrant and uncategorizable, aleatorily explored through rhythms breaking through paradigmatic notions of what a desiring person should be. In this emancipated world, the bakla introduces themselves even beyond their representational habit, visible and eloquent with an armature of beauty and confidence ever so novel and fresh. The language that this figure enunciates may overwhelm at first, an idiolect that may seem to be self-contained and forbidding, but it is precisely the density of speech and articulation that invites us to believe the body that is conjured is no longer mired in abjection, long free from its miserabilist expectations.
Pacolor’s stories are formally and linguistically intrepid and brash, propounding a politics of writing that challenges the genteel habits of conventional humanist reading, which are heteronormatively coded. They resolutely site themselves in the underbelly not only of the dominant but also of the counter culture, emplotting lives of the “other other,” the sheer undiscipline of vulgar, distasteful, potty-mouthed, and lumpenic identities that may perhaps be made to answer—self-mockingly—to the appellation “gutter faggot” (locally, “baklang kanal”). Calling to mind the transgressive reinscriptions in the novels of Jean Genet, Pacolor’s stories reverse the tables on polite society, daring it to avow its brutality and intolerance in plain sight, by championing the willfully perverse, the execrable, and the deviant. And yet, it complicates its own radical vision, by allowing these various others the fictional room—the creative agency—to be selves, but always on their own terms, and without apology or shame. As in Genet’s novels, Pacolor’s characters are not amoral in the least, for they exist in full fellowship and mutual responsibility with one another.
In His Own Words: Where I Come From
Why is it that when there is an enunciation of past trauma, there is the automatic simplistic assumption that one is merely blaming it? This is straight up invalidation, this is pure dismissal of the experienced trauma. The key word here is experienced, then turned to muscle memory.
I am talking to you, calmly. You can sigh and not hear of it, really. You can assume vulnerability is weakness, really. And you can re-assert the mantra of work: distraction is all that you need to forget the past, really. Yes. I am talking to you, calmly, to say you are wrong.
This is what I have learned truly: of course the past does not define you, but it does shape you; it leaves grooves, inundates your skin, your notion of self that informs how you will eventually interact and correspond with others. This is called feeling. When you assume that enunciation of trauma is merely blaming you automatically disregard fault, one of the moments a feeling is consolidated. For example: I was rejected by my mother because I told her I’m gay; this honesty that was instilled in me as virtue traumatized me and left me feeling inadequate for some good portion of my youth.
When I say I am feeling too much, it means that somewhere a wound, a groove, an inundation is being stirred. And because I am cheeky, I will tell you that this feeling is both fantastic and horrible. If I only claim it as horrid then I resolve that the act of healing only requires the trouble of my skin; gagaling din iyan, malayo sa bituka. No. Healing requires constant tending to and reminding; ito ang kirot, something I cannot translate because it does not emanate from my skin, it is a feeling.
So, this is one of the functions of language, of words, of enunciation: we have to go through the trouble of saying, and being honest, not knowing if we are going to get through this trauma or not. This is, writing this I just realized, the bittersweet reality of living. If we all leave ourselves at the hands of unfeeling history, then we are truly doomed because all we will ever see is repetition and patterns and inevitability of great idols that triumphed so-called, in destitution with some cruel untenable ideals. But what about digression, adventure, uncertainty, and spontaneity? What about saying: I need you; I am hurt by my experiences but this doesn’t really define me, it moves me to say: trauma is also not a just feeling but something that was done to me? Do you hear me, you who are reading this?
This is my narrative, and as much as it has semblance to some dead image or handbook, my narrative is full of trauma that must be enunciated. You call it blaming because I am telling this to you calmly, it’s what you were taught you should do when faced with your trauma, blame it, so that, as you were taught, you can shove it aside so as to appear to be strong and therefore willing to receive more of it. Pagkamatiisin. That is your borrowed narrative.
In my narrative I am not strong but I am vulnerable and needy. This does not make me weak; this makes me aware. What is awareness? It is the knowledge that I need an other and that many others like me have traumas too that need to be heard and enunciated. Don’t shut me up by saying I blame trauma when in fact what I am doing is far from it. I keep it beside me so I can recognize that there is something wrong in this grand sadistic narrative of overcoming, of the triumph of the individual cell. I tell you calmly, I don’t want to overcome because that will spell the end for us, individually, and not the end of the thing that caused the trauma on the first place. You say overcome. I say persist. Horrible fantastic persistence.
I was prompted to enunciate these because I think there’s still this damaging insistent notion that all personal experiences must remain individualized and to share it is tantamount to some kind of whining or cry for attention. Ergo: weak. Believe me when I say, I have been doing this personal bravery act for the longest time and it has caused me great pain and agony, and literally much self-flagellation. I own up to these actions, and I take responsibility for them. But this doesn’t counter-act the fact that these self-destructive actions were a by-product of the trauma I received when I was a child. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to get over it. It is a tool that can be used, albeit a tool that you shouldn’t have really received in the first place.
Above is a picture of my gay priest uncle in what I think is gorgeous navy blue floral long sleeves. He was always a classy dresser, until he wasn’t anymore, later in his life. I think he became a priest not to hide his sexuality but to have a sense of redemption as it were deeply ingrained in their generation that to be gay is a one-way ticket to hell. I know, I’m like, where’s that bus, girl. Her mother of course also rejected his homosexuality, and when grandmother died, I think he died with her too because I know for a fact that he loved and adored his mother dearly. He then became increasingly alcoholic. I was terrified of Uncle Father, that’s what we used to call him. Aside from his then increasing alcoholism, his latent Spanish upbringing also caught up with him and he would hit us, his nieces and nephews. Especially me, he hit me the most.
I think he recognized in me something that he also wanted to banish from within himself, something he was taught to reject because it was dirty and evil. And also because I think he knew that I was watching him and that all his attempts on romance with the young men he cared for were doomed because they would all go on to have wives and children. My parents never failed to warn me about “that kind of life”. That it was a sad life, a terrible life. (That is, compared to their so-called happy nuclear family existence). They made it sound so awfully dreadful. While they also actually allowed for me to be hit when Uncle Father took his aggression and frustrations on me whenever he would come to visit. I also actually think they thought I deserved it.
Uncle Father died in 2010, four years after my father died. I saw these two men in their deathbeds. Uncle Father died of self-inflicted alcohol poisoning (and years later I would raid his best kept wines; they didn’t last a week). He was on his way to some priest convention in Rome. Ha. I have no love for that man. But also, no contempt. I was just so relieved when he finally perished.
It took me 35 years to see who I really am, and I am still in the process of untangling myself from these traumas. They’re not burdens you see, they actually have a lightness to them, and that is why they stay with you because just when you think you’ve gotten rid of all of it, there’s still some loose change in your pocket.
So: if you happen to have queer/bakla/tomboy/trans sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, a young queer bunso, do not be afraid of them or who they will become. Do not change them for if you do something might get broken that will take a lifetime to mend. They are not broken and they are fine. And be kind to them, please, be gentle and sincere. And if some unwavering belief or some trauma was inflicted on you by that terrible belief and that is somewhat stopping you from being kind and gentle, don’t take it out on them, they’re children for fuck’s sake. Forgive yourself if you’re having a hard time because not everyone is really meant and equipped to be a parent or a functional adult, and then realizing this try to be a better parent and adult than those who have come before you. Remember, empathy is learned because it is a shared experience. But most of all, you know, just love them and care for them and protect them and be on their side always, and just love them and care for them and that will be joyous, and that will be enough.