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Critical Essay

What Comes Next

Almost a year has passed now since we started living this life in pandemic limbo. “Unprecedented” is a word that has been thrown around, just as metaphors comparing the virus to a war waged by an invisible enemy have become ubiquitous. Through language, we are conditioned to think of militarism as positive and necessary in combating this crisis—unconsciously consenting to draconian security measures because they are done under the name of public health. Not only is the war metaphor dangerous and wrong, it also reduces the complexity of the problem into something as simplistic as ‘beating the virus’, without first examining the systems in place that allow its proliferation and the catastrophic impact it brought along. The only thing this pandemic has in common with war is what it has in common with other collective crises: it exposed all the ugliness and inequality of the society which we participate in.

Definitely, there are other metaphors. And while they might seem lacking or imperfect, too, they can help us rethink this crisis. In Arundhati Roy’s provocative essay, she likens the pandemic to a portal: 

“It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” 

Seeing the pandemic as a portal captured imaginations worldwide, anchoring the discussion instead to envisioning an uncharted reality that lies before us.

In the beginning, most of us clung to the linear idea of returning back to normal once this pandemic is over. But the ‘normal’ we want to revert back to is not good in the first place: the dynamics of exploitation, the systemic injustice, the tyrants and opportunists who think of our bodies as disposable collateral damage—all these amid a backdrop of a dying earth that we continue to ignore. Now the contours of this new world is hazy, but it is already taking shape. 

The word crisis originates from the Greek term krisis, an important concept in Hippocratic medicine which indicates a turning point in a disease that ultimately determines if the patient would recover or succumb to death. And this feels apt for where we are at the moment: a point of transition, a cusp, a portal. It is both frightening and exciting thinking about what will emerge from this portal, but I do hope we emerge from this with a deeper sense of our own interconnectedness. And perhaps this togetherness will help us to fear less, to trust in each other, and to fight back.

By engaging issues related to environmental degradation, capitalism, gender and representation, the works included in this issue, whether implicitly or explicitly, take a stand on political issues.

Rochelle Ann Molina’s “Ticket” unveils how the struggle of women against patriarchal oppression goes hand in hand with wage-earners’ struggle against capitalist exploitation. And in their ultimate act of emancipation and liberation, they, dispassionately, leave the men all on their own. 

“In the news, the president of the country spoke in his midnight state of the nation address that should the women come back they will be chained to the bedposts forever. They would not be allowed to leave the house anymore. In fact, they should be shot at their vaginas for such betrayal.”

“Taglunod, Tagsunog” by Erika Carreon challenges the complex layers of culpability that exist among us as species and our self-styled exceptionalism; an illusion presented by the Anthropocene that will, ultimately, kill us all. 

“As the sea continued to eat at the land, as cities became islands, the dreamers called to the displaced and whispered their grand plans. All we need is your labor, and we will show you a new world. They made food out of the various pestilences, bred new trees to be made into a hardy timber, used the waste from man and animal to fatten the soil, harnessed the frightful winds for power. They would say of the arcology, Yes, we have made progress.

Then the Flood came for them, and swallowed their story.”

In “Pula Ang Unang Kulay Ng Bahaghari,” Mirick Paala asserts: “bakla ay  awra at/barikada/ganda/at protesta/ay hindi/matahimik/na ligaya”. Being bakla is a celebration, an assertion, a resistance. Resistance here is rooted in the promotion of the voice for the voiceless, the elimination of the practice of erasure and the dismantling of unjust and oppressive systems. Just as it was in the first Stonewall Riots, when members of the LGBTQIA+ community fought against police brutality, activists in the Philippines have also used the Pride March as a platform to protest sate repression and the quashing of human rights and fundamental freedoms.   

The essay, stories, poems and plays gathered in this issue represent our effort to provide counter-narratives and imagine alternate communities. We did not know what to expect at first when we announced the call for submissions. But after going through hundreds of entries, we did our best to curate the most inventive works with expansive vision that made justice and representation central to their structure and message. Our intention is to create a space for our community of readers and writers to explore radical ideas and collective views while inside the portal. Though metaphors can be limiting, our power to reimagine a better and just world definitely is not. 

And as soon as we emerge out of this portal, there is a world to build.   


This literary piece is part of Katitikan Issue 3: (Re) Imaginations.

By Sigrid Gayangos

Sigrid Marianne Gayangos was born and raised in Zamboanga City. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Mindanao Odysseys: A Collection of Travel Essays, Fantasy: Fiction for Young Adults, Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction 3, Philippine Speculative Fiction 12, Philippines Graphic, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and The Best Small Fictions 2019, among other places. In 2018, she won the Carlos Palanca Award for her poetry collection for children entitled “Of Monsters, Math and Magic.” Currently based in Quezon City, she divides her time between training a bunch of mathletes and finishing her first collection of short stories.

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