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Combat fake news through literature, urges critic, veteran journo

Quoting Palanca Award-winning writer Jose Dalisay Jr., renowned critic Rolando Tolentino upheld that “the best antidote to fake news is true fiction.”

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

A veteran journalist and a renowned literary critic urged Thomasians yesterday to write more literature about current social issues to fight the rise of disinformation in the country.

Rolando Tolentino, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Creative Writing, said during this year’s Paz Latorena Memorial Lectures that writing short stories and poetry could help combat lies peddled by those in power.

Quoting Palanca Award-winning writer Jose Dalisay Jr., Tolentino upheld that “the best antidote to fake news is true fiction.”

“Paano mo maco-combat kung in-abdicate mo ‘yung role ng panitikan? Magsulat ng panitikan tungkol sa panahon na ‘to,” Tolentino affirmed.

With the advent of social media, Tolentino also lamented the distortion of “orality” of storytelling and the perception of reality but he maintained that literature “is a creative response to reality.”

He continued by stating that the role of literature in Philippine society is crucial as it serves as the country’s record of important historical events and social movements.

“Napakahalagang area [ng panitikan] sa kasaysayan natin, ito na ang chronicle natin,” he said.

He added: “Kaya natin napatunayan na may Martial Law, may Marcos dictatorship, may Spanish colonialism ay dahil sa mga matitigas [at] astig nating manunulat na nag-intervene sa panahon na ‘to.”

The former UP College of Mass Communication dean also stressed how “slow” writers are nowadays in publishing literary works that tackle issues current social issues.

“Wala na tayong poems na lumalabas, wala tayong short stories na lumalabag. […] May pagka-slow na ‘yung writers natin kasi ang pumapasok talaga are all these posts, mga commentaries [n]ila sa Facebook,” he said.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist and columnist Salvacion Espina-Varona called on writers to use literature to resist alienating pro-administration supporters.

“Alam natin kung bakit nanalo si Rodrigo Duterte [at hindi lamang ito dahil sa fake news but] because he does not exist in a vacuum: He is the sum total of rage passed from generation after generation,” Espina-Varona told the audience.

She also urged that a “real” way to battle lies is to become “truth-tellers,” telling them that safeguarding truth is not solely the role of journalists.

“Hindi pwedeng isang sektor lamang lipunan ang magiging guardians ng katotohanan sa mundo, hindi pwedeng journalists lang,” she said.

This month, Facebook began implementing strict measures against the proliferation of fake news, such as identifying links from legitimate news sites and blocking links from several websites identified to peddle false information.

The social media giant, meanwhile, on Thursday announced its partnership with online news agencies Rappler and Vera Files for a third-party fact-checking program in the country, which aims to prevent the spreading of fake news content on the social media platform.

Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque have protested the partnership, accusing Rappler and Vera Files of “partisanship.”

On Oct. 4 last year, the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media opened its first hearing on fake news, the first of its kind in the country. The committee concluded its second hearing last Jan. 30.

Bannered with the theme “Saysay ng Panitikan sa Panahon ng Fake News at Tokhang,” the yearly lecture is held in honor of Paz Latorena, an esteemed Filipina fictionist and former chair of the University’s Department of Literature.

The event concurs with the celebration of the National Literature Month. —with reports from P. Jamilla

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Literary

Happy anniversary!

Little did I know at the time that March 9 would be the last day I would be able to see the University and my friends in person.

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(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

March 9, 2020. 

I still remember how that day was going. Amidst the safety protocols at the time in the form of face masks, alcohol, and temperature checks, it was really no different from the typical Mondays I’ve gotten used to. You wake up after a short weekend, prepare, and make your way to the University. 

In my case, it was the usual two to three hour commute I’ve been doing for over a year. Pretty simple right? 

How was it typical you might ask? Well, despite being aware of the situation at the time, I won’t deny it anyway that I did not take the situation seriously. This is not to say that I did not observe and cooperate with safety protocols, but I admit, I was still lighthearted enough about things that I would joke around about it with my friends. 

COVID welcome party. Didn’t age well, but I guess it’ll be a reminder of the days leading up to this. 

Anyways.

Simply put, March 9 was just the beginning of another cycle. A cycle of going to class, listening, or not listening to your professors, mingling with the people you’ve been with for the past year or so, and finally going home late because you still hung out with your friends well after class. 

Or so I thought it was. I had just survived another session of Economics class by the time the news broke out of Mayor Isko declaring a week-long suspension of classes. COVID-19 cases had been increasing at the time which led to the supposed one-week break. 

At the time, a week-long suspension sounded appealing. It was already the second half of the academic year which meant that any form of a break would be nice. I had an ongoing burnout as well at the time so that supposed one-week break was much needed.

But the thing is, it wasn’t just one week. Little did I know at the time that March 9 would be the last day I would be able to see the University and my friends in person. Little did I know that one typical Monday would be a reminder of my last day in Manila. 

That one week turned into a month then that one month turned into a year. Before I knew it, all my plans for the previous year had gone down the drain. Without any warning, the life I knew was gone––forced into an indefinite and abrupt end by an unseen force. 

It’s been a year since March 9. This time around last year, I was still in the outside world. Due to the suspension and campus closure, the streets had been hauntingly silent, akin to what you would see if you were still out at around 1 or 2 AM. Heck, even the trip home at the time felt weird even if I’ve ridden the same bus and sat on the same seats countless times over the past two academic years already. 

But now, I’m just here, writing this piece in my room, the same one I’ve been trapped in since I got home at around 11 p.m. on this day last year. Now I’m just some lost child who’s lost pretty much all sense of fulfillment in what he does. 

One year later, I am just a shell of my former self. 

From someone who was primed to fulfill the potential he and other people saw in him, I’ve been reduced to an underwhelming, burned out deadweight who’s probably causing the same people who believe in me to regret their decision. 

I don’t know anymore, really. At this point I’m just letting the days go by, barely putting in the bare minimum in just about everything I’m involved in. Nothing I’ve done to regain some sense of fulfillment has worked so far, and I don’t know if there’ll even be anything that’ll give me that anymore. 

Everything has felt like a burden frankly speaking. From being the second-highest officer in the organization, to having a position in a school project, all these were supposed to give off a unique sense of fulfillment for me. 

But unfortunately, all these have felt like obligations, which I am forced to fulfill because it would be unethical if I put myself first before the job. 

In retrospect, this time last year and the days that followed seemed like the best year because of how this anniversary has been. Being stuck at home and only seeing Manila for a total of four times since the one-week suspension has made last year’s events look like the best thing to happen, if we’re keeping it real here. 

And no, this isn’t some sympathy piece, nor some privileged rant. 

This is just a mere commemoration of the day normal ceased to exist. 

But hey, maybe things would get better one day, right? We may never go back to normal, but this world would be less of a living hell. Maybe one day I won’t be telling the people I love that I miss them and I am tired of seeing them through my laptop screen anymore. Maybe one day, I won’t be spending countless hours playing Genshin Impact during my free time while ignoring just about everyone in the real world. 

Or maybe not. We’ll never know until we get there anyways.

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Literary

Wall of Roses

To remember the storms and grim atrocities,
One must never let the memories of the tragedies falter.

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EDSA Commemoration held last February 25, 2020. (Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

Weary eyes glare across empty asphalt,
Toward the men clad in armor, prepared for assault,
Deathly stares pointed like spears across the avenues.
Shouldered rifles, their aim steady and true.

The streets choke with the tide of people,
The radio waves harken to the faithful,
A veritable sea of bodies fill the city.
Marching the streets with devout alacrity.

His armored columns batter down the avenue,
Their blitzkrieg halted, a frozen retinue
Fearsome marines, armed to the teeth
Unmoving against a wall of hands with roses and wreaths.

Gunships circling like vultures, guns bared,
A bone-chilling sounds forth, a horrid drone,
The masses do not stir, no longer scared,
Forward they press, to his riverine throne.

His mind is unsure, his seat uneasy,
Whether to rain down his mortars and bombs.
His generals plead to loose a volley,
No orders released, his rage kept mum.

The people shout, and beat, and cry,
For him to relinquish his seat, to give up the fight.
His situation has turned sour, awfully awry.
Nowhere to go, his family takes flight.

Never forget how his men storm the night,
How daughters were taken, sons left slain.
Bearing truncheons, expressing his might,
Never again shall that darkness reign.

To remember the storms and grim atrocities,
One must never let the memories of the tragedies falter.
A bloodless war waged in the fields in cities,
Justice regained upon the shoulders of the martyrs. 

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Literary

Hello, 2021

The sun’s out with its mellow light showing a clear sign of what’s up ahead––a beginning. 

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Photo by Jessica de Rosa on Unsplash

The sun’s out with its mellow light showing a clear sign of what’s up ahead––a beginning. 

All that happened yesterday becomes a blur. The parties, dinners, the echoes of fireworks and car horns, the “goodbye and thank you” messages, the closure that we’ve been yearning to have for us to completely move forward, the people who have left, and the ones who stayed; these things leave a bittersweet ending to the year that has tested our wits and pushed us to the limits of our limits. 

We deserve a pat on the back, a roaring cheer from the crowd, and a cake for surviving the horror of 2020. We may be limping from the ache, our eyes may be red from all the crying, and our will to strive may have taken a huge blow, but what matters is, we managed to finish even without flying colors––even if we exited without avoiding being unscathed. 

And now, we take a step forward to the better things, to new sunrises and sunsets, to new beginnings, to meeting new souls that may become a part of our lives or rather be someone who would be a friend to others, to new challenges, to new levels of extreme, and to having more chances in starting anew. 

But there shouldn’t be an act of forgetting that sometimes, this is not the case for everyone for struggles don’t vanish overnight. The heaviness of circumstances that we cannot escape continues to weigh us down and so, at times, all we can do is sit quietly and bask in solitude or at most, gather all remnants of courage and strength in our bodies to conquer the storm one step at a time. 

It is the first month of the year; the sun’s out with its light––it’s just there being anything that we want it to be, may it be hope, strength, light, or whatever––waiting for us to stand up again and bravely face the unknown of what this year will bring. 

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