SINCE 2014, I have lived in Maryland, USA.
And still, I identify myself as a Filipino writer.
As an Ilonggo writer.
Every year since 2007, I come home and spend time in Iloilo.
I go home to the Philippines to accept literary awards.
To make movies.
To be one with the Filipino artists.
In 2012, I established The Peter Solis Nery Foundation for Hiligaynon Literature and the Arts, Inc.
And since 2013, I have administered the Peter’s Prize for writing, and for other art and scholarly disciplines.
Years before coming to America in 2006, I was actively writing and making art in Iloilo.
And just days before I left the country for the land of opportunities, I even mounted a poetry concert to celebrate the 2006 February Arts Month.
Since 2007, I’ve toured the Philippines to give creative writing, filmmaking, theatre and acting workshops every year without fail every time I’m in the country.
In heart, mind, and spirit, I am a Filipino writer, a Filipino artist.
In thoughts, words, and deeds, I am a Filipino artist, a Filipino writer.
Even in America, I continue to write for Filipino readers.
Year in and year out, I craft and enter my literary output to the Palanca Awards.
I like the Palanca Awards because they give me a stronger validation for the literature that I write.
Because sometimes, I want some validation.
I mean, I like writing books.
But I also know that many Filipino readers cannot afford to buy my books.
I also like writing for the newspapers. Especially Panay News.
And I do appreciate the validation from my readers and editors.
But I don’t want people to forget that other than the newspaper, I am also a literary writer.
That is why, in addition to humor and light essays, I occasionally run my poems, plays, and stories in my Panay News column.
And it is testament to the respect and esteem of the newspaper, its editors, and our smart readers that I am allowed these things.
Like I’ve earned the right to do whatever I want to do with my column space.
So yeah, I’m pretty happy where I am in my career as a writer—
Of the newspaper, of Palanca fame, of Philippine textbooks, and my Peter Solis Nery Foundation for Hiligaynon Literature and the Arts.
Occasionally, people shake my equilibrium.
From the Philippines, they ask my happy and contented self in America: “Why are you not included in the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art?”
And honestly, I can brush that off by saying, “Why don’t you ask the CCP?”
Or, I can start a discussion and just ask, “Literary and art politics in the region?”
Note the question mark.
I ask, and people volunteer to answer.
Some of the strange answers I’ve seen: “Accomplishments and peer review are the basis (of the screening/inclusion); the committee didn’t think he earned the respect of his peers.”
Of which my supporters responded: “Accomplishments: Unquestionable. Respect from peers: They are a clique.”
Or simply, with resignation: “They are just envious of your accomplishments.”
My true supporters continue: “I am angered why they are doing this to you.”
At least two notable Ilonggo journalists said, “Peter Solis Nery should be in the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art,” and “You deserved to be included in the CCP Encyclopedia, Peter Solis Nery.”
I love the outrage!
I’d rather be loved like this than be included in an encyclopedia with less ardent supporters!
I like that the strange answer above (about not earning the respect of peers) continues with “Now, let’s all go back to work, just work, beyond ourselves, awards, and again ourselves.”
Because it sounds like Martial Law history, like plunder and corruption, like stolen elections.
Note how easy it is for the Marcoses to say, “Let’s move on.”
Note how easy it is for the administration candidates and supporters to advise exactly that after the May 2019 elections, “Let’s move on.”
Note how easy it is for plunderers and corrupt people, thieves, to gain power in our country.
So yeah, move on.
Here’s the thing:
It’s easy for me to move on because I am not in the Philippines.
Because I am no longer poor, and powerless.
Because with my outrageously creative lifestyle (the real Filipino artist in me) lived abroad, I know I am doing something big for my Filipino legacy.
My bigger fame and renown may not be in this lifetime.
But I will be remembered as the inspirational rock star of the Philippines that persevered despite the persecution.
I will be remembered as the rock star who survived, and ultimately triumphed, over the politics of Philippine art and literature.
In the light of the CCP Encyclopedia that did not include me, and the politics involved in my exclusion, here is my promise:
I will continue to endeavor to promote Philippine art and literature.
I will promote literature and art without exclusion based on politics and clique mentality.
I will celebrate the excellent and meritorious works of other creatives even if they are not my friends and supporters.
And because I will not be silenced, I will continue to promote myself.
Because (and even if) the establishment will not recognize me, I will persevere.
I will move on, move up, and still, make sure that people will remember.
Because to move on blindly and without memory is the cruelest of all./PN