On Writing in Hybrid Language: An Interview with Gerald Galindez

Gerald Galindez is a 4th generation Ilocano settler in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. He graduated at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education major in English. He is currently teaching at Notre Dame of Tacurong College as a Senior High School teacher of Language and Literature. He is an active member of Sultan Kudarat Writers Association (a subgroup of SOX Writers). He was a fellow for poetry in the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and the 26th Iligan National Writers Workshop where he won the 2nd place for the Jimmy Balacuit Literary Award for Poetry. His works have been published in the different publications such as International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), Cotabato Literary Journal, Dagmay, ALPAS Journal, Likhaan, and Mindanao Harvest 4: An Anthology of Mindanao Literature. 

Gerald is considered as an important literary figure in the region because he is one of the few writers who write in hybrid language form. He mixes Tagalog, Binisaya, Ilocano and Hiligaynon which is considered as unifying language among the diverse culture of South Central Mindanao. 

In an interview, Gerald shares about his writing experience and why writing in your own language is important for the writers from the region. 

Yadu Karu: When did you realize that you love writing? 

Gerald Galindez: I consider myself as a late bloomer. Back then, I was on my way to boredom and wrong influences (thank goodness it did not thrive). I had no campus journalism background, no academic honor status, and no writing know-hows. In short, I was really just an average Juan in my teens who knows how to smack the Ping-Pong paddle. The only time I wrote something on my notes was my lessons, and songs which I wrote for the girls I really liked. For example, when I wrote about a song for my beautiful classmate Alexis Manansala, she instantly loved it. I said to myself, “Wow! This is working!” Later on, she transferred to another school and I felt sad. I know that it was cliché/cheesy type but I did not stop writing songs. 

I think it was in the middle of my college years that I started to love writing. It was sort of coping mechanism to go out from very dark mental places (you know what I mean), and it’s very therapeutic for me. I feel good when I write a poem, even if it’s reflected as profane, evil, and total nihilistic, I can release some things. Whenever I revisit those poems I feel sorry for myself. But despite its dark and depressing tone I’m still proud of it. (Except a poem published by Mintech that has a typographical error. I can’t bear seeing that typo again.) 

Things began to get favorable for me when I became a contributing writer in school publications at the University of Southern Mindanao. I got paid and published, and able to make libre my ex-girlfriend in the famous barbeque place in Zamora St. in Kabacan, North Cotabato. I think that was the time I know I had it in me. The love for writing poetry just bloomed. But of course, my writing mentors, which were my former teachers, also had great impact on my writing. 

Yadu Karu: Aside from writing, you also love music. Can you share to us your love for music and your indie band? 

Gerald: I believe that songs are poetry set to music. My poetics is shaped by song lyrics, not by literary canonical works or what we read in textbooks. It is sheer understatement if I say that music is my life, music saved my life or even saying that I breathe music. 

I grew up in the cassette tape era of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Nirvana and Eraserheads were my nursery rhymes. I remember when I brought these tapes in our Grade 3 Christmas party because I was assigned to provide music for the it. It was used for our paper dance and statue dance games. It is weird imagining it now. 

I always bookmark all the significant memories of my life – good or bad, with songs. Whenever I hear songs, there is a specific memory that would pop out. For example, Coldplay’s Speed of Sound reminds me of my high school classmate Pearl and her beautiful and refreshing smile; Dido’s Thank You reminds me of climbing mango trees in Aringgay, Kabacan and catching a venomous spiny caterpillar on my forearms. (Grabe chabaw ko noon!); Cranberries’ Ode to my Family reminds me of our residence in Buluan; Streamline by System of a Down, is one of my lowest song. It’s so sorrowful and full of misery. Almost all of my significant events or memories have association to a certain song. I am still looking for the person that I could talk to about music who is not boring and judgmental. Music serves that role and it acts as my bookmark in my life. 

I have an indie band called Jinky and the Oysters. We had a productive 2019 but this year looks blurry because of this pandemic. We are now looking for a new guitarist actually. Jet Victorio, our former guitarist, is now studying in a far school. It’s hard to replace him since he’s a good guitarist. The band is composed of senior high school students – Joseth Bidding, Clive Subido, Jet Victoria; and faculty members – me and Christian Castronuevo and Jinky Daguro. I organized the band for recreation after classes. We are planning to write original content. 

Yadu Karu: Writing in hybridize language is your forte as a writer from the region. What is your motivation in choosing such writing style? 

Gerald: My style? No it’s not a style. It’s the real me. Real, meaning my own breath, my own sweat, my own soul, my own blood. Ever since I wrote in this kind of language I found my true writing self. I would never deny that. I accepted the part where my readership is limited. But I don’t care. I write for myself and for the place I live in. 

The tricycle drivers that I converse with the language; the Babu who sells pangos, tinagtag, taruk and tinapayan; the water delivery man who has great knowledge on pottery; the canteen vendors whose dancing skills I envy; the ukay-ukay over-seers; the buko juice vendor; the barber; the taho vendor; all of them, the people of my place. They are the reason why I write what I write Yads. They speak the language that I write. I write for these people which I look up to with respect. 

Yadu Karu: Your two zines – "Maalikabok ka lang pero Kaganda Mo" and "Ginapasaya Mo Ako" – have been published in UP's Likhaan website. Can you tell us your writing process of it and how did you come up with its concept. 

Gerald: Ginapasaya Mo Ako and other Poems (2018) is a collection of poetry in English and SOX Tagalog, a hybrid form of Tagalog mixed with Binisaya, Ilocano, and Hiligaynon, which is the common language use in South Central Mindanao. The zine’s main theme is biographical in nature. It is a mix of my lived experience in the diverse environment that I’m living in. 

On the other hand, Maalikabok Ka Lang Pero Kaganda Mo and other Poems (2019) is a collection of poetry written in the pure SOX Tagalog. The zine is an intimate study of human behavior from the communal experiences of the region. 

These two zines are so dear to me they are like my babies! I wrote them after class. I would sit on the faculty office, put my earphones, listen to my “Secret Writing Power Playlist”, and wrote. I hate it when someone disturbs me (you know), except for the big boss. That’s it. No special ritual whatsoever. I just write what I think and feel. 

With regard to its concept, Ginapasaya zine has an aquatic theme since I love marine life. The Maalikabok zine if you notice its cover design, it has a connection with the poems inside the zine. I made a collage photo and made it look like you are in a desert. I associate its dryness in Tacurong City especially in summer season. 

Yadu Karu: Do you have writing inspiration? Who are your writing influences? 

Gerald: William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe were my earliest influences Yads. I’d read them voraciously. Then, I read a lot of Lourd De Veyra’s poetry. In fact, the first local poetry books I had were his. From there I explored and read poets of different era and styles; and of course, Joey Ayala. 

The writers that influenced me a lot to write in hybrid language were Karlo Antonio Galay-David and Jade Mark Capiñanes. Karlo’s poem Yawyaw ni Rich Girl sa kanyang M.U. and Jade’s Non-fiction Paano Magsakay ng Tricycle sa General Santos City opened the gate for me to write the hybrid form. 

Yadu Karu: How's the literary scene in Sultan Kudarat? 

Gerald: Sultan Kudarat’s literary scene is flourishing Yads! We are never short of conducting literary events such as Spoken Word Poetry and online contests. We have successfully conducted the 3rd SOX Zine Fest at PRIMARK, Tacurong City thru the initiatives of the Sultan Kudarat Writer’s Association (SKWA), the SOX Writers, Tacurong Writer’s Guild and LGU Tacurong. We are also celebrating Jude Ortega’s national award winning book “Seekers of Spirits”. 

We supposed to conduct Tacurong Signs of Life 2: Drama and Film Writing if COVID 19 did not come. The literary scene here has lots of potential. Let’s wait until this pandemic would end. 

Yadu Karu: You are also a teacher in a private institution. How do you promote local writers to your students? 

Gerald: In 21st Century Literature of the Philippines and the World, there is a lesson on Local Literature. Basically, I choose the best available local literature I can find to discuss in class. I also get to invite local writers in literary events such as SOX Zine Fests and literary talks. Through that kind of exposure, my students would feel and realize the importance of local literature since they have the opportunity to meet local writers in the region. 

Yadu Karu: Do you encounter writing hindrance? Is there a time when you cannot produce an output such as poem? How do you overcome it? 

Gerald: My work is a hindrance to my writing I guess. But I have to put food on the table because that is how the world works. And I also love to teach poetry so this is somewhat a love-triangle relationship. Imagine if I get permission to build a stilt house in the middle of Lake Buluan or a small hut in the heart of Daguma mountain range all by myself and write all day. That would be a dream! 

Yes, there are times that I cannot write an output because, for instance, I’m preoccupied with other things. But when inspiration strikes, it would be a downpour of ideas. I would drop an important task just to write fresh verses on my phone or notebook. 

Yadu Karu: As a writer, what have you realized in this pandemic? 

Gerald: I have peeked through the hearts of human beings. This pandemic brought out the angel and demon in most people, even to me. I also realized that the world would literally stop. I now understand how the power governing this world works. And it is pretty depressing. My heart goes out to the people most affected. I feel guilty sometimes that I am able to still eat three times a day. That’s the theme of my poetry that I’m currently writing. 

Yadu Karu: Any advice to those who want to pursue writing. 

Gerald: Find the language that is closest to your heart. You cannot just write something that you could not grasp. What’s the purpose of poetry? Diba to tap into the feelings that cannot be easily said or express. It’s an intimate and intense writing on a certain idea, to help make a better world. I believe ma achieve mo yan kung na-reconcile mo na sa sarili mo na THIS is the language of my heart. Mas fulfilling gud siya. Pramis. 

Yadu Karu: What do you hope for the literary community in SOX? 

Gerald: One big literary Trek in Lake Holon! 1st SOX Tilapyang Puti Trek! All are encouraged to join and mingle. Where we put down all our baggage behind and mingle with fellow SOX writers and celebrate the wonders that everybody has done for the region. 

(This interview was edited for clarity purpose) 
All photos were from Gerald's Facebook profile