Ambivalent Rootedness: Estrella Golingay’s Thoughts on Writing


Ambivalent Rootedness: Estrella Golingay’s Thoughts on Writing

When the opportunity arose to engage with the veteran writer, Estrella Taño Golingay, my request for an interview was not met with an immediate affirmation. Compelled to understand the reason behind her initial reluctance, I posed the question. Her response was a candid admission of feeling somewhat adrift in the sea of SOCCSKSARGEN's writing community. Despite her veteran status, she confessed to a sense of alienation, a feeling of not quite fitting into the vibrant tapestry of writers that make up the region's literary scene.

Driven by a pressing need to record the wisdom of our seasoned literary writers, I embarked on a mission to reach out to them, seeking to arrange interviews at their leisure. Incidentally, Golingay agreed to my request, and we found ourselves immersed in a profound dialogue within the comforting confines of her modest home in Surallah, South Cotabato. It was a testament to the power of words, bridging the gap between generations and fostering a deeper understanding of our shared literary heritage.

In the 1950s, the Philippine government's migration program opened a new chapter for Golingay's family. Hailing from the province of Catanduanes in the Bicol region, they found a new home in Norala, South Cotabato. It was here that Golingay first saw the world.

However, due to the turmoil that engulfed Norala at the time, they eventually relocated to Surallah, a town nearby. Their roots as Bicolanos were contrasted by the Ilonggo-dominated community they found themselves in. This cultural juxtaposition added a new dimension to her mosaic of experiences, enriching her narrative as a writer. It was a testament to their adaptability, a story of resilience etched in the annals of their family history.

Ambivalent Rootedness: Estrella Golingay’s Thoughts on Writing

This unique experience brought with it its own set of challenges, particularly in terms of identity and language. Golingay found herself grappling with a sense of "ambivalent rootedness" in her linguistic heritage. Despite her Bicolano roots, she confessed to not having fully mastered the language. Simultaneously, she was still finding her footing in the Hiligaynon language, proof of the complex linguistic landscape she traversed daily. It was a dance between two cultures, a balancing act on the tightrope of identity.

“I felt incomplete,” she confessed. "At times, I would reach out to family members, seeking to fill the gaps in my Bicol vocabulary. Who cares if I don’t write in pure Bicolano? I wanted to write in SOX Bicol,” she shared, her words reflecting her determination to carve out her own linguistic identity.

This conundrum mirrors the experiences of many writers in the region, their narratives shaped by the various ethnolinguistic groups that call SOCCSKSARGEN (SOX) home. This cultural melting pot has given birth to a unique linguistic blend, a harmonious marriage of diverse languages that has evolved and matured over time, much like the region itself.

The American educational system in the country, with its strong emphasis on the English language, played a pivotal role in shaping Golingay's linguistic prowess. As a young student, she found herself drawn to the treasure trove of English reading materials in her school library, a sanctuary where she could immerse herself in the world of words.

This fascination with the English language eventually guided her academic path. She pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English at Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU) and continued her studies at the University of Mindanao in Davao City from 1971 to 1974. It was a testament to her dedication and passion for the language that had captivated her since her early years.

Golingay revealed a relationship with writing that ebbed and flowed like the tides. During her school years, she was a vibrant participant in literary contests and campus journalism, her words flowing freely onto the page. However, as life unfolded, bringing with it the joys of marriage and motherhood, the spark that once ignited her writing seemed to dim. Her academic career further complicated matters, leaving little room for her to indulge in the creation of literary pieces.

"I found myself caught in a delicate dance, trying to balance the demands of writing, family life, and an academic career," she confessed. "Amid this juggling act, I somehow lost my way; my writing went into a long hibernation."

Her words painted a poignant picture of the challenges faced by many who strive to balance their passions with life's responsibilities.

The tragic loss of her third child to illness ignited a dormant flame within Golingay, rekindling her passion for writing. This heart-wrenching experience as a mother inspired her to pen Si Nene at Ako sa Pagitan ng Gabi at Liwanag. For her, it was more than just a piece of writing; it was an emotional catharsis, a means to navigate the turbulent sea of grief.

In a testament to her talent and resilience, she submitted this deeply personal piece to Home Life Magazine. The literary world recognized the raw emotion and moving narrative in her work, awarding it the coveted first prize in 1994. It was a silver lining in the storm, a beacon of hope in the darkness.

This accolade served as a springboard, catapulting her into various esteemed writing workshops across the country. Her journey included a Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)-sponsored workshop in 1994, followed by the prestigious Iligan National Writers Workshop in 1995. She also attended a University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman-funded workshop on the idyllic Samal Island, where she had the privilege of learning under the tutelage of literary luminaries such as Anthony Tan, Jaime Ann Lim, and N.V.M. Gonzales.

Golingay likened her writing journey to a "roller coaster ride," a thrilling adventure filled with unexpected twists and turns. The opportunities it presented were beyond her wildest expectations, evidence of the unpredictable yet rewarding nature of the literary world.

Ambivalent Rootedness: Estrella Golingay’s Thoughts on Writing

A group of young writers initiated her journey into the region's literary community by inviting her to various literary events. She attended writers' forums, assumed the role of guest editor for the Cotabato Literary Journal, and served as one of the resource speakers at the SOX Writers Workshop, among other engagements. Alongside experienced writers like Generoso Opulencia, she actively observes the blossoming careers of the region's emerging writers.

Golingay experiences a sense of validation stemming from her inclusion in the literary circle and the opportunity to impart her wisdom to promising writers. She encourages these young talents to persist in their writing and reading endeavors, emphasizing that reading is a wellspring of inspiration.

Golingay has observed that many young writers in the region also serve as educators. As an educator herself, she recognizes the benefits of this dual role in advancing the region's literary landscape. Being a writer-educator not only promotes the works of local writers by incorporating them into classroom discussions but also provides a platform to advocate for the writing community.

Ambivalent Rootedness: Estrella Golingay’s Thoughts on Writing

Golingay holds a deep admiration for the young SOX writers and their contributions. She finds the emergence of zine culture in recent years particularly intriguing. The SOX Zine Festival provides a platform for many budding writers to self-publish and market their works, while also fostering networking opportunities with fellow literary enthusiasts. However, Golingay has also noted a "reader vacuum" accompanying the surge of these writers and their works.

"Despite the proliferation of such writing, we are not nurturing a culture of readership," she observed.

For Golingay, technological advancement has undoubtedly contributed significantly to humanity, but it also comes with its drawbacks. The interests of today's youth have evolved. They gravitate towards the fleeting and ephemeral. Everything is fast-paced, leading to a shortened attention span and easy access to information. However, this trend can be counteracted if one successfully cultivates an interest in reading and writing.

Following a fruitful career as an educator at NDMU and Notre Dame of Surallah, she now relishes the tranquility of their farm in Surallah. Alongside her husband, they immerse themselves in the rhythm of farm life. The serenity of the farm offers her the opportunity to delve into the world of ecological writing. Currently, she finds joy in crafting eco poetry; her words demonstrate her deep connection with nature.

"Upon reaching a certain age, one's interests inevitably evolve. I found myself transitioning to a different genre, focusing on ecological writing. My work in eco-poetry is a testament to this shift, a field that warrants our attention. It holds a significance that is parallel to that of culture, deserving equal recognition and appreciation,” she said.

“Recently, I've been channeling my personal and environmental concerns through attempts at eco-poetry. I find this process incredibly healing as it allows me to immerse myself in the captivating flaws of nature.”

Golingay likens a surge of inspiration to a virus, an entity that demands immediate attention. She finds potential material for her poetry and essays in anything that captures her interest. She nurtures the aspiration of publishing a book, a curated collection of her works, poised to capture the gaze of eager readers.

Sharing a moment with this writer was a privilege. She may not claim the prolificacy that adorns other writers we have encountered, yet her wisdom, like an ageless echo, continues to reverberate in the corridors of time. Her insights continue to inspire a new generation of writers who seek to infuse their sense of rootedness into their literary creations.