Lately, I have been helping myself with Kapampangan literature. Since none of my elementary, high school, and college classes introduced a single Kapampangan piece aside from Atin Ku Pung Singsing (with its subtle contextual significance barely scrutinized), I am now taking Kapampangan literature studies informally.
Allow me to say first that--WOW--we, Kapampangans of the new generation, have certainly missed a lot for not having read the works of our homegrown talents. This is greatly the fault of the centralized educational system that discriminates non-Tagalog works in the anomalous subject called Filipino, which is embellished Tagalog.
And the subconscious effect of only being introduced solely to a shallowly-interpreted Kapampangan song about a lost singsing is seeing Kapampangan literature as either non-existent or comprised of intellectually challenged pieces that show no consciousness of social issues.
Wrong! Very wrong, and I feel very deprived when I recall the Tagalog works pressed unto us during elementary. There are pieces on peasant unrest, feudalism, females as sex objects, colonization, colonial mentality, relations with Menila, and philosophy.
The Kapampangan writer so far who has impressed me most is Jose Gallardo of Candaba "who wrote more than 200 poems, 26 plays and zarzuelas, 30 crissotans (poetic debates), 6 novels and countless short stories... and an unfinished autobiography." Beat that.
I was amazed most by one of his short stories: Bangungut (Nightmare), written even before my parents were born.
Prof. Juliet Cunanan-Mallari of the University of the Philippines Pampanga made a paper analyzing 'Bangungut'. Allow me to quote a segment of the abstract of the paper:
“Bangungut” (“Nightmare”), a poem depicting the language crisis in his province. This cultural study underscores the resulting cultural alienation of a colonized people represented by a poet whose voice reverberates with the “continued agony rather than [the] total disappearance of [their] pre-existing culture.
The short story is told in first person and is in Kapampangan, but the dialogues of the people involved in the comedy were intentionally in pidgin - a mixture of Kapampangan, Tagalog, and English.
The story is also futuristic, albeit only a dream; the author goes to a world where "ing petsa keting yatu malambat neng makalagpas itang petsang Adwang Libu (the date in the world is long past year 2000)."
There he meets his great grandchildren, who are all happy to see their renowned writer Lolu. To welcome him, one of Gallardo's grandchildren (in the story) stages a poetic piece, the first part of which goes like this (notice the language use):
Very many salamat pu [I thank you very much]
Sa kekayung palakpakan [For your applause]
At ing kanakung Good Evening [And my Good Evening]
Yang babye ku sa keko ngan [I wish to say to you all]
Damutan ye ing tula ku [Please enjoy this poem of mine]
Na hakin pung pamansagan [Which I proudly call]
Mahalin at Palabungin [Love and Enrich]
Ang Hamanung Kapampangan [The Kapampangan Language]
Words in red are English. Words in black are Kapampangan. Words in blue are Tagalog. Italicized words are mockery of the stereotypical "H" defect of Kapampangans.
After the declamation piece, I laughed my heart out with what I read! In the story, after the horrible pidgin poem of Gallardo's fictional great grandson, all the people cheered, "Mabuhe ing Kapampangan!" And the people whispered, "Migmana ya kang Lolu na." (He's just like his grandpa.)
Mabuhe is a Pampanganized version of the Tagalog 'mabuhay' (long live), because the Tagalog -ay is usually an -e in Kapampangan like gulay = gule, suklay = sukle.
Another matter to notice in 'Bangungut' is the seemingly burning pride of the futuristic Kapampangans in their heritage; this is contrasted though with the way the Kapampangan language has been corrupted and the way the corruption is being tolerated and propagated, and it makes the piece not only funnier, but closer to reality. Ethnolinguistic communities undergoing a state of neo-colonialism seldom see the effects of dominant cultures in their indigenous culture.
It is very remarkable how Gallardo saw the future state of the Kapampangan language. It is becoming a reality currently (albeit Gallardo's is hyperbolic, probably because it's supposed to be funny) especially in the urban areas.
For that, I call 'Bangungut' a piece of genuine Kapampangan science fiction, linguistics being a part of social science, and social science being a segment of science. Thus, it's science fiction. And as many science fiction pieces, it is based on reality.
I am itching to read more of Gallardo's works. I also plan to make a compilation of Kapampangan literary pieces that foresaw the fate of the Kapampangan language during their time.