Bright Sign, Bright Age

The challenge of cultivating a “critical life” for any Filipino book is, admittedly, a tough one to hurdle. These last two years especially we [in the University of the Philippines Press] have been doing our darnedest in this regard—by holding forums and symposiums, and yes, sponsoring a Critical Essay Writing Contest, whose successful culmination the publication of this landmark anthology occasions. The absence of a critical tradition—premised on a culture of advanced and mature literacy—is clearly an abiding problem for the book industry (and for cultural work, in general) in our country. We may attribute this absence to, among other things, precisely the kind of tactile and personalistic ethos that orality foments and maintains.

Because the UP Press is an academic publishing house, it’s entirely within its mandate to encourage the dissemination of academic knowledge, especially as it relates to the area of Philippine Studies. As we conceived it, the UP Press Critical Essay Writing Contest would serve, on one hand, to document the important role that the University of the Philippines has played in sponsoring this area of inquiry; and on the other, to encourage its further development, precisely by providing an incentive to our country’s local scholars to contribute to this growing body of knowledge by reflecting upon various aspects of the Philippine reality …

The winning essays in [both] the English and Filipino divisions … all attend to varying aspects of Philippine Studies, and yet what seems to unify them is the recognition of dissonance and paradox in the fundamental ways everyday social meanings are negotiated, expressed, interpreted, and lived by most Filipinos, caught as they are between the painful vicissitudes and transitions of their restively transforming histories.
—From the Introduction, J. Neil C. Garcia, editor