Filipino books

‘Buhay-Guro’: Joel Malabanan’s newest book and his pandemic story

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‘Buhay-Guro’: Joel Malabanan’s newest book and his pandemic story
PRESS RELEASE: ‘Lockdown Series: Buhay Guro’ is a compilation of short stories and essays that Joel Costa Malabanan composed and posted on Facebook while the country was under enhanced community quarantine

This is a press release from 7 Eyes Productions.

Everybody has a story about their COVID-19 experience, but not many have a story as inspiring as Professor Joel Costa Malabanan, PhD. Last April 15, the acclaimed poet and musician successfully launched his book Lockdown Series: Buhay Guro at Philippine Normal University. This came two years after he contracted the dreaded coronavirus that left him fighting for his life. And even though he had finished the book before spending 47 days in the hospital and almost two weeks being intubated, he wasn’t sure whether he would live to see its publication. The rest is now history.

Published by 7 Eyes Productions, the book is a compilation of short stories and essays that Dr. Malabanan composed and posted on Facebook while the country was under enhanced community quarantine. Most of the stories are written in the form of daglit (a short story with fewer than 150 words) and end with a dalit (a short Filipino poem consisting of four verses with eight syllables each), which can be compared to Japan’s haibun, which combines poem and prose. Here in the Philippines, this genre was pioneered by the litterateur Dr. Reuel Molina Aguila. Some of the essays, on the other hand, were written years before the pandemic.

While the author recognizes the value of writing workshops, he maintains that he purposefully left most of the book’s content unpolished in order to preserve their spontaneity and authenticity. The end result was an honest, heartrending portrayal of issues affecting ordinary teachers and Filipino people in general during the pandemic lockdowns such as the plight of private school teachers (No Work, No Pay and SAP), sexual harassment (RA 7877 and Patriyarkal), and the dire state of human rights in the country (Terorista, Human Rights Violation, Checkpoint, and Red tagging). 

Poet-songwriter Joel Costa Malabanan signs a copy of his book ‘Lockdown Series: Buhay Guro’ during a book launching at Philippine Normal University in Manila on April 15, 2023. Photo by Andrea Jean Garcia Yasoña

Dr. Malabanan has long been involved in the struggle for the promotion of Filipino language and his political beliefs are encapsulated in the essays Pagbabalikwas sa Kamalayang Dayo, and Kung Bakit Hindi Dapat Tanggalin ang Pagtuturo ng Filipinp at Panitikan sa Kolehiya, while the stories Napandemya ang Wika and Rubrics reflect his stance against colonial education and consciousness. With his profound understanding of history, he analyzes from nationalist perspective the development of class antagonism in Philippine society with Pagsusuri: Tunggalian ng Uri Mula sa Panahon ng Himagsikan Hanggang sa Kasalukuyang Panahon ng Globalisasyon at Pandemya.

As a patriotic songwriter and musician, Dr. Malabanan is responsible for the inclusion of Musikang Makabayan Bilang Materyal na Panturo as an elective subject for those taking Masters at PNU, which is tackled in his essay of the same title. He has also written the book Pagtatahip-Dunong: Mga Awit ng Kilusang Bayan sa Pilipinas (1986-2018) which examines the evolution of songs associated with Filipino people’s struggle for genuine democracy and freedom. 

Poet-songwriter Joel Costa Malabanan performs his original song ‘Napagtripan lang.’

In his “love letter” to aspiring teachers, Panawagan sa mga Magiging Guro sa Hinaharap, the activist professor quotes the late Lualhati Bautista: “Ang payapang pampang ay para lang sa mga pangahas na sasalunga sa alimpuyo ng mga alon sa panahon ng unos. (Tranquil shores are only for those who boldly oppose raging waves during storms),” and calls on future educators to dare to struggle against the rotten and colonial system of Philippine education, and get involved in the fight for just wages and benefits in order to uplift the living conditions of our teachers.

Like a personal journal with a twist of poetic virtuosity, the book reflects on different subjects, including Dr. Malabanan’s adventure as a claw machine player at Tom’s World and his thoughts on the concept of eternal life. Indeed, it has more to offer than one might expect. But more than anything, it serves a historical documentation of the life of Filipino teachers in the time of COVID-19 lockdowns. –

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