Norman Wilwayco’s Gerilya: Transcending Representation

Norman Wilwalyco's "Gerilya" 2009

Let’s take it easy: everybody loves sex, gore, profanity and a little bit of drugs. Or maybe not. Or at least me. Hehehe.

Norman Wilwayco’s career in creating controversy in definitely on the rise. The Tunay na Lalake blog has created a lot of enemies, and Wilwayco’s book Mondo Manila has been regarded by oldies as ‘literature with a bad taste’. Whatever. Despite all the shit that Wilwayco has in his brain, there is no better thing to say than ‘tangina this!’

I have come across Wilwayco’s Gerilya through a tibak friend of mine who says that there is a book about NPAs (New People’s Army) who smokes marijuana, nadis-or(ient, kills innocent people in the countryside, among others. And he doesn’t seem to be amused by it.

After reading the e-book, let me give some points that I deem to be commendable. Gerilya gives a humanized picture of the armed struggle in the countryside, narrating to us the hardships and imperfections of the armed movement. The main characters Ka Alma and Ka Poli are not perfect revolutionaries; in fact Wilwayco presents them as annoying. Many young activists I know are offended with how Wilwayco represents the NPA. However, I think there is nothing wrong with the representation. Wilwayco’s focus on the ‘unspeakable’ such as the act of defecating, spitting, taking drugs and others is in fact a focus on the Real. The NPAs that the tibaks know are not true, for they are ideal pictures of machines, not humans. NPAs are humans, like every one of us. Thus, Wilwayco’s effort is to humanize the ideal, make it closer to the ground and able to catch our sympathy.

Another point: the dizzying changes of perspective and quantum leaps in time and space in the novel resists the tendency of readers to treat the novel as a continuous, smooth narrative wherein there is a flowering idea that will eventually explode towards the end of the novel. Wilwayco countered this tendency in order to guide us away from misleading representations, like: there is a petty-bourgeois who will eventually be changed (panibagong hubog)and then will die as a true, full-fledged revolutionary with all of his heart. The element of doubts and other distractions seems to be silenced in this kind of narrative, and hence it is inhuman. This kind of skepticism can be seen in Ka Poli’s statement regarding Ka Edgar, a friend who was martyred in an encounter with the AFP:

Bigla kong naisip kung ano kaya ang iniisip niya sa mga huling sandali, habang nakikita niyang iniinom ng lupa ang mapula’t rebolusyonaryo niyang dugo.

Namatay kaya siyang rebolusyonaryo sa isip?

Summarily, Wilwayco’s work is a feat in progressive literature. It utilized a new perspective and attack in treating the revolutionary movement as a purely human subject, and not merely a dehumanized hero in the armed struggle.


4 thoughts on “Norman Wilwayco’s Gerilya: Transcending Representation”

  1. But the revolutionary struggle’s real significance lies not only in what actually transpired in the minds of these guerrillas – all the doubts, errors etc. as they persevered in the their political, organizational, ideological, and military work – but more importantly in the enthusiastic embracing of these revolutionaries’ actions by the masses.

    It is not just the immediate realities confronting the revolutionaries in their actual work but more importantly, how this reality was taken by the masses and the militancy that such acts aroused in them.

    The novel, indeed, has its formal aesthetic merits. Nothing’s wrong with giving a human touch or delving into motives and emotions. In a way, that should always be the case. Doubts and other distractions is always present and should be depicted in any genuinely honest narration of conscientization.

    But there seems to be a one-sided emphasis in the novel on the negative that precisely aims to poke fun at the notion of remolding (or the interpellation of the subject in accordance to the theory and practice of the revolutionary movement) itself.

    To misrepresent the narrative of “panibagong hubog” as a “misleading representation” ultimately regresses to the old fatalist tropes of the inherent frailty of the human soul, of how human nature has remained the same from the time of Cain to the present.

    In as much as this novel dampens the revolutionary spirit of its readers and discourages them from daring to do the impossible (remolding themselves and dying “true, full-fledged revolutionar[ies] with all of [their] hearts” because of the cynical broadside that the movement is inherently flawed anyway) in order to defeat the class enemies, then the novel is far from ideal.

    As Mao once put it: “Some works which politically are downright reactionary may have a certain artistic quality. The more reactionary their content and the higher their artistic quality, the more poisonous they are to the people, and the more necessary it is to reject them.”

  2. You certainly have a point. I think, however, that the novel is Wilwayco’s most ambiguous work; that is, he is throwing many sarcastic slashes at the revolutionary movement in general (especially him being a former activist himlsef), but between the lines we are led to a conclusion that there is no other way than take arms and join the revolution. I believe he dispels the notion of joining the revolution because the people in the countryside (and the guerillas) are great people, and rather pokes the reader to revolt, not because of any burgis reason, but because it is necessary. By the way, I sense that Wilwayco places himself in the novel as the Tony character. However, he includes Ka Alma (who went back to the countryside) as his more idealistic and enlightened half, someone he thinks he cannot be because of the lack of revolutionary zeal, or whatever the reason is.

    Nonetheless your comment made me think about it more. ^_^

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