“It should be emphasized … that the balagtasan also served a higher social and political function. More than mere entertainment, it enhanced the tradition role of the poet as purveyor of truth for the people.” — Virgilio S. Almario, “Art and Politics in the Balagtasan” (2003).
I understand that real balagtaseros are expected to be in attendance in this coming Filipino American International Book Festival. I am looking for evidence of English balagtasan (and tanaga, while I’m at it) — poems, recordings, scholarly writings, that I could add to my Philippine/Filipino American Literature syllabus. I don’t like that limiting the course to English language literature must necessarily exclude balagtasan! I also think that in teaching contemporary Philippine/Filipino American spoken word, i.e. oral poetics, today’s slam and the MC (emcee), I must first talk about oral tradition and the history of performance/performative poetry as pertains to Filipinos. To be consistent, I include modern day storytelling, selections from Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s Pause Mid-Flight chapbook and CD, so we can also talk about modern indigeneity/Filipino American linkages to Native American stories.