It all sounds the same.” “Puro hugot lang.” These kinds of statements, entirely valid, are examples of the kind of criticism local spoken word as-we-know-it has been facing for quite a while. To those who hold these kinds of concerns, we’d like to recommend Bukambibig, an online folio dedicated to publishing poetry written for performance.
There are many aspects to Bukambibig that distinguish it from other platforms and avenues for spoken word artists. For one thing, the project of the folio, publishing poetry performance poetry in its non-performed form, might raise a few eyebrows. But for Chesca Director, Bukambibig’s Operations Director, the intention is accessibility. Not everybody can catch a live show, and not everybody knows how to search the internet for high quality spoken word poetry. “We felt it was critical to make good poetry accessible to more people around the country — because that’s how you advance the literary field,” she says.
It is also important to note the folio doesn’t limit itself to publishing works in English and Tagalog, but opens itself up to publishing work in other Filipino languages, namely Bikol, Binisaya, Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, Ilokana, Pangasinan, and Waray. The decision to practice this kind of inclusiveness came from the observation that other folios weren’t doing this. “Bukambibig’s base region is the entire Philippines — which is why we decided to accommodate as many languages as we could editors for,” she says. For all we know, the bigger the team gets, the more linguistically inclusive the folio might become.
This willingness to accommodate a variety of languages means a higher likelihood of publishing a more diverse collection of literary voices. It helps as well that the folios themes — “Crowds” and “Resistance” are themes from previously published issues — don’t easily lend themselves to the tired idea of hugot. “We want performance poetry to not stop at #hugot […] and go beyond that, by becoming a platform to discuss multiple social realities,” Chesca says. In these ways, the folio can be taken as a kind of disruption to popular discourse, a literary platform helping to redefine what performance poetry is and what it can do.
Bukambibig’s upcoming show celebrates their first anniversary and the release of their latest folio, the theme of which is Disaster, relating to catastrophe and events which compel people to band together. Yes, Bukambibig has only been around for a year, but what makes that exciting is that we readers will be able to witness the folio’s influence grow right from its early stages. Maybe the spoken word bubble isn’t quite yet ready to burst.