To where has the soul of the Filipino writer disappeared? At whose feet does it clamor – at our own or at the feet of foreigners? What has become of Filipino culture, torn from the mountains and forests and small towns to the busy metropolises of the Westernized East? The soul of the Filipino writer may be buried under mountains of history, of times and influences come and gone – but there is a man out there who writes to uncover it. His name is Resil Mojares.
Dr. Resil Mojares is a titan in the world of literature. Author of books such as Waiting for Maria Makiling: Essays in Philippine Cultural History and the anthology House of Memories, Dr. Mojares is widely recognized as among the most influential writers of the Philippines. His portfolio has been heavily lauded, earning him six Philippine National Book Awards. His many essays have earned him a fellowship at the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center.
Dr. Mojares’s literary career starts at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English. This was followed by a master’s degree in Literature from the University of San Carlos before he returned to his first alma mater for a doctorate degree, also in Literature. With enough of an educational background to set him down a path into the world of literature, he found himself a teaching role as a professor at the University of San Carlos. He would later move on to found the Cebuano Studies Center in 1975, a cultural research center based in the University of San Carlos. Under the guidance of Dr. Mojares, the Cebuano Studies Center has been at the forefront of cultural conservation in Cebu, actively supporting research into the social sciences and humanities and by being a public-access library looking to spread cultural awareness to the Cebu community at large.
Aside from being a university professor and director of the Cebuano Studies Center, Resil Mojares is also an influential writer in the social sciences. His eye is trained particularly on politics and history, although his short stories have also received many accolades. He has written on topics ranging from the American occupation of Cebu to the Aboitiz Family, about Vic Sotto, maverick senator, and of Paterno, de Tavera and de los Reyes, the so-called Brains of the Nation, from folk culture to urban infrastructure to the lives of the political elite—all while exploring and uncovering the place of the Filipino in past and present times. The Haunting of the Filipino Writer, an essay he’d written for fellow writer N. V. M. Gonzalez, explores Mojares’s idea of the nationalistic soul, the soul of the Filipino as buried under years of time and influence. “There are three reasons for 'soul drift' or 'soul loss—shock, seduction and sin," he wrote. "The shock—the trauma—was obviously the experience of colonialism. However, colonialism turned out to be not just an invasion but a prolonged seduction. In surrendering to it, we turned our backs, not only on our old selves, on what we were before the invasion, but on many of our own kind.”
Dr. Resil Mojares wields a wealth of writing experience and literary awards and his writing has left significant impact to Philippine cultural, historical and political thinking. Now recognized as a National Artist, he and his great body of work will forever be immortalized alongside fellow greats such as Sionil Jose and Virgilio Almario and many others who have made such advances into the world of Philippine literature. Dr. Mojares’s works and his dedication to his craft have gotten the proverbial shovel in the ground in our quest to recover the Filipino soul.