THE SHARED VOICE
By Grace Nono
Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines
Ed. Carolina Malay. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing and Fundacion Santiago. 248 pages.
The summation of over fifteen years of sustained interaction with Filipino oralists and personal practice of a number of Philippine oral traditions, it is the fruit of the journey toward self-understanding and meaning for those who may recognize their voices in this rich and diverse material. A book that echoes the life journeys and insights of ten Filipino oralists from different Philippine ethnolinguistic groups in Luzon and Mindanao; oralists who cut across lines of faith, gender, class, and generation.
"This book by Grace Nono is indisputably significant among today's various efforts to retrieve and protect our racial memory. The tau lemingon, ma-ba-diw, ma-temmo, ma-badjog, manug-ambahan, manug-urukay, benud-uman, manod-omay, tau hulung tolu, onor, mataw-dayunday, oral traditional chanters-poets interviewed in this book are like national living treasures and repositories of indigenous cultures developed by their ethnic groups. We should thank Grace for re-introducing them to us and reminding us about our forgotten springs of memory. I read with sadness their common concern about the neglect they and their societies have been experiencing. The next major project then is recording their songs and voices, SOONEST, before we lose the precious pieces of Filipino heritage known only to them."
- Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature
"When Grace Nono started singing fifteen years ago, she gained a cult audience among cultural workers anxious to create original Pilipino music, not as a derivative of our western musical training, but an eclectic outgrowth of our ethnic tradition. Our folk music, like our folk culture, does not flow from the classical traditions of Asia. But we are beholden to use it in our creative endeavors. Grace persevered, and now sings authentic Filipino-- an authenticity not so much the result of creative innovation alone—it is strengthened by rigorous scholarship, by passionate involvement with our own roots sunk deep in the native soil, often ignored, often demeaned by those who are alienated from their own origins. If only to understand ourselves better, Grace Nono should not only be listened to more—those who want to know themselves better, who want us to evolve into a nation, should now also read her."
- F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature
"I am happy to have this rich compilation of the rich oral traditon of different ethnic culture specially the contribution of Princess Sindao Banisil to this collection as edited by Grace Nono."
- Lucresia Kasilag, National Artist for Music
"A must-read for those who are interested in Filipino oral literature, particularly the teachers who handle makabayan subjects in schools."
- F. Landa Jocano, anthropologist
"The Shared Voice is a strong piece of poetic scholarship. It brings me deep into the springs of a
culturally-rooted and musically-embodied kind of worship. I personally admire Grace Nono for
undertaking such a daunting research on the haunting chants of Filipino oralists like Mendung Sabal of the T'boli and Henio Estakio of the Ibaloi. And the way she records their dreams with reverence, the way she weaves their songs and stories into her text, and the way she draws insights from her very own experience of communing with our heroes and mystics through music---all this reveals that Grace is definitely one of them. The bonus is that we, like her, in this day and age, can also drink from the same source of indigenous energies that continue, despite the odds, to nourish our collective will to live with dignity. A Shared Voice sings the divine in us as a people; it is a rare book that is meant to be shared."
- Albert E. Alejo, SJ, poet, priest, anthropologist
"I congratulate Grace for breaking new grounds in creating knowledge that is deeply rooted in the histories and cultures of Philippine society, knowledge mediated by the narrations of women and men oralists. The multiplicity of voices, including her voice, alerts the readers to the creative possibilities of theorizing about culture changes, social tensions and everyday events, without committing to hegemonic and totalizing narratives."
- Carolyn I. Sobritchea, feminist scholar
"This study of ten Filipino oralists representing a cross-section of the country is a significant contribution to concretizing Filipino identity. The author, who considers herself as a "secondary oralist", typifies the journey of alienated Filipino artists who have been confused of their national identity because of colonial influences. After understanding her life's journey, the author concludes that she "comes [to her] own authentic voice and identity—an authenticity freed from associations with fixed, static and totalizing traditions, an authenticity reflective of the continuing historical processes" of what makes her today. She continues: "It has given me a renewed commitment to my [Filipino] community—which like me, can profit much from the knowledge and practice of oral tradition." This study opens doors to further researches."
- Fr. Leonardo Mercado, author, philosopher, priest
"Grace Nono found her life's mission not only in the performance of ethnic songs but in her deep immersion with the scattered singers who still carry these traditions. This charming book is its fruit—readable and scholarly, the latest contribution to the definition of Filipino."
- Gilda Cordero Fernando, author, publisher
"In her singing as an oralist-poet with me in celebration of the 2006 Printemps des poetes and Week of Francophonie consecrated to the eminent Senegalese poet Leopold Senghor; and now made to read her deepest study of sister and brother oralist-poets from out of our archipelago's hinterlands into the halls of the academe, I imagined Grace Nono as a reborn sari-manok. That legendary bird flying gracefully; a fish out of its watery depths on to land; a creature aerial, marine and terrestrial all in one when depicted in meshed, flowing arabesques by tribal artists. She incarnates the many roles of an oralist-poet as she examines each character as an empathizing scholar, only to become like them- an original oralist-poet, not an impersonator; a celebrant, a healer, an entertainer, a diviner, and anointed guardian of tribal secrets. But in one more bird-song, a T'boli bird "with mirrors for wings and needles for claws," when a greedier world, attempts to trap, cage, and then mimic badly, the souls of original bird-songs of oralist-poets."
- Virginia Moreno, poet, playwright, film director
The Shared Voice is also available in the Philippines in selected National Book Store
and Powerbooks branches.