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Luscious Palm Leaves


  • Louella Esguerra

Kalis Ilustrisimo Journal

During my uni days one of my course units focused on Indigenous cultures research. This was one of the only units that encouraged students to write in the first person instead of the third person as they thought that it was important for us to write from our own perspective rather than researching the thoughts of others so that when it came to speaking about Indigenous cultures we were able to then situate ourselves and our own biases and judgements in context to what we were discussing. They called this form of writing reflective and reflexive. The idea is you would pick a topic to research then reflect on it with whatever thoughts came to mind. These thoughts may or may not have anything to do with the subject itself but formed part of the writing process. For example if I was writing about my scorpion rattan sticks it would go something like "I bought these two rattan sticks from my friends martial arts store. Her business logo was burned on the skin with scorpions. I don't like the logo but I like the scorpions. Rattan is such an odd material to use and lighter than what I imagined. There's a roughness to it's finish and looks a lot like bamboo."

After writing our reflective thoughts we then had to write reflexive thoughts. These were the why's of our thinking. Why did we think this way about such and such. What was our background knowledge, our life experiences that have formed such an opinion. This way of writing became one of the main goals of this course and the more I studied Indigenous topics the more I noticed the "I" being used in literature and art descriptions and I wondered why this was such a prominent thing in Indigenous writing. If I was to reflex on the above example I would say "The rattan sticks I had purposely bought from my friends store was to support her business because I believe in supporting local. Since I know her personally there is a connection with the owner and I think I'm being a good friend by buying from her rather than someone else. I don't respect businesses that place their logos on every single product they own as I feel that they are forcing themselves onto me and I already know who they are as a business. I also don't want to be used as a free billboard for them to promote and market themselves further. I don't think rattan looks refined in completion. I understand its use case for FMA and it makes sense to use a cheaper material that frays rather than splinters however I am so accustomed to seeing Japanese and Chinese weaponry with a lot of technical detail and I don't think rattan sticks show the skills and talent of Filipino craftsmanship. I prefer wood as I think it's a more beautiful material and harder to manipulate. I feel humbled by the rattan when I look at its cheaper qualities and it too can be beautiful however a part of me also associates the cheaper material with Filipino poverty which tends to trigger me on a deeper level. I've noticed that poverty is something that is spoken about often in relation to the Philippines due to the past and although it still exists I don't like the disproportionate neglect on how much the country has actually grown and developed in the contemporary world. It's not all poor and the Philippines does have hard wood. Why are we so focussed on our poverty instead of our riches?". This form of reflexive writing really puts the emphasis on your own judgements and I really enjoyed the self-discovery process on those smaller supposedly insignificant thoughts that contribute to how I view things.

The journal I started in November 2021 is based on my journey with the Kalis Ilustrisimo system and my intention is to write in the first person as I did during my studies and to be reflective/reflexive on my thoughts. I want to write about what I've learnt, the people I've met, and my experience as a woman practicing this art. I'm hoping that by the end I'll be able to look back at my journal and come to some realisation or deeper understanding of the art and myself in relation to the art.


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