Lugar Lang | Yes to Ligaw-Tingin

Still reeling from Pride Month activities and energy, and as a kind of post-script, I delved into a world a barely understand—komix—through the new anthology, Ligaw-Tingin published by the independent and progressive Gantala Press. I came to learn about the book only because I was attracted to the cover painting with the same title by Katrina Pallon, which I had chanced upon in Twitter early this year. Through her, I learned about this komix collection of lesbian stories, the first one in the Philippines. I eagerly awaited the copy I had ordered, which finally arrived the day after my birthday. What an unexpected gift it was.

It is balm for a broken heart. Described by editor Emiliana Kampilan as seven komix “ng pagnanasa at pag-ibig na kitang-kita sa pagsulyap, pagsipat, at pagmasid ng babae sa kapwa babae,” the stories rely on exactly the idea of ligaw-tingin, literally “courtship with the eyes” or better yet, the look of love. While traditionally, women have been viewed in art with the objectifying male gaze, female artists have continually subverted this oppression by asserting their own gaze at themselves or each other. It is an act even more powerful when a lesbian artist wields it, if I may say so myself. Kampilan adds that this look is “nakayayanig, nakaliligalig, at nakakakilig.” It jolts, troubles, and thrills. For that alone, I would say, “Yes.” But for me, for a woman to look upon another woman with love is to somehow heal wounds by seeing.

The provocative stories by Patricia Ramos, Joanne Cesario and Michelle Bacabac, Jasmin Sambac, Betina Continuado, Nikki de Chavez, Trisha Sanijon, and Emiliana Kampilan use the language of komix deftly to explore varied aspects of lesbian love. While I found myself struggling with the tropes of a genre that I am not familiar with, it did not hinder my appreciation for the tension between what is said and unsaid. While Kampilan had earlier described komix as an art without pretense, it certainly remains an art, as well as a way to shape consciousness. I was surprised to see, initially through this anthology, how the genre demands more from the reader. And how can we not oblige?

What Ligaw-Tingin achieves is not so much the easy satisfaction of a clear narrative arc in the pieces, but the opening up of possibilities between the characters. This can be glimpsed in the revisioning of myth, in the melding of past and present, in the power of women’s laughter, in the effortless dance between real and fantastic or otherworldly. This merging of two worlds is initially expressed physically in the lesbian world through the accidental or deliberate touching of hands, a gesture which is highlighted in two of the stories in the book.

In her introduction, Kampilan asserts, “Rebolusyonaryo ang pagtingin ng babae: mapagpalaya, nanunuyo, nagbibigay-lakas. Sa madaling salita: nanliligaw…At kung may inaangkin man ito, wala nang iba kundi ang kalayaan at kapangyarihang magpalaya sa sarili at sa kaniyang kapwa.” In this, she firmly places the female gaze in opposition to the male in our patriarchal world, as well as asserts the role of art in the fight for freedom from various forms of oppression. Thus, the anthology joins other feminist works in an ongoing revolution to liberate and empower women, and sexual orientation is only one of the aspects of the larger struggle.

I clearly have much to catch up on in the genre. And maybe I don’t have to. But the first komix anthology published by Gantala Press has surely done its job. Ito ang matamis kong “Oo.”

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