Akda: The Asian Journal of Literature, Culture, Performance


Edith L. Tiempo, Biography, Nation, National Artist, Indigenous


The popular version of National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo is that she holds a central position as the literary matriarch of the Philippines. However, little is known about her background as a partly tribal (indigenous) woman. This paper proposes that biography can be a form of intervention to recuperate silenced narratives and marginal lives. Drawing from the ideas of the Geneva School of Consciousness, biography can be seen as a form of reading, where latent images in an author’s works can be made manifest and reveal hidden narratives in the author’s life. Edith’s life and works yield images of monkeys, the sea, cage, rage, fish thrashing around, double personalities of the same consciousness, among others. They point to the tension of her complex background as a partly tribal woman with Western upbringing, causing her to be in a limbo. The concept of “Between-Living” (a title of Edith’s poem) captures this in-between state while it also ushers in the idea of the “unfinishability” of biography and the nation—offering possibilities in rewriting the nation.

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