Humanities Diliman, Vol 8, No 2 (2011)

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Phantasmatic Constructions: Language and Humor and the Interrogation of Identity in Contemporary Filipino Comic Plays

Maria Rhodora G. Ancheta

Abstract


This paper examines the ways in which humor operates to interrogate and assert Filipino identity in the face of an ever invasive hyperreal intervention in Philippine contemporary life, in two contemporary comic plays, “Welcome to IntelStar” by Chris Martinez (2005), and “Psychedelia Apocalypsis” by Nicolas Pichay (2007). In the former, a comic monologue foregrounds the “call center phenomenon” in the Philippines. Outsourced service is shown as a maneuver which loosely transplants English-speaking, ‘American-sounding’ workers within a global economic community, and one which now comically depicts these workers, in fact, as culturally mired subjects negotiating their identity constructions within their everyday lives. “Psychedelia Apocalypsis” is a farcical depiction of an American film crew’s apparently innocent entry into the Philippine highlands to shoot the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now; as a result, they become embroiled in the intersections of Filipino history, current Philippine internal conflicts, and Philippine political feuds, thus highlighting the matrix of current Philippine culture and life.
In reading these two plays as shifting cultural texts, I seek to examine how the language of humor and the comic strategies used therein (especially citing the role of incongruity theories) respond to the creation, or to the evolution of a hyperreal Filipino identity, one that complicates the fixing of a national identity in the face of a culture that has long grappled with this question, given the Philippines’ own colonial and hybrid culture. And while this paper focuses mainly on Filipino texts and problematizes Filipino identity, it is significant to explore the Asian and Third World reverberations of the possibilities and problems of this cultural reengagement and reconsolidation of identity, examined now by way of language and culture.

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ISSN: 2012-0788