The Literary Arts Division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines recently released the list of contributors for the 20th Anniversary issue of Ani, the CCP Literary Yearbook. Now on its 33rd issue, the volume once again explores Nature and Environment as metaphors of the human condition. Edited by prize-winning writer Herminio S.Beltran, it will be launched on September 14, 6:30 pm, at the CCP Ramp.

The volume features poems, short stories, essays, translations and a play by 77 contributors including Bikol writers Carlos A. Arejola, Abdon M. Balde Jr., Jose Jason L. Chancoco, Kristian S. Cordero, Marne L. Kilates, Niño Manaog, and Victor Dennis Tino Nierva.

Other writers of note are Merlie M. Alunan, Genevieve L. Asenjo, Herminio S. Beltran Jr., Dexter Bomediano Cayanes, Genaro R. Gojo Cruz, Jeneen R. Garcia, Luis P. Gatmaitan, Gelacio Y. Guillermo Jr., Sid Gomez Hildawa, Elyrah Loyola Salanga, Beverly Siy, John Iremil E. Teodoro, Enrico C. Torralba, Santiago B. Villafania and Camilo M. Villanueva Jr.

Rommel Manto did the book design and lay-out. He also used a photograph of a Junye Installation and a print by Neil Neil Doloricon for the cover.

For more information please contact: Mr. Arnel F. Tabaranza, CCP Literary Arts Division, tel. no. 832-1125 locals 1706, 1707; mobile 0917-8379922.

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Whether it is regional or national literary landscape, the real problem is not really with the number of literary practitioners—it is with the number of readers. This was discussed in Cirilo F. Bautista’s latest column in the Philippine Panorama last Sunday, August 19, 2007. Because we cannot get more Filipinos to pick-up literary titles by Filipino authors, we have lesser incentives for our writers.

Truly, we do not even see authors being featured on TV during primetime news. We have yet to see the Palanca Awards being featured in TV Patrol. Only Cecile Guidote-Alvarez’ NBN program made a run on the latest Talaang Ginto and Gawad Soc Rodrigo in Malacañang last April. We are lucky here in Bicol because our local ABS-CBN, particularly the Bikol Espesyal: Oragon Na! would sometime focus its lens on literary activities.

One big challenge is to write even without contests. Writers ought to be given prizes because they are writing, and writers should not write just so that they will be given prizes. The deadline for the Bikol division of Gawad Komisyon 2007 sponsored by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino has recently been given indefinite extension due to lack of entries. Now the Bikol writer needs to make-up for this neglect. We should look at the Tausug writers who made a staggering turn-out of hundreds of entries.

Or perhaps the notion that we have more Bikol poets than fictionists or essayists is correct. The Gawad opened only the short-fiction and essay category for the Bikol division. And lets us also consider the upcoming Tagalog poetry anthology by Cirilo F. Bautista to be launched on August 30, 3pm at the World Trade Center. Bikolnons are expected to take-up much space in the collection. No less than the assistant editor himself, Allan Popa, is a Bikolnon along with Carlo A. Arejola, Jaime Jesus B. Borlagdan, Jose Jason L. Chancoco and Kristian S. Cordero; whose poems will also see print in the said book. Truly, we have more poets.

Now if Filipinos do not like to buy books with a single by-line, maybe his/her communal nature coupled with ‘pakyawan’ culture would prefer an anthology. The more names, the better. Or perhaps publishing via the literary sections of various magazines and newspapers would be the easiest way to reach one’s audience via the so-called ‘literary bangketa’. A poem safely tucked in the pages of Philippine Panorama could fly as second-class mail and land in the magazine/newspaper stands of Mindanao, and even crawl its way to the front right there in Basilan or Jolo.

Let me reprint here my latest Bikol poem published in the August 12-18 issue of the Bikol Reporter (All Rights Reserved).

MINAPOON SA PALIBOT AN PAGLALANG

Minapoon sa palibot an paglalang
Arog baga kan pagtaram kaning uran.
Dangogon ta: Ining paros nakurahaw
Nin emosyon kan panahon na dalisay.

Kan
mayo pang minaabot na dayuhan
Na nagsakop poon bukid astang pampang.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Kan an dila kan poeta minalangoy
Sa salog kan sadiri n’yang tataramon.

Kan an langkaw kaning kalag asin dunong
Tinatangad bilang kusog nin Oragon.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Kan pigmukna ining nasyong Filipinas
Kan kikilat na nagkilyab haling luwas.
Kinuryente an puso ta asin kalag.
An hawak ta asin isip nagsiribwag.

Alagad an satong birtud minasanib.

Taong-lipod an poetang nagdadangog
Sa pag-awit kan kadlagan asin bulod.
Kun an banwa sa dayuhan minasulog,
An boses n’ya sa may Sulong minaanod.
Talinghagang Ingles, Bikol o Tagalog,
Sa papel man o sa bayle kaning duros,
Minatadyok sa may s’yudad garo pandok

Kan santelmong dai dakop kaning kamot.

Kun kaya an satong birtud minasanib

Minapoon sa palibot an paglalang.
An pagsulit kan memorya kan kagabsan

Kan poeta sarong ritwal na eternal.