DISSOLVING WHAT IS MARGINAL AND CENTRAL
May 5, 2008
‘Dissolving what is marginal and central.’ This is the end-tail of the blurb I gave for Pangasinan poet-laureate Santiago B. Villafania for his KWF funded second book ‘Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles’. And this is exactly what you will experience if you happen to understand Pangasinense and read the works therein, considering that there are also English poems in the collection. So place your orders now while supplies last.
Meanwhile, this summer Malagilion experience of mine seemed to have extended itself toward one melting-pot of heat, traffic and culture, and that is Sampaloc, Manila. I was invited to sit as panel during the 9th UST National Writers Workshop held right inside the Pontifical University’s campus in España. It was in 2002 when I won a slot as fellow for poetry in the same workshop along with the likes of Ma. Francezka Kwe, Mikael Co, Alex Agena and Maryanne Moll. The end result was a drained supply of Red Horse beer in the creepy but classy Hotel Veneracion in Baguio City.
This year’s fellows were mostly young (like me, haha). And I did my best to be fair and objective as possible. I pointed out parts that needed improvement, offered correctives so as to leave a sense of direction. The country’s workshop set-up is primarily inductive. It is easy to get lost in faultfinding without offering remedies.
In a way, this is the advantage of LIRA’s palihan system—there’s the theory or lecture, and there’s the application or writing part. And the workshop would last for months or even a year so the panel can follow-up on the progress of the writing fellows.
For a change, I added (together with Santiago Villafania) some tinge of regional paradigm in my critiques. I wanted the fellows to see that panelists come from diverse backgrounds and they ought to identify who could help them best. In my view, I saw it fit not only to share what I know about Tagalog/Filipino poetics but also Bikol poetics more importantly that some writing fellows were from the provinces.
I believe that writers from the regions have a lot to share. In the KWF’s Talaang Ginto, I am beginning to see this trend. Writers from the region would win because they infuse something from their culture in their Tagalog/Filipino poems, thus enriching the National Language. Cirilo F. Bautista, himself a Gawad Collantes honoree and judge has this to say: ‘…because Filipino—which is now called our national language—has a democratic character, it offers contemporary poets new inroads and challenges. Indeed, some of them have shown that words and phraseology, and imagery from one region can be positioned within the structure of Tagalog. John Iremil Teodoro and Genevieve Asenjo of Antique, Jose Jason Chancoco of Bicol, and Santiago Villafania of Pangasinan have done exactly that and, consequently contribute to the enrichment of the poetic medium. (Breaking Signs, Philippine Panorama May 4, 2008).