August 19, 2009

August 15 at the Avenue Square was my first ever book launch but I was not nervous at all. I had company, a woman of course (can’t live without them), and the other seven writers and two visual artists who participated. Surely, it was a feast of the written word.

Actually, the “Pagbungsod” was just a part of “Gira nin Panahon”, an arts and culture project of Development Institute of Bicolano Artists Foundation, Inc. (DIBA). It features not only literary arts, but also the visual arts. In fact during the launch, there was an art exhibit at the second level of the venue.

The “Pagbungsod” will also be brought to other areas in the region. In fact, an Iriga leg is already being cooked up by poet Frank Penones, who by the way, announced during the launch that this writer will be conferred the Sumagang Award (for literary arts). The said distinction is the highest that the City of Iriga could ever give to Iriguenos who made a great mark in their chosen field of endeavor.  With due respect to Manoy Frank, my nominator, I really had the gut feel as early as early, from the time he texted me a congratulatory message, that the award will not really be given to me. Of course the mere fact that he announced it at the Avenue Square before Naga City public officials, educators, media, writers and artists; he must have been assured by the Sumagang committee of my winning. Being a writer of great repute, he must have had verifiable basis.

Alas! My ‘literary clairvoyance’ did not fail me. It was just a foul-up after all, in other words ‘kuryente’. Manoy Frank sent me an email saying he was not sure if the Sumagang committee was not able to defend their recommendation of me or if it was the committee itself that changed its mind and scrapped my name off the list before sending it to Mayor Madel for approval. According to the rules set by the Sumagang Awards, only nominees screened by the committee will be sent to the Mayor for approval. This way, we could prevent the Caparas-Alvarez Case of inserting a “nominee” at the approval level of the contest while the same “nominee” did not undergo the screening process set by the committee. In essence, a shortcut.

The Sumagang committee has the discretion as to who it will recommend for the award. Heck, it even has the power to change its mind to the detriment of those who construed its decision as final. The Mayor also has the power to reject a recommended nominee. The trick is the formal letter because it contains the official information (but lest we forget that Manoy Frank is the PIO of Iriga City Hall). Also, I think, nominees and nominators have no cause of action against the committee and the Mayor, hence they cannot complain, protest or even file suit in a quo warranto proceeding since they are just that, nominees and nominators (Cuyegkeng vs. Cruz, July 26, 1960) and I think, the same rule applies even to the National Artist Awards.

I am not bent on discussing this issue here by virtue of delicadeza. I am the nominee after-all. But surely, I did not nominate myself, this I can say. Manoy Frank, in his own volition took up the initiative and asked for my writer’s archive. But since the “Pagbungsod” crowd of civil and intelligent citizens were duly informed of my supposed conferment of the Sumagang, I see it fit that things be clarified here. But surely, I hold that Manoy Frank was in good faith on account of his eagerness to congratulate a bard-brother.

It is painful for us Iriguenos of course. This could be construed as something similar to the dagdag-bawas National Artist. Frank Penones will not make those pronouncements in public if he were not sure of it. Anyway, I am not so keen on awards. Specially those tainted with irregularities. As writers, we all work hard to build a good by-line. I for one, will not allow mine  to be besmirched just because of the Sumagang. Also, I maintain that poets are immortal, superior to politicians and more sublime than human accolade. In such that awards don’t honor us, we are the ones who give prestige to the awards.

Bikol literature is arguably populated by Irigueno writers and poets. This is something that Iriga-LGU must learn to recognize and accept, lest they only expose their ignorance.


Naga City—August 15, 2009 will be a date to remember in Bicol’s literary history as Bikol writers release five books and a literary magazine. Dubbed as “An Pagbungsod” it will be held 6PM at the alfresco area of the Avenue Square in Magsaysay Avenue, Naga City.

The grand launch will feature “Yudi Man: Mga Osipon para ki Nunuy asin ki Nini,” a collection of short-stories for children by Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon winners as edited by Carlos A. Arejola and Lorna A. Billanes, and illustrated by Boyet Abrenica; “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon,” a book of literary criticism on Bikol poetics by Jose Jason L. Chancoco; “Tigsik,” a compilation of tigsik(s), a Bikol ethnic poetic form by Aida B. Cirujales; “Sayod Kong Tataramon/Tuwiran Kong Sasabihin,” a collection of stage and screenplays by Carlos A. Arejola; “Bagyo sa Oktubre,” a collection poems in Filipino by Honesto M. Pesimo, Jr.; and “Bangraw kan Arte, Literatura asin Kultura,” a Bikol literary magazine edited by Estelito Jacob, Jun Pesimo and Marissa R. Casillan with Manny Salak as lay-out artist.  All of the titles are published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and printed by the Goldprint Publishing House.

Carlos A. Arejola has been called the poster boy of Bikol Lit. in lecture circuits. He convenes an annual Bikol writers’ workshop, chairs a region-wide literary competition, and has, along with other stout-hearted Bikol artists, initiated other projects to win wider adherence for Bikol writings. His drama and poetry have won the Palanca Awards and other national literary prizes. He works for the Camarines Sur Provincial Capitol.

Lorna A. Billanes edits, translates, and teaches language and literature at Miriam College in Quezon City. Her fiction has won prizes from the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Literary Awards and the PBBY Salanga Wrters’ Prize. She holds an M.A. degree in Creative Writing from UP Diliman where she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English Studies. She co-edits Yudi Man Mga Osipon para ki Nunuy asin ki Nini with Carlos Arejola.

Jose Jason L. Chancoco has won national awards and fellowships for his poetry, essay and fiction in English, Filipino, Bikol Naga and Iriganon. He won two gold medallions in a single year (2005,for stories for children and 1-act play for children categories) in the Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon, a feat so far unduplicated. He is currently pursuing a law degree.

Tigsik Queen Aida B. Cirujales teaches at the Gainza Central School and was a finalist in the rawitdawit (poetry) category of the Premio Arejola in 2007.

Honesto M. Pesimo, Jr. has won national awards for his poetry and was cited in the rawitdawit category of the Premio Arejola in 2004 and 2007. He teaches at the Concepcion Pequeña High School and Mariners’ Polytechnic College.

Estelito Jacob, Jun Pesimo and Marissa Reorizo-Casillan co-edits Bangraw kan Arte, Literatura asin Kultura. Issa Casillan was the gold medallion winner of the osipon (fiction) category of the Premio Arejola in 2007. Esting Jacob is an award-winning poet and fictionist and is an avid painter.  Apart from his poetry prizes, Jun Pesimo is an award-winning photographer.

Boyet Abrenica is one of the region’s most notable young visual artists today. He has designed literary titles and books of history and is the art director of Biggs Food Corporation.

Manny Salak is a senior graphic designer of Goldprint Publishing House. He was a finalist in the 25th National Shell Painting Competition.

The grand launch is in coordination with the Development Institute of Bicolano Artists Foundation, Inc., Premio Tomas para sa Literaturang Bikolnon, Kabulig-Bikol and the Avenue Plaza Hotel. The Naga College Foundation Cultural Arts Center will render performances during the launch. Noted Bikol writer and scholar H. Francisco V. Penones will be the keynote speaker.