Adrian Cristobal who was born on February 20, 1932 in Manila, was a playwright, essayist and columnist. He wrote the “The Trial (1961, drama)” and “Occasional Prose (1984, essay)”. He received the SEA Write in 1985 and Gawad Balagtas in 1990. He was also a member of PEN, international Institute for Strategic Studies (London), and American Consultant League, The Ravens.
Born on Feb. 20, 1932, Cristobal studied at University of the Philippines and the University of the East. He gained recognition as a writer at a very young age, winning his first major literary prize — for a short story — when he was 15. At 17, his byline was appearing in the Manila Chronicle, Sunday Times, Saturday Mirror, Free Press and Midweek.
“Dropping out of university (possibly because he could not abide pompous professors) he continued his education by reading as widely as he could, and engaging scholars with nationalist bent like Cesar Majul, O.D. Corpuz, Armando Bonifacio, SV Epistola and writers of UP Diliman in discussion and debate,” Ordoñez said.
“He became one of the Diliman-based group of writers called the Ravens whose friendship he nurtured to his last moment.”
As a fictionist, Cristobal was best tackling historic figures. His most anthologized story is “I, Sulayman,” a recreation in stream-of-consciousness of the historicManila rajah as he prepares to do battle with the Spanish conquistadores.
Cristobal was also a playwright whose most popular drama was one about the trial of Bonifacio. But his most notorious stage work is a political satire which, however, does not exist anymore: “The Largest Crocodile in the World,” which won a prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1960. No copy of it remains even in the Palanca archives; it is believed that the politician who was the subject of the play’s scathing depiction had it stolen.
A leftist intellectual when he was a young man, Cristobal had a consuming interest in Bonifacio, the plebian who founded the Katipunan movement that led the Philippine revolution against Spain. He wrote his last most famous work, “The Tragedy of the Revolution,” complaining about the “official neglect” of Bonifacio: “It is ironic … that among our national heroes, Andres Bonifacio is destitute of a ‘Life’ in more than one sense: no memoirs, no diaries — his life was cut short.” (He was referring to the execution of the Bonifacio brothers in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite on orders of President Emilio Aguinaldo.)
Cristobal was also an indefatigable literary organizer. He founded the Unyon ng Manunulat na Pilipino (Umpil), a national federation of writers, and was a patron of young writers.
Said Ordoñez: “Raven Raul Ingles remembers Adrian as quite ‘generous at heart’ to fellow human beings, especially writers, by providing them with opportunities to pursue their vocation.”
But to Ordoñez, Cristobal’s most lasting legacy is the UP Creative Writing Center(now the UP Institute of Creative Writing), which he helped found in the 1970s.
“If there is one palpable achievement of Adrian Cristobal in literature, it is the UP Institute of Creative Writing which he initiated as a member of the UP Board of Regents in the late seventies,” Ordoñez said. “He made sure it would be an independent unit of the university catering to the needs of writers in their craft not only from campus but from all over the country. National Artist for Literature Francisco Arcellana was the Institute’s first Director.”