Literature has helped us live through the pandemic. Be it in keeping us connected to our creative selves or informing us of other people’s stories, writing and reading have been avenues to continue dialogues within and among ourselves. These conversations become more important in a time when sources of reliable information become more and more limited even as they are needed more than ever.

The written word is crucial, which is why the production of literature continues. Various publishing houses have recently begun resuming operations in this new normal, and more will follow suite. We now concern ourselves with this question: how many writers have recovered enough to be able to write? Books begin with their authors, after all. Thus, the LIKHAAN: UP Institute of Creative Writing, in coordination with local writers and professionals, will be launching its PAN Series: Panayam sa Panitikan sa Panahon ng Pandemya. Our premiere episode, the first of a two-part feature on “Writing in the Time of COVID19” will be on July 18, Saturday, at 4PM. It will run for 45 minutes and will involve four panelists and a moderator.

The consumption of literature is still challenging when libraries and other resources of books remain inaccessible, but collective efforts to digitize and make reading materials online, such as our own Freelipiniana Online Library, have made it easier to read at home. However, the production of literature is still hampered simply because writers themselves are under immense pressure. Each one has a different experience of the pandemic. While others are able to write, others remain unable to. Writing can be a solitary struggle, and a community where they can safely exchange ideas and enrich their own craft is a necessity. Moving into the new normal means migrating these communities and conversations online, which is what the PAN series aims to do.

As the first episode’s title suggests, it will discuss the experiences of different writers in their attempts to write in a pandemic-stricken Philippines. The goal of the episode is not to pressure viewers into writing, rather to help unpack the difficulties of producing literature in these times and propose ways to work around them.

Participating in the first episode are Dr. Jose Dalisay, Jr., Dr. Jun Cruz Reyes, Dr. Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera, Jr., and Dr. Rommel B. Rodriguez:

Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. (Butch Dalisay to readers of his “Penman” column in the Philippine STAR) was born in Romblon, Philippines in 1954. Among his literary distinctions, he has won 16 Carlos Palanca Awards in five genres (entering the Palanca Hall of Fame in 2000), five Cultural Center of the Philippines awards for playwriting, and Famas, Urian, Star and Catholic Film awards and citations for his screenplays. He was named one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of 1993 for his creative writing by the Philippine Jaycees. In 2005, he was given the Premio Cervara di Roma in Italy for his literary achievements. In 2007, his second novel, Soledad’s Sister, was shortlisted for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize in Hong Kong; it has since been published in Italian, Spanish, and French editions. In 2011, the Arizona-based Schaffner Press published his two novels under the title In Flight: Two Novels of the Philippines; the book has won a Silver Nautilus Prize in the US in the multicultural/indigenous category.

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Pedro Cruz Reyes Jr. is a Filipino literary writer and college professor popularly known as Jun Cruz Reyes. Writing mainly in Filipino, he is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, essays, translations and biographies. He is also a multimedia artist – documentary filmmaker, painter and photographer. As a visual artist, he has exhibited his works in 4 one-man shows. Most of his paintings and some of his original manuscripts were destroyed when his ancestral home in Hagunoy, Bulacan was razed by fire on September 30, 2004.

Reyes graduated from the Lyceum of the Philipines with a degree in BS Foreign Studies in 1969. He both received his Master of Arts (2000) and Doctor of Philosophy (2009) degrees in Malikhaing Pagsulat from the University of the Philippines. At present, Reyes is one of the associates of the U.P. Creative Writing Center. He is also a member of the faculty of Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature at the College of Arts and Letters in U.P. Diliman where he teaches Malikhaing Pagsulat (Creative Writing) and Araling Pampanitikan (Literary Studies).

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Victor Emmanuel Daelo Carmelo Nadera Jr. aka Vim Nadera is a Professor 3 from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He also served as director of the Philippine High School for the Arts. After taking his B.S. and M.A. in Psychology from the University of Santo Tomas, he became an expressive arts therapist to cancer survivors, persons with AIDS (PWD), drug patients, “comfort women,” streetkids, as well as victims of abuse, calamities, and grief.

During his term as director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, the Likhaan: A Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature and the Gawad Likhaan: The U.P. Centennial Literary Awards came into being. The portal to Philippine literature, panitikan.ph, is also his brainchild.

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Si Rommel B. Rodriguez ay kasalukuyang guro ng panitikan at malikhaing pagsulat sa Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas. Awtor siya ng mga librong “Lagalag ng Paglaya” (2011) at “Mga Apoy sa Ilaya” (2018) na kapwa inilathala ng UP Press. Samantala ang kanyang koleksyon ng mga dagli na “Maikling Walang Hanggan” ay inilathala naman ng UST Publishing House nitong 2019. Bukod sa pagsusulat, siya rin ay aktibong tagapagsulong ng karapatang pantao sa bansa, partikular ng mga bilanggong pulitikal sa Pilipinas. Naging exchange research fellow siya sa University of Shizuoka, Japan noong 2015 at dating direktor ng UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino. Nitong 2020 ginawaran siya ng Gawad Tsanselor para sa Natatanging Mananaliksik sa Filipino. Kasalukuyan niyang binubuo bilang editor ang antolohiya ng mga dagli na “2020: Ang Hinaharap sa Isang Iglap,” bilang tugon ng mga kontemporaryong manunulat sa nararanasang pandemya ng mundo. Aktibo siyang miyembro ng Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines.

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Future discussions will revolve around other matters pertaining to the production and consumption of literature during the pandemic, such as relevant readings and processing trauma through literature. Through the PAN series, the UP ICW hopes to continue promoting literacy and Philippine literature in the new normal.

For questions, concerns, and suggestions, you may message us through our Facebook page or email us at icw.upd@up.edu.ph. Stay safe!