New poems and stories, learning modules, a webinar, a craft lecture, and a documentary film, all on Bikol arts and culture, received a thumbs up from the Literary Arts Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) this 2021.

Poems by Fernando Chavez and a children’s story by Peyj Padrigon are included in the Ubod Anthology, a 400-page anthology of literary works by new and emerging writers. Chavez, a student, and Padrigon, a teacher at the Partido State University, are members of Parasurat Bikolnon. The short story “Sulong” by Eden D. Elizan-Velarde has also been selected for Agwat-Hilom, a compilation of literary videos and printed works featuring writers tasked to produce Covid-related writing. The collection will enable Filipinos to know first-hand how the pandemic has affected local communities. Both anthologies will be launched this February, Arts Month.

To address the need for professionally written alternative learning materials in the schools’ shift to a digital platform during the pandemic, modules for six Bikol literary texts have been created for Project Maliw (maliw means change color or external appearance). These modules, written by Marifa Borja-Prado, Cienna Jaucian, and project proponent Paz Verdades Santos, with the help of Elbert Baeta, will also be released in February.

Meanwhile, two upcoming webinars are “Yabo” and “Absurdities.” “Yabo” is a cross-discipline webinar aimed to bring Bikol culture “closer to mainstream and popular consciousness by culling the insights of Bikol-based experts in the various fields of the media industry.” Among the topics are animation, comic books, video games, and social media branding. Organized by writer-visual artist Dennis Gonzaga, Project Yabo will be held in March via The 416, his art gallery in Naga City.

The craft lecture entitled “Absurdity: An Alternative Take on Bikol Storytelling” will also be held on the web. Proponent Jay Salvosa, creative writer and teacher, notes that young Bikol writers are producing many DIY chapbooks. “A number of these young writers show interest in writing absurdist fiction but do not know how to go about it, thereby indicating a need for a craft lecture,” he states. The lecture will be held live online in Naga City in April, Literature Month.

The biggest approved project so far is the documentary film “Pagsurat Bikol: 20 Taon,” to be megged by poet-graphic artist-film maker Victor Dennis T. Nierva. The one-hour film will document the history of the quadrennial Pagsurat Bikol Writers-Teachers Conference from its inception at the turn of the century until the sixth, held online last September 2020. The film will also serve as an archive of papers, interviews, lectures, and other materials of the conference.

Among the expected outcomes of the webinars are modules for Popular Literature, academic content for Cultural Studies and the Humanities, a manifesto of sustained collaboration among those committed to bringing Bikol content into their fields, a compilation of absurdist fiction, and a network of absurdist fictionists in the region.

NCCA Literary Arts Committee representative for southern Luzon, Niles Jordan Breis, was instrumental in facilitating the lodging and approval of these projects. – January 27, 2021