On The Importance of Folklore and National Community in Anim na Dulang Pilipino Para sa mga Bata by Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio

by Luna Sicat Cleto

Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio is the founder of Teatrong Mulat, a theater organization that produces and tours various puppet productions all over the country and the world. It was established in 1977, at a time when there was an upsurge of theater productions that are distinctly Filipino in character and temperament. It co-existed with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), Dulaang UP, Kolambugan Dance Theater, Sining Kambayoka, and UP Babaylan, among others. What distinguishes the Teatrong Mulat productions was its use of folklore as material, and its specificity for children and young adults as audience. Lapeña-Bonifacio’s “Sepang Loca” was staged ahead of her Teatrong Mulat productions, but early on, her theatre pieces already had an awareness of speaking to the Filipino audience.

The inception of Teatrong Mulat came at an opportune time. Martial Law was ongoing, and Imelda Marcos’ patronage of the arts community was in effect. While edifices were built and international artists were welcomed, there was a distinct divide between productions and artistic constructions that promoted, or were against, the mantra of the true, the good, and the beautiful. In theatre, interstices of protest and alternative forms of citizenship were coursed through allegorical pieces, and folklore became an effective source for such.

Doreen Gamboa Fernandez intuited that folklore’s appeal to the Filipino psyche was not surprising, since it was “a society (that was) still rooted in and not far removed from oral literature.” (Fernandez, 1996: 116) Epic heroes of prodigious strength, trickster figures with incredible wit, and beautiful heroines who were more capable than what their looks were saying populated our riddles, proverbs, legends, epics, and folksongs. In sync with the de-colonization process that many intellectuals were involved with in the 1960s onwards, the scholarship of many research studies in the indigenous communities of the country were soon put to use by the playwrights, the directors, and most of those who were involved in productions. However, native and indigenous materials were also fused together with an awareness of theater that was culled from the West. Brechtian theater traditions were very much in practice, and combined with the folklore material, proved to be an engaging and combustible mix.

In Lapeña Bonifacio’s plays for children, it is interesting to note how the playwright was able to construct a representation of a child that is a personhood with a critical mindset. That character may be an animal or may be deformed, but it is always identifiable as the one who questions the system, as the curious spirit that may be out for mischief but never swept by greed or glory. It is always the character who respects others as much as himself or herself. If this character is absent, a Payaso or Clown/Fool character provides that notion. Indeed, a closer inspection of Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio’s plays will reveal how much the playwright has invested in the proper representation of the Filipino child.

In “Ang Manok at ang Lawin” (The Hen and the Hawk), Bonifacio features the sad fate of Manok and Lawin’s engagement. Manok is enamored not by her lover’s looks or personality, but by his proof of wealth, which is a stunning ring on her talon. Enter Tandang who declares his love for Manok and who offers a bigger, and better bling. Manok chooses Tandang but advises her lover to keep it a secret in the meantime because she knows Lawin’s wrath. The advice is unheeded because Lawin swoops in and declares his pact that he will, from now on, swoop down on each and every chick that they would have.

Bonifacio is commendable in her efforts to infuse folkloric material into drama, especially domestic drama. The topic is a serious discussion on fidelity, and Lawin’s outrage is partly fueled by his perceptions of the feminine. Read and performed in the 1970s, it is pioneering in the sense that the playwright used sources previously unmapped in past productions, and these are Dean Fansler’s contributions in folklore. Together with Bonifacio’s exposure to Asian theater elements, the play’s production infuses the choreography and costumes of Balinese drama. There is a special character in the play, Payaso (Clown) who serves as a walk-in narrator. Payaso’s lines are sometimes minimal, but very instructive, particulary as an introduction to the notion of theatricality, and artifice to the young: “kuwento niyo ito,” serves the best example.

In “Ang Magkapatid at ang Tsonggo” (The Brothers and the Monkeys), Bonifacio weaves a piece that offers questions on filial love and deceit. Bantawan, the older one, is a bully to Cenon, who cannot fight back because of his young age. Once, Cenon fell asleep in the forest. A group of monkeys see him and assume he is dead. They decide to give him a proper burial and a luxurious send-off, dressing him up as a prince. Because of their merrymaking, Cenon wakes up but pretends to be dead. The monkeys leave, and Cenon figures out an escape plan. He tempts the elderly monkey guard to release him, in exchange for a jewel. The monkey falls for the trick and dies, trapped in the boiling cauldron. Soon, Cenon sees Bantawan again. Bantawan notices his brother’s jewels and other adornments, and becomes greedy. He tells Cenon to go on home, and in spite of the latter’s warnings, Bantawan chooses to pretend to be dead. True enough, the monkeys find him and instead of giving him a beautiful burial, they take their revenge. Cenon saves Bantawan just in time.

This is actually a funny play to read, and I can imagine the comic potential of the work. True to the trickster tale tradition, Cenon is a kinder version of Pilandok since he saves his brother from a horrific fate. The monkeys have their own moments in the play with the hilarious set pieces of burial rites that are repeated and are symmetrically opposed. It has a didactic touch in the end, when Cenon tells his brother to moderate his greed and not to abuse his position of authority. Stylistically, the dance moves of the monkeys simulate a playful variant groupthink idiocy. Why would they dress up a stranger in refinements? Why send off a stranger at all? The play also draws our attention into the reverse side of amnesia, where exploited groups would organize themselves and make their oppressors pay. But the act of revenge here is hilarious: in thinking that it is Cenon that they are tormenting, they dress Bantawan in the exact opposite manner, except this time the materials used are organic and well-worn.

The other plays in the book are familiar enough for the reader: “Ang Pagong at ang Tsonggo” which is a dramatic rendition of “The Monkey and the Turtle,” “Paghuhukom,” which is a playful re-telling of the King’s trial over his animal subjects and becoming the object of mockery towards the end, and “Ang Pitong Kuba” which pokes fun at those who are not content with what they have. “Kung Paano Pinatay ng mga Ibaloi ang Higante” is also commendable in its spirit of community, wherein the Ibalois tap their communal bond to defeat the giant.

Bonifacio’s plays allow us to see how powerful drama is as a medium, and as practice of citizenship. Indeed, Doreen Fernandez was on the mark when she said that much of the memorable contemporary plays of the 1970s benefitted from the awareness of the Filipino theatre artist of the abundance of cultural and societal insights in Philippine folklore. However, folklore as material cannot just be used without any originality and innovation in its interpretation. Bonifacio’s plays join the ranks of her fellow contemporary theater artists in engaging the audience in laughter, entertainment, and critical thought.

Whether it is Rodolfo Galenzoga’s “Marinatha” (1974) production which appropriates an old Lanao legend about a stranger that saved the people of the kingdom from a predatory black bird, or Virgilio S. Almario and Tito Climaco’s dramatic rendition of Bernardo Carpio as rock opera, re-tellings are not mere robotic repetitions of the material. Bienvenido Lumbera’s collaboration with Nonon Pedero in “Tales of the Manuvu” proved that the epic need not be trapped in time or as archival material, and that it can speak to the current generation. What is common in all their re-tellings is the clever insinuation that although there are mighty power structures out there, there are also ways to bring down the giant: and that lies with the audience’s awareness of their own agency as human beings.

Grand Dame of SEA Children’s Theater Continues to Make Waves

Despite her numerous achievements in the realm of theater, University of the Philippines University Professor Emeritus Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio has not been content to sit back and relax. Instead, the Grand Dame of Southeast Asian Children’s Theater continues to make waves. In the past year, Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio has finished translating Filipino stories about the sea into English. She has also partially finished the second volume on a planned three-volume set entitled “The Complete Plays of Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio.” This volume focuses on children’s plays.

Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio most enjoys her theater work in the Teatrong Mulat Museum, the annual staging of her 33-year-old papet pasyon, and staging other local and international theater productions. Teatrong Mulat represented Philippine puppetry theater and staged perfomances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

UP Likhaan: Institute of Creative Writing, is continuing to accept entries for the second Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop on Young Adult Literature which will take place on October 6-9, 2017.

For inquiries about the second Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop, contact 9818500 (2117) and look for Isa Lorenzo, or email albw.workshop@gmail.com

Panayam lectures on Drama and Translation and the Writer’s Life

by Isa Lorenzo

This year’s Panayam lecture focused on drama and translation and overcoming a writer’s struggles. Institute of Creative Writing (ICW) associate Filipino assistant professor Vladimeir Gonzales shared his experiences in translating plays. Entitled “Pagsasalin ng Dula bilang Gawaing Pampanitikan,” Gonzales’s lecture (see slides) was an in-depth account of his work as a translator. “May kapangyarihan ang malikhaing manunulat na ihatid ang direksiyon ng isang pagsasalin sa itinataya niyang papel ng panitikan, sa anyong nakikita niya bilang pinakaepektibo sa panahon ng pagsasalin,” Gonzales said. “May epekto din sa direksiyon ng pagsasalin ang mga layuning gumagabay sa mga institusyong kalahok sa proseso ng salin; kung hindi prayroridad ang makabayang sentimiyento o may higit na prayoridad sa nagsulat ng orihinal, lahat ito ay may epekto sa kalalabasang salin.”

Prof. Gonzales gave the following reasons why plays are translated:

Pagpapakilala sa dayuhang dula
Tugon sa paghina ng mga mag-aaral sa Ingles
Panawagang bumalik sa sariling wika at kultura
Paglalapit ng dula sa masa
Pagsubok sa limitasyong itinakda sa lipunan

He cited National Artist Binevenido Lumbera, who said that plays needed to be translated because there was a time that Filipinos didn’t speak English well. During Martial Law, plays were translated in order to push the limits of what could be performed. Of course, plays can be translated purely for fun.

The translator has a wide latitude in translating plays. For example, Prof. Gonzales had difficulty translating Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, because it had a lot of references to football, which Filipinos aren’t that familiar with. So he opted to replace the football references with his beloved video games, such as Contra and Megaman. Prof. Gonzales was also able to include references to  Karen Empeño and Sherilyn Cadapan, two UP students who were kidnapped, tortured, and remain missing to this day, and General Jovito Palparan, who was dubbed the butcher general because of the many activists killed under his watch.

The writing process is different for everyone. 56th UP National Writers Workshop fellow Karren Renz Seña, in her lecture, “Finding Enkantasya: My Life-long Foray into Writing Filipino Young Adult Literature,” recounted how she was plagued by FARTS when she was writing her first novel, Champions. FARTS is an acronym for the following:

  1. Fear of a blank page
  2. Anxiety: Seña says she was always asking, “What if?”
  3. Restlessness: “I was all over the place. I wanted to be everything and everyone. I lacked focus.”
  4. Time: “We have to make the time for the things we want to do. Willi Pascual, my co-fellow at the UP National Writers Workshop, said, ‘If the story really obsesses you, you really have to write it down. Don’t let it consume you.’”
  5. Sloth: Laziness and wasting time on Facebook.

Seña, however, was able to overcome FARTS and publish her first book. “I’m a writer, so I should write,” she said. “At some point in life, you have to ask yourselves these questions: Who will you write for? What will you write? How will you write?”

For Seña, the answer was clear. “Maybe if I write stories, I could help shape other’s hearts and minds too.”

As part of the Panayam, ICW fellow Dr. Jun Cruz Reyes  and ICW associate Dr. Eugene Evasco and reacted to Gonzales’s and Seña’s lectures.

“Sabi nila pag nagsasalin ka, meron lagi at laging namamatay. Wika at laman,” Reyes said. He added that in Brazil and Indonesia, there are national campaigns to translate their works into other languages. In contrast, many countries in the world think that NVM Gonzalez and F. Sionil Jose are the only Filipino writers because these are the only writers that they read.

Reyes also tackled the idea of multiple translation, such as translating an Ilokano work into Filipino.

“Ang pagsasalin sa dula sa panitikan ay pagpapalawak ng kamalayan. Ano ‘yung kamalayan na gusto mong palawakin?” he asked. “Ano ‘yung wika ng pagsasalin sa globalisasyon, sa multiculturalism?”

He ended his reaction on a positive note, saying “Hangga’t nagkakaintindihan ang tao, buhay ang [wikang] Filipino.”

Meanwhile, Evasco told the audience that he wasn’t comfortable with the term YA. “Term ito ng bookseller sa US.” He said that he saw Champions as a distant relative of the pasyon, and a relative of  Ang Bagong Robinson (The New Robinson).

Evasco added that there’s a huge problem facing YA literature today. “Genre fatigue. Nakakasuka na ang dystopia, love story, Wattpad. Karamihan ng mga YA lit, para kumita, may cliche.”

He had two challenges for Seña. The first was to be original, to delve deep into Filipino literature. Initially, Evasco was frustrated because he had to read so many primitive epics for a class taught by Dr. Rosario Cruz-Lucero. But now he is grateful for the knowledge. “Mainam mag-imbento kung meron kang pinag-uugatan, at ang pinag-uggatan ay panitikang bayan,” said Evasco.

The second challenge was to use the YA form to introduce children to the Philippines’s rich mythology.

The open forum that followed the reactions tackled translation issues and worldbuilding.

Poetry in the City of Science

by Laurence Marvin Castillo

The Kulturang Ugnayan ng Kabataan Alay sa Bayan (KULAYAN-UPLB), the newly-formed alliance of cultural organizations in UP Los Banos, organized the Poetry Slam last 16 March at the Entablado Café, Los Banos, Laguna. This poetry event was held as part of the 58th UP National Writers Workshop organized annually by the UP Likhaan: Institute of Creative Writing (ICW). Award-winning fictionist, essayist and playwright, Prof. Vladimeir B. Gonzales served as this year’s workshop director.

For two consecutive years, Los Banos has played host to this gathering of selected mid-career writers who are given the opportunity to have their creative works subjected to rigorous assessment and critical interventions via a weeklong interface with a panel composed of established creative writers and literary scholars from the UP ICW. The workshop takes on special significance for the “Special Science and Nature City of the Philippines” in 2000, whose national and international reputation rests primarily on its elevation as an important site of scientific learning that houses a number of institutions for research like the UP Los Banos, and the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCCARD). While the small town has figured prominently in the folkloric imagination, and has even been rendered in various literary incarnations as the mystical haunt of the enchantress Maria Makiling, what remains somehow obscured – partly due to the largely metropolitan orientation of artistic, specifically literary, practice in the country today – is the presence of a vibrant artistic community that is seemingly sustained by the poetic energies that the legendary mountain muse unceasingly releases.

The Poetry Slam served as an opportunity for workshop fellows and panelists to interact with budding writers who hail from the predominantly science-oriented campus of UP Los Banos. These writers, whose organize themselves in various cultural formations that thrive on aspirations of autonomy from institutional control, constantly struggle to clear a space for artistic practice within an environment largely blanketed by a pervading sense of scientism that enables the preponderance of an almost parochial view and treatment of the arts.

The poetry competition, in which workshop fellows – Rogene Gonzales, Karren Sena, Christa dela Cruz, Zeno Denolo, Charisse-Fuschia Paderna, Alvin Ursua, Arnie Mejia, and Rowena Festin – and writers from UP Los Banos – Lineil Manzares, Fiat Oliva and Shalimae Colobong – participated, consisted of three rounds. The first round required the contestants to recite their poems without any thematic restrictions. In the second round, the contestants were asked to write poems that made use of a pair of concrete words that they picked up at random. Out of seemingly pedestrian words like toothpick, nailcutter, and chicharon, the poets rendered evocations that deal with issues such as womanhood, oligarchic violence, and rurality.

The final round required each contestant to deliver a piece on the trending topic “ka-DDS.” The three remaining contenders channeled the popular sense of dread over the contemporary socio-political dispensation with their equally haunting delivery of poetic meditations on the enduring violence of the drug war and the dangers of political fanaticism.

The jury, composed of UP ICW fellows National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, Dr. Gemino Abad, Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Dr. Luna Sicat Cleto, and filmmaker Mr. Arnel Mardoquio, adjudged fellows Arnie Mejia and Alvin Ursua as co-winners. All the contestants took home books written by ICW panelists as their prizes.

The evening ended in an atmosphere suffused with shared solidarities that affirm the value of community formation as an important condition that enables the enduring possibilities of literary practice to thrive against and within the troubles of the contemporary moment.


Laurence Marvin S. Castillo teaches at the Department of Humanities, UP Los Banos.

Panayam sa UP Los Baños: Mga Tala

ni Cris Lanzaderas

Muling naging pansamantalang tahanan ang Bundok Makiling ng labindalawang manunulat mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa.

Sa ikalawang pagkakataon, sa luntiang bundok sa Los Baños, Laguna idinaos ang ika-56 na UP National Writers Workshop. Mahabang panahon ang inilagi ng palihan sa lungsod ng Baguio sa Benguet ngunit nakatagpo ng bagong musa sa piling ng diwata ng Makiling ang mga manunulat. Isang linggo ang naging programa ng UP Institute of Creative Writing, ang siyang nag-organisang palihan, sa tulong na rin ng Departamento ng Humanidades ng UP Los Baños at Kulturang Ugnayan para sa Bayan o Kulayan. Maliban sa palihan, isinagawa rin ang Panayam, isang programang naglalayong maibahagi ang mga kaalaman ng ilang mga kilalang manunulat sa bansa. Ngayong taon, nagbahagi sina Jose Dalisay, Jr. at Wilfredo Pascual, Jr. ng kani-kanilang pananaw sa panitikan at malikhaing pagsulat, gayundin ng kanilang mga karanasan bilang mga manunulat sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa.

Isinusulat ni Wil ang kanyang mga alaala at karanasan mula sa kanyang pagkabata sa San Jose, Nueva Ecija. Nagkaroon ng malaking papel sa kanyang mga panulat ang pinagmulang bayan dahil ito ang humubog sa kanya bilang manunulat sa kasalukuyan. Makapangyarihan at mahiwaga ang pagbabalik sapagkat nakikita ang sarili sa ibang mukha at anggulo at sa naiibang anyo. Tila ba nakalilikha ng ibang tao ngunit sa katotohanan ay isang taong pamilyar naman at lubos na kilala. Ang mga pagbabalik ang nagbibigay sa kanya ng discomfort kaya ang kanyang mga nalilikhang mga akda ay mga supling ng bagabag.

Bagabag din ang isa sa mga tumutulak kay Wil upang magsulat. Aniya, ang panitikan ang nagiging daan niya sa paglaya mula sa pakiramdam ng discomfort bagama’t hindi naman nauubos o naglalaho ito, kundi napapalitan lamang ng bago. Ang mahalaga ay naitatala ito at nagiging mga paalala, na nananatili ang sariling tinig sa anumang bagabag na hinaharap. Ngunit ayon din kay Wil, timbangin din ang mga bagabag dahil may mga espasyo ng discomfort na nararapat alalahanin at itala at mayroon namang hindi.

Para naman kay Butch, ang pagsusulat ay para mabuhay. Maliban sa ito ang kanyang pinagkukunan ng ipanlalaman sa sikmura, ito rin ang lumilikha sa tao upang maging isang tao. Panitikan ang patunay ng pag-iral na isang daang maituturing upang tuklasin at kausapin ang sarili at ang ating nasasaloob. Sa kanyang mga salita ay: Without literature, we can’t talk with our inner selves or inner lives. Tinuturuan nitong makilala ang sarili nang sa gayon ay makilala rin at maunawaan ang kapwa na marahil ay iisa lamang ang ating mga danas at mga alaala. It also teaches us to have a sense of narrative. Ang panitikan din ang nagpapaunawa sa tao ng kanyang nakalipas (what happened) at ng kanyang hinaharap (what may have happened). Binibigyan tayo nito ng kakayahang magpasya, a sense of judgment at lampasan ang pisikalidad ng mundo nang makapaglakbay sa mga kuwentong nasa isip lamang.

Makapangyarihan ang mga salita, aniya. Kaya bitbit din nito ang maraming kahinatnan na nakabatay sa landas na pipiliin ng tao. Maaari itong lumikha at sumira, manakit at magpagaling, maging instrumento ng kapayapaan at digmaan sapagkat taglay ng mga salita ang ating mga kasiyahan at hinagpis at ang ating mga panalangin at hiling. Sa huli, ayon kay Butch, ang mga salita ang mga imaheng ating maiiwan sa mundo sa oras na lisanin natin ito.

Nagtapos ang mga panayam sa mga bukas na talakayan na uminog sa mga tanong hinggil sa kanilang mga inspirasyon sa panulat, pagbabahagi ng mga karanasan sa paglilimbag, at ilang mga bagay sa kanilang mga personal na buhay. Nagpasalamat din sa mga dumalo at sa bumubuo ng palihan ang bagong direktor ng UP ICW na si Rolando Tolentino.

Ilang tala ng muni-muni sa 56th UP National Writers’ Workshop

ni Rogene Gonzales


Naisipan kong maglakad-lakad papunta ng kampus, isang dapithapong katatapos ng workshop session. Matagal-tagal rin akong hindi nakatapak ng UP Los Baños. May dalang kung anong nostalgia ang simoy ng hininga ng kagubatan ng Mt. Makiling. Ewan ko, siguro sadyang ganoon– may mga lugar na magpapaalala sa iyong pagkatao.

Liku-liko ang daang maalikabok pababa. Sa gilid nito, nagsimula nang magligpit ang mga nagtitinda ng avocado at birds of paradise. Kinalas ng isang mama mula sa pagkakatali sa puno ang isang kambing, umalingawngaw ang huni ng hayop sa mga anino ng nalulusaw na liwanag.


Muntik ko nang mahagisan ng libro si Sir Jimmy sa gabi ng poetry slam. Ilang beses akong humingi ng paumanhin sa kaniya habang nagyoyosi sa gilid ng Vega, buhay na buhay ang eksena sa mga sasakyang parito’t paroon. Halos isang dekada ko ring naging kanlungan ang komunidad at pamantasan ito.

May mga pagkakataong napakahirap itanghal ng tula. Pero gusto ko sanang bigyang hustisya ang lahat ng kaluluwang nagtutulak sa aking patuloy na umakda, kahit man lamang sa maliit na espasyo ng Entablado ay mapakinggan ito.


Nakasalampak kami nang paikot sa harap ng hotel. Inaalala ang mga luma at bagong alitan ng mga kapwa manunulat. Hindi na talaga siguro maiiwasan ang away sa mundo ng panitikan. Idinadaan sa tawanan ang ilang haka-haka sa larangan habang kaniya-kaniyang humihigop mula sa hawak na lata ng beer. Ang hiling ko ay sana ganito lamang kagaan ang tunggalian.

Nagsasalimbayan ang tinig ng mga kuliglig sa labas at nagvivideoke sa loob.


Nadatnan ko sa Room 11 ang ilang miyembro ng Perspective. Nagtataka sila kung ano ang pakay ko roon. Natuwa ako sa magandang balitang nakapaglalabas na muli ng regular ang dyaryo. Humingi ng kopya ng mga latest na isyu.

Inabot din ng dalawang oras ang pagliligalig ko sa pamantasan, tinanaw ang buong latag ng Freedom Park, ninamnam ang sandali, tila hinuhuli sa isang iglap ang bilis ng panahong nagdaan.


Ganoon na nga ba katagal para makalimutan ko ang ibig sabihin ng isang termino? Marahil sa pagkakakulong sa mga pangamba ay pumupusyaw ang ibig sabihin ng mga salita. Naalala ko ang payo ng isang bilanggong pulitikal: “Huwag hayaang matupok ang apoy sa dibdib.” Pero narito ako’t nagpapagapi sa mga rehas ng kuwarto, mga limitasyong itinatakda ng sarili.

Isang taon na nga pala ang nakalipas nang masaksihang nasusunog ang Faculty Center. Kasabay nito’y ilang araw akong saklot ng poot dulot ng balitang minasaker ang mga magbubukid ng Kidapawan. Ako ba ay may kaligtasan?


Nakaluhod si Pegaraw, nakatingala sa langit, nakaposturang lilipad sa itim nitong mga pakpak. Ilang minuto pa’y nasilayan ko si Oble, may nakapulupot na pulang streamer sa kaniyang katawan. Nanumbalik sa gunita ang mga martsang minsang nilahukan sa init ng araw. Ilang klase nga ba ang niliban upang makasama sa sigaw ng lansangan?


Saglit ko lamang nakakuwentuhan si Sir Bien. Sa pakiwari ko sa kaniyang mga mata ay nagtatanong kung bakit ganoon na lamang ang aking mga tanong: Paano makaiwas sa pagkalunod sa sentimentalismo? Paano umigpaw sa kahapon? Paano magampanan ang tungkuling ikwento ang pilit pinapatahimik? Mga patlang lamang ng katahimikan ang namagitan.

“Darating din ang panahong ang tagisan ng kalooba’y luluwag,” ang kaniyang tugon, kasabay ng pagdadaupang-palad.


May mga tula na para sa akin, ay nagsisilbing panalangin:


Walang ngalang kalungkutan, kaibigan,

ang tumupok sa ‘king araw na lumisan.

Ang balita’y tila sibat, nadungisan

aking laya, at ulirat ay lumiban.


Nagambala walang iba kundi kami,

silang lahat ay nagdiwang, palamuti’y

mga aklat ng kundiman at salapi,

Nagpalitan ng ngisi sa tabi-tabi.


Tabingi kang natagpuan sa madilim

na bahagi ng bangin, ang patalim—

itinarak sa ‘ming dibdib ay panimdim—

walang ngalang mukha’y piring ng malagim.


Walang ngalan iyong bundok na inakyat,

nagsulat ka ng sanlibo pang alamat.

Walang takot kaloobang buo’t tapat.

Kapangalan mo na ngayon ay pagkidlat!



Huling gabi ng workshop, natigilan ang aming huntahan nang marinig ang huni ng isang kuwago, tila sumisipol sa kung kanino.

Hindi ko matunton kung nasaan ang buwan, marahil nakukumutan sa kapal ng kaulapan.


Madilim na nang magpasya akong umakyat pabalik ng venue, manaka-nakang ilaw mula sa nagdaraang mga sasakyan na lamang ang gabay upang makita ko ang tinatahak kong landas paahon.

At sa bawat hakbang ay palaisipan: Kailangang magpatalas ng panulat. Kailangan muling tanganan ang panulat.

Alang-alang sa Alinlangan: Tiwala[g] sa Salita

ni Tilde Acuna


Maituturing kong rurok ng paglahok ko sa mga pambansang palihan sa pagsulat ang katatapos na UP National Writers Workshop (UPNWW), lalo at para ito diumano sa mga manunulat na nasa gitna ng kanilang karera—yung mga mayroon nang natanggap na gawad, nailimbag na aklat at nalusutang pambansang palihan. Mukhang nagkaroon ng ilang konsiderasyon sa depinisyon ng gawad at aklat, kaya nakalusot. Bunsod nito, mamarapatin kong magbalik-tanaw sa una kong pagbabakasaling makapasa, sa ilang usapin sa pagitan nito, hanggang sa humantong sa “mid-career”—isang status na tila magkapanabay na itinatanggi at tinatanggap ng karamihan sa naging co-fellow sa UPNWW. Matapos nito, sisikapin kong sumahin ang karanasan sa mga palihan sa pangkalahatan, kritikal na pagnilayan ang pakikisangkot ko sa mga ito, at magpanukala ng ilang posibilidad na tunguhin ng [aking / ating / aming] panulat, sa loob man o sa labas ng mga institusyong pampanitikan.

Mula sa huling workshop na “maroon,” akin munang gugunitain ang “luntian”: binhi ang kahulugan ng unang natanggap na fellowship. Angkop at matalinghaga para sa baguhang tulad ko. Salamat dito, at nasilayang marami pa palang ibang babasahin at may mga isyu pala ang mga manunulat; sa susunod na mga taon, malalaman ko ang salimuot ng mga tunggaliang ito. Wala pa akong kamuwang-muwang noon na ang karamihan ng mga komento ng mga panelista ay may hibo ng New Criticism, lalo at hindi pa ako malay sa impluwensiya (at gahum) ng pormalistang kilusang ito, na hindi malayong bunga ng pagpapalaganap dito ng magulang ng karamihan ng palihan: ang Silliman. May romantisismo pa ako sa panulat noon, kaya hindi maiwasan ang mamangha. Minsan lang kasi makalabas sa Kamaynilaan at makahuntahan ang mga nasa labas nito, kaya bagong karanasan sa aking makasalamuha ng mga nagsusulat sa ibang wika. Tumambad ang iba pang mga riyalidad.

Makaraang matanggap bilang fellow sa tula at maikling kuwento, sinubukan ko pa ang iba: kritisismo, panitikang pambata, tula uli at kwento uli, sa Ingles ang ilan, at sa Filipino ang karamihan. Hindi maipirmi kung ano bang nais tutukan. Apat na taon ang lumipas bago nasundan ang iyas. Hindi na ako mabilis mapabilib nang mapasabak sa sumunod na mga palihan, bagamat may mga hinangaan pa ring mga matitinding piyesa at mga matatalas na kritika sa mga piyesa. Sa pagtatasa sa sarili, nabawasan kahit papaano ang pagiging kimi, at mas naging prangka sa pagbibigay ng palagay na palagi kong tinitiyak na may batayan upang hindi magmistulang arogansya lamang. Nagbago rin ang mga komposisyong isinabak ko sa aplikasyon, lalo noong nakaraang taong 2016.

Baka kawalang-muwang o -malay din lang ito sa aking parte, pero ang ilang ipinasa kong nakalusot sa ilang palihan at publikasyon ay yung mga ipinapalagay kong taliwas sa estetika at pulitika ng mga sasala sa mga piyesa. Siguro, mali ang inakala kong pamantayan nila, kaya nang tinangkang suwayin ito, hindi sadyang sumunod pala sa pormula. Siguro, tama ang inakala kong pamantayan nila, pero nagbago ang isip nila at nagbigay-puwang. Siguro, kaunti lang ang nagpasa ng aplikasyon.

Hanggang haka-haka lang ang magagawa, basta sa mga panahong iyon, nais kong subukin kung tatanggapin ang mga kathang hindi pumapaloob sa inaakala kong kumbensyon ng palihan o publikasyon. Kumbaga, nakadisenyo ang mga piyesa para mag-hudyat ng hamon sa mga pinagpasahan. Naging experimentong walang layuning magtagumpay ang ilang tangka tungo sa interogasyon ng mga naturang pampanitikang institusyon. Kaya sakto lang kung tanggihan o hindi pansinin ang manuskrito; kung tanggapin, mas magkakaroon ng suliranin. Uusbong ang tanong tulad ng: Saan kaya ang aming tagpuan—sila bilang institusyong nagpapangalan sa mga manunulat, at ako bilang indibidwal na marami na ngang satsat sa sinusulat, tapos may nakayayamot pang rima ang prosa? Marahil, sa salita? Saan pa nga ba?


Aking salin ng “Mga Salita” ni Edel Garcellano: Ipinapalagay ng salita ang katahimikang / sa katunaya’y batbat ng mga salitang / nangangahulugan ng ganito & ng ganoon / & wala nang iba. Oo, tila kinakapos ang lahat / sa totoong pag-uusap / dahil binibigo tayo ng mga salita. / Pero nalulunod tayo sa ilog ng mga salita / na tila kabulaanan ang binibigkas, / isang pagtataksil sa inaakalang kahulugan. / Walang kaligtasan sa pagwiwika ng mga salita– / Pero anong sandata ang gagamitin natin / laban sa mga naniniil & nananakal? / Nananakmal ang katahimikan / pero kailangang patuloy tayong lumikha ng salitang / babasag / sa makapal na salaming namamagitan sa atin. / Dakila ang tungkulin. / Balewala ang panulaan.


Sa pagtatasa ng palihan nitong nakaraan, naalala ko ang pagbanggit ng “faith” sa “word” na nagbuklod sa mga lumahok dito, panelist man o fellow (pasintabi at hindi ko maalala ang nagbanggit o kung nabanggit ba talaga). Ibig sabihin, pagtitiwala sa kapangyarihan ng panulat, o, kung gusto nating panatilihin ang ating kapatiran, pananampalataya sa salita. Ano pa nga ba at lumahok sa workshop, kung walang pananalig sa panitikan? Kung ipagpapatuloy ang metapora ng relihiyon, marahil, nagiging agnostiko o ateista ako minsan kung panitikan ang kaligtasan, lalo at may mga institusyon at ilang godfather na namamahala rito. Pero, lagi’t lagi, bumabalik pa rin ako sa pagtitiwala sa panulat, lalo at hindi lang naman ang mga workshop fellow o mga Palanca awardee ang nagsusulat. At tiyak namang may pamantayan ng estetika at politika ng akdang pampanitikan at ng sining na sumisibol, pero wala sa tinaguriang “sentro,” bagamat maaaring halawin mula rito.

Walang duda namang aparato ng institusyonalisasyon ang mga national writing workshop at mga gawad. Walang gaanong masama rito, kung may sapat na demokratikong espasyo, tulad nito, upang mabanggit na, sa institusyonalisasyon, may mga isinasaisantabi, lalo at wala ang “rehiyunal” sa tinatayang pinaka-prestihiyosong palihang “nasyunal” tulad ng magka-edad na UPNWW at SUNWW, lalo at walang sapat na tsansa ang mga “walang-tinig” na makapagpadala man lang ng aplikasyon, lalo at walang puwang na maibibigay sa akin sa espasyong ito kung hindi ko naabot ang minimum sa checklist: gawad, aklat, fellowship (mas tataas ang pagkakataong makamit ang mga rekisitong mapabilang sa manunulat na nasa gitnang-karera kung, sa minimum, ay kabilang na sa gitnang-uri). Walang dudang kailangan nating pana-panahong magduda.


Trivia: May kano sa kanonisasyon. Keyword: self-reflexivity. Chant: Mabuway ang walang-katiyakan!


Pagkaraan ng UPNWW ngayong taon, tiyak na sapat ang puna at palakpak na nakalap ng mga nakasama sa palihan kaya tutungo na kami sa isa pang madugong yugto ng pagsulat: ang rebisyon (huwag lang historical revisionism). Malay man o hindi ang awtor, susing salik na kailangan isaalang-alang ay ang angkop na anyo para sa partikular na mambabasang nais makahuntahan. Anyo ang pamamaraan ng pakikipag-usap at nakadepende rito kung pakikinggan at tutugunan ang proyektong pampanitikan at ang diskursong dala nito—o isasaisantabi na lamang. Naririto ang ilan sa maraming hamon: bibigay ba kami sa nais ng mambabasa para lang tangkilikin ang aming akda, susunod ba kami sa dikta (o mungkahi) ng publisher para lang matiyak na mababawi ang puhunang sapat para sa reprinting, iisip ba kami ng kompromiso upang mapagbigyan ang mga mapagpasya at mapalawak ang mambabasa (readership) sa inaakalang tagumpay ng aming proyekto, susuong ba kami sa kawalang-katiyakan upang mapagtuunan muna ng pansin ang ideyal naming mambabasa. Malamang, may iba pang tanong sa sarili ang mga co-fellow ko na wala sa mga naitala; sa kaso ko, may kiling ako sa dalawang huling nabanggit, at ang ideyal kong mambabasa ng partikular na proyektong ito ay gitnang-uring may sapat na kapital, ekonomiko man o simboliko, para sa kritikal na interogasyon sa textong ihahain at sa posisyon nito sa produksyong pampanitikan.

Saan nga ba tayo patungo? Saan at kailan maaaring magtagpo? Ano ang hangganan ng collegiality at tiwala sa salita ng isa’t isa na ipinapalagay nating para sa ikabubuti ng lahat? Sino ang dapat patahimikin dahil nakalalason ang salita at nagbibigay-katuwiran sa karahasan? Sino ang dapat pagsalitain upang ibuyangyang ang sarili lalo sa listong mambabasa? Sino ang dapat magbigay-tinig kanino? Bakit hindi na lamang turuang magsalita at maglahad ng saloobin ang mga ipinapalagay na walang tinig? Sino ang ating kausap? kakampi? kaaway? Anong dingding sa pagitan ng mga manunulat ang dapat gibain? Kailan gigibain at kailan muling guguhit ng linyang magpapahayag na hanggang dito lamang ang pagtangkilik sa kapwang gumagamit sa salita upang manlinlang, mambintang, mandahas at makapangyari? Paano ang produksyon at diseminasyon? Bakit?


Lahat ng ito at tiyak na marami pang iba ang dapat itanong sa sarili ng nagtitiwala sa salita at handang tumiwalag dito kung kinakailangan, lalo sa ating mundo kung saan pribilehiyo ang pagiging awtor. May mga salita rin sa labas ng mga pahinang ito. Naroroon ang mga posibilidad na hindi pa natin maharaya, tungo sa daigdig kung saan walang minimum requirement upang maging lingkod ng salita—kung saan walang iilang may-ari ng salita.

UP and Ateneo Professors to Discuss Science Fiction in Second Interdisciplinary Book Forum on April 21


The second UP Interdisciplinary Book Forum, dubbed “Ad Astra Per Aspera: Two Science Fiction Anthologies” will be held at Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman on April 21, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon.

The forum is sponsored by the UP Institute of Creative Writing and the UP Press. It will draw on two books: Diaspora Ad Astra: An Anthology of Science Fiction, published in 2013 and edited by Emil M. Flores Joseph Frederic F. Nacino, and Science Fiction: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults edited by Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu. Diaspora Ad Astra  represents science fiction made by Filipinos for Filipinos. It looks at the future of Filipinos and wonders whether we’ll be exporting human workers to Mars or ruling a new Empire of Humanity. Will Filipinos be running a guerrilla war against mad robots as the rest of homo sapiens flee into space in derelict battleships?

Science Fiction explores explores the concerns and issues of today’s youth through the lens of the science fiction genre.

The discussants for the IDBF’s second event are Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the U.P. National Institute of Physics, Prof. Ronald Allan L. Cruz of Ateneo de Manila’s Department of Biology, Prof. Gabriela Lee of the U.P. English Department, and Mr. John Gabriel Pelias of the U.P.’s Institute of Mathematics The moderator is Dr. J. Neil C. Garcia, U.P. Press Director.

Ronald Cruz is an Assistant Professor and the current Undergraduate Student Coordinator of the Department of Biology, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University. He is also the founder and Moderator of the Ateneo Biological Organization – eXplore. eXperience. eXcel. (BOx). He currently serves as the Loyola Schools Coordinator for Teacher Formation Institute (TFI) and Faculty Spiritual Formation. His book, The Cosmic Wild: Biology of Science Fiction, was published in 2015 and has won the Outstanding Book Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology and the Best Book on Science award from the 35th National Book Awards. He has also written several short stories and scientific journal articles.

Giovanni Tapang is a Professor at the UP’s National Institute of Physics and the Associate Dean for Student and Public Affairs at the UP College of Science. He has received numerous grants for VISSER – Versatile Instrumentation System for Science Education and Research and has published many international scientific papers. He is the National Chairperson of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan/AGHAM) and a columnist at the Manila Times


Gabriela Lee has been published for her poetry and fiction in the Philippines, Singapore, the United States, and Australia. Her first book of prose is titled Instructions on How to Disappear: Stories (Visprint Inc., 2016). Her previous works include Disturbing the Universe: Poems (NCCA Ubod New Writers Prize, 2006) and La-on and the Seven Headed Dragon (Adarna House, 2002). She has received a Master of Arts in Literary Studies from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and currently teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. You can find her online at www.sundialgirl.com.

John Pelias is an instructor at the UP Institute of Mathematics who likes to read fiction. He received his Master of Science and Bachelor of Science from UP Diliman. He broke UP’s 63-year postwar record by graduating summa cum laude with a general weighted average of 1.016. He has made oral presentations in numerous conferences and is the author of two calculus textbooks. His research interests are Differential Geometry and Mathematical Physics.




The Interdisciplinary Book Forum is part of U.P.’s Emerging Interdisciplinary Research (EIDR) Cycle, and is set to take place once per semester, from hereon. It will cycle through the different disciplines and main literary genres. From this year’s focus on non-fiction, future iterations of the book forum will concentrate on poetry and fiction.

Both the Institute of Creative Writing and the U.P. Press hope that this initial foray will encourage and enliven dialogues and critical thought on recent books and their impact not just on the academe, but among student readers. Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay, U.P. ICW Director, says that the EIDR is intrinsically interdisciplinary, and “involves initiating and maintaining strong relationships with the language, literature, and humanities departments and divisions of all the U.P System’s constituent universities, as well as with related fields. Its results should have a direct impact on the way the university teaches and promotes Philippine literature and literacy, particularly in terms of bilingualism and cultural diversity and inclusivity.”

Dr. Dalisay adds that the Interdisciplinary Book Forum should, in particular, “help engender greater interdisciplinarity and promote a more positive climate in the University’s intellectual life… The University of the Philippines must champion profound forms of reading and writing.”

Admission for the IBF is free. Those interested in attending are advised to come early.

Science Fiction in Focus in UP Book Forum on April 21

What will the future of the Philippines look like? Will we be exporting human workers to Mars or ruling a new Empire of Humanity? How does science fiction reflect the concerns and issues of today’s youth? These questions, among others, will be the focus of a lively discussion on “Ad Astra Per Aspera: Two Science Fiction Anthologies” at the second University of the Philippines Interdisciplinary Book Forum sponsored by the UP Instutute of Creative Writing and the UP Press, to be held at Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman, on April 21, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon.



UP ICW Issues Call for Submission to an Updated Filipino Writers Database

LIKHAAN: The UP Institute of Creative Writing is making an updated database for Philippine authors via its panitikan.com.ph portal. This new database aims to collate and consolidate the previous NCCA list of writers with the current, incomplete listing posted on the said portal, as well as include newly published writers. The ICW hopes to make a new, comprehensive database as information and other pertinent details on many Filipino writers were lost when the UP Diliman Faculty Center burned down.

In this regard, published authors are asked to fill out a form that can be downloaded here. The form requests for, among other things, a 100- to 200-word bionote and a list of published works. The ICW is also requesting for a recent 2.5 x 3.5 (2R size) photo of the author, in 300 DPI.

The deadline for this first round of submissions is 21 April 2017. Kindly send the accomplished form and your photo to panitikanwritersdb@gmail.com.