Overlooking Mindanao Sea and with a laidback vibe, Rizal Boulevard is perhaps Dumaguete’s most famous landmark
Despite the whirlwind nature of the event, Dumaguete City had the ability to calm one down. I got to revisit the capital of Negros Oriental recently for the press conference of the Taboan 2013: Philippine Writers’ Festival, an annual gathering of writers all over the country to trade ideas and stories on culture, history and the literary arts.
The press conference was held at the Bethel Guest House. Despite its “antiseptic” ambiance, the small hotel is efficient and popular because of its location — along the city’s Rizal Boulevard. The boulevard is perhaps the most famous place there because it is picturesque and laidback. At one side is the Mindanao Sea, and at another a row of hotels, bars and restaurants, where many expats and students gather, talk and chill out. Some of the establishments used to be mansions, which lined the boulevard in the olden days. Old trees line the narrow strip of park beside the boulevard, a popular place to jog and exercise at as the sun rises and a nice promenade during sunsets. There is a monument to the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres on the spot where they first landed in the Philippines. It was in 1904 when they opened the first Paulinian school in the country in Dumaguete City.
The boulevard is a popular dining strip. Over the years, many good restaurants have popped up in the area. One of the most popular is Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries, which is always full. It offers the best sans rival cakes and silvanas in the city. A few steps away is Jo’s Chicken Inato, famous for Visayan-style grilled chicken, perhaps Visayas’s most famous dish.
Nearby are major Dumaguete landmarks, the Aquino Freedom Park, the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria and beside it the Campañario de Dumaguete, said to be one of the oldest heritage landmarks in Central Visayas. Also along the boulevard is Silliman University, the city’s leading educational institution, the country’s first Protestant university and the first American private university in Asia. There are a number of educational institutions in the city, making it an educational center in the region. Hosting about 30,000 students, Dumaguete is known as a “university town” with young and educated people contributing to the vibrancy of the city.
Dumaguete’s Rizal Boulevard is lined with trees, hotels, bars and restaurant
The centuries-old belfry beside the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria was used to warn people of the coming of marauding Moro pirates, who “snatched” (daggit in local term) people away, thus the name of Dumaguete City
Also, Dumaguete likes to call itself the “City of Gentle People” most likely because of the blithe nature of the Dumagueteños and the carefree atmosphere of the city. The recent visit enabled me to experience that, as well as reconnect with one of my literary mentors when I was a fellow at the Second Iligan National Writers Workshop, poet and teacher Christine Godinez-Ortega, who is the vice head of the National Committee on Literary Arts (NCLA) of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). She is the festival director of Taboan 2013 and is responsible for bringing Taboan to Dumaguete City, where she was born and nurtured as a writer before going and working in Iligan City in Mindanao.
Taboan was conceptualized as the flagship project of the NCLA for the Philippine Arts Festival (PAF), which is NCCA’s contribution to the celebration of National Arts Month happening for the whole month of February. Taboan is the Visayan word for “market,” and it is purported to be a venue for writers, as well as readers, students, teachers and scholars to interact with one another and discuss writing and literature. It mostly consists of conferences, seminars, talks and panel discussions, usually happening simultaneously. An attendee can thus hop from one discussion to another.
Taboan is held in different regions in the country. The first one in 2009 was held in Metro Manila, then it moved to Cebu in 2010, Davao City in 2011 and at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga last year.
According to Ma’am Christine, it is but apt that the Taboan is being held in Dumaguete City.
Not in favor of the tag “City of Gentle People,” she wants the city to be known as the “City of Literature.” It has, in fact, produced a good number of writers and is home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious writers’ workshop, founded in 1962 by National Artist for literature Edith Tiempo and her husband, fictionist Edilberto Tiempo. The Silliman National Writers Workshop has nurtured many Filipino writers. Most of my writer-friends have attended the workshop and come back gushing with romantic tales about it, including falling in love with Dumaguete.
Ma’am Christine said that Taboan in Dumaguete is like a coming home of sorts for her, as well as for many participating writers. To be held from February 7 to 9, Taboan 2013 will be hosted by different schools in the city including Silliman University, St. Paul University of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental State University, College of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Joseph Seminary College and Foundation University. It will highlight Dumaguete City’s and the region’s writers, literature and literary traditions.
With the help of the city government of Dumaguete, Taboan for the first time will be having an opening parade, which will start at 8 a.m. on February 7 with a pahili, a ritual to augur luck, by a cultural group from the Negros Oriental State University. There will be performances by the Handuraw Dance Troupe of St. Paul University of Dumaguete and a rondalla group of the municipality of Dauin. During the opening ceremony, Resil Mojares will deliver his keynote address titled “The Nation in the Visayan Imagination,” and a plenary session, “Your Place at the Writers’ Table,” will be held with National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Mojares, Leoncio Deriada and Isagani Cruz as speakers. Different panel sessions will immediately begin on the same day.
A book fair is one of the exciting events of the Taboan 2013
“Inscribing the Past” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Joshua Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have Lumbera as keynote speaker, and Rev. Msgr. Agustin Velez Ancajas, Erlita Pangilinan Mendoza, Elmer Ordonez, Merlie Alunan and Maria Rosario Cruz-Lucero as panelists. “Bypassing the Center” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Joshua Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have Fr. Rey Villanoy Jr., Herminigildo Sanchez, Richard Madrilejos, Neyo Mario Valdez and Phil Harold Mercurio as panelists. “Imagining the Indigene” (1 to 2:45 p.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, as keynote speaker, and Norman Darap, Richard Kinnud, Jayson Eduria Parba and Christine Godinez-Ortega as panelists. “Translating Texts, Texts in Translation” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Joshua Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Ma. Luisa Torres Reyes and panelists Francis “Butch” Macansantos, Junley Lazaga, Noel Tuazon, Hope Sabanpan-Yu and Juliet Mallari. “Experimenting with Genres” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Joshua Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have panelists Fr. Jose Ronnie Cao, Almuzrin Jubair, Santiago Villafania, Shirley Lua and Jhoanna Lyn Cruz. “Vision and Revision” (3 to 4:45 p.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Leoncio Deriada and panelists Jenny Talaver, Allan Alberto Derain, Roilingel Calilung, Roberto Klemente Timonera and Haidee Emmie Palapar.
On February 8, “Writing Chinoy, Chinoy Writing” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Jordan Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Shirley Lua and panelists Rowena Rose Lee, Mark Benedict Lim, Hope Sabanpan Yu and Carlo Arejola. “Writing for the Ebook Market” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Jordan Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Isagani Cruz and panelists Gil Montinola, Reuel Molina Aguila, Sonny Villafania and Jose “Butch” Dalisay. “Gender Factor” (8 to 9:45 a.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Jhoanna Lyn Cruz and panelists Diandra-Ditma Macarambon, Sherma Benosa, Paul Randy Gumanao, Paolo Manalo and Ma. Carmen Sarmiento. “The Space Between” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Jordan Room 1 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela and panelists Merlita Lorena Tariman, Isabela Banzon, Martin Villanueva and Priscilla Macansantos. “Chronicling Disasters” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Jordan Room 2 of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Elmer Ordoñez and panelists Jim Domingo, Marion Guerrero, Carlo Arejola, Jondy Arpilleda and Elizabeth Raquel. “Networking Among Writers” (10 to 11:45 a.m., Agape Room of Bethel Guest House) will have keynote speaker Butch Dalisay and panelists Jane Camens, Isagani Cruz, Merlie Alunan and Juliet Mallari.
At the Negros Oriental State University’s gym, the discussion on performance poetry will have keynote speaker Steven Patrick Fernandez with panelists Chuckberry Pascual, Lumbera, Nemesio Baldesco Jr., Joycie Dorado Alegre and Rosemarie Teves Pinili (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.). A reading/discussion of the works of Edilberto Tiempo and Edith Tiempo will be held at the Silliman Hall of Silliman University from 4 to 6 p.m. with keynote speaker Merlie Alunan and panelists Leoncio Deriada, Christine Godinez Ortega, Ralph Semino Galan, Dominique Cimafranca and Karlo Anthonio Galay David.
“Mga Hinandum: Siday, Balak, Balitao of the Winners of the Negros Oriental Balak/Balitao Competition,” a performance poetry and concert featuring traditional Visayan literary froims, will be held on February 8 at 7 p.m. as well as the launching of Alunan’s book Pagdakopsa Bulalakaw and a performance by the St. Paul University of Dumaguete Orchestra.
Literary discussions will continue on February 9 with a reading/discussion of Artemio Tadena’s works at the James Herring Audio-Visual Room of Foundation University with keynote speaker Myrna Peña Reyes and panelists Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Francis “Butch” Macansantos and Priscilla Macansantos (8 to 10 a.m.). A reading/discussion of the works of Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela and Bobby Flores Villasis will happen at the Fr. Louis Chavet Hall of St. Paul University of Dumaguete (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) with panelists Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Leoncio Deriada, Tichie Ann Baena, Priscilla Cielo and Victor Sugbo. “On Publishing Modern Catholic Writing” will have keynote speaker Joselito Zulueta and panelists Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ., Rev. Mgsr. Agustin Velez Ancajas, Fr. Rey Villanoy Jr., Fr. Jose Ronnie Cao, Fr. Enrico Silab and Georgette Ann Gonzales at the COSCA Multi-media Center of the College of St. Catherine of Alexandria, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
NCLA vice head Christine Godinez-Ortega (middle) is this year’s Taboan festival director. Last year, she moderated the discussion on writers’ workshops together with Aida Rivera Ford (left) and Elsa Martinez Coscolluela (right)
For the closing ceremonies of Taboan 2013, the Tanjay City Symphony Orchestra will hold a concert at the Essencia Hotel at 6 p.m. on February 9. This will be followed by “Suga-Tula (Crossing Poetry)” by the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, under the direction of Steven Patrick Fernandez.
Taboan 2013 Literary Awards, which was started in 2010, will also be bestowed, honoring the contributions of significant Visayan writers. This year’s awardees are Erma Cuizon, Marjorie Evasco, Lamberto Ceballos, Ernesto Lariosa and Cesar Ruiz Aquino from Central Visayas; Alice Tan Gonzales, Maria Rosario Cruz Lucero, Maria Luisa Defante and Victorio Sugbo from Western Visayas; and Fray Paolo Maria Diosdado Casurao from Eastern Visayas.
New this year is the Taboan Lifetime Achievement Award which will be given to Bienvenido Lumbera, poet Cirilo Bautista, critic Isagani Cruz, fictionist Elmer Ordonez and fictionist Leoncio Deriada.
With Taboan 2013, both residents and visitors of Dumaguete City will be treated to the soulful and mystical side of the city. Hopefully, the Taboan can conjure a spellbinding effect on the participants the way the Silliman National Writers Workshop has enraptured its fellows.
National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario and F. Sionil Jose attended last year’s Taboan and are expected to grace this year’s event