Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let the Light of Literature Shine: Philippine Literature Month to be Celebrated for the First Time

The uses and roles of literature are multitudinous and multifarious. One universally accepted attribute of literature is its ability to offer elevating and edifying experiences which enlarge our horizons and enhance us as people.
In the Philippines, as in numerous countries in the world, literature also has a vital role in turning the course of history and shaping society. According to poet and officer in charge of the Sangay ng Edukasyon at Networking of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) John Enrico Torralba: “Sa kasaysayan, naging kasangkapan ang panitikan sa pagsulong at pagpapalaganap ng mga adhikain ng mga dakilang tao at karaniwang masa, lalo na ang dalumat ng pagkabansa. Mula noon hanggang kasalukuyan, ang panitikan ang isa sa mga pangunahing sanggunian ng pagkatao ng mga Filipino, ng pagiging tao ng mga Filipino. Sumasalamin at naglalatag ang panitikan ng kung ano tayo at kung ang maaari nating kahantungan.” (In history, literature has been instrumental in the flourishing and promulgation of the goals of great persons as well as of the ordinary masses, especially on the concept of nationhood. From the olden times until now, literature is one of the primary guides in shaping Filipino identity and humanity. Literature mirrors and illustrates what we are and where we are going.)
Malawak at malayo na din ang naabot ng ating panitikan. May pagtanggap at pagkilala na sa iba’t ibang antas ang lipunan—mula sa mga internasyonal na larang hanggang sa mga karaniwang sulok ng mga tahanan, mula sa maseselang panlasa hanggang sa simpleng pagkalibang,” (Our literature has gone a long way. It has garnered reception and recognition in different levels of society—from the international field to the ordinary corners of the home, from critics with the most discerning tastes to the ones who just want diversion) he further explained. “Ang kapangyarihan at kabuluhang ito ng panitikan ng mga Filipino ang siyang dahilan, sa tingin ko, kung bakit may Buwan ng Panitikang Filipino. Dagdag pa, may sakit na pagkalito at pagkalimot ang maraming Filipino kung kaya’t kailangang ipaalam at ipaalala sa kanila ang kapangyarihan at kabuluhang ito, na tayo ay may panitikan, na tayo ay Filipinong may maipagmamalaking panitikan.” (The power and significance of Philippine literature are reasons, in my opinion, why there is a Philippine Literature Month. Additionally, many Filipinos are afflicted with confusion and forgetfulness, and there is need to remind them of literature’s power and significance, that we have a literature we can be proud of.)
National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario, who is currently chairman of KWF, pushed for the institutionalization of a celebration that highlights the nation’s literature. This year, that came into fruition. President Aquino signed Proclamation No. 968 on February 10, 2015, which declares the month of April as Buwan ng Panitikang Filipino or National Literature Month.
The proclamation states that “Philippine literature, written in different Philippine languages, is associated with the history and cultural legacy of the State, and must be promoted among Filipinos,” and that “national literature plays an important role in preserving and inspiring the literature of today and in introducing to future generations the Filipino values that we have inherited from our ancestors.”
The government agency on the national language and other Philippine languages, with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the government’s overall agency on arts and culture, is spearheading the first ever celebration of Philippine Literature Month
April was chosen because many literature-related events fall under this month such as the birth and death anniversaries of literary icons Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, Emilio Jacinto, Paciano Rizal, Nick Joaquin, Edith Tiempo and Bienvenido Lumbera, and international literary celebrations including International Children’s Book Day, International Day of the Book or World Book Day, and World Intellectual Property Rights Day. The lineup of activities and events this April consisted of established regular endeavors as well as new ones.
For the celebration, KWF has chosen the theme “Alab Panitikan,” literally “fire of literature,” which is also a play on the phrase “I love panitikan.” The theme also encapsulates the goals of the celebration.
Nag-aalab ang panitikang Filipino,” (Philippine literature is burning) Torralba said. “Isang layunin ng pagdiriwang ay ipaalala na may mahabang kasaysayan, kung kaya’t may malalim at malawak na lawas ng mga akda ang Filipinas; at ipakilala na patuloy na nabubuhay ang ating panitikan.” (One objective of the celebration is to remind people of the long history of Philippine literature—thus, it has a deep and wide body of works— and that it continues to be alive.)
Pag-alabin ang panitikang Filipino,” (To kindle Philippine literature further) he continued. “Isa pang layunin ay hikayatin ang mga Filipino, mga propesyonal , di-propesyonal, mag-aaral, guro, at iba pa na makibahagi sa pagpapanatili, pagpapalaganap, at pagpapalawak ng pagkamalikhain ng mga Filipino sa pamamagitan ng tuloy-tuloy na produksiyon at promosyon.” (Another objective is to encourage Filipinos, the professionals, the nonprofessionals, students, teachers and others to take part in sustaining, popularizing and disseminating Filipino creativity through continuous production and promotion.)
He concluded: “Ay lab panitikan. Sa kabuuan, ang nais na maabot ng selebrasyon ay mas malalim na pagpapahalaga sa ating panitikan, at higit sa lahat, ipakita na mahal natin ang ating panitikan.” (I love literature. Overall, the celebration hopes to foment a deeper appreciation for our literature and to show that we love our literature.)
The Philippine Literature Month will kick off with a youth camp and the unveiling of a new monument of the 19th century poet Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, widely considered the greatest of poets in Filipino, in the coastal barangay of Wawa in Orion, Bataan, on March 30. Hardin ni Balagtas, or the Garden of Balagtas will be opened to serve as a “cultural park” with native plants and trees.
The town of Orion, then called Udyong, is said to be close to Balagtas’s heart. Here, he wrote some of his masterpieces and died on February 20, 1862. The new bronze monument depicts the poet seated and looking at the sea. It is created by prominent sculptor Julie Lluch, who also did the monuments of Apolinario Mabini for the 150th birth anniversary celebration, which is now in Tanauan, Batangas; Carlos P. Romulo along United Nations Avenue, Manila; Jose Abad-Santos and Cayetano Arellano on Padre Faura Street, Manila; and President Manuel L. Quezon in the province of Quezon.
Simultaneously, Kampo Balagtas will be held from March 30 to 31 at the Orion Elementary School. The youth camp is expected to gather around 500 Grade 8 students in the Central Luzon region and delegations from different indigenous groups of the country. With the theme “Si Balagtas at ang Kabataan” (Balagtas and the youth), the camp will feature cultural presentations and discussions on the importance of Balagtas’s life and legacy.
Also, the winners of the Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon 2015 and the Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas 2015 will be honored.
April 2 is the 227 birth anniversary of Balagtas. Simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies will be held at Balagtas monuments in Pandacan, Manila; in Balagtas, Bulacan, where he was born in 1788; and in Orion, Bataan.
On April 6, the first session of Tertulya sa Tula: Isang Hapon ng mga Makata ng Taon will be held at the KWF, where audience will have the opportunity to interact with the Makata ng Taon winners. Subsequent events will be held on April 13, 20 and 27.
From April 9 to 11, Lingayen, Pangasinan, will host the first Baybayin Summit to be in participated in by teachers, scholars, researchers and students. They will tackle the issue of introducing the Old Tagalog script into the school curriculum.
On April 11, Ateneo de Manila University’s Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices will be holding the High Fantasy and Young Adult Writing Workshop. It will be held every Saturday of the month (April 11, 18 and 25). From April 13 to 15, Uswag Filipino!, an annual seminar-workshop on language and literature for teachers, will be held at the Bulacan State University. This year, it will tackle Ortograpiyang Pambansa, KWF Manwal sa Masinop na Pagsulat, and Korespondensiya Opisyal.
The Filipino poets’ group Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) will conduct the Lakbay-Panitik para kay Emilio Jacinto in Majayjay, Laguna, on April 16, in celebration of the hero’s death anniversary. On the other hand, Gumil Filipinas (Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Filipinas) or Ilokano Writers Association of the Philippines will hold its 47th national conference at the Cubao Expo in Quezon City from April 17 to 19 with the theme “Ang Papel ng Gumiliano sa Lipunang Ilokano.” (The role of a Gumil member in Ilocano society)
The Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center of the De La Salle University will hold the Young Writers Workshop for very young children with literary inclinations. It will be on April 17. Also on the same day, LIRA has a poetry reading program at the Conspiracy Bar in Quezon City. Meanwhile in Davao City, the Davao Writers’ Guild and Young Davao Writers will hold Kumbira! which will include a poetry reading, an exhibit and a book sale.
On April 20, the Manila Times College in Intramuros, Manila, will conduct a literary journalism workshop with veterans that include critic and playwright Dr. Isagani Cruz, while University of Santo Tomas’s Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies will conduct “Tradisyon at Modernidad: Isang Simposyum” on April 21. From April 21 to 23, a translation seminar for teachers will be held at the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.
On April 23, the National Book Development Board will spearhead the celebration of the National Book and Copyright Day, and on April 24, the Klasrum Adarna session for teachers will tackle “Pagtuturo ng Noli at Fili/ Ibong Adarna” in Makati City.
A Cebuano version of the play The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, called V-Latanay, will be mounted at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao from April 23 to 24.
Folk on Badiw: Ibaloy Legacy to Poetry and Music” will be held at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City from April 24 to 25 with National Artist for music Ramon Santos as guest of honor.
On April 26, FIT n Fun: Fun Run for Writers will be at the UP Academic Oval, organized by the Filipinas Institute of Translation.
From April 26 to 28, the Iyas National Writers Workshop of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod will be held in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, and from April 29 to 30, the Pambansang Kongreso sa Wikang Filipino will be held in Baguio City by the Kapisanan ng mga Superbisor at Guro sa Filipino (Kasugufil).
On April 29, the Pambansang Araw ng Gawad sa KWF Timpalak Uswag Darepdep will be held. Uswag Darepdep is a contest of the KWF for 12 to 17-year-old aspiring writers writing in different Philippine languages. This year, language categories that are open for competition are Ilocano, Cebuano, Bicol and MĂ«ranaw.
On April 30, a poetry reading by the Katig Writers Network will be held at University of the Philippines Tacloban in Leyte and at the Northwestern State University in Calbayog City, Samar.
This summer, the Holy Week is not the only occasion that provides spirituality, reflection and meaningfulness in a season popularly known for excursions and beaches. With the newly declared Buwan ng Panitikang Filipino or National Literature Month, April in the Philippines will be a more enriching and soulful time.
Mas malalaki at bonggang uri ng mga gawain,” (Bigger and spectacular activities) promised Torralba on future celebrations. “Noong huling meeting sa NCCA, nakaiisip na ng ilang malalaking gawain para sa susunod na taong pagdiriwang. Nariyan ang mga pagkakaroon ng mga pambansang timpalak sa mga tradisyonal na anyo ng panitikan ng bansa gaya ng timpalak sa balagtasan, tigsik, ambahan, balitao, etc. Isa ding mungkahi ay ang pagkakaroon ng Gawad Alab Panitikan. Siyempre, ninanais na buong bansa o karamihan ng mga sektor, institusyon, o organisasyong may direkta o di-direktang may kinalaman sa panitikan ay magiging bahagi ng mga susunod pang pagdiriwang. Sa madaling salita, asahang paganda nang paganda at palaki nang palaki ang mga pagdiriwang sa hinaharap. Ano pa ba ang maaasahan natin sa mga taong puro paglikha ang nasa isip at puso?” (In the last meeting at the NCCA, several big events were suggested for the subsequent celebrations. One is a national contest on traditional literary forms such as the balagtasan, tigsik, ambahan, balitao, etc. Another suggestion is having an Alab Panitikan Award. Of course, it is hoped that the whole country or most of the sectors, institutions or organizations directly or indirectly connected with literature will take part in the coming celebrations. In other words, expect that the future celebrations will be bigger and more beautiful. What can we expect from people whose hearts and minds are into creating?”)

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National Artist for literature  and KWF chairman Virgilio Almario inspects the new statue of Balagtas
The historical marker for  Balagtas, which will be installed with a new monument in Orion, Bataan
Simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies will be held in three locations on Balagtas Day on April 2
The 19th-century Tagalog poet Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar is widely considered the greatest among Filipino writers, whose birth anniversary is being commemmorated in April
The Balagtas’s metrical romance Florante at Laura is one of Philippine literature’s greatest works

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