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July 30, 2009

MR. HAROLD L. MERCURIO

Creative writing has taken small but confident strides among the developing arts in Calbayog. Unlike theater, the visual arts, dance, and music, its world is inhabited only by a small number of individuals, who love to imagine and transform experiences into poems and short fiction. A number of these individuals are in the teaching profession and in the media.

Oftentimes, poets write for personal satisfaction while others use writing as a means of therapeutic release from life’s daily tensions. Local writers continue writing to produce their collection of poetry for publication. Poetry, being the most popular genre of literature in Samar, is made available to the public via siday contests held during fiesta celebrations in the barrio, city and province. Motivation on the part of poets comes from the prize money which usually ranges from 500 to P5,000 pesos.
To keep the spirit of siday alive, siday enthusiasts and some local writers send their poems to the DYOG (Radyo ng Bayan Calbayog) where their works are recited in a radio program. Other writers utilize their columns in local newspapers to present their poems. Meanwhile, writer teachers and students indulge in writing poems for a chance to get published in the local newspapers or win cash prizes in poetry contests sponsored by government and non-government organizations. For one, the Gawad Komisyon sponsored by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) draws a big crowd of writers to its yearly poetry writing contest due to the big cash prizes. The annual Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop at Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology (TTMIST) brings together Waray, Cebuano and Abaknon writers from Leyte, Samar and Biliran to Calbayog for the three-day writers workshop. Those who qualify to participate in the workshop get free registration, board and lodging, and travel allowance, all of which are funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). The Iligan National Writers Workshop serves as a motivating factor for veteran and young writers of Samar to pursue the craft of writing in order to avail themselves of a week-long workshop and a summer vacation in Mindanao. Other workshops, like the Siliman and the UP Diliman National Writers’ Workshops, stay in the list of dream destinations for this group of writers.

One good development taking place in Calbayog is the surging interest in creative writing, which has opened the road for the introduction and production of modern poetry. Leading this new generation of writers are the Lamiraw Writers of TTMIST. Being products of the UPV Tacloban Creative Writing Program, these TTMIST-based writers bring with them the aesthetics of modern writing. In the construction of poetry, emphasis on the persona, addressee, social context, and appropriateness of metaphor is the rule. Although there are instances when the traditional writers (the older generation of Waray writers) do not agree with young and modern writers on the matter of crafting the siday, the young writers believe that the traditional siday with its syllabic verse count and rhyme should be given an equal chance to live side by side with modern Waray poetry.
Indeed, traditional poetry writing has not been abandoned because it still has a place in fiesta celebrations, special occasions, rallies, and siday competitions. Traditional poetry is still performed on stage and recited over the radio, proof of the primacy of oral Waray literature. The urgency of seeing literary works in printed form is considered indispensable by the new writers in Waray. The publication of their works rectifies the claim of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera that Waray Literature does not anymore exist. More publication is needed to convince literary critics that the Literature of Eastern Visayas has undergone some kind of rebirth and it is alive and growing. Establishing this claim of Waray writers is the presence of publication venues for new Waray writing in Samar. Though the clash of aesthetics between the old generation of writers and the young ones is inevitable, it has led to an enlightened and more craft-conscious generation of writers.

The literary arts will flourish in Calbayog. The toil, necessary to make it flower and eventually bear fruit, may be difficult and may require time but this will not dampen our enthusiasm and efforts. With the love and perseverance of Samar creative writers to pursue the literary arts, the future of Waray literature in this part of the country is bright and vibrant as the sun. In the words of Dr. David Genotiva, poet and literary critic, in his speech during the 4th Lamiraw Workshop, “After carefully reading and listening to the poems of the writers, my faith in Waray literature is affirmed.”