NCCA, KWF and NBDB celebrate Buwan ng Panitikan ng Filipinas this April

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), led by its chairman, National Artist Virgilio Almario and executive director Rico Pableo Jr., the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), and the National Book Development Board (NBDB), headed by chairperson Flor Marie Sta. Romana Cruz, are spearheading the celebration of the Buwan ng Panitikan ng Filipinas or National Literature Month.

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This is the third year that the nation is celebrating National Literature Month. This year’s theme, “Banyuhay,” the Filipino word for “Metamorphosis,” emphasizes that literature, a creative endeavor, is also a political and social institution as well as a force that shapes life and everyday living. It is a vital instrument that helps us evaluate and implement right and necessary changes.

Exciting literary and cultural events are lined up for the whole month of April to stimulate the mind and enrich the soul.

Memorializing Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar

National Literature Month will kick off with the celebration of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar Day or Araw ni Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar on April 2.

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Kampo Balagtas

On the 229th birth anniversary of Baltazar, KWF is monumentalizing the way that he paved for national freedom with the theme “Balagtas: Bayani” (Balagtas: Hero). The celebration will kick-off with the Pambansang Kampong Balagtas 2017, a literary conference that will gather 100 student-writers from all over the Philippines. It will be held from March 31 to April 2, 2017, at the Orion Elementary School in Orion, Bataan.

Outstanding writers will be honored on April 2 with the conferment of the Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas and Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon. The list of previous inductees in Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas, an award given by KWF that honors the lifetime achievement award for writing in Filipino, are esteemed poets Lamberto Antonio (2013), Teodoro “Teo” Antonio (2014), Rogelio Mangahas (2015), and Jose Maria “Pete” Lacaba (2016). Since 1963, Talaang Ginto has been giving the best Filipino poets their due credit. Belonging to the illustrious list of Poets of the Year (Mga Makata ng Taon) are Lamberto Antonio, Teo Antonio, Rogelio Mangahas, Mike Bigornia, Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo, National Artists Virgilio S. Almario, Cirilio Bautista, and Bienvenido Lumbera, among others.

For the Love of Books

National Literature Month also presents and promotes the different aspects of the book publishing industry in a new light.

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Pinoy Bookstore Tour

The NBDB will hold with the Pinoy Book Store Tour highlighting libraries and independent and campus-based bookstores within and south of Metro Manila on April 7 and 8, 2017. National-Book-Award winners will be featured through book talks, poetry readings, and music performances.

On April 23, 2017, various book-related activities will be held in celebration of World Book and Copyright Day (WBCD). As declared by UNESCO in 1995, WBCD aims to pay tribute to books and authors and to encourage more Filipinos to discover the pleasure of reading. This year, NBDB will spearhead another Book Fiesta where book lovers and copyright advocates will be treated to a whole day of festive gathering with a book market by Philippine publishers and activity/exhibit booths by various book clubs and writers’ groups.

As NBDB’s culminating activity for the National Literature Month, the 8th Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF) will be held on April 27 and 28, 2017.  Plenary sessions and parallel working group sessions will explore socially relevant issues in literature and the book industry. Coinciding with the festival is a book fair that will showcase the latest Filipino-authored titles.

Honing the Craft

The Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (BNSCWC) of De La Salle University will hold the 2nd IWP Alumni Writers Workshop from April 6 to 8, 2017, and the 17th Iyas La Salle National Writers’ Workshop from  April 24 and 26, 2017, both at the European Documentation Centre of the De La Salle University in Manila.

The 2nd IWP Alumni Writers Workshop is named for Filipino writers who completed the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, some of whom will serve as panelists and lecturers. The panelists include Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (workshop director), Susan Lara, Eros Atalia, Carlomar Arcangel Daoana, and Angelo “Sarge” Lacuesta. Lourd de Veyra will deliver the keynote address. The workshop will cover writing in English in four genres: poetry, non-fiction, fiction and screenplay. Ten fellowships will be given to Metro Manila-based young writers aged 18 to 35. Themes for the manuscripts should be on the environment and civic engagement (e.g., war, peace, human rights, women’s empowerment, indigenous issues).

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Iyas National Writers’ Workshop

On the other hand, the 17th Iyas National Writers’ Workshop awards fellowships to 10 aspiring writers in English, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Tagalog or Filipino. The genres include poetry, fiction, and drama. Preferred themes should deal with humanity and environment. Marjorie Evasco will serve as workshop director, and the panelists include Ricardo de Ungria, Grace Monte de Ramos, John Iremil Teodoro and Em Mendez.

The Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) will hold For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature in High School and College from April 3 to 4 at Northwest Samar State University, Calbayog City, Samar. The focus will be on 21st-century Philippine literature from the regions. The resource speakers include Victor Sugbo, Dinah Roma and Harold Mercurio. As part of the program, a forum will feature writers based in Eastern Visayas who will read their work and talk about the topi,c “Writing to Sustain our Home, our Habitat.” The project head is Lito B. Zulueta, national secretary of Philippine PEN. The workshop is geared toward retooling and upgrading the skills of literature teachers in both secondary and tertiary levels.

Discussing Creative Writing

The Polytechnic University of the Philippines Center for Creative Writing (PUP-CCW) will spearheaded a lecture series. Three sub-genres of fiction will be discussed in the three day lecture series slated for April 19 to 21. Award-winning writer and Iowa Writers Workshop fellow Eros Atalia will talk about young adult fiction lecture. Joining Atalia will be Zeno, whose first novel Uberman won the Madrigal Gonzales First Book Award and recipient of the Cirilio Bautista Prize, and Lenin Carlos Mirasol, who was awarded the Southeast Asia Young Writer’s Prize for local language. Novelist and writer in Hiligaynon, Filipino and English Dr. Genevieve Ansejo will discuss erotic literature on April 20. Closing the series will be a lecture on children’s literature to be facilitated by Palanca awardees and professors Eugene Evasco of the University of the Philippines and Christine Belen of Ateneo de Manila University.

A Gathering of Writers

The Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL), or The Writers Union of the Philippines) will hold its National Writers Congress on April 29, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., at the Br. Andrew Gonzales Building, De La Salle University, Taft Avenue, Manila.

The program will consist of a keynote address and writers fora. The awards ceremony of the annual Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Francisco Balagtas, Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, and Gawad Pedro Bucaneg will be held in the afternoon. The closing ceremonies of the National Literature Month celebration will follow immediately after.

The overarching theme of the congress is “Ang Panitikan sa Panahon ng Tokhang (Literature During the Bloody War on Drugs)” featuring a keynote lecture by Dr. Jose “Butch” Dalisay, Jr., a multi-awarded and well acclaimed author of books of fiction and essay.

The speakers for the writers’ forum “Ang Papel ng Manunulat sa Panahonng Tokhang” are Lourd de Veyra, Joel Salud, and Juana Change (Mae Paner) with Karina Bolasco as the moderator. The speakers for the writers forum “Paglalakong Opinyon, Pagkabigong Gunita (Opinion Peddling, the Failure of Memory)” are Floy Quintos, Frank Cimatu, and Joyce Martin with Louie Jon Sanchez as moderator.

The congress’ highlight will be the conferment of the three major awards given by UMPIL since 1988.  This year’s recipients of the Gawad Alagad ni Francisco Balagtas, a lifetime achievement award for literary writing, are Romulo Baquiran (Poetry in Filipino), Luis Gatmaitan (Children’s Fiction in Filipino), Marne Kilates (Poetry in English), Liza Magtoto (Play in Filipino), Jameson Ong (Poetry in Chinese), Carla Pacis (Children’s Story in English), Vicente Rafael (Criticism in English), CriseldaYabes (Essay and Fiction in English), and Melchor Yburan (Poetry in Cebuano). Receiving the Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, an award for achievement in literary education, is Alicia Magos, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo and the editor-translator of the Panay Bukidnon epics published by the University of the Philippines Press. The Gawad Pedro Bucaneg, an award for outstanding literary organizations, will be given to Thousand Islands, an organization of Chinese-Filipino writers.

More Literary Events

Aside from these, there are more events and activities that will make your summer a fulfilling and transformative one. These include “Spoken Word Poetry: Performance Forum” at the MSU-IIT in Iligan City on April 10 and 11; Sine Bughaw of AILAP; the 2017 Kausaban: Forum on Creative Writing at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City on April 15 and 16; Perigrinasyong Emilio Jacinto in Majayjay, Laguna, on April 16; PUP literary caravan; Laji Singing Competition in Basco, Batanes, on April 22 and 23; Lakbay sa Pampanitikang Pangkampus  of AILAP on April 19; Pambansang Reorientasyon sa Panitikan in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, from April 19 to 21; Beyond Mainstream: A Martial Law Anthology and Seminar by the Kingfisher Interim from April 18 to 22; UST Publishing House’s mega book launch on April 25; and “Brushes with  Words and Chords 2017” at the UST on April 26, among others

Through the efforts of Almario, Proclamation No. 968 was signed in 2015, declaring the month of April as Buwan ng Panitikan ng Filipinas 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.”