COVID-19 will not put on the brakes on the seventh year of the National Literature Month celebration, as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) together with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), and the National Book Development Board (NBDB) line up events, from contests to workshops through the online platform, emphasizing the enduring nature of literature.

Themed as “Limandaang Taon ng Pagsulat sa Kalibutang Filipino” (500 Years of Writing the Filipino World), this year’s celebration coincides with the quincentenary of the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines, and aims to highlight the undeniable part of the historic event in “shaping the country and its people thus influencing art and culture, particularly the field of literary arts.”

Various literary and cultural events are going to be held for the whole month of April. The Araw ni Balagtas, often considered as the launching date of National Literature Month, will kick-off with a virtual celebration on April 2 at 10 a.m., with a wreath-laying ceremony to be held at Orion, Bataan.

On April 5, the KWF will launch the first of a series of online webinars on the interplay of local literature and history, starting with “Wikang Katutubo: Wika ng Dekolonisasyon” with anthropologist Dr. Alicia Magos of the University of the Philippines Visayas as speaker.  Subsequent webinars will be held on April 12 (“Mulang Babaylan hanggang kay Darna at ang Di-Matapos-tapos na Pakikibaka ng mga Filipina”) with speaker Dr. Raquel Buban of De La Salle University (DLSU) ; 19 (“Kasaysayan: Batis ng Panitikan”) with speaker Dr. Lhai Taylan of DLSU; and 26 (“Pagsasalin mulang Wikang Katutubo Tungong Filipino bilang Kultural na Dekolonisasyon at Pagsasa-Filipino ng Filipino”) with Ilokano language and culture expert, Dr. Leo Tejano.

To further promote and revitalize oral forms and traditions in the country, the Technical Working Group for the NLM 2021 celebrations continues the “Timpalak Florentino H. Hornedo: Ang Paglikha at Pag-awit ng Laji (Bersiyong Onlayn),” an online competition series exclusively held in Batanes that aims to encourage writing and singing of the traditional Ivatan literary art form, laji. The competition will officially open on March 31 to interested elementary students for the singing category and high school students for the singing and writing category. The online awarding is scheduled on April 26. 

Meanwhile, two new competitions highlighting the balitaw in Visayas and leleng in Mindanao will be launched on April 5. “Timpalak Leleng” is catered to high school students from Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula) while “Timpalak Balitaw” is open to secondary and college students of Region VI  (Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor). Awarding ceremonies will be held on April 28 and 29, respectively.

On April 7, the Unyon ng mga Manunulat ng Pilipinas (UMPIL) will hold the “UMPILan sa Facebook Live!,” the first of a lecture series on the significance as well as the correlation of Christianity with Philippine literature, in view of its 500th year since it was brought to the country by the Spaniards in April 1521. The rest of the episodes will be held on the succeeding Saturdays of April. Speakers for the lecture series include Fr. Jose Mario Francisco SJ and Leo Zafra for April 7; Dr. Alicia Magos and Dr. Allan Derain for April 10; Dr. Agnes Brazal and Dr. Jayeel Cornelio for April 17; and Dr. Nerissa Balce and Dr. Jovito Cariño for April 24.

On April 9, the much-awaited book, “4Ps (Pitong Pantig, Pintig at Pagitan)” will also be launched through The Tanaga Writing Project of the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo Inc. (LIRA) and the Savage Mind Bookshop. Said project is funded by the NCCA. 

On April 14 to 15, the University of St. La Salle (USLS) in cooperation with the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center and the NCCA, will kickstart the 20th Iyas Creative Writing Workshop. Held every summer in Bacolod City, the workshop awards twelve fellowships to writers from all over the country in the genres of fiction, poetry, and drama, and in the languages English, Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon. Said series will run every Wednesdays and Thursdays of April until May 6.

Continuing its annual tradition of honoring the exemplary contributions of distinct National Artists for Literature, the NCLA will launch the online “Reading the National Artists for Literature Series,” this time focusing on the works of Carlos P. Romulo (in cooperation with University of the Philippines – Baguio) and Jose Garcia Villa (in cooperation with Ateneo de Manila University School of Humanities) on April 16 and 23, respectively. Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr., Professor Emeritus of UP Diliman Dept. of English will lead the conversation on the works of Carlos P. Romulo while Dr. Jonathan Chua, Dean of the School of Humanities of Ateneo de Manila will likewise discuss on Jose Garcia Villa.

On April 24 from 2 to 4 p.m., a symposium on the works of award-winning playwright and writer, Dr. Isagani Cruz will be held online through the collaborative efforts of the De La Salle University and the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center. Aptly titled, “Isagani R. Cruz: A Beautiful Mind,” the event will feature speakers Dr. Ronald Baytan, Dr. Isidoro Cruz, Dr. Shirley Lua, and Dr. John Iremil Teodoro as they explore and examine the depth of Dr. Cruz’ writings and researches.

Closing the celebration will be UMPIL’s Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, Benitez at Bucaneg, an annual awarding ceremony that aspires to recognize the brilliant works of the established and prominent individuals, writers and scholars with regard to Philippine literature. The ceremony will be held online on April 30.The awardees for the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas include Albert Alejo, SJ (Poetry and Translation in Filipino); Joel David (Film Criticism in English); Patrick Flores (Art Criticism in English); Luisa Igloria (Poetry in English); Michael Obenieta (Poetry in Cebuano); Bibeth Orteza (Screenplay); and Jessica Zafra (Fiction and Essay in English). In addition, Dr. Lily Rose Tope of UP Diliman will be awarded the Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez while Communication Foundation for Asia will be honored with the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg.

Other activities for the NLM celebration include the 12th installment of NBDB’s Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF), a landmark project that serves as an avenue for readers, publishers, and creatives to engage in discourse and celebrate literature. The 12th PILF will be the first edition of the festival that will run all year, and will serve as the NBDB’s main initiative under which all projects for 2021 will be launched. 

With the theme “Reclaiming our Narrative: Celebrating 500 Years of Filipino Storytelling,” this year’s PILF will focus on a clear-eyed reexamination of Philippine history through the country’s literary outputs and ideas in the past 500 years. There will be three webinars under the PILF: Author on Author Session 1 on Grit and Grime: Historical Research, Critical Analysis, and the Storytelling Process;  Post-pandemic Futures Session 1 on Baybayin, the Boxer Codex, and Establishing Identity; and My Top 10 Filipino Books Session 1. In addition, the NBDB will also launch “My Book, My Cities Interactive Map: Manila” which will be available through the Google maps. Schedules for said webinars and release of the interactive map will be posted on NBDB’s official page.

The celebration of National Literature Month is established by Presidential Proclamation 968, signed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2015. Its goal is to promote, conserve and popularize the country’s historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations through literature.

For more details, please contact Mr. Rene Napeñas, head of the Public Affairs and Information Office, through 0928-5081057, 527-2192 loc 625 or through email address Log on to