National Artist for Literature (2003)
Virgilio S. Almario, also known as Rio Alma, is a poet, literary historian and critic, who has revived and reinvented traditional Filipino poetic forms, even as he championed modernist poetics. In 34 years, he has published 12 books of poetry, which include the seminal Makinasyon and Peregrinasyon, and the landmark trilogy Doktrinang Anakpawis, Mga Retrato at Rekwerdo and Muli, Sa Kandungan ng Lupa. In these works, his poetic voice soared from the lyrical to the satirical to the epic, from the dramatic to the incantatory, in his often severe examination of the self, and the society.
He has also redefined how the Filipino poetry is viewed and paved the way for the discussion of the same in his 10 books of criticisms and anthologies, among which are Ang Makata sa Panahon ng Makina, Balagtasismo versus Modernismo, Walong Dekada ng Makabagong Tula Pilipino, Mutyang Dilim and Barlaan at Josaphat.
Many Filipino writers have come under his wing in the literary workshops he founded –the Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT) and the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA). He has also long been involved with children’s literature through the Aklat Adarna series, published by his Children’s Communication Center. He has been a constant presence as well in national writing workshops and galvanizes member writers as chairman emeritus of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL).
But more than anything else, what Almario accomplished was that he put a face to the Filipino writer in the country, one strong face determinedly wielding a pen into untruths, hypocrisy, injustice, among others.