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Creative writing centers call for more support

“It is [through] the arts that we can actually become globally competitive.”



The disparity of institutional support between the sciences and the humanities was one of the pressing topics tackled during the forum on “The Literary Muse in Manila” last Oct. 5 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium.

During her opening remarks, Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (UST CCWLS), addressed these concerns by emphasizing the importance of the arts and the humanities in the academe.

“It is [through] the arts that we can actually become globally competitive,” Hidalgo said.

Similar issues on the current status of literature and creative writing in the different universities of Manila surfaced in the gathering of literature teachers, students, and literary enthusiasts from all over the country in the forum held in celebration of Taboan, the annual literary festival of the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Collaborations and engagement

De La Salle University Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center Director Dr. Shirley Lua stressed the need for research collaborations between fellows in centers.

Moreover, Lua encouraged more joint efforts with other universities and centers, even with fields and disciplines outside literature.

She said that multidisciplinary research is integral to “demystify” literature and open it as a medium for communication and dialogue between different disciplines.

Research was also the focus of Prof. Diego José Abad, program head of the Department of Literature and Humanities of the Far Eastern University (FEU), who mentioned the need to establish a “culture of research” not only within FEU, but with centers from other universities as well.

He continued that student organizations are also crucial in establishing engagement with the student body—citing FEU’s Literary Society and Literary Guild as key figures in revitalizing literature in their university.

‘Rethinking’ literature and coping with change

Lua, Abad, and Prof. Ralph Semino Galán, assistant director of the UST CCWLS, have suggested the introduction of new courses and literary materials in their respective curricula.

“What new courses [can we offer]? Do we consider [fanfiction], blogs, Wattpad, Facebook [posts] as new literary materials?” Lua asked, stating the need for more workshops on popular media such as flash fiction, graphic fiction, personal essays and even video games.

Galán said that a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing in UST was proposed last 2012, but the degree can only be offered by the University’s Faculty of Arts and Letters starting 2018 after the moratorium on the introduction of new courses following the implementation of the K-12 program.

Currently, the University only offers a master’s degree in Creative Writing.

With select General Education (GE) subjects such as World Literature and Philippine Literature moved to Senior High School, Galán and the CCWLS proposed to replace these GE subjects with Creative Writing subjects and Philippine Literary History.

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Meanwhile, Abad called for internships for FEU’s Literature program. He proposed working in publishing houses or freelance writing as internships for Literature majors in their university whom he described as “sheltered.” Abad is compelled that an OJT for the program would open more career paths for the students.

Dr. Jun Cruz Reyes, Jr., a fellow of the UP Institute of Creative Writing and senior adviser of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Creative Writing Center, discussed writing style stereotypes of different universities as well as writing trends in millennial culture.

“Ang pumapatay sa mga panitikan ay ang mga manunulat mismo,” Reyes adds, as he emphasizes the need to be creative in teaching literature, especially in using a realistic and natural language as a medium of instruction and in writing.

Opening of new centers, funding, calls for support

FEU and the Philippine Normal University (PNU) currently do not have Creative Writing centers.

Prof. Ferdinand Jarin of PNU recounted his days in the Creative Writing club Bolpen at Papel (BAP) with Joselito Delos Reyes and Eros Atalia, which he described as a “guerilla organization” since it was not accredited by PNU.
Despite the lack of administrative recognition and budget, BAP was able to organize literary events and contests and even publish anthologies.

Nonetheless, Jarin recognized the need to formalize a Creative Writing center in PNU and offer a diploma program in Creative Writing with the purpose of training teachers in the instruction of literature and creative writing – which, he says, often ends up in discussions of mere “moral lessons” and vocabulary.

He hopes that the program would be finally implemented this semester.

Abad, meanwhile, points out a budgetary deficiency as a hindrance for FEU to establish a Creative Writing center.
He also noticed a consistently low enrollment rate in the Literature program and said that there may be a need for their department to offer new, “hipper” courses such as Gay Literature and Creative Nonfiction, as well as offer more Creative Writing courses, in order to attract more students to the program.

Lua also called for support for the humanities from university administrators, the government, funding agencies, legislators and even colleagues in other disciplines and sciences—and even more so, strengthening connections between the different Creative Writing centers in Manila in order to stimulate a strong literary culture in all schools and universities in the city.

“The Literary Muse in Manila” was organized by the UST CCWLS in conjunction with Taboan. Proceedings of the conference will be submitted to the NCCA and to the Commission for Higher Education. The annual festival opened last Sept. 14 at the Central Mindanao University, Bukidnon.



This Thing

Swallowing the sun and rain
But myself still remains
Soaking up all my validity
It eventually shifts my reality



Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I don’t know when it came
For there is no one to blame
On the other side of this face
There, standing with disgrace

This is a source of danger
A voice of a slipping reminder
Is this probably the truth?
Feeling estranged from my youth?

Conflicted with my ideals
Finding what would appeal
My mind that was in blight
Would eventually find its light

All alone this body is terrified
This takes over just to terrorize
Authenticity has been eliminated
Like the luster being defeated

Lies ahead were vivid hues
I was blinded, but I would choose|
Reaching out to that lucidity
Maybe to achieve serenity

Leaving this catastrophe
Can’t be done casually
But possible with a tenacity
Evacuating from that apathy

Swallowing the sun and rain
But myself still remains
Soaking up all my validity
It eventually shifts my reality

Not anymore fragmented
This, that has been connected.


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Still, The Land Dreams

In the guarded fence made of
They will not be silenced. 



Artwork by Patricia Jardin/TomasinoWeb

The pearl of the orient seas
was muted, chained in absolute obedience
a forsaken motherland weeps.
But among the close-eyed sheep,
There are those who refused to blink. 

In the guarded fence made of
They will not be silenced. 

Gabriela Silang from the North
led thousands of men and
feared by the hands that dared them.
Andres Bonifacio,
in the tangled woods lies not the leash
a hidden cause; wolves baring their teeth.
Teresa Magbuana from the South,
the Visayan Joan of Arc, a sharpshooter
of the three-headed beasts. 

They spilled ink and words began to
It bends, whispering, “we’re here…” 

Dr. José Rizal,
phantoms chased the ink, it laughs
because even Death has eluded it.
Graciano Lopez Jaena,
botod, loved dearly by the masses
revelled until the friars sneered.
Marcelo Del Pilar,
smooth easy-teller of tales
a guide-post, words map of streets. 

The motherland carries timetables of heroes and heroines
wounded whispers and dreams.
August 31st, the youth walked
on the path of ghosts.
the trees rustles, the land laughs.
A cycle begins: 

When freedom is in tatters,
when the streets of cities
have habits of making people disappear
when blood is shed on the asphalt
the heroes began to sing and
mirrors reflected a long history:
                            The people will not be silenced.


by Johanna Leelan Gee


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Ang pulso ng binibigkas

Ang wika ay susi upang makakalap ng kapangyarihan.



Artwork by Patricia Jardin

Ang wika ay susi upang makakalap ng kapangyarihan. Instrumento ito sa pagkilala ng daloy, sa panliligaw ng panig, at sa paglalakbay ng isip. Ganunpaman, magkaiba ang mundo ng mga salita at ng mga sinasabi— hindi lamang tainga ang dapat na nakikinig at hindi lamang bibig ang dapat na nagsasalita.

Sa bawat pagmulat ng mata sa kasalukuyang lipunan, marami ang oportunidad para mahasa ang sariling lengguwahe. Lumitaw man ang pagkakaiba ay hindi dapat patabain ang pangamba; kapatid ng takot ang paninikil at pagkubli. Ang hatol sa pag-aagwat ng wika ay hindi kasalanan, bagkus ay ang kalayaang magmay-ari ng boses at ang patuloy na pagkatuto.

Mahapdi nang iniiwanan ng oras ang kaniyang mga ginagapangan at hindi ito tumitigil. Ang paglalakbay ng isip ukol sa patutunguhan ng Pilipinas ay matagal nang gutom sa tugon. Ilang bukang-liwayway na lamang at may wikang maglalahad ng mga salaysay ng daloy at distribusyon ng panig. SONA ang magtatanghal kung naitahi bang mainam ang mga kwento ng Pilipino sa kwento ng Pilipinas. Nakababad kaya ang wika ng may kapangyarihan sa wikang makapangyarihan? 


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