UP Writers' Night 2017: With the mighty
MANILA, Philippines – The 22nd UP Writers Night, hosted by Likhaan, the UP Institute of Creative Writing (ICW) at the UP Hotel was the occasion to launch Likhaan Journal 11, its annual referred journal on contemporary Philippine Literature. It was also the soft launch of Ibig,a collection of poetry by Romulo “Joey” Baquiran.
The “night” actually started in the late afternoon, the better to browse by the waning light of day, the major publishers’ wares in stalls set up without fail at such literary events. Writers are notoriously compulsive biblioholics and many crave the touch, heft and scent of the printed page. Thus the on-going silent auction to raise funds for the ICW included sacrificial lots of books from luminaries such as National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio and Vlad Gonzales. You may still bid on other items such as an Esterbrook J Fountain Pen from Jose “Butch” Dalisay and art from Lisa Ito and Jun Cruz Reyes at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1y7JtJhtRAw9Yx8OWf4-jW76aMCrCMjRgID5yBa49E6w/edit#gid=0
From its humble beginnings 22 years ago, as a mainly male, motley crew sitting around and boozing it up in dim, smoky enclaves, with a smattering of poetry readings and – should the spirits move them – the breaking out into song, the UP Writers Night has flourished and lurched onward and upwards to more convivially august locales. This celebration filled the UP Hotel’s terrace and the entire back yard. It was largely funded by a grant from the UP EIRD (Emerging Inter-disciplinary Research Program), although the UP ICW Director Rolando Tolentino hinted that this beneficial arrangement is not forever.
The UP Office of the President pitched in for the dinner and 15 cases of beer. That’s approximately 1.2 cans each for the over 200 writers and their assorted hangers-on. The ICW sold the beer at three cans for P100 to raise funds for its contractual staff’s Christmas bonuses. Some like the culture critic Pablo Tariman brought their own bottles, in his case, a mellow merlot. College of Fine Arts Prof. Joey Tanedo admitted he was not a writer himself, but this was a fine night nonetheless for imbibing in goodly company.
It was also a great night for singing and poetry reading. Gou de Jesus was the go to hostess with the mostest who has taken on emceeing duties for UP Writers Night since recent memory. She shared this task with Isa Lorenzo, the managing editor of Likhaan Journal 11. Later that evening, Gou sang with Jeannie Tiongco and Celina Cristobal to the accompaniment of Henry Katindig on keyboards. Celina’s late father, Adrian Cristobal, a writer and one of the original Ravens, was said to have been among the original proponents of the UP Writers Night.
Today’s young writers may identify with the Ravens, who were the literary avant garde half a century ago: “(They) are a gathering of ideologically disgruntled and literarily unhappy souls who once, wraith-like... haunted the corridors and classrooms of academe which was once the University of the Philippines, then the breeding ground of true dissent, when this word had meaning... These were souls to whom “The Word” and “How It Was Expressed Rightly” were more sacred and more potent than acquiring a position in the corridors of power.” (Jolico Cuadra, Bulletin Today, 27 August 1980)
Among those whose voices were heard in verse were Michael Coroza, Che Sarigumba, LunaSicat-Cleto, and Bebang Siy. Roy Cagalingan, Dakila Cutab, and Karl Isaac Santos of Mga Makata ng LIRA (Linangan ng Imahe, Retorika at Anyo) donned barong tagalog andengaged in a contemporary balagtasan.Lourd De Veyra and the Radioactive Sago Project channeled the Beat poets. Close your eyes, and you might believe you were in a Greenwich village café circa 1950s. Not surprisingly, Lourd’s undergrad thesis was on Beat Literature.
Three icons of Philippine arts and letters held court at their respective round tables. Closest to the stage sat Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature and president emeritus of the Philippine Center of International PEN. Behind him was the multi-faceted Gilda Cordero Fernando, equal parts story-teller, playwright, theater impresario, and publisher extraordinaire who has been a friend and an angel for so many other writers, visual artists and actors as well. National Artist for Literature and NCCA Chair Virgilio Almario presided over one of the rowdier tables with help from Joel Pablo Salud, Marne Kilates and Gemino “Jimmy” Abad.
Joselito Delos Reyes of UST suggested that there should also be a UP “Feeling Writers” Night. Coincidentally 3 directors who placed first in the last 3 major independent film festivals were there: Albert “Treb” Monteras II (Respeto for Cinemalaya), Khavn dela Cruz (Balangiga: Howling Wilderness for QCinema), and Giancarlo Abrahan (Paki for Cinema One Originals). After all, as Akira Kurosawa famously said, “If your goal is to become a good director, you must master screenwriting.”
Brian Arda who played Abra’s Kuya Mando in Respeto kept his back to the stage as the poets from LIRA and the rappers took over the open mic. Instead, he gazed lovingly and moist-eyed at Tata Bien’s benign countenance while holding his hand.
“My December is complete, now that I’ve seen you. You must know I really love you,” he whispered rapturously over and over. Tata Bien gently patted him on the head. – Rappler.com