Pangasinan poet, heritage torchbearer Santiago Villafania dies

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Pangasinan poet, heritage torchbearer Santiago Villafania dies

DEATH OF A POET. The late Pangasinan poet and literary awardee Santiago Villafania.

Santiago Villafania Facebook page

Pangasinan poet and 2010 Asna Awardee Santiago Villafania dies in a Dagupan hospital. He was a champion of Pangasinan heritage.

PANGASINAN, Philippines – Multi-awarded poet Santiago “Santi” Villafania died in a Dagupan City hospital on Monday, February 26. He was 53 years old.

The confirmation was posted on his Facebook profile, written by his daughter Wenna Louise.

“Dear friends and family, it’s [with a heavy] heart that we write this post. My father Santiago B. Villafania passed away at 1 am this morning at Nazareth Hospital,” Wenna wrote.

She said her father’s remains would be brought to their home in Buenlag, Mangaldan.

Prior to this, Wenna posted an update that Villafania was fighting for his life in Nazareth General Hospital.

The grim news of the poet’s death came two hours after.

Villafania was a true-blue Pangasinense, being born in Santa Barbara town on January 31, 1971. He was a champion of Pangasinan heritage.

As a poet and writer, Villafania authored six books containing anlong (Pangasinan term for poetry), sonnets, haikus, and other literary pieces written in Pangasinan and English:

  • Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005)
  • Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007)
  • Pinabli & Other Poems (2012)
  • Bonsaic Verses (2012)
  • Ghazalia: Maralus ya Ayat (2013)
  • As I Tango (2016)

He served as the vice president of the the Philippine Center of International PEN, a group of writers promoting cooperation between writers, literature development, and freedom of expression. He was also the national head of its Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee. 

His literary contributions and focus on Pangasinan earned him the province’s highest honors – he was a 2010 Asna (Salt) Awardee for Literature, one of the first awards given.

Below is a piece translated by Villafania in his 2016 book As I Tango:

A Night Piece
(from a Pangasinan serenade entitled “Malinak Lay Labi”)

The night is calm, my love / and time is fleeting still
The wind is breathing low / kissed by the evening dew 
How sweet it is to dream / that I have to wake for you
Your fair attemper face / I shall always caress
O when the night is come / and you, my love, I see 
the sadness all is gone / buried deeply in my soul 
Whenever I recall / loving ways you are wont to 
I shall not forget you / until I am laid to rest.

In a statement, the PEN Philippines said that while mourning Villafania’s passing, it would also “remember his tremendous presence and celebrate his life and his vital work,” which had had “a global impact.”  

“He was a champion of the language of his native Pangasinan, and his deep love for his tongue and his culture was felt not only among his fellow Filipinos, but across the world, through poems that have been translated into several languages and read in many global settings,” the organization said. –

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