For the first time since its inception in 1921, PEN International, a worldwide organization of writers that seeks to promote literature and defend freedom of expression will hold its annual Congress in South East Asia. The Philippine Center of International PEN (Philippine PEN) will host this landmark event in Manila from September 30 to October 4, 2019.

Founding Chairman and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose said, “It is an occasion for us to show writers from different parts of the world our treasures.”

The annual Congress is PEN International’s main meeting where delegates from all over the world gather to decide on key organizational and policy standpoints. The theme for this year’s Congress is “Speaking in Tongues: Literary Freedoms and Indigenous Languages.” It dovetails with the United Nation’s declaration of 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

Around 200 writers from over 100 countries are expected to arrive in the country to discuss indigenous writing, linguistic diversity and multiculturalism. They will also tackle the threats to freedom of expression posed by hate speech, financial crisis in media, fake news, and repressive regimes.

Keynote speakers are Fernand De Varennes, Special Rapporteur for Minority Issues of the UN, National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares, and famed Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan. National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario will deliver the Welcome Address for the Public Panels of the Congress. Aside from Jose, Mojares, and Almario, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera will grace the event. Prominent foreign and local delegates will participate as speakers.

Apart from the main assemblies and meetings to be held at the De La Salle University, there will be several events open to the public. They are: the “Free the Word! Manila: Poetry, Peace, and Performances” to be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; Speeches and Panel Fora at the National Museum; Artists Congress at DLSU; and Outreach activities at various universities in Manila.

Philippine PEN’s principal government partner in organizing the 85th Congress is the National Book Development Board.

The 98-year-old PEN International is the oldest international literary organization in the world. Aside from promoting literature and defending freedom of expression, it also champions human rights. It is headquartered in London and is currently headed by Mexican-American author Jennifer Clement, the first female President of the organization.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" style="line-height:1.4" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Among PEN International's past presidents are Nobel Prize winners John Galsworthy, Francois Mauriac, Maurice Maeterlinck, Heinrich Boll, and Mario Vargas Llosa. With a membership of 20,000 writers, PEN International has developed a community of writers worldwide through its 150 centers around the globe, among which is the Philippine PEN, founded in 1957.Among PEN International’s past presidents are Nobel Prize winners John Galsworthy, Francois Mauriac, Maurice Maeterlinck, Heinrich Boll, and Mario Vargas Llosa. With a membership of 20,000 writers, PEN International has developed a community of writers worldwide through its 150 centers around the globe, among which is the Philippine PEN, founded in 1957.