History

The PEN Philippine Center celebrated its golden anniversary in December 2007. Its founding was marked by a national writers conference, the first of its kind after the war, held for two days in Baguio City in December 1958 and attended by distinguished literary people and intellectuals from all over the country including Senator Claro M. Recto and President Carlos P. Garcia. The conference organizer and also Philippine PEN founder was F. Sionil Jose, now National Artist for Literature. Among the conference participants were, later to become National Artists for Literature: Francisco Arcellana, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Bienvenido Lumbera, Alejandro Roces and Edith Tiempo.

Writers from all over the Philippines pose for a formal picture with President Carlos P. Garcia (ninth person seated from left) on the grounds of Pines Hotel in Baguio City during the opening of the Writers National Conference sponsored by the Philippine Center for International P.E.N. established that year by F. Sionil Jose (now National Artist for Literature). Over 100 writers attended the conference which centered on discussions on the problems of writers in their profession and their role in nation building. The first of what would soon become the Jose Rizal Lecture Series was held during the activity with Senator Claro M. Recto as its first speaker.

In its 50 years, the Philippine PEN has organized and sponsored such activities as literary readings, workshops, meet-the-author series, seminars, and conferences in Manila and in the provinces. It has hosted the visits or held receptions for distinguished writers from abroad, such as Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Richard Kim, Lin Yutang, Khushwant Singh, Hirabayashi Taiko, Hayako Sono, Norman Mailer, Gunter Grass, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mochtar Lubis, Edwin Thumboo, Juan Gelman, and many others.

On September 30 to October 3, the 2019 PEN International Congress was hosted by Philippine PEN in Manila. It was attended by over 150 writers and PEN members from 65 PEN Centres across the globe, and the first time in the history of PEN International for it to be held in Southeast Asia. PEN also organized two regional Asian Writers conferences in Manila (1962, 1981), and published several anthologies including an Asian PEN Anthology. During the Marcos dictatorship, PEN stood in defense of the freedom of expression and speech. This is an avowed purpose as embodied in the International PEN Charter.

PEN is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.