Bienvenido L. Lumbera; 89

It is with deep sadness and regret that the Philippine Center of International PEN announces the passing away of its Chair Emeritus, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera. “Bien” passed away at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, said his daughter, Tala Lumbera.

Bienvenido L. Lumbera (1932-2021)
Bienvenido L. Lumbera, critic, poet, dramatist, scholar, author, and teacher, was born on April 11, 1932 in Lipa City, Batangas. He received his basic education in Batangas and took up Litt.B. Journalism at the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets) of the University of Santo Tomas. While in UST, he became a staffer and later literary editor of the Varsitarian. After finishing cum laude in 1954, he got a Fulbright Fellowship and went to the Indiana University where he obtained his M.A. (1960) and Ph.D. (1967) in Comparative Literature. He taught at the Ateneo de Manila University and went underground when Martial Law was declared in 1972. He was arrested in 1974 and was detained for almost a year

Released, he taught shortly at the Department of Filipino of the University of the Philippines and became editor in 1978 of the Diliman Review. In 1976 he became a founding member of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the society of film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian for excellence in Philippine filmmaking.

In 1986, his doctoral dissertation, chapters of which had been published in an academic journal starting in the late 1960’s, was published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press as a book, “Tagalog Poetry, 1570-1898: Its Influences and Development.” The seminal and important study, and his later essays on the vernacular tradition and Philippine popular culture collected in “Revaluation” (1984) and “Revaluation 1997” (UST Publishing House), and the the textbook he wrote with his spouse, Cynthia Nograles Lumbera, “Philippine Literature History and Anthology” (1986; National Bookstore), helped consolidate the by now robust field of Philippine Studies.

Lumbera himself was an award-winning poet. His key poetry in Filipino was collected in “Likhang Dila, Likhang Diwa,” published by Anvil Publishing in 1993. His later poetry was published in the 2002 collection, “Balaybay, Mga Tulang Lunot at Manibalang.” He was also a dramatist and wrote the memorable libretto for the rock opera ballets “Tales of the Manuvu” (1976) and “Rama, Hari” (1980). He wrote sarsuwela pieces such as “Ang Palabas Bukas” (1978), “Nasa Puso ang Amerika” (1984), a stage adaptation of Carlos Bulosan’s celebrated autobiographical fiction “America is in the Heart,” “Bayani” (1985), and “Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Lactaw” (2002).

In 1993, Lumbera received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts for “asserting the central place of the vernacular tradition in framing a national identity for modern Filipinos.”

In 2006, Lumbera was inducted to the Order of the National Artists by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2019, he received the Southeast Asian WRITE Award from the Kingdom of Thailand.

Up to the very end, for better or for worse, Lumbera upheld nationalist literature and culture as a bulwark against imperialism and globalization. In 2010, delivering the opening remarks of the PEN national conference in Cebu City, he said:

“… we aim to uphold the power of literature’s imaginative language to counter the fiction of progress that globalization promises. We must learn to create and develop our own native borders to protect our people against subliminal subversion that our TV sets, our computers and our movie screens work into the national psyche. Creative writers are our irrepressible allies in this endeavour.”


The Philippine Centre of International PEN (Poets & Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists), is inviting its members to its annual Congress on May 15, 2021.

ALL IN aims to capture the linguistic and cultural inclusivity that the digital space enables, as well as speak of the collective hope Filipinos must have during these uncertain times. In partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Congress will be held online.

Marking the 100th year of PEN International, the theme also signifies the Philippine PEN’s solidarity with the organization’s continuing fight for Freedom of Expression across the world by delivering a message of unity in freedom and dignity.

The one-day congress will be held in two parts. The first part, starting at 8:30 a.m., features a keynote address by Bro. Karl Gaspar, followed by the traditional Jose Rizal lecture by Dr. Reynaldo Ileto, along with reactions from noted public intellectuals. This morning session is primarily for active members of the organization, but it will be streamed live for the general public.

The second part takes place at 2 p.m. FREE THE WORD features public readings and performances by noted writers and artists across the nation, including Elsie Coscolluela, Rody Vera, Anton Juan Jr., Edgar Samar, John Iremil Teodoro, Jhoanna Cruz, Guelan Luarca, Adjani Arumpac, JK Anicoche, Erl Sorilla, Jonathan Davila, Richard Hangdaan Kinnud, Jason Chancoco, and Neldy Jolo, among others.

To register and attend, PEN members should email with the subject heading “ALL IN” to receive the Zoom link for both morning and afternoon sessions.

The Congress will be streamed live on, and Do follow these accounts for more details.



Since Day One of the military junta in Myanmar, authorities have arrested writers Than Myint Aung, Maung Thar Cho, Htin Lin Oo and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi together with writers-activists Mya Aye and Pyone Cho.

On March 3, 2021, Myanmar poets K Zar Win and Myint Myint Zin were killed during a peaceful protest march in Monywa.

We have also received reports that poet Maung Yu Py was arrested, severely beaten and charged under Article 505 in Myeik, Tannintharyi Division on March 9. Another poet, Nayi, who works as a lawyer, is said to have been seized and detained shortly after saying he would handle Maung Yu Py’s case in court.

Twelve other poets and writers all across the country are now languishing in prison: Yaw Na Than (Mandalay), Sue Khet Yint (Yangon), Nay Win (Meikhtilar), Arr Swe (Monywa), Pay Thoe (Yangon), Phyu Su (Yangon), Khine (Yangon), Moe Thu Eain (Yangon), Eain My Nyein (Yangon), Nga Nee Moe (Yangon), Sis Naing (Yangon) and Te (Yangon).

The poets’ detention and murder speak volumes on the clear intention of the junta to silence opposition and dissent. There is nothing in the coup to even remotely suggest a return to, or an advancement of, democracy. If anything, it promotes the suppression of the people’s will by mocking the rule of law.

To quote Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee: “This is a power grab, taking Myanmar back by decades […] Suppressing the voices of writers and dissidents takes Myanmar deeper into an abyss.”

As of this writing, the total number of arrests has reached 2,345, deaths 232. Fifty-two people, out of those killed, were students.

Myanmar is now in the middle of their Spring Revolution against a junta that aims to crush their freedom of expression. As Myanmar poet Maung Yu Py once wrote, “To provide human rights and survival capacity for their tribes, they have to give their lives.”

In solidarity with the writers of Myanmar, the Philippine Center of International PEN opposes in the strongest terms their detention and killing. We continue to uphold freedom of expression, and stand against any attempt to violate this universal right.

International Mother Language Day 2021

Held every year on 21 February, International Mother Language Day is observed to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

To celebrate the day, PEN International will feature five video-poems recited by poets in their mother language: Juana Peña (Chol), Seyare Kokche (Crimean Tatar), Wasai Biran Issa (Dazaga), Moeyed Teyib (Kurdish) and Santiago B. Villafania (Pangasinan). The video-poems will be promoted on PEN International’s TwitterFacebook and Instagram accounts from 15 – 19 February, and made available on PEN International’s YouTube channel.

PEN International — International Mother Language Day 2021 (

Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing

The pandemic continues, but so does the production of literature to help us make sense of the times. The Likhaan UP Institute of Creative Writing is opening the call for the third and fourth volumes of Dx Machina: Philippine Literature in the Time of COVID-19.

The journal will collate Writing and reading have been two of the many ways that Filipinos have used to cope with everything happening to the country during the pandemic. With the proliferation of fake news and the general distrust in information, many have turned to literature to get a sense of what is happening to their fellow Filipinos across social classes and sectors. The narratives exposed in these literature expose not only the healthcare problems caused by the pandemic, but also everything else from political to social and economic struggles. By gathering these writings, the Dx Machina journal aims to provide a diagnosis of our current condition.

Like last year, there will be two issues. The editor for the third volume is Roland Tolentino, while Vlaidmeir Gonzales will be for the fourth.

The guidelines for contribution are as follows:

• Contributed works can be written in English or Filipino, or other Philippine languages provided that they are accompanied by a translation in English or Filipino.
• Short stories can only have 12-20 pages, and must be double-spaced, using 12 points Times New Roman, New York, Palatino, Book Antiqua, Arial, or other similar typefaces. A collection of shorter fiction may also be accepted as long as they follow the suggested page count.
• Poems may be submitted as a suite of three or one long poem.
• Personal and academic essays follow the same typeface and page count as short stories.
• Comics must fit the specified dimension of 6”x9” and must be compatible with a black and white format. Works in this category are also expected not to exceed 20 pages.
• The journal is also accepting literary forms that respond to or interrogate ideas of what is “creative,” “critical,” or “literary” in the time of COVID-19.
• Solicited works may also be accepted.
• The contribution should not be published in print or online, or must not have been submitted to any other publication at the time of consideration. The contribution will be published first in the Dx Machina journal if it is accepted.
The works that will be collated in the anthology are expected to involve or be similar to one or more of the following themes:
• The writing process and literary production during the pandemic
• Struggles and experiences of different social classes and sectors in relation to the pandemic, particularly healthcare and economic issues
• Critiques on the work of creating a narrative for the people during a pandemic
• Local and national policies that were developed in response to COVID-19
• Political struggles arising in the Philippines in the last year
• Critique on literature that has been written about the pandemic
• Changes or the lack thereof in the Philippines’ situation

Works are to be submitted as an editable document (.doc) at The deadline for contribution to the third volume is March 31, 2021, and May 31, 2021 for the fourth volume.

Speech of President Garcia before the Philippine Center of International Pen Conference, 1958

His Excellency Carlos P. Garcia
President of the Philippines
Before the Philippine Center of International Pen Conference

[Delivered at Pines Hotel, Baguio, December 27, 1958]

I AM highly honored by your invitation to address this brilliant group of Filipino writers who are meeting today in this mountain city. A more suitable site for your conference could not have been chosen, for here in this romantic spot, with its enchanting scenery and its invigorating climate, one can hardly resist the urge to be in an expansive mood and to give expression to the emotions that surge in one’s being. It is the kind of atmosphere that would tempt a poet to strike his lyre.

The theme of your conference warms my heart because it evinces a desire on your part not to be mere passive onlookers but to be active participants in the building of our national structure, and the statement of your objective shows that you are alive to the forces that operate in our contem­porary society. I am, therefore, confident that this conference will prove stimulating and, therefore, helpful and beneficial not only to yourselves but also for our country.

I am happy to note the rise in our country of a generation of writers in English, the lingua franca of the world of these times. It is as yet not a big group, it is true, but considering the size of our population and the fact that English has been with us for only about half a century, this accomplishment of our people may be considered as noteworthy. It is a tribute to the literary genius of your young writers that some of their works have gained recognition in the United States and in the English-speaking world. I suggest that they continue to develop their art and thus add luster to our country’s name. It is my considered view, in which I am certain the forward-looking statesmen and realistic thinkers of Filipinos agree, that if we must elevate our international position, prestige, and influence in a world that has in fact adopted English as the lingua franca and if we must keep abreast with the wings of cultural and material progress, our writing in English should be given positive encouragement. I am convinced that meetings like this one will provide the incentive for this development.

I, therefore, congratulate you heartily on the bright idea of holding this conference at this time so that you can discuss your common problems and receive mutual inspiration from your association with your peers and comrades.

It is also heartening to see that among those attending this conference are writers in the leading vernaculars in the country, for in our desire to push forward culturally, we must not be guilty of neglecting what is our own. We need to encourage our vernacular writers in order to keep our native languages alive and growing. It would be tragic, if not sheer folly on our part, if we are to allow our vernaculars and especially the national language to perish for want of encouragement. After all, the national soul can truly express its deepest sentiments and emotions, its most beautiful conceptions in art and culture and its deathless thoughts only through the vehicle of its autochthonous language. I mean here the people as a whole. I do not mean that individual Filipino writers cannot express their most patriotic thoughts in a foreign language.

Because it is a historical fact that Rizal’s immortal masterpieces, even his dying testament, the last farewell, were written in Spanish; Palma, who wrote the lyrics of our national anthem, did it in Spanish; Quezon’s and Osmeña’s orations were in both Spanish and English, and the con­stellation of Filipino writers who fought for our freedom and independence in the 19th and 20th centuries wrote in Spanish and/or English and yet they all expressed the national soul.

But it is also another historical fact that all these great writers and orators, when appealing to the masses of our people, had to use the vernacular. If I may be allowed to cite a personal case, I can vouch that my humble poetic contributions to Philippine literature were all in the vernacular. If they were written in English, I doubt if the popular response in the Visayan-speaking region that they got could be as warm, as deep, and as lasting.

In this connection, let me say a few things about our national language. We should never overlook the fact that in the development of languages they borrow from one another; the English and Spanish and French and Italian from Latin. The Latin from the Greek and Sanskrit and so on down the line.

The Castillian tongue merged with the Basque, the Catalan, the Sevillan, and other vernaculars in Spain to become the Spanish language. The English had the same development consolidated out of the vernacular of the Saxons, Angles, Welsh, Scotch, Irish, etc. The technical terms in art and science are mostly coined out of Greek or Latin deviations. If the inter-borrowing of words by modern languages is freely indulged in, why should our national language develop differently? We have a vast, number of vernaculars like, the Tagalog, Visayan, Ilocano, Bicolano, Hiligaynon, to name a few. Could all these not be welded into a rich and beautiful national language further enriching if with, the coinage of words for science and art? I endorse these ideas to this conference, of writers.

There is hardly any doubt that writers the-world over can contribute and have contributed in the past to the growth and development of their respective countries. The pages of history are replete with instances of this significant fact. In every country, the beautiful thoughts and lofty ideals that have been recorded through the ages on stone, papyrus, parchment, or paper have served as rich nourishment for the minds of the people who read them. In fact, men and women of letters play the role of silent mentors, shaping the thinking and attitudes of those who read their writings. If education is the foundation of every State, as an ancient sage once said, then the writers who provide the materials of education must receive high credit for their part in laying that foundation.

Moreover, popular movements that have led to far-reaching changes and upheavals in the social and political situation of different countries have been linked with the activities of literary men and women. I do not mean by this statement that it was the writers that caused those movements. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that it was through the pens of these literary men and women that the grievances, fears, hopes, and longings of the people were made articulate. “In some instances, the emotions were aroused to such a high pitch that by degrees an irresistible force developed like heat in the bossom of the mountain which finally went off in a terrific explosion.

Who does not recall the part that Voltaire and Rousseau played in fanning the popular discontent of the French people which finally led to that social cataclysm recorded in history as the French Revolution? Living at a time when the middle classes and the peasantry of France were groaning under the tyranny and oppression of the feudal aristocracy, these two men of letters became the powerful spokesmen of the people who were seeking enfranchisement from virtual economic bondage. Voltaire, with his pungent criticism of the existing economic and political order, and Rousseau, with his bitter censure of the social inequality of mankind as elaborated in his theory of the social contract, brought the passions of the populace to a white heat that eventually burst into a conflagration which shock the feudalists system to its very foundation. No one realized this fact more fully than Louis XVI himself, who, upon seeing the books of Rousseau and Voltaire in the prison of Temple fortress where he had been incarcerated, remarked that those two men had destroyed France, meaning of course the Bourbon Dynasty.

Similarly, the writers of the colonial period in the United States did much to galvanize the sentiments of the colonists in favor of separation from England as a result of which the war of the revolution broke; out and finally “ended “in the: independence of the thirteen colonies in 1776. Later, another writer, Harriet Beecher Howe, by “writing- Uncle Tom’s Cabin voiced the aversion of many people “to the inhumanity of the institution of slavery, thus paving the way for the emancipation of the American Negro by the immortal Abraham Lincoln. It can, therefore, be said with much truth that she helped greatly the cause of personal freedom in the United States. In England the trend towards more democracy and greater interest in social welfare during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were reflected in the works of such writers as Paine, Gray, Burns, and Carlyle to mention only the most prominent.

Thomas Paine pointed out the need of creating peasant proprietorship, of paying old age pensions, and of spending liberally for the education of the children. Thomas Gray sang of the short and simple annals of the poor and Robert Burns minimized the significance of rank, wealth, or blood and stressed the importance of individual worth. Thomas Carlyle glorified the honest worker and denounced the industrial revolution which he believed was responsible for the sufferings of the laboring class.

Coming now to our own country, we recall how the writers of the different periods of our history have contributed to the building of our nation when our country was fighting for reforms. During the Spanish regime we had a group of writers working in Spain led by such famous men as Marcelo del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena, and Dr. Jose Rizal, who not only pictured before the Spanish authorities and the Spanish people the deplorable conditions then obtaining in our country but also worked for the institution of reforms. And that is not all they did, for they also aroused the patriotic sentiments of the Filipinos and made them conscious of their common ideals, hopes, and aspirations. In other words, they united the Filipino people in a common cause, namely, the amelioration of conditions in their native country.

During the American administration, the longings of the Filipino people for political independence, for a desire to determine their own destiny, found able champions in such writers as Sergio Osmeña, Rafael Palma, Teodoro Kalaw, and the dynamic leader, the late President Manuel L. Quezon. These leaders presented our case before the American people so vigorously that the American Congress saw the justice of our cause and passed first the Jones Law and later the Tydings-Mcduffie Independence Act which definitely granted the Philippines her independence after a transition period of ten years. And so, on July 4, 1946, the Philippine Republic was born. We have been enjoying our independence for more than twelve years but the fight is not over. For while we have won our- political freedom, yet we can hardly say that we are now economically free. Therefore, we must now bend our efforts toward this new objective of full economic freedom without which political freedom would be empty. And so, just as our writers in the past have used their energy and talents in the effort to secure our political independence, I now charge our present day writers to apply their energies to the new problem before our people—that of securing our economic security, stability, and independence.

Lastly, I would ask you to delve into our culture and glorify it. There is no dearth of subjects to write about the blending of three main cultural streams—the Malay, the Latin, and the Anglo-Saxon. Right here our country provides an inexhaustible well-spring for our writers to draw upon. We have our folkways, our legends, and our epic poems which have been handed down by word of mouth from father to son. These must be recorded if we wish to preserve them for all time.

Ladies and Gentlemen: As wielders of the pen, you have the signal opportunity as well as the grave responsibility to help in the unending task of nation building. This is a difficult task and needs the undivided support and the wholehearted cooperation of all our citizens in order to endure. This edifice must rest on a strong and solid foundation but certain dark forces, if not overcome, may weaken this foundation; namely, cupidity, selfishness, inordinate ambition, dishonesty on one hand, and defeatism, negative thinking, and Godless materialism on the other. If the pen is mightier than the sword, as Bulwer Lytton once said, then I urge you to use the power that is yours to fight and crush those forces of evil in order that we may insure the security of our Republic, the performance of our democratic institutions, and the welfare and prosperity of our people. To me, the writers’ slogan should be “Keep and Develop English and Spanish for our International Front and the National Language for our National Front.”

Source: University of the Philippines, College of Law Library

Garcia, C. P. (1958). Speech of President Garcia before the Philippine Center of International Pen Conference. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 55(1), 5-9.

Call for Applications – NBDB Translation Subsidy Program 2021

The National Book Development Board of the Philippines (NBDB) offers translation subsidies to Philippine publishers to translate existing published books in a Philippine language to English or any other foreign language. The subsidy program aims for wider dissemination of Philippine culture, art, and literature, locally and globally, by allowing readers to read extant Philippine published books in their native languages.

The subsidy program will cover translation costs to a maximum of PHP 200,000.00 per title.

Applications must be received by NBDB on or before 26 February 2021 (Friday).

Interested publishers should email their applications to with the subject: NBDB Translation Subsidy Program Application (Name of publishing enterprise).

Call for Applications – NBDB Translation Subsidy Program 2021 | National Book Development Board (

In Certain Seasons: Mothers Write In The Time of COVID

The Cultural Center of the Philippines, through its Intertextual Division, launches the “In Certain Seasons: Mothers Write In The Time of COVID” e-book on January 23, 2021, 2PM, via the official Facebook pages of the CCP, CCP Intertextual Division FB page and the Philippine PEN.

Edited by Che Sarigumba and Jenny Ortuoste, the e-book features 41 literary pieces, focusing on their experiences during the COVID-19 health crisis, as well as quarantine, isolation and healing.
Together with the Philippine PEN, the book project aims to understand the importance and the role of women, specifically mothers, and their literature during the global crisis, and promote the narratives of women who are mothers, highlighting that women can be both child-raisers and artists amid the struggles of being a parent.

The e-book will be accessible to the public and will be available for free download. It can be a part of a parent’s reading list, and can also be used by schools in tertiary level as reading material for their students.

For free copy of the e-book, visit the CCP Intertextual Division FB page or send an email to or text 0919-3175708.

Download here – In_Certain_Seasons_012321b (