PEN Philippines & UMPIL Writers’ Rights Forum

PEN Philippines (Poets, Essayists, and Novelists) and UMPIL (Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas) are proud to host a Writers’ Rights Forum on Friday, February 10, 2023, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

It will be held at The Learning Commons, 6F, Henry Sy, Sr. Hall, De La Salle University, Taft Avenue, Manila.

The forum involves vital questions and issues concerning the intellectual property rights of professional and literary writers in the physical and digital publishing spaces. Writers, publishers, and support agencies will participate in the panel discussions.

Registration for the in-person event is free but required at

It will also be live-streamed for regional audiences at



PEN Philippines has new officers

The Philippine Center for International PEN, or PEN Philippines for short, elected its new national officers in the first meeting of its new Board today, October 14, 2022.

The officers are Angelo R. Lacuesta, President; Santiago Villafania, Vice President; Pamela Castrillo, Secretary; and Jenny Ortuoste, Treasurer.

PEN is the worldwide organization of writers to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere. The association has autonomous International PEN centers in over 100 countries.

The Philippine chapter also elected its various committees, as follows: Programs Committee: Joel Pablo Salud (head), Beverly Siy, Glenn Sevilla Mas, and Angelo R. Lacuesta; Membership Committee: Santiago Villafania (head), Jhoanna Cruz, Beverly Siy, Junley Lazaga, and Eros Atalia; Finance: Jenny Ortuoste (head), Charlson Ong, and Lito Zulueta; and Communications Commitee: Maria Karina Bolasco (head), Guelan Luarca, Marne Kilates.

For its regular international liaisons, PEN Philippines also named its International Subcommittees, which are: Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee: Santiago Villafania (head), Marne Kilates, and Junley Lazaga; Women Writers Committee: Maria Karina Bolasco (head), Jhoanna Cruz; Writers in Prison: Joel Pablo Salud (head), and Junley Lazaga; and Writers for Peace: Charlson Ong (head), Guelan Luarca.

PEN International aims to emphasize the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views.

PEN Philippines intends to pursue its projects including workshops for the teaching of literature, membership expansion, and the continuing fight against fake news and history manipulation. It also intends to protect its members, and even non-member writers, from harassment.

PEN Philippines was founded by National Artist F Sionil Jose in 1958 to bring the ideals of PEN International to the local context and to firm up writers’ commitment to democracy especially during the dark days of Marcos Sr.’s martial law. At the same time, PEN Philippines stood beside and behind writers facing suppression and harassment from authorities.

PEN International has a long history of gathering writers to its cause. The first PEN Club was founded at the Florence Restaurant in London on October 5, 1921,[3] by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, with playwright John Galsworthy as its first president. Its first members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells.

PEN originally stood for “Poets, Essayists, Novelists,” but now stands for “Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists”, and includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.

For membership application visit


The Cultural Center of the Philippines hosts The Philippine Center of International PEN as it holds its first hybrid congress at the CCP Main Theater Lobby on September 20, 2022 at 2pm. PEN members may also attend the event online.

The Congress aims to provide a venue for the literary community to promote truth and freedom of expression through discussion and performance.

The event will begin with a keynote presentation from National Artist for Literature Gémino Abad, followed by an open forum.

Free the Word!, a mini-festival for global audiences, will feature readings and performances from esteemed local and international artists such as Nanding Josef, screenwriter Veera Tyhtilä, director Adjani Arumpac, playwright Guelan Luarca, among others.

A book sale will also be held by independent and academic publishers, among them Ateneo de Manila University Press, UST Publishing House, and several others.

Free the Word! also coincides with the launch of LUNA, a semi-annual literary journal featuring new Filipino writing.

The event is open and free for all. Certificates of attendance will be given to PEN members who attend the keynote presentation and open forum, whether in person or online.

For queries, please email or text 09193175708 or message CCP Intertextual Division Facebook page.

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.