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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “ALL IN” to receive the Zoom link for both morning and afternoon sessions.
FREE THE POETS OF MYANMAR
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.
This collection is the eighth volume in Vagabond Press’ Asia Pacific Poetry Series. It is edited and introduced by Dinah Roma, with cover art by Mark Andy Garcia. Vagabond, based in Tokyo and Sydney, is an independent literary publishing press which promotes new works by writers in Asia and the Pacific.
Daoana is the prize-winning author of four collections of poetry: “Loose Tongue, Poems: 2001-2013” (UST Publishing, 2014), “Clairvoyance” (UST Publishing, 2011), “The Fashionista’s Book of Enlightenment” (DBW, 2009) and “Marginal Bliss” (University of the Philippines Press, 2002). He was awarded the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism by the Ateneo Art Awards in 2014. He writes a fortnight column in the Arts and Culture section of The Philippine Star.
Katigbak-Lacuesta is the prize-winning author of three books of poetry: “The Proxy Eros” (Anvil Publishing, 2008), “Burning Houses” (UST Publishing, 2013), and “Tropicalia: Poems and Translations” (in collaboration with Frances Cannon, Vagabond Press, 2016). She is the editor and co-creator of “Metro Serye,” a fold-out zine featuring new writing and graphic art. She also co-edited a flash fiction anthology called “Fast Food Fiction Delivery: short short stories to go,” in 2014.
Pastrana has his first book of poems entitled “Body Haul” (UST Publishing, 2011), which won the 2013 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award.
Of these three poets, Roma writes in the introduction, “I am certain that in reading the enthralling poems of Carlomar, Mookie, and Allan—whether those readers be in Asia, Europe, North America, or elsewhere—they would find in them a rich evocation of the country and nation that is the Philippines. It is a geography and geographical construct that is as complex and slippery as the many distances traversed in the poems of places by Carlomar, of the intimate sphere that is all at once vulnerable and bracing as that of Mookie’s, and the exacting intellectual ruminations of Allan.”
Hosted by the Philippine Center of International PEN.