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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Elbowing With Literary Giants

October 10, 2014

It was in college where I started to read poems, short stories and novels written by Filipinos.
In short I was introducing myself to Filipino literary giants like NVM Gonzales, Leopoldo Yabes, Edith Tiempo and her husband Edilberto Tiempo.
Later, I read the works of Cirilo Bautista, Teo Baylen, Jaime Ann Lim, Raul Ingles, Leoncio Deriada, Hermie Beltran, Merlie Alunan, and others which at the moment I cannot recall.
As time went by, their names, not necessary their works, stuck to my mind. And obviously, I admire them. At times, I wanted to see them personally and shake hands with them. There were times too that I wished my name would also be included in the card catalog of the University of the Philippines Main Library along with these great Filipino writers.
But that dream remained for more than two decades.
But I wrote my piece of literature: poems, and short stories, never mind whether they are poetry or not. Some were published but many were rejected, especially in the Philippines Free Press. Some of my works were published in the Philippine Collegian, The Quezonian, Weekly Graphic, Philippines Free Press, and even in a book of poems along with two other translators of Teo Baylen's poems in Kalabaw at Buffalo.
Then I decided to transfer from UP Diliman Library to UP in the Visayas (UPV) Library in Iloilo City. UPV then was called UP in Iloilo City (UPIC).
It was also my turning point in my literary career.
I met Dr. Leoncio Deriada, the Father of Contemporary Written Literature in Western Visayas. I was then the OIC of the UPV Library when he came to me asking if his wife could work in the library, while he would be teaching literature in UPV. Upon learning this, I told him that I am also writing poetry. Really he said. He asked if I could show him some of my "best works".
The next day, I brought my notebook filled up with "poems".
After scanning my masterpieces, he told me if I wanted to have a one-on-one workshop with him. With some hesitations, I agreed.
The first word that he told me on poetry writing is to create tension in the poem, wherein there are at least two opposing ideas in the poem. And the second one is to use words that create pictures like red rose instead of just saying flower.
These two words remain in my mind until today.
The next few days after that workshop were busy days for me.
I wrote poems, revised them again and again until I was sure that they would be acceptable to Dr. Deriada.
I showed some of my works to him. One or two were Ok, but the rest needed more revisions. Or be thrown to the waste basket.
Then one day, he told me to submit a poem for Home Life magazine where he edited the poetry section.
I did.
The title of the poem I submitted is A Letter.
Here is the poem:

A Letter
I will definitely go home
To our house
Where we can see the clouds
Through the roof.
I'm fed up
With the twinkling neon lights,
But I have not yet paid
For the earrings that I got
From Mama San.
I need them so my tinkling
Will be louder and my hips
Will be heavier.
Don't worry, John,
This Christmas
You and I will create a moon
And through the roof
We two alone
Will grasp its light.


And that poem was the first major poem that I wrote that won a prize, first prize in a national poetry contest.
With that award, I was able to attend national poetry workshops, national writers conferences/assemblies.
And it was during these meetings where I elbowed with Filipino literary giants.
I shook hands with them. I shared dining tables with them and discussed with them the various aspects of Filipino literature.
Now my name appears in the virtual catalog of the UP Library System.
And in the U.S. Library of Congress.

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