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Monday, January 27, 2020

Melchor F. Cichon: A Short Biography


Melchor F. Cichon: A Short Biography
by Melchor F. Cichon
as of January 27, 2020

Melchor Francisco Cichon is a librarian by day and a poet by night. He was born in St. Cruz, Lezo, Aklan on April 7, 1945. A graduate of UP in the Visayas and UP Diliman, Mr. Melchor F. Cichon was considered by Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada as the leading Aklanon poet. Among his contemporaries, he is called as the Father of Aklanon Literature.

He attended the U.P. Miag-ao Summer Creative Writing Workshop, the Cultural Center of the Philippines-Liwayway Publication Creative Writing Workshop in Baguio City, the National Summer Creative Writing Workshop in Dumaguete City and the Third Iligan National Writers Workshop and Literature Teachers Conference in 1996. He represented Aklan in the 1995 and 1998 National Writers Assembly held in Intramuros, Manila.

Some of his poems have been published in Hiligaynon, Liwayway, Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, Home Life, Ani, Philippine Panorama, Patubas, Sa Atong Dila; Introduction to Visayas Literature, edited by Merlie Alunan, and in Sansiglong Mahigit ng Makabagong Tula sa Filipinas, edited by Virgilio Almario.

He has won various literary awards. He won first prize in the first Home Life Poetry Contest in 1994. He is also the first Aklanon Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grantee for Aklanon poetry in 1994. He won third prize in the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, UP Essay Writing Contest in 1994, and won second Prize (Aklanon Category) and third prize (Filipino category) in the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts poetry contest. He won third prize in Hari/Hara Sang Binalaybay (King/Queen of poetry) in 1998 poetry contest, sponsored by U.P. in the Visayas.

He co-edited Bueabod, poetry journal of Aklanon Literary Circle, together with John Barrios and Alex de Juan, Ani Aklanon edition.  He maintains several websites, two of which are The Aklanon Literature Archive where the literary works of the past and contemporary Aklanon writers are posted and the Dawn to Dawn where his literary works are regularly posted.

He has been conducting online and in person poetry writing workshops in Iloilo, Antique and in Aklan.

Some of his works are as follows, either as author, editor/co-editor:

Ani Aklanon, co-editor, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, 1993.

The Katipunan in Aklan, co-author. National Centennial Commission, Manila, 1997. Its second edition was published in 2019 by Aklan Historical and Cultural Society, Inc. and was printed by Kasingkasing Press.

Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii?; a collection of his award winning poems in Aklanon with Filipino translation, 1999.  Its second edition came out in 2015.

Bigkas Binalaybay: Kritisismo at Antolohiya, co-editor with John Barrios, Jonathan P. Jurilla, and J. I. E. Teodoro, Iloilo City, Universidad ng Pilipinas Visayas-Sentro ng Wikang Pilipino, 2008.

The 32 Best Aklanon Poets, editor. Alta Tierra Publication, Lezo, Aklan. 2009.

When I Fall in Love; haiku, luwa, tongue twisters and other poems by Mila S. dela Rosa; editor, Alta Tierra Publications, Lezo, Aklan, 2011.

Maiden; a collection of haiga on Filipino women. Alta Tierra Publications, Lezo, Aklan. 2012.

Siniad-siad nga kaeangitan (strips of heavens); a collection of Akeanon poems. Libro Agustino, University of San Agustin, Iloilo City, 2012.

Ham-at Madueom ro Gabii?; a collection of Aklanon poems with Filipino translation, 2nd ed. Kasingkasing Press, Guimaras, 2015.

Mga Pabula ni Aesop sa Akeanon; ginsueat it uman ni Melchor F. Cichon. Kasingkasing Press, 2016.

Mga bueawanon nga hueobaton sa Akeanon; ginpili ag ginbaeay nanday Melchor F. Cichon, Rita Hilda Tabanera-Feliciano, Pamela Joy Esmeralda Mindanao. Kasingkasing Press Press. 2016.

Eangit; flash fiction. Kasingkasing Press, 2018.

Raya Rang Pasalig, Parayaw.  Kasingkasing Press, 2018.

Mga luwa ni Tatay Itsong with English translation. Melchor F. Cichon and Charlie I. Ureta. Kasingkasing Press, 2019. 50p.

On August 25, 2001, he was awarded the 2001 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Award by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL); the first Aklanon to have received such as prestigous lifetime award on literature. On April 25, 2011, he received the Outstanding Aklanon
Award for the Culture and the Arts, given by the Aklan Provincial Office. On October 19, 2018, the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts awarded Mr. Cichon the Taboan Award 2018 "for his craft of poetry in a full life of exemplary service as a librarian and steadfast advocate of Aklanon literature".

Often times, Aklanon literature researchers would ask me about my inspiration as a writer and I tell them that my inspiration is our socio-cultural problems.That is the reason why most of my poems deal on social realism. To me poetry writing is a social responsibility.

One time, I was asked why I write in Aklanon. For that I wrote this article:


Why Do I Write in Aklanon?
By Melchor F. Cichon
Revised: May 11, 2018

WHY do I write in Aklanon?
This is a simple question, but it took me some hours to compile my reasons why indeed I write in Aklanon.
When I started writing poetry, I wrote in English, then in Tagalog, then in Aklanon. Now I write in English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Aklanon.
I wrote in English because I really wanted to improve my skills in English. It has been my problem on how to communicate effectively in English. Because of that I read books on English grammar, like the one by Jean Edades, “English for Filipinos.” Together with a friend, we studied the English grammar and did actual writing in English.
To try how effective my English was, I tried to write short letters to the editors of the Philippine Collegian,  The Manila Times, Sunday Times Magazine, and other national magazines. Some of my letters were published with some editing.
Then I tried writing poetry in English.
But since I did not have any formal training on poetry writing, I thought that the best way to write poetry was to translate Tagalog poems into English to see how poets write poems. So I translated the works of Teo Baylen, a Tagalog poet laureate from Cavite. I remember the first poem that I translated from the works of Teo Baylen was his Tagalog poem, Talaba, which was eventually published in his book Kalabaw ag Buffalo.
Little by little, I learned some poetry writing techniques.
Then I tried writing in Tagalog as it was much easier for me to express myself in Tagalog than in English.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Leoncio Deriada came to the University of the Philippines (UP) in Iloilo, now UP Visayas.
When he learned that I was writing poetry, he asked me to show him some of my “masterpieces” and told me I should learn some more. He invited me to attend creative writing workshops.
And I did.
It was also through his encouragement that I write more Aklanon poems because it would be much easier for me to convey my ideas if I write in Aklanon, my mother tongue.  I accepted his challenge.
Before that, of course, I was already writing in Aklanon. In fact, my poem “Inay” was the first Aklanon poem ever published in the Philippine Collegian. When I transferred to UP in Iloilo in 1977, I wrote a poem in Aklanon. This was published in Pagbutlak. That was also the first Aklanon poem ever published in that school organ. The first and only Aklanon poem ever published in the Philippine Panorama was written by me, entitled Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii Inay? Philippine Panorama, March 27, 1994, p. 29.
There are other reasons why I write in Aklanon.
Aklanon as a language is still developing like any other languages, although it has no spelling standard. Although we have three dictionaries that provide Aklanon words, I noticed that there are some words that are spelled in different ways like onga and unga; kon and kun; tagipusuon and tagipusoon. There are also some deviations like ingko or mingko,paris or kamana,pero or piru, etc.
But I usually consult the “A Study of the Aklanon Dialect” Vol. 2 dictionary by Vicente Salas Reyes, et al., 1969, if I am not sure of the spelling.
As I continue writing poems in Aklanon, my Aklanon vocabulary has been expanding.
And I also enrich Aklanon language by incorporating words from other languages into my Aklanon works. Example, cocoon has no direct translation into Aklanon, except that it is a house of a worm. But the Tagalog has, so I used higad when I translated the haiku of Rogelio G. Mangahas. Another word which I used is ham-at, from ham-an it. Now this word is well-known especially when I published the book “Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii, Inay?”
Later I realized that I was not only writing for myself. Some people have noticed my literary works, especially Dr. Deriada. When I published my first book of poems, “Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii,” he recommended me to the Gawad Pampansang Alagad ni Balagtas. Eventually, I became the first Aklanon to receive such a prestigious national lifetime achievement award. Consequently, the Aklan Province bestowed me as one of the Outstanding Aklanons in the field of culture and arts in 2011, and my hometown bestowed on me a Certificate of Recognition for having been selected as an Outstanding Aklanon in the field of culture and arts. My only regret is that, I did not even receive a formal letter informing me that I would receive a Certificate of Recognition from my own hometown.  I learned it only through the word of mouth.
In a way, not only Aklanons have been reading my literary works but also other people, especially so when I set up the website, Aklanon Literature (http://geocities.com/aklanonliterature)  where I featured selected poems written by Aklanons. Unfortunately, this portal is no longer existing. But before, it folded up, I had transferred all my posts to my other site: Aklanon Literature Archive (https://aklanonlitarchive.blogspot.com/).
I heard that the students in De La Salle University, UP Diliman, UP Visayas, and other academic institutions in Panay discuss some of my works in their classes. Someone from the University of Santo Tomas wrote me saying that she was writing a term paper on my Aklanon poems. In 2017, Dr. Sharon Concepcion Masula, of Aklan State University-Ibajay Campus used 35 of my poems for her PhD dissertation in Manuel L. Quezon University. At present three other Aklanon graduate students had graduated with my Aklanon poems for their master's degree theses. Last year, some of my poems on women were staged at the Aklanon Catholic College entitled Babaye, Base sa mga Binaeaybay ni Melchor F. Cichon. It was directed by Mr. Rommel Constantino of the said college. One of my poems is included in the book Philippine Literature (Focus: The Literature of Western Visayas) by Libertad Bayotas-Chua of the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, Bacolod City and in the monumental anthology, Sansiglong Mahigit ng Makabagong Tula sa Filipinas edited by Virgilio S. Almario. I am the only Aklanon in this anthology.  Some other poets included in this collection are Cecilio Apostol, Jose Corazon de Jesus,  Lope K. Santos, Jose Garcia Villa and others. Another significant anthology where my poems and my short story are included is the Sa Atong Dila; introduction to Visayas Literature edited by no less than Merlie M. Alunan. If you happen to teach Aklanon Literature this book can provide sufficient materials because one chapter of this book is devoted to Aklanon Literature particularly luwa, proverbs,riddles, folk songs, poems, short stories all in Aklanon with English translation.
Through my writings, I have gained some friends not only in my province but also outside. As a result, I gained some cooperation with other writers. And perhaps if not because of my Aklanon works, Prof. Tomas Talledo would not have invited me to attend a conference on why people write in their native tongues. The conference was held on May 9, 2008 at UP Visayas, Iloilo City campus. Or probably, I should not have been invited to attend as a fellow to a literary workshop in U.P. Visayas Cebu College, Cebu City, if I were not writing poems in Aklanon.  And if I were not writing poems and stories in Aklanon, I would be here too.
And perhaps through my example, some Aklanons have tried writing in Aklanon. Now we see some Aklanon poems on the Internet. One book, “Haiku, Luwa and Other Poems by Aklanons,” was published in 2004 as a result of my online poetry workshop who stayed in the United States of America, Canada, Switzerland, and other places here and abroad. Since 1993,  I have been involved in the publication of the following books:
Ani, Aklanon. Co-editor.  Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, 1993.
Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii? a collection of my award winning poems in Aklanon with Filipino translation. Privately printed at Macar Enterprises, Kalibo, Aklan. 1999.
Bigkas Binalaybay: Kritisismo at Antolohiya, co-editor with John Barrios, Jonathan P. Jurilla, and J. I. E. Teodoro. Iloilo City, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas Visayas-Sentro ng Wikang Pilipinas, 2008.
The 32 Best Aklanon Poets. Editor. Alta Tierra  Publications, Lezo, Aklan. 2009.
When I Fall in Love; haiku, luwa, tongue twisters and other poems by Mila S. dela Rosa. Editor.  Alta Tierra  Publications, Lezo, Aklan. 2010.
Matimgas  nga Paeanoblion; anthology of poems written by Aklanons. Editor. Alta Tierra  Publications, Lezo, Aklan. 2011.
Maiden; a collection of haiga on Filipino women. Author. Alta Tierra  Publications, Lezo, Aklan. 2012.
Siniad-siad nga kaeangitan (strips of heavens); a collection of Akeanon poems. Author. Libro Agustino, University of San Agustin, Iloilo City, 2012.
Ham-at Madueom ro Gabii?; a collection of Aklanon poems with Filipino translation. Author. 2nd ed. Kasingkasing Press, Guimaras, 2015.
Mga Pabula ni Aesop sa Akeanon; ginsueat it uman ni Melchor F. Cichon. Author. Kasingkasing Press, 2016.
Mga bueawanon nga hueobaton sa Akeanon; ginpili ag ginbaeay nanday Melchor F. Cichon, Rita Hilda Tabanera-Feliciano ag Pamela Joy Esmeralda Mindanao. Kasingkasing Press, 2016.
Eangit; flash fiction. Author. Kasingkasing Press, 2017.
My other reason for writing in Aklanon is to prove that there is a distinct Aklanon literature, not a subgroup of Hiligaynon literature. For many years some people have thought that there is only one literature in Western Visayas and that is Hiligaynon Literature until we the present writers have advocated that Aklanon literature is not a subgroup of Hiligaynon literature, but parallel to it. In the book by Lucila Hosillos,  Hiligaynon Literature: Text and Context (1992), she included the English translation of an Aklanon poem, “Haead Sa Adlaw Nga Kinamatyan Ku Napueo Ag Siyam Sa Akean” by Peping Tansinko Manyas. This relates to the death of the 19 Martyrs of Aklan.
Still other reason why I write in Aklanon is to earn money, although very little, by being asked to translate Aklanon poems, short stories and other works for their theses or researches. As a resource person in various conferences, seminars and creative writing workshops, I did not only earn some amount of money as a token, but I have been able to travel to diffirent places free of charge and meet new friends. And through this gatherings, I have a chance to meet famous Filipino writers like Virgilio Almario, Eugene Evasco, Hermie Beltran, and many more.
 The latest creative writing workshop that I have conducted was in New Washington Elementary School, New Washington, Aklan on August 4, 2017 with more than 60 participants. On May 8, 2018, I was with 24 graduate students of the University of Antique discussing with them some aspects of Aklanon language and introducing with them my Aklanon poems and flash fictions.
Lastly, I write in Aklanon to expose the social and environmental cancer that ferment in our country and, hopefully, prick the consciousness of our leaders.
To me, poetry is a social responsibility. And to be a poet is to become immortal.
While contemplating on why I write in Aklanon, I cannot take away the problems and some suggestions that should be tackled to make Aklanon Literature an enthusiastic member of the Philippine literature. Here are some of the problems that I see:
Unlike the English and Filipino writers, Aklanon writers encounter a lot of problems.
1.There is not enough copies of Aklanon dictionaries. At the moment, these are the Aklanon dictionaries but on a very limited copies.
Reyes, Vicente Salas, Nicolas L. Prado, R. David Paul Zorc. A Study of the Aklanon Dialect. Vol. 2: Dictionary. Kalibo, Aklan: Public Domain, 1969. 396p. This is out of print now.
Eleanor Perucho Braulio, Akean-Filipino leksikon has very limited copies. It was published by Macar Enterprises,1999. 177p.
De la Cruz, Roman A. Five-language dictionary (Panay Island): English, Tagalog, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, Aklanon. Kalibo: Rock Publishing, 2003. 919p.
Pastrana, Theodore Acevedo. A thesaurus in Aklanon. 2012. 191p.
2. The second problem is the lack of encouragement and financial support from school administrators and the local governments on the production and publication of Aklanon literary pieces. When I say Aklanon literary pieces, I mean poems, stories, essays, etc. written in Aklanon, not in Filipino nor in English.
3. Very few literature teachers in Aklan discuss the literary works of Aklanons writers in their classes.
4. There is a lack of literary contests in Aklan. If this is done, more Aklanons will be encouraged to create more literary pieces.
5. Workshops for creative writers are not held regularly in Aklan especially for high school students, and those who are new in creative writing.
6. I believe that there are still a lot of uncollected oral literature in Aklan like luwa, komposo, and epics.
7. Except for Dr. Sharon Masula’s dissertation on my poems, and the three other Aklanon graduate students who wrote their graduate theses on my poems, I still have to find other studies on Aklanon literature.
8. There is no foundation in Aklan that provides fundings to finance the writing of poems, short stories, and other literary works.
9. Our academic and non-academic libraries do not have funds to buy locally produced literary works. Most often they just ask for free copies at the expense of the authors for they too are not rich.
What is next for Aklanon writers?
From the above statements, it is noticeable that Aklanon literature for children like nursery rhymes, short stories, and novels are very scarce. In fact, so far, there is no novel in Aklanon yet. Likewise, academic studies on Aklanon literature are very few. This writer hopes that this gap will soon be filled up by the present and future Aklanon scholars.
It seems too that Aklanon contemporary writers will still write poetry and short stories. As for the contents, Aklanon poets and fiction writers will still be writing poems, etc. with social relevance as they are still experiencing the impact of poverty, injustices, corruption, environmental degradation, and many other socio-cultural issues.
In conclusion, Aklanon literature has a tradition to think of. Through the centuries, Aklanons have been writing different types of literature: poems, short stories, novels, riddles, songs, maxims, and legends, but generally these are either in Filipino or in English. Through the internet Aklanon writers have been exposed to world literature particularly the short poems like haiku and tanka and fictions. This will surely bring the Aklanon literature to the Phillipine literature mainstream.
Before, I say thank you, allow me to read these two poems.

Si Ambong, Ati
Si Ambong, Ati—maitum.
Kueong ra buhok, gision ra eambong, gasiki.
Gakung-kong, kung-kong ka maeupsi nga eapsag
Gapakalimos sa Jaro Cathedral, sa J.M. Basa Street
Ay gintabog eon ra pamilya sa eugta nga anay ginaayaman nanda’t haeo.
Si Ambong, Ati, maitum, indi kantigo magbasa, indi kantigo magsueat
Maski ka anang ngaean ay sa andang barangay owa’t eskuylahan.
Si Ambong, Ati, ginasinggit-singgitan, ginadela-delaan
It mga unga kon imaw mag-agi sa daean ay maitum.
Ginapahadlok it mga nanay sa andang gatangis nga mga unga.
O sa mga unga nga indi magtueog.
Kon fiesta, ginataw-an si Ambong it salin nga suea
Ginasueod sa plastic o sa bag-ong bukas nga lata.
Kon bukon ngani, ginabagsakan it gate.
Agod makayupyop it sigarilyo, gapamueot si Ambong it upos sa kalye.
Agod makasamit it hamburger o juice sa pakite,
Ginapaeapitan ni Ambong ro nagakaon maski sin-o nga anang maagyan.
Pag-abot it gabii, maeugad si Ambong sa sidewalk o sa waiting shed
Kahulid ka anang maeupsing eabsag—
Mayad eang kon may karton nga banig ag owa’t baha o uean –
Agod magbaskug euman ra tuhod sa pagpakalimos pagka-aga.
Si Ambong, Ati—maitum. Ra ele-ele, ra hibi, ra pangamuyo
Indi mabatian, indi mabatyagan it gobyerno sa siyudad it tawo.
Ra singgit it tabang hay singgit sa Pluto.
Si Ambong, Ati– maitum, indi makit-an it atong gobyerno.
Kon Dinagyang, sa selebrasyon etsa pwera si Ambong.
Eutay kuno imaw sa mga bisitang dumueo-ong.
Si Ambong, maitum, ginatabog it blue guard
Bag-o pa man imaw maka-eapak sa gate it Atrium ag SM Shoemart.
Kunta may Gloria nga magbatak kay Ambong sa libtong it kaimueon
Agod sa ulihi ro gobyerno may buwes nga masukot kay Ambong;
Agod sa ulihi makabakae man imaw it Levis o barong;
Agod sa ulihi makaeskuyla man sa U.P. ra mga inapo;
Agod sa ulihi owa kana’t magtamay, owa’t magtabog
Kon imaw mag-agto sa SM City ag sa Atrium.
Si Ambong, Ati–Maitum. Apo ni Maniwantiwan.
Ag Filipino. Pares kimo, pares kakon.
Kon ham-at owa imaw sa listahan it mga Filipino nga dapat buligan?
Kon ham-at indi imaw makasueod sa atong ugsaran?
Kon ham-at indi naton imaw maagbayan?
Kon ham-at indi imaw makadungan katon magkaon sa restauran?
Siyudad man baea ra’t tawo, indi baea, banwa? Indi baea, banwa?
Ay, Pangabuhi
Gatindog
Ro tawong
Grasa
Sa atubang it sangka
Aquarium.
“Mayad pa ro Gold Fish,
Maski indi makakita it eangit,
Busog.
“Ako, makita ko ro bilog
Nga kaeangitan,
Pero gaeaguok rang tiyan.”
References
Barrios, John E., Cichon, Melchor F., Jurilla, Jonathan P. and Teodoro, J. I. E., eds. Bigkas Binalaybay; Kritisismo, antolohiya. Iloilo City: Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas Visayas and Pambansang Komisyon para sa Kultura at mga Sining, 2008. 171p.
Cichon, Melchor F. Belle Nabor: A Filipino Haijin. Posted November 28, 2005. http://www.akeanon.com/. Retrieved: April 16, 2006.
Cichon, Melchor F. Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada: Masiglang Lider Sa Muling Pag-Uswag Ng Malikhaing Panulat sa Western Visayas. Daluyan, the official publication of the Sentro Ng Wikang Filipino, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 8-11, 1994.
De Juan, Alexander C. Ang Pag-ahon Ng Nakasulat na Literaturang Aklanon. Daluyan, the official publication of the Sentro Ng Wikang Filipino, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, vol. 5, No. 2, pp.15-16, 1994.
De la Cruz, Beato. Contributions of the Aklan Mind to Philippine Literature. San Juan, Rizal: Kalantiao Press, 1958. 97p.
Deriada, Leoncio. Literature engineering in West Visayas. Forum, Opisyal na Pahayagan ng Universidad ng Pilipinas, March 28, 2006. http://www.up.edu.ph/forum/2000/03/28/litengg.html, retrieved: April 13, 2006.
Manyas, Peping Tansinko. Tagiposuon Nga Hueowaran. Daeang Rizal, Kalibo, Capiz. 1926. 26p. (Photo-copy)
Nabor, Fiorella I. “An Inquiry into the Ancient Inakeanon Writing System,” Silliman Journal, Ist Quarter, 1968, pp. 54-86 ((Photo-copy)
Reyes, Gabriel M. Toning. Mandurriao, Iloilo, 1925. 35p. (Photo-copy)
Tente Undoy. Mga Bilisad-n ni Tente Undoy. San Juan, Rizal, Kalantiaw Publications, Inc. 37p. (Photo-copy)




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