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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada: The Moulder of Aklanon Writers

Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada:
The Moulder of Aklanon Writers
By Melchor F. Cichon
April 9, 2019

Sometime in the 1990s, Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, conducted a creative writing workshop at Mt. Makiling among Western Visayas budding writers. I was one of the selected writing fellows. Luckily, I happened to share a room with him, perhaps because of my age.
The night before the workshop proper, Dr. Deriada told me: “Mel, I will make you famous.” I know he was serious when he said that to me. But I had a second thought. I knew my capabilities as a budding poet.
I remember the first time we met at the then UP College Iloilo Library, Iloilo City Campus in 1986. By then, his wife, Nang Letty was working with me in the library. When he learned that I was writing poems, he asked me to show to him my “masterpieces”. These were written in a notebook. When he read the first poem, he immediately told me to burn them and write a new one. I got back my notebook with a submerged pride. Instead of abandoning my desire to become a writer, I wrote more poems, until I wrote one that made me “famous”. The title of that poem is “A Letter”. I submitted this poem to HomeLife magazine for publication wherein he was the literary editor. It was published in 1993 which later on won first prize in its first annual poetry contest.
After my first book, Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii? was published, Dr. Deriada recommended me to the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL). I became the first Aklanon Alagad ni Balagtas awardee in 2001.
That was the most significant step to my poetry writing career.
Dr. Deriada also encouraged me to join more creative writing workshops to learn more techniques in poetry writing not only in Iloilo City but also in Dumaguete and in Iligan. At the same time, he encouraged me to write in Aklanon for he said, only Aklanon writers can raise the level of Aklanon literature. Although, I have been writing poems in Aklanon even before I met Dr. Deriada. In fact the first and only Aklanon poem ever published in the Philippine Collegian was written by me. It is entitled “Inay”.
I was not the only Aklanon which Dr. Deriada had taught and encouraged to write in Aklanon. Through his leadership, the first and second Aklanon poetry workshops were held in Kalibo. Some of those who attended the workshops were John Barrios, Alexander de Juan, Arwena Tamayo, Pet Candido, Roman de la Cruz, Jeoffrey Ricafuente and many more. The results of those workshops were anthologized in the Kinaray-a and Aklanon issues of Ani (1993) and Patubas. Those two workshops in Kalibo encouraged Mr. Roman de Cruz and Mr. Dominador Ilio to write Aklanon poems. Later, the Aklanon writers formed a group called, Aklan Literary Circle and created a one-page literary journal entitled Bueabod. It is in this journal were the literary outputs of the Circle members were published.
Through these literary trainings conducted by Dr. Deriada, some of us Aklanon writers published our works in various national magazines and journals like Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, Home Life, Mod, Inquirer Magazine, Media Watch, Philippine Panorama, Dagyaw, Bueabod, Yuhum, Hiligaynon, Salaming, Liwayway, SanAg and others. Later on some of the works of some Aklanon writers can now be read in anthologies like Mantala (2000), Patubas (1995), and Selebrasyon at Lamentasyon; antolohiya ng mga maikling kwento sa Panay na inidet nila Carmen L. de los Santos, Ma. Milagros Geremia-Lachica and John E. Barrios.
On my part, some of my haiku were published in an international online haiku journal, Heron's Nest. Much later, I published, among others, Matimgas nga Paeanoblion; anthology of Poems Written by Aklanons and The 32 Best Aklanon Poets.
Because of Dr. Deriada’s legacy to improve and popularize Western Visayas literature, I conducted both online and offline poetry workshops among high school and college students in the various schools and colleges in Aklan. The book Haiku, Luwa and Other Poems by Aklanon, edited by Melchor F. Cichon, Edna L. Faral, and Losally Navarro was the result of my online poetry workshop among Aklanons living worldwide.
In conclusion, through Dr. Deriada’s perseverance in teaching and in pushing us Aklanon writers to write in Aklanon, we are able to level up the Aklanon literature. Now if someone will search the internet on Aklanon literature, he will surely find sufficient materials on this subject. Finally, I say, thank you Dr. Deriada for passing by in Aklan. You have not come in vain.

Here is the poem, A Letter

By Melchor F. Cichon

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.


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