The year before we were born in Sampaloc, Manila on 19 January 1964, Mayor Antonio Villegas started honoring men and women who manifested exemplary achievements and dedication in the arts and tradition every 24th of June.
Little did we know that after 46 we would be considered for the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in the field of literature.
We finished our B.S. and M.A. in psychology at the University of Santo Tomas's College of Science but it was also from that Pontifical, Royal, and Catholic university where we got our inspiration to push the pen through its campus organ – The Varsitarian!
As if paying forward, we established the USTETIKA Annual Awards for Literature, the oldest school-based literary awards in the country since 1985.
Last June 22, while we were approaching the stage -- while the Manila City Chorale sang for the pagpuputong ceremonies -- with Mayor Alfredo Lim, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila president Rafaelito Garayblas, and, Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta (crowned Miss International on our birthyear) – it just dawned on us how fortunate we were to be in their company -- with Rosario Encarnacion-Tan (architecture); Jose Datuin (sculpture); Ferdinand Cacnio (sculpture); Pablo Tariman (new media); Lemuel de la Cruz (music); Brillante Mendoza (film); Justin Nuyda (visual arts); and Shirley Halili-Cruz (dance).
All the more, we thanked God for everything, when we finally saw the long list of past Panitikan winners including Iňigo Ed. Regalado (1963), Manuel Bernabe (1964), Amado V. Hernandez (1964), Nick Joaquin (1964), Clodualdo del Mundo Sr. (1966), Rafael Palma (1967), Genoveva Edroza Matute (1967), Lope K. Santos (1968), Teodoro Agoncillo (1969), Fr. Horacio de la Costa (1969), Aldejandro Roces (1970), Buenaventura Medina Jr. (1970), Aniceto Silvestre (1970), Alejandro G. Abadilla (1970), Julian Cruz Balmaceda (1971), Ligaya David Perez (1971), N.V.M. Gonzales (1971), Bienvenido Santos (1971), Jose Corazon de Jesus (1971), Jose Villa Panganiban (1972), Jose Esperanza Cruz (1973), Edilberto Tiempo (1974), Lazaro Francisco (1975), Kerima Polotan Tuvera (1976), Gervacio Santiago (1977), Estrella Alfon (1978), Francisco Sionil Jose (1979), Adrian Cristobal (1980), Francisco Arcellana (1981), Ponciano B.P. Pineda (1982), Gregorio Brillantes (1983), Narciso G. Reyes (1984),Teodoro Valencia (1985), Jose Guevara (1985), Egmidio Enriquez (1988), Ninotchka Rosca (1989), Virginia Moreno (1991), Virgilio Almario (1992), Gilda Cordero Fernando (1993), Liwayway Arceo (1994), Isagani R. Cruz (1995),Teo Antonio (1996), Bernardo Ma. Perez O.S.B., Bienvenido Lumbera (1998), Gloria Villaraza Guzman (1998), Mike Bigornia (1999),Rene Villanueva (2000), Cirilo Bautista (2001), Pablo S. Gomez (2002), Alfred Yuson (2003), Gemino Abad (2004), Marjorie Evasco (2005), Mario Miclat (2006), Ricardo de Ungria (2007), Rogelio Mangahas (2008), and Domingo Landicho (2009).
Ms. Cruz-Araneta, Virgilio Aviado, Ana Maria Harper, Bae Bayolan Tamano Marohambsar, and Solfia Arboladura reportedly voted for us – with two historians Dr. Jaime Veneracion (Special Award) and Dr. Serafin Quiason (Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas)!
Like an Aderoid that came within 34.65M miles of the earth to make it appear we had two suns, the star of the night was National Artist Virgilio Almario who won Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas in 2002 and the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan in 1992.
This time, he was the recipient of the highest honor -- Gawad Diwa ng Lahi.
It was he who invited us to his Rio Alma Poetry Clinic after we were declared the youngest Makata ng Taon in 1985, again, by the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa.
After a year of learning all about the indigenous, traditional, and modern poetry in the Philippines, we began to take Philippine literatures and languages more seriously.
More so, when Dr. Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta recommended us to the Silliman University National Writers Workshop under National Artist Edith Tiempo and her husband Edilberto who showed us the wonders of the creative writing world from 1988 to 1989.
Together with Gerardo Banzon, Romulo Baquiran Jr., Ariel Dim. Borlongan, Ony Carcamo, Rowena Gidal, Danilo Gonzales, Dennis Sto. Domingo and other survivors, we became the founders of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) which we eventually presided.
Now, on its 25th anniversary, LIRA is offering more than its weekly LIRAHAN at the Conspiracy Garden Cafe'sConspiwriters Tuesdays we had been organizing since 2004.
Last June 6, LIRA had its orientation for its Klinikang Pampanulaan 2010 at the University of the Philippines' College of Arts and Letters New Building where its former dean Rio Alma delivered his paper entitled Reklamasyon ng Pambansang Gunita.
Lectures and the like are usually held at the Philippine Daily Inquirer Room # 201 where speakers talk about various topics like Nanoy Rafael and Ergoe Tinio on Balangkas/Tinig at Himig (June 20), Ruth Elynia Mabanglo and Rebecca Aňonuevo on Talinghaga at Tayutay (June 27), Edgar Samar on Eastern and Western Poetic Forms (July 11), Joey Baquiran on Kasaysayan at Lokal na Kaisipang Pampanulaan (July 18), Rio Alma on Modernismo sa Europa at Amerika (July 25), Roberto Aňonuevo on Free Verse / Prose Poetry (August 1), Roger Mangahas on Free Verse / Prose Poetry (August 8), Mike Coroza and Marne Kilates on Translating from Filipino to English and from English to Filipino (August 29), Roselle Pineda and Bomen Guillermo on Politika at Panitikan (September 18), Fidel Rillo and Marne Kilates on Epigraph / Ekphrasis (September 19), Nanoy Rafael on Poetry for Children (October 3), and RobertoAňonuevo on Revision / Pananaliksik para sa Pagtula (October 24). We are assigned to deal with Performance Poetry and Balagtasan with Mike Coroza and Teo Antonio on October 3 as well as Poetry Therapy on October 16.
As Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas chair, we are counting on LIRA during our Congress at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium in U.P. Diliman on August 28.
On November 25 and 26, there will the first Pambansang Kumperensiya sa Panulaan sa Filipino to be held at the U.S.T. Thomas Aquinas Research Center.
Since last year, LIRA presidents Beverly Siy and Philip Kimpo Jr. had been doing an outreach program with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts via S.T.S. (Sining ng Tugma at Sukat), which is tentatively scheduled in July inVigan, Ilocos Sur; August in Lucban, Quezon; September in Naga, Camarines Sur; October in San Fernando, Pampanga; November in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.
At times, there are poetry workshops conducted outside the academe: Intramuros in Manila (July 24), Pinto Gallery in Antipolo City (September 19), Bahay Bulawan in San Miguel, Bulacan (October 17), and Quezon City Memorial Circle (November 21).
LIRA Fellows are even invited to collaborate by such agencies as the National Book Development Board in, say, NBDB & LIRA Book Club Reading featuring Emir's scriptwriter and LIRA alumnus Jerry Gracio (August 14) and Nanoy Rafael (September 11), Adam David (October 23) in preparation for their Big Night and Graduation on November 30. And for the main event, LIRA's 25th Anniversary will be celebrated from December 4 to 11. Tomorrow, June 28, LIRA will re-launch its chapbook called Lamang during the O.M.G. (Open Mic Gig) which we had hosting since 2008 at Mag:Net Gallery Katipunan. Proceeds will be given to Mike Coroza, LIRA's workshop director, who lost his mom Salud.
Our own mom, aunt, and wife cried when Rio Alma spoke, on behalf of other Araw ng Maynila 2010 winners, and shared a folktale from Bukidnon about a mouse who died singing what a kilyawan bird taught him, reminding us that no matter what we, artists or not, shall go on and go for the songs of truth, goodness, and beauty, even at death's door!
Q.. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter A?
A. One thousand
The death of Christ on the cross proved that you are highly favored, deeply loved, and extrem