Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HOMECOMINGS (December 13, 2010)


Two weeks before the formation of the Grand Living Rosary composed of 24,000 Thomasians last December 8, we already had our own fiesta for Immaculada Concepcion.

It was also within our Alma Mater, the University of Santo Tomas campus, last 27 November during the Gabi ng Parangal of the Gawad Ustetika.

When we conceived it, we considered the mother of that immaculate conception -- the late Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta!

So, as we were honored as its founder, we too honored the former Faculty of Arts and Letters dean, who passed away last 4 November.

During our opening remarks, that became yearly, after thanking Rev. Fr. Rolando de la Rosa O.P. for institutionalizing the oldest literary contest for students in the country – when he revived the Rector's Literary Award (RLA) in 1991 by way of Ustetika -- we ordained her (like “Fr. Joselito Zulueta O.P.”) as “Dr. Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta -- Ophie!”

Like the member of Order of Preachers we know, she loved to deal with indirection.

Obliquely, too, the same manner she would require us to write our poetry, she helped us invite top-caliber men and women of Philippine letters, to judge what was just another literary contest for campus writers.

And that's Ustetika's claim to fame.

Not just its winners, but also its judges.

Dr. Dimalanta was usually assisted by her friends from the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) – Dr. Gemino Abad, Dr. Cirilo Bautista, Ricardo de Ungria, Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, and Alfred Yuson. For fiction in English, she would recommend National Artists Francisco Sionil Jose and Rolando Tinio to co-judge with her colleagues from the Manila Critics Circle like Dr. Isagani Cruz and Prof. Danton Remoto.

For Tula, on the other hand, we were able to get the likes of National Artist Virgilio Almario, the founder of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA), where we became a founding member after attending the year-long Rio Alma Poetry Clinic in 1985.

That's why we were asking if this year would be the correct 25th anniversary since as far as we know LIRA and Ustetika are just separated at birth!

Anyway, more often than not, Rio Alma judged with the two-thirds of the so-called “tungkung-kalan” or triumvirate of modernist poetry in Filipino – Lamberto Antonio and Rogelio Mangahas-- or with the late Mike Bigornia, Rene Villanueva, and other Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT) greats.

Kuwento, or katha, was handled by their counterparts in Efren Abueg, Rogelio Sicat, and other contributors to Agos sa Disyerto, the landmark in fiction in Filipino.

What makes Gawad Ustetika – or what used to be Ustetika Annual Awards for Literature -- last to this day are its discoveries in Dr. Rebecca Anonuevo, Dr. Jose Wendell Capili, Dr. Jose Neil Garcia, Dr. Jose Victor Torres, Lourd de Veyra, and Nerissa Guevara who have served as judges too.

This year's winners include: Dula -- Eulogy by Keavy Eunice Vicente (first place); Doppelganger by Marianne Freya Nono (second place); AJ by Paula Marie D.R. Navarra (third place); for One-Act Play: Doll Sale- Paula Marie D.R. Navarra (honorable mention); for Fiction -- Rejection by Edmark Tan (first place); Aureliano by Mark Ryan Reyes (second place); Junkers by Miguel Luis Galang (third place); for Katha -- Nagkuwento Ang Mga Alaala ni Ces by Samantha (first place); Melyssa Perez (second place); Ilaw ng Tahanan by April Anne Dizon (third place); Salvage by Jeffrey Udarbe (honorable mention); Jubiconomics by Lisse Anne Bertumen (honorable mention); for Poetry -- Overcast by Paul Lucas Gerard Bruselas, Soul Tinted by Carmela Marie Sagritalo, Body Shots and Other Poems by Paul Castillo (honorable mention); for Tula -- Huling Araw by Kristinne Nigel Santos (first place); Epigrape by James Luigi Tana (second place); Naulanang Kuwento by Alyssa Romielle Manalo (third place); for Essay -- Stitches by Reinan Gonzales (first place); The Moth by Zendy Victoria Sue Valencia (second place); Little Miss Sunshine Smile by Marianne Freya Nono (third place); 10 Easy Steps to Improve Our Police Force by Reinier Dave Zapanta (honorable mention); for Sanaysay -- OPM: Other People’s Music by Lisse Anne Bertumen, Recess by Tito Quiling Jr., All of the Above by Paul Castillo (honorable mention).

Fr. Roland decided not to give the RLA 2010, reminiscent of what happened, or what did not happen, from 1995 to 1998.

But, according to “Fr. Lito,” the ex-Commission on Higher Education chair will add the alloted prize money to next year's pot for anyone who will follow the footsteps of Rodolfo Lana Jr. (1991); Alexander Capiz (1992); Anna Hashim (1993); Jovito Cariňo (1994); Allan Pastrana (1999); Paolo Enrico Melendez (2000); Angelo Suarez and Randell Suba (2001); Joseph Rosmon Tuazon (2002); Joseph Saguid (2003); April Camille Banzon (2005); Samuel Raphael Mendenilla (2006); Khristine Joy Palumbarit (2007); Michelle Ann Ngu (2008); and Sarah Aurelio (2009). RLA was born in 1959 yet it had a natural death in the 70s, due to Pres. Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of Martial Law on 21 September 1972.

RLA was born again in 1991 as if it survives, or thrives, only with democracy.

Like Ustetika, whose other brother or sister is the orginal -- Edsa !

Another highlight of the night was the Parangal Hagbong, a Tayabas Tagalog term we recommended to Charmaine Pidal in 1997, when her batch introduced it to pay tribute to Thomasian alumni who contributed a lot to the development of Philippine literature. National Artist Rolando Tinio shared the salute with Rogelio Sicat. They were followed by the following laureates: Genoveva Edroza Matute (1998); J. Elizalde Navarro (1999); Erma Cuizon, Reynaldo Duque, and Ponciano Pineda (2000); Lilia Pablo Amansec (2001); National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera (2002); Sr. Delia Coronel ICM (2003); National Artist Nick Joaquin, Ben Condino, Wilfrido Nolledo (2004); National Artist Francisco Sionil Jose, Zenaida Amador, and Magdalena Sayas (2005); Gloria Garchitorena-Goloy and Doris Trinidad (2006); Cirilo Bautista and Bella Angeles-Abangan (2007); Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta (2008); and Nita Umali-Berthelsen and Teo Antonio (2009).

For 2010, Parangal Hagbong was given to Dr. Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana, the first female to win the National Artist Award for Theater and Film, who was given Honoris Causa by UST in 1999 when she was also proclaimed one of the The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni (TOTAL).
Once more, we found ourselves at Plaza Mayor. This time, for our homecoming, the VALIK VARSI. Everything seemed formal, like the attire of everyone, as we entered the venue serenaded by the Manila Symphony Orchestra which was responsible for the national anthem too. All the more it became more formal when Fr. Roland himself welcomed us. However, literally and otherwise, all hell broke loose, of all places – at the only Royal, Pontifican, and Catholic university in the country – when we, the staffers of the Varsitarian, travelled down the memory lane! In between wrinkles, we managed to crack smile for every joke, corny or horny. And to cry a river out of joy and sorrow.

Just like yesterday, during the Compassionate Friends' worldwide candlelighting memorial at the University of the Philippines' G.T. Toyota Center, where the new UST Publishing House director, Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, launched the books of non-Thomasians during the Annual Writers Night! Upon the invitation of U.P. Asian Center's dean, Dr. Mario Miclat, and his wife Alma, we recited a poem about homecoming for our son Awit. Today, by the way, is his 4th death anniversary.

A special day for mothers was first proposed by American poet Julia Ward Howe in 1872 and proclaimed a day of national observance by Pres. Thomas Woodrow Wilson in 1915.

Prayer is not a spare tire we pull out when we feel our life has gone flat. It is the steering wheel that helps direct our life in the right path.

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