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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

An essay on Pangasinan Literature: Emergence of Pangasinan Poets and Poetry



In his Nobel Lecture, Czeslaw Milosz pointed out that: “Every poet depends upon generations who wrote in his native tongue; he inherits styles and forms elaborated by those who lived before him.”



But that is not the case for me who gave myself to this kind of avocation – that is, to writing poems in Pangasinan.



I started writing poetry in my native tongue in 2001. And relied solely on my mastery of the spoken language and instinctive phonetics to come out with my first poetic attempt. Still patterned, however, after the manner of my contemporaries who wrote in English.



I tried to maintain a certain image of a poet who wants to revive the petrified state of the Pangasinan literature – poetry in particular.



What is Pangasinan poetry?



Pangasinan poetry was once predominantly oral: tumatagaumen and bards performed poems; often, accompanied by tulali (a kind of string instrument similar to kudyapi or lyre.)



One good example of Pangasinan oral poetry was the Petek – a kind of poetic joust similar to the Tulang Patnigan of the Tagalogs.



When the written form of poetry became dominant and confined to the page, oral poetry became out of fashion and eventually forgotten. Such is the case of Pangasinan poetry.



Today, more and more people are reading and writing poetry. In the U.S., there’s the phenomenon of the poetry slams, which are essentially poetry performance competitions. There’s also the Def Poetry Jam created by Russel Simmons and Stan Lathan. The pair brought the Def Poetry Jam to wider attention when they produced a series that featured edgy poets who declaim and shout out in-your-face verses that are fresh and immediate about subjects personal and political.



I believe that poetry is a “mainstream” art form nowadays. And yes, there is still hope for the Pangasinan poetry and for the Pangasinan poets and writers to catch up with the current literary trends.



When I learned about the Ulupan na Pansiansiay Salitan Pangasinan (Association for the Preservation of the Pangasinan Language) and received an invitation from its president, Dir. Jaime P. Lucas of DTI-Pangasinan, I knew I had to get back to my home province to be a part of it.



Incidentally, the Ulupan was organized a few months or so before I started writing in Pangasinan language.



In the first three issues of the Balon Silew – the official publication of the Ulupan, the works of Sergio A. Bumadilla, Silas Bernabe, Leonarda C. Baltazar (Amor Cico), Nap Resultay, Dr. Linda R. Andaya, Dr. Fe S. Soriano, Dr. Fe P. Fernadez, Isaak Ballesteros and Leo P. De los Angeles echoed a diverse mode of contemporary poetry written in both traditional and modern Pangasinan orthography. Other notable works in the said publication are the poems of Jaime P. Lucas and Ma. Bryce Fabro in English, Filipino and Iluko.



This small group of poets and writers would eventually start a literary movement and criticism that would perhaps lead to the revival or formation of a new Awiran na Pangasinan (Pangasinan Academy of Letters.)



They would be the prime mover that would standardize the language, set a new trend and elaborate different forms and styles for the new breed of poets and writers to inherit.



I have been bothering myself trying to find my connection or literary link from the past. After reading some works of my contemporaries in Pangasinan, I realized now that I was not looking at the right perspective.



The Pangasinan poets will not emerge from the fossilized remains of his literary past.



The Pangasinan poets do not have the “phoenix complex” – that is, the tendency to rise from its own ruins or ashes.



Rather, the Pangasinan poets are a paradox; distinct and unique like the rare kind of epiphytic plants that have been pushed to the margins of evolution and nearly disappeared. And like these epiphytic plants, they will thrive in different time and place but bound by a collective instinct and determination to survive.



Note: This essay is still a work-in-progress.

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.

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publications




A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo


LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008


"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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