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Monday, December 17, 2007

A Boost to Pangasinan Literature

THE publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania (363 pp. Manila: Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino and Emilio Aguinaldo College, 2007) 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. There is a sense of urgency here, considering that Pangasinan literature is in a lamentable state. As the Villafania himself said, “Pangasinan poets today lack the invigorating environment of a literary movement. We are alone in a wasteland and without support from the ‘cultural ambient.’ We are a dying tribe on the verge of extinction.” His hyperbole aside, Pangasinan really has not done well in competition with English, Tagalog, and Ilocano; there are no significant literary and journalistic publications to nourish and sustain a regional literature; and the provincial government does not seem to give priority to the revitalization of Pangasinan as a common medium of communication, in spite of the fact that it has more than one and a half million speakers.

Indeed, Pangasinan’s case is similar to those of other regions in the country whose literary development suffers in the multilingual setting. They are disadvantaged and imperiled by the continuing global influence of English and the vigilance of major local languages asserting their claim to a national audience. Because of this, changing the situation for the better is a gargantuan task, if not impossible. It needs massive and simultaneous efforts from all sectors of society. On the government’s side, programs for the resurgence and spread of Pangasinan must be made, like instituting literary awards, writers’ training centers, and publication outlets. On the part of the Department of Education, it should push Pangasinan as the medium of instruction in the elementary level and situate Pangasinan literature in the curriculum. On the part of the writers, achieving literary excellence should be the primary concern. This involves organizing the practitioners into a no-nonsense group that will systematize production and disseminate of their works and maintain a healthy creative environment. Without sacrificing their individual writing activities, they should interact with private and government agencies to help restore pride in Pangasinan culture and rescue its literary heritage from stagnation.

The writers must assume leadership in this matter, of course, for their works are the building blocks of the envisioned change. Such book as Malagilion is a step in that direction. As Crisanta Nelmida-Flores says in her introduction, “Writing more and more about the need to revitalize the anlong tradition (Pangasinan poetry) and to recognize the Pangasinan language, Villafania is evidently writing for the present and future crop of writers in Pangasinan. Coaxing them to write in the vernacular, instilling in them the love of origin and language, and agitating the young uninitiated Pangasinan folk to take a decisive path.” And Villafania takes his mission seriously, as indicated by his book title—a combination from “malapati” (dove), “agila” (eagle), and “lion” (lion). He explains, “Malapati symbolizes the birth and infancy of Pangasinan anlong. The agila is the Now flying high. The lion is the future of anlong asserting its place in the national consciousness and psyche.” When the future will come remains to be seen, but Ricardo Ma. Nolasco of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino is right in saying that the book has an added significance. “It is a call to other writers in other Philippine languages to enrich their writing, for without local literatures, a true national literature is impossible.”

from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)


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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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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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