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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saving Pangasinan literature

By Gabriel Cardinoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dagupan City, Philippines—Pangasinan’s writers are in an uphill climb in their effort to save the dying Pangasinan literature.

Aside from the dearth of writers in the vernacular, members of the Ulupan na Pansiansia’y Salitan Pangasinan (Association for the Preservation of the Pangasinan Language) say they have not been getting enough support to implement projects that will encourage a literary resurgence.

“Pangasinan [writers] today lack the invigorating environment of a literary movement. We are alone in a wasteland … We are a dying tribe on the verge of extinction,” says Santiago Villafania, the province’s leading umaanlong (poet), who is also a member of the Ulupan.

With a population of 2.65 million, half of whom are Pangasinan-speaking, Villafania says the province has only three short story writers, two novelists, six poets and one essayist. Only three of them have published books in the last six years.

Literary silence

“After half a century of literary silence, sadly, this is all we’ve written,” says Villafania, a faculty member and a senior web designer of the Emilio Aguinaldo College in Manila.

In fact, Villafania’s books may be the only ones dwelling on Pangasinan poetry since the turn of the 20th century. His first, “Pinabli tan arum ni’ran Anlong,” was published in 2003, followed four years later by “Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles,” a finalist in the 2007 National Book Award (poetry category)—a first for a Pangasinan poetry book.

In 2005, Villafania published a Pangasinan poetry booklet, “Balikas ed Caboloan.”

Freelance writer and Ulupan member Erwin Fernandez says the problem is that Pangasinan is still not used in teaching in schools despite the availability of Pangasinan literary materials written from the 1930s to the 1960s.

“The names of Catalino Palisoc (1865-1932) and Pablo Mejia (1872-1934), only two among the renowned zarzuela writers, come to mind when we speak of Pangasinan literature. We must not miss Maria Magsano, the educator-writer and suffragist who put up the Silew magazine,” says Fernandez, who taught at the University of the Philippines’ departments of history and Filipino.

“In the annals of Philippine vernacular literature, these illustrious names rank among the best in Tagalog, Ilocano and Cebuano literatures,” he says.

Magsano and Juan Villamil were the leading Pangasinan fiction writers of their time. Both have published their own anthologies.

Fernandez also says that unlike other languages, such as Ilocano, Tagalog and Visayan, Pangasinan does not have a publication in the vernacular. Thus, he adds, there is no proper venue for aspiring writers and authors.

“The Ilocanos have the weekly Bannawag magazine, the Tagalogs have Liwayway, and the Visayans have the Hiligaynon and Bisaya, popular vernacular magazines where one ordinarily finds short stories, essays, poems and other occasional pieces,” he says.

Since its founding in 2000, Ulupan has struggled to publish a monthly magazine called “Balon Silew.” The magazine, however, has not been coming out regularly due to shortage of funds.

Media role

Melchor Orpilla, an Alaminos City-based poet and broadcaster, says media play an important role in the resurgence of Pangasinan literature and language.

“There is a prevailing thinking, especially among the youth, that speaking in Pangasinan is bakya (pedestrian). The media can inject into the people’s consciousness that they should not be ashamed to speak in Pangasinan,” Orpilla says.

When this is done, he says, people will start reading or appreciating literary works in Pangasinan. “Unless the present generation acts concertedly to preserve it, Pangasinan shall always be in an unhappy position pushed into the periphery of oral and literary avenues,” Fernandez says.

Source: Inquirer Northern Luzon: Saving Pangasinan literature

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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.



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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