ISN'T IT shameful or ridiculous that quite a good number of Kapampangan poets are said to be jockeying for position to be named the next Kapampangan Poet Laureate, despite the fact that we know poetry is all but dead—at least in Pampanga? Is not that a behavior we expect only from politicians? Is not that the behavior that put our country in the dark pit it is in now? It is as if corruption mutated into some kind of literary virus and has gotten into the veins of our poets and writers as well—when in fact they should be regarded as model citizens for their intellect, virtues and righteousness. Everything is getting dark in all aspects of the Filipino's life.
Many of us don't even know that Kapampangan literature exists and, yet, here we are surrounded by an army of poets laureate. I have gathered that we currently have 21 so-called poets laureate. Yes, you read it loud and clear—21. And again you read it loud and clear—laureates. I don't want to sound counterculture (I expect Kapampangan poets and their so-called laureates to call me such), but in all honesty, why on earth do we need laureates? Why 21 of them? And now, why elect some more? (I heard it through the grapevine that elections for the next batch of laureates are in the process).
One Kapampangan lingua-cultural activist I am acquainted with mockingly wrote to me, "Gewa rong tsa-tidwa beinti-singku reng laureado."
That is not a joke to me. It is a meaningful statement. Of course, it is an irony or hyperbole, or both (my friend is more of a poet than our so-called poets). Yes, I dare say, the exercise is worthless. I don't (and will never again) question the literary skills of our Kapampangan laureates. But with 21 laureates (and counting), you want to give up thinking that there will ever be a bright future for Kapampangan literature. What and who do these 21 or more Kapampangan laureates represent? Why do we care so much for a title? Why don't we just write and write and write the best we can to improve and enrich our literature and mend its damaged dignity? We haven't done anything really grand and meaningful for Kapampangan literature to deserve laureateship, in my book. We may write volumes or quantities yet we still fall short on quality. The arts and culture don't owe us anything. Doing what Kapampangan poets are doing right now is detrimental and fatal to Kapampangan literature. It makes writing and laureateship lose their dignified meaning and purpose.
Our Kapampangan poets are digging a pit full of mud and filth in which they will one day drown themselves. Laureateship does more harm than good to Kapampangan literature. » Read more...
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 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 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 Literaturefrom 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)
"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
Translations of Erolalia in German, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Hindi language. And here is the 1st version of the poem published in The Sunday Times (Manila Times, 11.23.2003).
Six of my poems translated into Arabic by Prof. Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif (English Dept., College of Education, University of Basrah, Iraq) and have been published in TEXT - the Cultural Monthly Journal, Issue No.13