by Kahlil Mikhail Pundaodaya

For the first time in its 27-year history, the Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) will be welcoming international participants together with regular writing fellows when it opens on November 30, 2020.

The seven-day workshop that will be held online and that will end on December 6, 2020, will feature four international writing fellows from Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, and India.

The pioneer batch of international writing fellows are Nat T. Dharmasajola, a Thai poet recommended by the Thai Writers Association; Kasvini Muniandy, a spoken word poet who teaches TESOL at the Universiti Sains Malaysia; Queen Sarkar, a multilingual poet, translator, and reviewer who teaches at the Ranchi University of India; and workshop alumnus J. Dennis C. Teodosio, a renowned Filipino playwright who is today based in Myanmar.

They will also be joined by this year’s crop of Senior Writing Fellows, which has been a staple of the workshop since 2014: Januar Yap from Cebu, a prize-winning poet and filmmaker who will give a lecture/demonstration on Script to Screen; Karlo Antonio Galay David of Kidapawan City, a fictionist and local historian who will be sharing his piece ‘Familiaris’ in a lecture on fiction; Denver E. Torres, a poet from Cagayan de Oro who will lecture about his poems to the workshop.

Aside from the 19 writing fellows, there are 12 panelists for this year’s INWW. They are:

Professor of Literature and Anthropology of the University of San Carlos (USC), Dr. Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, former Director of the Cebuano Studies Center; Dr. Hope Sabanpan Yu, the present Director of the USC Cebuano Studies Center, Chair of the Division of Humanities of the National Research Council of the Philippines and Commissioner for Cebuano language of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino; Dr. John Jack G. Wigley, Chair of the Department of Literature, Faculty of Arts & Letters of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and the former Director of the UST Publishing House; Ralph Semino Galan, alumnus of both MSU-IIT and the Iligan workshop is the Associate Director of the UST Center for Creative Writing & Literary Studies and a faculty of the UST Faculty of Arts & Letters;  Dr. Isidoro M. Cruz, former Dean and faculty of the University of San Agustin in Iloilo; Dr. Pranesh Prasad, an Indian novelist, a legal scholar, an adviser of international literary festivals, and an educator; Dr. R. Benedito Ferrao, Assistant Professor of English and Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies at the College of William and Mary, US.

The panel will be further expanded by Gerald C. Galindez, who will be leading a panel about Hiligaynon poetry and Phil Harold Mercurio, whose panel will focus on Waray poetry. Both are alumni of the Iligan workshop.

The three resident panelists are Dr. German V. Gervacio, poet and MSU-IIT faculty of the College of Arts & Social Sciences; Dr. Steven Fernandez, Artistic Director of IPAG and retired Professor of Humanities, Theatre and Literature; and Dr. Christine F. Godinez Ortega, retired Professor of Literature and Creative Writing and the workshop director.

It is hoped that along with the international writing fellows, the annual workshop that usually features only 12 writing fellows (two from Luzon and five each from Visayas and Mindanao) and some senior fellows, the INWW, for this year, will begin a new trend of expansion: from its local roots to envisioned branches in ASEAN/South Asian countries and beyond.

The 27th INWW will be keynoted by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.