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.
In May 1994, the first Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) opened with 15 writing fellows, and pioneer panelists, the late Gawad CCP Leoncio P. Deriada, the late National Artist for Literature Cirilo F. Bautista, Steven PC Fernandez, Jaime An Lim (First Director), Anthony Tan and this writer (Co-Director) as co-founders and implementers of the project under the aegises of the Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Inc. (MCWG) and the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT).
Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera gave the keynote address titled,”Young Writing and the Subversion of the Academe” published in the workshop’s first proceedings titled “Stoking the Fire: Proceedings of the 1st Iligan National Writers Workshop”. Bautista gave the introduction to this first volume.
In his address, Lumbera noted that “young writing in the Philippines is largely a production of the academe” mentioning that the Iligan workshop is hosted by the MSU-IIT at the same time, cited two writers workshops based in universities, then known as the Silliman National Summer Writers Workshop and the UP National Summer Writers Workshop.
National and Regional Writers Workshops
There are five national writers workshops in the country— Silliman, UP, MSU-IIT, University of Santo Tomas, and De La Salle University/University of St. La Salle. Except for UST, the other four receive funding from the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA). Writers workshops in the regions, on the other hand, focus on their respective writers writing in the local languages and some are funded by the NCCA.
In the NCCA-funded project this writer headed, “A Tracer Study of Writers Workshops in the Philippines”, 11 local writers workshops were listed. The numbers may have increased today with some colleges and universities that are engaged in their own writers workshops on a smaller scale.
For his part, Bautista viewed the Iligan workshop in 1994 as a historical event, since he said, for the first time, “writers from the south of the country acquired the long-needed voice and forum for their creative consciousness”.
We understand where our mentor and the late National Artist for Literature Bautista came from. He had been the workshop’s spiritual father and had done more than anyone to popularize it. His contributions are partly responsible for what the workshop has become today.
But the regions have always had a strong voice through their languages and cultures and unique, creative expressions, indigenizing them too towards self-determination that has strengthened the so-called ‘regional voices’ that, first of all, need validation from its own ranks.
Aside from this, digital media have democratized or leveled the playing field. Access to information is at one’s fingertips and one can enroll in online classes, for example, in any university of his choice, that is, if he qualifies, of course. Creatives too from the regions can already publish their own works and promote these as they see fit, their triumphs broadcast to the world with a mere click on one’s keyboard.
A national workshop that accepts manuscripts written in diverse languages
The Iligan workshop is likewise the only ‘national’ workshop based in Mindanao managed by Mindanawons, catering to writers writing in diverse languages of the country, as it is conscious of its mandate in helping forge a truly national literature. Apart from English, Filipino, Cebuano, these languages are Tagalog, Hiligaynon, Waray, Samareno, the variants or dialects of Cebuano, Tausug, Meranaw, Maguindanao, Binukid, Chabacano, and once, Bicol.
Writing Fellowships from Boy Abunda, Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen, Manuel E. Buenafe, Jimmy Y. Balacuit Awards
Through the years, innovations were implemented. Three donors continuously provide their funding support of writing fellows from the various regions. TV personality Boy Abunda supports a Samareno or Waray writing fellow. Iliganon Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen has the Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen Bursary that supports a writing fellow from Iligan or around Lanao writing in Cebuano/Binisaya, while Cora Buenafe, with the family’s Manuel E. Buenafe Writing Fellowship supports a Moro or Lumad writer.
On the other hand, after the passing of the late MSU-IIT Vice Chancellor for Research & Extension Jimmy Y. Balacuit, who had supported the workshop during its nascent years, the Balacuit family through Jimmy’s widow, former MSU-IIT College of Engineering Dean Rosalinda C. Balacuit institutionalized the Jimmy Y. Balacuit awards. Promising writing fellows were given cash awards for their best works submitted to the workshop. It is rewarding that the writers who have won this award move on to become professional and prize-winning writers in the country and abroad like J. Dennis C. Teodosio, TJ Dimacali, Glen Sevilla Mas, Adonis Durado, Roger Garcia, Bonifacio Alfonso Magno Javier III, Gil S. Montinola, Jonecito Saguban and Allen Faw Samuya.
Many more workshop alumni have distinguished themselves as writers, editors, artists, filmmakers, educators, corporate managers, to randomly name a few: Charlson Ong, J. Neil Garcia, Ralph Semino Galan, Isidoro Cruz, Roel Hoang Manipon, Rhandee Garlitos, Denver Torres, Jondy Arpilleda, Voltaire Oyson, Diandra Macarambon, Zola Gonzalez Macarambon, Jayson Parba, Nemesco Baldesco, Jun Sungkit, Jr., John Go, Erwin A. Martinez, Cecile Locsin Nava, Jose Jason Chancoco, Arlene Yandug, Ma. Elena E. Paulma, Ferdinand Cantular, Amado C. Guinto, Jr., Sorhaila L. Latiph Yusoph, Erwin Cabucos, Louie Vincent Amante, Ma.Victoria Gaerlan, German V. Gervacio, Dulce Deriada, Jethol Paanod, Christopher Cahilig, Cherrie Sing, Jim Pascual Agustin, Jeneen Garcia, Margarita Marfori, Genaro R. Gojo Cruz, John Enrico Torralba, Crisanto Cayon, Hope Sabanpan Yu, Saturnina S. Rodil and Rebecca T. Anonuevo.
(We give a list of the keynote speakers and the writing fellows on this page soon).
Innovations through the years: Publication of Workshop Proceedings; Scripts for the Stage
Well-written scripts for the stage have not always been easy to come by. A more welcome development is the agreement between the playwrights of the workshop and the MSU-IIT Resident Theatre Company, the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG).
IPAG mounts for the stage the workshop’s successful scripts but playwrights retain copyright to their works. Already, four Iligan workshop alumni have had their plays staged by IPAG.
The Iligan workshop is also known as the first to publish its proceedings each year and this is the reason the workshop can easily keep track of its former writing fellows, and for the convenience of the literary historian in the future, to study the theoretical frameworks favored by its panelists at one time or other during workshop sessions.
Encourage writing for the young and the defunct Literature Teachers’ Conference and other challenges
To provide the atmosphere and venue for young writers to listen to the latest trends in the critiquing of literary works, to write about their own regions and for the country to discover new “authentic” voices and identities “through innovation and interrogate accustomed technique and content” according to Bautista. These too had always been the foundation of the Iligan workshop.
Helping likewise the country train its human resource is part of the general objective of the Iligan workshop but, most important, it is to provide a young writer a hearing, to know more from the panelists, to meet and compare notes with fellow writers from other regions, perhaps establish lifetime friendships, and to seek, in Dante’s words “experience of the world and of human vice and worth”.
And for whatever its value, to date, the workshop has ‘graduated’ 406 writing fellows around the country since its founding in 1994. It is not, however, without its share of challenges, and most of these would be sources of funds for it. The Iligan workshop has tapped the generosity of its alumni, among many individuals, including former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to support the workshop funding at a time when it was not available from the NCCA.
The Iligan workshop in its early years, on the other hand, used to be held in tandem with a Literature Teachers Conference since teachers as writers’ partners should know the writers in their own backyard, and for them to improve “their teaching methodologies and materials and philosophy”. But funding constraints made the Iligan workshop end the teachers training after only a four-year run.
Equitable Representation and Connecting with ASEAN and the rest of the World
The workshop had always aimed for equitable representation: five writing fellows each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Lately, the number of writing fellows have been reduced for the National Capital Region to be able to increase the number from Mindanao and to invite writing fellows from the ASEAN. There are likewise several writers workshops in Luzon especially in the NCR, and for practical reasons for both organizer and would-be participants.
Other regular features include the giving of a keynote lecture during the opening program by a significant writer or, from its roster of alumni. The list of its keynote speakers read like the who’s-who in Philippine Literature. Their keynote lectures are well-documented and soon will be published as an anthology to make available to the public.
Since 2014, one more innovation similar to the UP workshop, the Iligan Workshop has been inviting Senior Writing Fellows to share their their works-in-progress and aesthetics or creative process.
Today, the workshop has set its sights in connecting with ASEAN/South Asian writers. This year, the pioneer writing fellows come from Myanmar, Thailand, India and Malaysia. The panelists also come from a cross section of experts from the country and abroad.
It is envisioned, therefore, that the Iligan workshop will blossom some more, and should take its firm place among its predecessors, that is, Silliman and UP, and become a center for new ideas, techniques and insights to usher new growth for writers from the South, horizons broadened through interactions with more writers from the regions, from the ASEAN to the rest of Asia and, eventually, to the rest of the world. ###
An Lim, Jaime and Christine Godinez Ortega. 1995. Stoking the Fire: Proceedings of the Ist Iligan National Writers Workshop. Iligan City: MSU-IIT.
A Tracer Study of Writers Workshops in the Philippines, an NCCA-funded project headed by C.Godinez Ortega “Why government must support writers workshops” by Christine Godinez Ortega, Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 5, 2004), page E4.
Terminal Report for the 25th Iligan National Writers Workshop submitted by the MCWG to the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), 2018.
by Christine F. Godinez Ortega, Office of Publication & Information
“Dalawang Gabi” – Mark Clint Mermio and Aizel Yoyongco.
Intense passions and cultural factors ruled IPAG’s latest twin bill offering, Lipat Lapit featuring Rogelio ‘Roger’ Garcia’s “Maratabat” and Maynard Manansala’s “Dalawang Gabi”. The twin production had ten shows before SRO audiences. Re-runs are scheduled in October this year.
These two plays were ‘workshopped’ during the Iligan National Writers Workshop, romped with the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards for best play, and subsequently produced by IPAG fielding its second line of youthful directors, John Michael Lagura for “Dalawang Gabi” and Trixcel Jan Emborong and Veniza Yamomo for “Maratabat”.
It is practical for beginning playwrights to have their plays submitted to workshops, and eventually produced by a theater group such as the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology’s Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) – the most active theater sgroup with a regular, annual theater season outside the Metro Manila area.
“Maratabat” and “Dalawang Gabi” are not the first plays submitted to the Iligan workshop produced by IPAG. Previously, IPAG produced two Balacuit awardees, “Makahiya” by Bonifacio Alfonso Javier III and ‘Banwa” by Sheryl Sumugat.
The Iligan workshop will now allow IPAG, with the consent of the playwrights, to produce accepted plays for IPAG’s In-lab productions.
Maratabat by Roger Garcia directed by Trixcel Jan Emborong and Veniza Yamomo. From left: Sean Preil de la Cruz, Swaitzel Zalsos, and Eleuterio Barinaga IV.
“Maratabat” (Maranao word for honor or pride) plunged into the action immediately as soon as the lights went out. The son of Edwin and Grace is recently killed and the couple plans to file a case and report this to the media, and because Grace is a faculty member of the university, the Faculty Union is supporting her too.
Edwin, close-in bodyguard of Ahmad, the City Mayor, wants to kill the now-known killer of his son – the only language he knows and understands, eye for an eye within a culture he has grown up in.
Eleuterio Barinaga IV who played Edwin gave his role a justifiably rugged and desperate face, and the play reaches an emotional high when Ahmad appears to tell the couple that blood money would be paid for Edwin’s only child.
Of course, this brought Grace into hysterics and the exchange between the three actors, in brisk dialog tackling cultural issues laced with the usual statements of Muslim versus Christian, we-are-not-Maranaos rang familiar with the audience, and moved the narrative forward, reaching such emotional high when Grace prevented Edwin from pulling the trigger that would have killed Ahmad but for the revelation that sent the audience gasping.
Life’s twists and turns hit everyone now and then and the play’s fictive narrative was no exception. But, the play turned “teleseryish” towards the end departing from the original script we have read.
The surprising revelation of the produced play was not convincing enough since the theme is clear: cultural practices must prevail over the justice that non-Maranaos believe in and practice.
The portrayal of Grace (played by Swaitzel Zalsos) proved a tearjerker with her copious tears and soft voice throughout the over 40-minute drama, her secret revealed to save the life of Ahmad. If it was the run of the mill Tagalog film, the obligatory background of the love affair between Grace and Ahmad would have been given but it would have been superfluous in the play before an intelligent audience, and could have destroyed the linguistic turns and whatever twists it had in store for them.
Her pleadings before a shocked Edwin was more often than not externally projected and the range of emotions stop at certain points that we could chalk up to her youth.
Ahmad, the Mayor, played by Sean Preil de la Cruz put much dignity to an otherwise pained man behaving within the bounds of his culture. In the end, the politician with his persuasive words coupled with his authority overwhelmed a betrayed Edwin who had to let go of his gun.
Ahmad’s casually picking up the gun in the end symbolized the defeat of justice over a cultural practice that upholds ‘maratabat’ at all costs and that such must prevail in these parts because it defines a peoples’ community.
It is the complexity of the values taken up in the play through the easy dialog between the actors that offered much color and texture to Garcia’s play.
Dalawang Gabi by Maynard Manansala directed by John Michael Lagura: Jasper Cabigon and Giftsy Marie Tapic.
From this heightened and spent passions, “Dalawang Gabi” proved a hit with students simply because Debbie, the teacher had expressed her love for her student Lester who was interested in Trisha, a younger girl, better looking and readily available to him.
The well thought out multi-media projection gave a capsulized background of the courtship between Trixie and Lester juxtaposed with Lester’s dropping by Debbie’s office. But, unlike the original script, the presentation failed to suggest a connection between Lester and Debbie that would have prepared the audience for Lester’s return to Debbie’s office after two years.
Aizel Yoyongco, who played the saucy Debbie, put much humor in her performance above her subsequent hurt over her unrequited feelings replete with cut out letters mounted on a moveable board for Lester (played by Mark Clint Mermio). Such was a nice touch – her declaration of love was no different from teaching aids meant for a self-absorbed Lester.
“Dalawang Gabi” is a play that made the women in the audience happy over Debbie’s decision. Although she still had feelings for Lester evidenced by her kissing him back, and you bet, the audience howling here, she kept her dignity intact by choosing a different path (“I’m getting married after all I’m 40 now”) to Lester’s realization that one cannot just pick up from where he had left off with her.
Debbie may have lied to Lester but, after the passage of two years, the audience was rewarded with her inner transformation but, outer change in wardrobe to go with that change failed to match the change, the same footwear worn ‘two years ago’ was especially visible to the audience in the play’s in-the-round setting despite the effectively spare stage design.
Manansala’s feminism is most admirable and our wish is for more playwrights to write about such simple situations whose lessons audiences learn from making them more human.
This year’s 22nd Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) awarded seven writing fellows the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Award during the closing program at the Elena Tower Inn on May 29, 2015.
Dean Rosalinda C. Balacuit, former Dean of the MSU-IIT College of Engineering and widow of the late Dr. Jimmy Y. Balacuit, former Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension handed out the certificates and cash awards to the prize-winning writing fellows: Poetry – First Prize: Adonis R. Enricuso – Haya sa Coffee Shop; Honorable mentions: Mark Joseph N. Rafal for “Kung di’ Mo Man Randam ang Lukso ng Dugo”; and Jetrho C. Monares for “Huring”; for the Excerpt of Novel – First Prize: Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III for “Movovug: Isang Diksyunaryo” and Honorable mention: Ana Felisa E. Lorenzo for Memories of a Forgotten War.
In the Short Story, the First Prize went to Jondy M. Arpilleda for Bunok and Honorable mention went to Danilo Niño R. Calalang for Ang Anarkista; and, for the One-Act Play, the First Prize went to Maynard G. Manansala for Dalawang Gabi.
During the closing program, other highlights included the launching of the Proceedings of the 21st INWW entitled “To Voice My Own” edited by Christine Godinez-Ortega and published by the OPI, MSU-IIT and certificates were given to the recipients of writing fellowships: Manuel E. Buenafe Writing Fellow Nur-Saleha D. Dadayan of the Mindanao State University Integrated Laboratory School, Marawi City; the Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen Writing Fellow – Angelito G. Nambatac of Iligan City; and the Boy Abunda Writing Fellow –Kenneth Alvin L. Cinco of Tacloban City’s Leyte Normal University.
Guests who handed out the certificates to the above writing fellows were Ms. Beverly Faith Talpis Tanggol and Dr. Mary Joyce Z. Guinto Sali, Secretary to the MSUS Board of Regents.
The Iligan National Writers Workshop is an annual event hosted by the MSU-IIT with funding from the Office of the Chancellor’s Office of Publication and Information and the National Commission for Culture and Arts.
It accepted 18 writing fellows from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with a teaching staff of nine panelists: Tim Tomlinson, President and Co-Founder of the New York Writers Workshop; J. Neil C. Garcia, UP Press Director; John Iremil Teodoro of Miriam College; Vic Sugbo, retired professor of UP College Tacloban; Macario D. Tiu of the Ateneo de Davao University; Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, former Director fo the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos; and the resident panellists, Steven Patrick Fernandez, German V. Gervacio, and Christine Godinez-Ortega, the Workshop Director.
The opening program, held at the MSU-IIT Mini-theater was graced by Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol welcoming the guests and in showing support for the literary arts. The Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) also helped celebrate the event that left the panelists and writing fellows awed by the performance. Moreover, poet, author and critic J. Neil Garcia, an alumnus of the first INWW in 1994, gave his keynote lecture on the literary uses of mythology.
The workshop’s sessions were held alternately at the MSU-IIT Boardroom, Elena Tower Inn, and the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House.
The ethno-linguistic diversity of this workshop is what makes it a truly national one. The INWW has become an avenue, not just for the growth of young talents and further enhancement of the craft of the published writers but also for the enrichment of language, literature, and culture.
The Office of Publication & Information (OPI), the Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Inc., funded by the OPI and the National Commission for Culture & Arts (NCCA) released the names of 18 writing fellows for the 22nd Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) to be held on May 25-29, 2015.
The 18 Iligan workshop fellows, the literary genres, geographic area and schools are:
LUZON-Poetry (English): Joel Donato C. Jacob/Sto. Domingo, Laguna/UP Diliman; Mark Joseph Natividad Rafal/Manila/Polytechnic University of the Philippines; Ana Felisa E. Lorenzo/Quezon City/UP Diliman; FICTION – Short Story (Filipino): Danilo Nino R. Calalang/Manila/UP Diliman; Excerpt of Novel (Filipino) Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III/Quezon City/UP Diliman; and, Play (Filipino) Maynard G. Manansala/Makati City/Miriam College.
VISAYAS – FICTION – Short Story (English): Silvin Federic R. Maceren/Lapulapu City/ Silliman University; (Sebuano): Jesson J. Morata/Lapulapu City/ Cebu Institute of Technology University ; POETRY (Waray) Boy Abunda Writing Fellow –Kenneth Alvin L. Cinco/Tacloban City/Leyte Normal University; and, Jetrho C. Monares /Tacloban City/Leyte Normal University.
MINDANAO – FICTION – Short Story (English)- Seneca Pellano/Tagum City/UP Diliman; (Sebuano) Jondy M. Arpilleda/Tandag City/Surigao del Sur State University ; the Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen Writing Fellow – Angelito G. Nambatac/Iligan City/MSU-IIT; POETRY (Sebuano) Adonis R. Enricuso/Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur/MSU-IIT; John Michael C. Lagura/Oroquieta City/MSU-IIT; and, (English) Benedicto P. Aguilar/ Cagayan de Oro City/Ateneo de Manila University; the Manuel E. Buenafe Writing Fellow Nur-Saleha D. Dadayan/Marawi City/Mindanao State University Integrated Laboratory School; and, PLAY (Sebuano) Jim C. Raborar/Koronadal City/Agricultural Training Institute-Region 12.
This year, the keynote speaker is the poet, author and critic Dr. J. Neil C. Garcia, Director of the University of the Philippines Press. The panelists are: John Iremil Teodoro, Macario D. Tiu, Victorio N. Sugbo, Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Tim Tomlinson, the resident panelists, Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, German V. Gervacio and the workshop Director, Christine Godinez Ortega.
Another highlight this year will be the launching of the 21st INWW Proceedings titled “To Voice My Own” with last year’s keynote lecturer Hope Sabanpan Yu. It is published by MSU-IIT OPI and edited by Godinez-Ortega.